Search This Blog

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Are books becoming extinct?

With the ever-increasing hype about eBooks and the digitization of information, this is a question being asked at the library quite frequently these days.
First, a bit of historical perspective: what we currently know today as a book (pages of paper bound at one side with a cover) was first created in the first century AD as a replacement for parchment scrolls. Books became the most common way to record and transfer information around the globe about 500 years ago .
So after centuries of use, are they now going the way of the dinosaur? It’s hard to argue that the rise of eBooks has been only 32 months, eBooks went from being introduced on to leap-frogging over the total sales of physical books at the Internet-based mega-retailer. The New York Times now includes eBook bestsellers lists in addition to its long-standing categories for fiction, non-fiction, hardcover and trade paperbacks. This said, it puts things into perspective when you realize eBooks only account for 10% of all publishing activity.
Some people tend to be either very pro-physical book/anti-technology, or vice versa. The ironic thing is that they often use the same arguments to espouse the benefits of their chosen reading platform. “A real book is easy to carry and light”, some claim (unless they’re reading War and Peace, or the Outlander series by Diane Galbaldon). As eReaders get smaller and lighter, the tech-savvy are making the same claim and adding that their gadgets can hold up to 100 Tolstoy-esque novels. “And they’re better for the environment than all that pulp and paper”, say the eReader group. Yet publishing companies are more often using recycled materials and less toxic inks in their printing processes, while the cumulative effects of e-waste are not fully known.
These arguments really are moot though, because the essence of the matter is that books – in whatever format – are conveyors of stories, and stories will never become extinct. Storytelling is one of the traits that defines humanity, and stories have been around since people were sitting around fires in caves and recording their imaginings on stone walls.
However, amid the blaze of this debate about the future of books are two often-overlooked issues that do warrant attention. The first is about how information is SHARED. Real books can easily be lent and borrowed. This is the whole premise behind libraries - they are not warehouses for reams of paper, but an efficient way for populations to share resources amongst each other. One book can be read by thousands of eyes until it is literally falling apart. This is not the case with eBooks. Publishers have control over the digital rights management (or DSM) of their materials and one purchase of an eBook equals one license – one download to one individual’s device. You can’t send it to a friend’s computer when you’re done reading it. This business model is great for company profits, but difficult for libraries.
The second issue is how information is SAVED. There is a reason ancient philosophers, historians and theologians recorded their information on parchment and paper: it lasts. Save fire and water damage, ink on paper can be legible a thousand years after it was written. We don’t know about electronic data. Will we still have means to retrieve it years from now? Could someone edit it, or just wipe it out completely, with the push of a button?
Bottom line: stories will be with us forever in various formats - whether you read it on paper or a screen, or listen to it from your iPod, or feel it through Braille. But the ways in which information is shared and saved, and who has control over this in our digital world, is worthy of debate.

Monday, February 21, 2011

How little, and how much, has changed!

In preparing for the ORL's 75th celebrations, library staff from around the region have been sharing photos, news clippings and memorabilia from yesteryear. These unearthered treasures are fascinating, and in cases, just as pertinent now as they were before. This is a Letter to the Editor of the Summerland Review newspaper printed on Thursday, September 5, 1946, reprinted verbatim minus the signature:

Editor, The Review:

I think that some of our new residents may not know of the value of the public library here. With longer evenings approaching, they could have such pleasure if, on their Saturday shopping tour, they called in at the Union library on the high school grounds and took home an armful of books for their familys enjoyment through the week-end.

The children's books are especially delightful and there are many that could not be afforded by the average family. All that has to be done is to ask the librarian to make out a card for each member.

In addition to books right now in our branch, we have the right to request the use of any book in the whole Union library which covers many towns in the Okanagan, and in this way we gain access to more than twenty thousand books. As well as novels and books of adventure, there is a travel and biography section; also books on handicrafts and drawing, etc, on gardening and the drama.

So, Summerlanders, do use and enjoy your public library this winter. It is one of our community's best assets.

All still very true - except now the ORL has 750,000 books, movies, magazines and more!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

How our Friends keep us Green (and in the green!)

