Monday, July 24, 2006

Racketeering Janitor Hired by Gary Public Library

But he wasn't even hired to be a janitor. His job is "affirmative action officer and director of inventory control." I'm not really clear on what "inventory control" amounts to in a library setting.

Perry Gordon, the janitor in question, lacks qualifications listed in the job posting, such as a bachelor's degree and a background in employment law. His mother sits on the library board.

That pretty much explains things.

For more laughs, here is a longer report on this.

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Friday, July 21, 2006

Mystery Author to Write New Bond Novel

An unnamed but famous author will write a new James Bond novel, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Ian Fleming.

Apparently the name of the writer will be revealed upon publication. (If the author really is so well-known, it would be obvious to many who he is by the style of writing, so long-term anonymity--such as we are seeing with the unnamed Ludlum author--is unrealistic.)

The story suggests (to me) the famous mystery author will be revealed upon publication, then will publicize the novel with appearances, etc.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Who Is Writing Robert Ludlum's Books?

Best-selling thriller author Robert Ludlum died in 2001. Several novels have been published under his name since then: The Sigma Protocol, The Janson Directive, The Tristan Betrayal, The Ambler Warning, and the upcoming Bancroft Strategy.

Who wrote all these books? Supposedly Ludlum left some unpublished and/or unfinished manuscripts as well as notes/outlines for future books. We (meaning the book-consuming public) don't really know how much or how little of Ludlum's own writing is contained in these posthumous works (if any) because there is no statement in any of them spelling it out.

On the copyright page of the Ambler Warning is this statement:

Since his death, the Estate of Robert Ludlum has worked with a carefully selected author and editor to prepare and edit this work for publication.

That's it. No one is named. There is an "author" (not Ludlum) who had a hand in the production of the novel: the statement above says so. On the covers of these books, Ludlum is listed as the sole author. Many people probably bought these books thinking Ludlum had written them himself.

Reviewers of these books, on the other hand, know what's going on and state that Ludlum did not write them. But they have received generally warm reviews--sometimes lauded as better than most of the thrillers assuredly penned by Ludlum himself!

The Secret Ludlum Writer

The person writing the Ludlum books must keep his name and role hidden from the public. No doubt that's in his contract. Former ghostwriter Michael Gruber was in a similar situation before finally publishing Tropic of Night under his own name in 2003. Will the Gruber Effect eventually hit the Ludlum author and will he publish under his own name at some point in the future, gaining some publicity and notoriety as the writer of Ludlum's posthumous thrillers? How long can this guy stand it to be in the shadows, and doesn't there come a point in his career where it's in his best interest to drop the veil?

The Ludlum Cottage Industry

Aside from thrillers published solely under Ludlum's name, there is the Covert-One series of books. In addition to Ludlum's name, the real writers are credited on the covers as well: Gayle Lynds, Philip Shelby, Patrick Larkin, and James Cobb.

Eric Van Lustbader has been contracted to continue the "Bourne" series of books and is listed as the author on the covers. If the Estate of Robert Ludlum is willing to give Lustbader (and to continue the practice of crediting the Covert-One authors) writing credit, why not the secret author of the new "Ludlum" books as well? I assume the idea is that these new Bourne books are Lustbader's creations, with no help from any unfinished manuscripts or notes from Ludlum.

The answer can only be money. If a new thriller is marketed as written by Ludlum right there on the cover, that means far higher sales than if the name is John Smith, or some other unknown writer. People will buy the brand name "Ludlum" in far greater numbers than if the truth were told on the front of the dust jacket. The name "Robert Ludlum" has been trademarked. With (presumably) two authors writing "ludlum" books, that means more can be published within a shorter timespan--perhaps a consideration in not having the secret writer pen the Bourne stuff as well.

The Estate of Ludlum feels it owes no obligation or explanation to the public over the authorship of these new novels. But is that the end of it?

We can deduce that the secret writer is not a well-known name, otherwise it would make no sense for him to write in complete anonymity. But the writer had enough credentials to be tapped for the job in the first place. If he is a known mediocrity, that would be cause to continue the gag order. Perhaps a word analysis of the novels, as provided by Amazon's book search feature, can provide some clues.

Will the real author(s) be named at some time in the future--along with the exact contributions of each writer for each book? Yes, but it may take a while. Some day Ludlum's papers may be housed in an academic library and then scholars can sort out who wrote what.

Legal Liability

In 2000, a fan of the books of Lawrence Sanders filed a class-action lawsuit claiming Sanders' estate and the publisher misled fans into believing Sanders was still alive (he died in 1998) by publishing McNally's Dilemma under his name. A settlement was reached and consumers received $13 if they bought the hardcover copy of the book. In that novel, the ghostwriter's name (Vincent Lardo) was listed in small type on the copyright page. In the posthumous Ludlum novels, the name of the "carefully selected author" is not revealed.