“...get by with a little help from our Friends”
While the ORL has almost 1,300 “friends” on Facebook, did you know we also have volunteer Friends of the Library? Friends of the Library, or FoL for short, are community-based groups of people who love their library and support it by being ambassadors and raising funds for programming and equipment needs at their branches.
The ORL has 15 FoL groups associated with the following branches: Armstrong, Enderby, Kelowna (which supports the downtown Kelowna, Mission and Rutland branches), Keremeos, Lumby, Naramata, Okanagan Falls, Oliver, Osoyoos, Peachland, Salmon Arm, Summerland, South Shuswap, Vernon, and Westbank. These groups have collectively raised thousands of dollars which go back into the system for wonderful additions that the ORL cannot fund through operations – everything from wall murals in the children’s areas to special microfilm reader/printers used for research to bringing in public speakers – and much more.
So what does this have to do with “green”? The primary way FoL’s raise funds is through book sales. Each year, the ORL withdraws thousands of resources from the collection (126,727 books, CDs, DVDs, etc in 2010 to be exact!). You can liken it to Blockbusters...when a new release comes out, they have to stock many copies, but as the movie’s popularity wanes, they can sell off the extras and only maintain enough for current demand. This way our collection is always fresh and up-to-date while keeping the right “oldies but goodies”.
These withdrawn resources go to FoL groups to sell at great discounts to the public. Then, a person can buy a book for a quarter or a dollar, read it, and donate it back to the FoL group (if it’s still in good condition) and it can be recycled again. Think of the many times each resource can be used vs each individual buying their own copies! This system saves each person huge dollars, saves the planet vast amounts of paper, and contributes back to the library.
So, our ORL Friends keep the library and our communities green (environmentally), while helping the ORL and saving everyone a lot of green (money). If you love your library and want to contribute, joining or starting a FoL is a fabulous volunteer opportunity. For more information on ORL Friends groups or about donating resources, visit .
A shout-out to the Westbank Friends of the Library who are celebrating their 10th anniversary as a group tonight!!! Thanks to you and all the amazing Friends who make such a difference at the ORL!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Career at the ORL...

The ORL is blessed with an amazing team of staff, many of whom have been with the organization for decades. Here, a veteran community librarian - Carol Stratton from Falkland - shares her reflections on over 28 years with the ORL...

My career with the ORL began in May 1982 as an on-call staff member at the Falkland Branch, and I later joined the Vernon Branch part-time in Children’s Services and Circulation. Thanks to an accommodating schedule I was able to work at both locations until 1987 when I became a full-time staff member in Children’s Services in Vernon. At that time the branch was sharing space with the Vernon Museum in, shall we say, cramped quarters.

We all survived the physical move into the new Vernon Branch in June 1989, where it is currently located. A few years later came automation – switching from a card-based system for cataloguing and tracking the ORL’s collection to a computer-based system. What a learning curve!

I have many great memories of reading stories to children and doing puppet shows with Maureen, Jan, and Tom, and promoting Summer Reading Clubs every year. It was fun to wear special book-based character costumes for special events at the library and in school, such as Penelope Puffin, Wormsworth, Peter Rabbit and Little Bear - lovely to wear when the weather was cool but dreadfully hot in the summer!

In 1997, I moved on into full-time reference work at the Information Desk and enjoyed serving the public immensely. I never heard a stupid question, as I believe that if you need to know something it is your right to have the answer in a professional and timely manner.

Having driven back and forth to Vernon from my home in Falkland for more than 18 years, I was ready for a change when the Falkland Community Librarian position was posted in late 2001.  So, the recycled Community Librarian returned to part-time work in February 2002 back in Falkland where it all began!

My retirement this past October has begun a new chapter in my life - 
one that no longer involves the day-to-day with the ORL although I still go to library often. How could I live without books?

Thank you, Carol - you've been a great asset to the ORL these many years and all the best for a happy, fulfilling retirement.

Monday, February 7, 2011

What will the ORL look like in 2086?

In March 1936, the Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia signed a proclamation that created what was then known as the “Okanagan Union Library District”. 75 years later the ORL is celebrating its continued service to communities in the BC Southern Interior.
However, this doesn't mean we can rest on our laurels. As an institution, libraries are continually evolving to remain relevant to the public, especially in the past few decades with the explosion of technology and the Internet and the ORL is no exception. From adding a feature films collection to introducing wireless Internet access at all 29 branches, the ORL wants to ensure it is meeting the information and entertainment needs in its communities. And with that in mind, the ORL did a research survey last fall as a first step in its strategic planning process.
Some of the results are eye-opening. 74% of households in the ORL region reported they use the public library, with 45% of them reporting they have more than one cardholder in their home. More than a third of respondents visit their local branch at least once a week. Of those who don't use the library, 78% of them said it "just never occurs to them" to do so!
When it comes to technology, the ORL is a lifeline to the worldwide web for many people. A vast majority can access the Internet at home or work, but 19% of users rely on their local branch to use the Internet. Almost half of all respondents say they use digital media, such as downloadable music and eBooks, however, they also reported they still prefer traditional forms of media - the physical book, the physical CD, the actual paper magazine. And when someone is looking for information or an answer to a question, the Internet is cited as the first place people look. But the library is a solid #2, before even asking another person. 
Given this information, it seems patterns of library use are evolving from traditional physical resources to digital online resources, but both are important to users.  Is the library a physical place you visit to get materials and enjoy the space, or is the library an online tool to find your digital resources? Or is it both? As we celebrate our history at ORL, we are also keenly looking towards the future and what our system will look like over the next 75 years.