In 2001, a reader sued Penguin Putnam after discovering William J. Caunitz wasn't the sole author of the novel Chains of Command. The ghostwriter's name, Christopher Newman, was listed on the copyright page. A New York State appeals court threw out the suit.

Has no one sued Ludlum's estate and St. Martin's Press? No doubt they feel they are on solid legal ground by not naming the ghostwriter in the books, as the others had done.

There is a whiff of an underworld-style operation going on here, isn't there? There is some ugliness in the book publishing world behind the curtain. Obviously, the Estate of Robert Ludlum and St. Martin's Press are engaged in a deception of the book-buying public by placing only Ludlum's name on the covers of these new books, and by refusing to tell us the name of the "other" writer.

It's a fraud, it's a lack of respect for Ludlum's fans, and it has something of the underworld about it. But it's the book publishing business today, isn't it? Ghostwriters keeping big brand names running when otherwise they would stop. Publishers and estates refusing to fess up and give credit where credit is definitely due. Cash is king.

See Also: The Ludlum Betrayal

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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Libraries Adding Spanish-Language Materials

After the recent dust-up over funding for Spanish-language materials at the (what must surely be the world-famous) Gwinnett County Public Library in Georgia, here are a couple new stories on libraries feeling the need to add Spanish-language materials to their collections.

The number of Hispanic residents in Indiana is growing, and public libraries there are upgrading their Spanish collections.

And an article on the Dallas Public Library:

"The function is to be a place where all the people in the community can come and have all the same resources. It's about connecting information with people," said Leonardo Melo, manager of the north Oak Cliff branch, which bustled with activity on a recent afternoon.

Local librarians said they see themselves as egalitarian purveyors of information. They don't question whether their patrons are legal immigrants, and they serve them no matter what language they speak.

Well, that makes things easy, doesn't it?

Buried near the bottom of the story:

This year, Richardson allocated $3,000 from its $275,000 budget for adult foreign language materials.


"All that money within that foreign-language pot had to be divvied up among 18 languages," including Urdu, Farsi and Vietnamese, Ms. Lee said.

Yes, like I wrote some time ago, librarians, if they are to serve everyone, need to be aware of all the foreign-languages spoken by members of their communities.

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Porn and Internet Filters

Another public library is doing some much-needed soul-searching over allowing patrons to view porn on computers.

This time it's in Lubbock, TX.

While it is legal for people over the age of 18 to view that type of material, some say it's inappropriate to do so at a public place such as the library.

Well, of course. But what have the librarians there been doing?

"When we do have a complaint, we will talk to that individual who is accessing something that might be deemed inappropriate, and we ask them not to do that," Clausen said.

That's ridiculous. Ask them not to do it? Without a policy forbidding them from from viewing porn in the library? That makes no sense. But it's encouraging to hear that the library board is discussing the problem.

I wrote on this topic earlier here.

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Sunday, July 16, 2006

2006 National Book Festival

The Library of Congress Web site has updated the National Book Festival page with the 2006 information. The event will be held Saturday, September 30, 2006. Over 70 authors will make appearances, including:
  • George Pelecanos
  • Joan Didion
  • Michael Connelly
  • Scott Turow
  • Alexander McCall Smith
Laura Bush is the host. Here is the press release. The site has webcasts from previous festivals.

I've attended the Festival and enjoyed hearing famous authors recite their works and answer questions from the audience.

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The Impending Librarian Shortage

More talk of the "impending national librarian shortage." Missouri University's School of Information Science and Learning Technologies will receive $615,365 from the federal government.

This money will be used to recruit and educate 9 doctoral students.

With many librarians set to retire, especially those in senior positions, the grants are intended to aid in the education of those seeking to enter the profession and bolster its ranks. According to a 2004 study by the American Library Association, 45 percent of current librarians will reach age 65 between 2010 and 2020.

Meanwhile, a partnership of Nevada libraries and the distance program at the University of North Texas received about $700,000. 40 Students will receive about $10,000 to help pay tuition.

"The program is designed to education librarians because there is an anticipated shortage. Many of the skilled librarians are expected to retire shortly, so we are trying to increase the numbers to replace them," said Sara Jones, state librarian.

Still no sign of the "anticipated shortage." I'm sure we'll all see it rear its ugly head soon, won't we?

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Thursday, July 13, 2006

Porn-Viewing at Libraries a Growing Problem

The Tucson-Pima Public Library will install privacy screens around its computers so passers-by won't be exposed to pornography.

I wrote earlier about patrons at DC public libraries viewing hardcore porn at computers with children nearby.

Clearly, librarians need to take responsibility for this problem and ensure that children aren't exposed to pornography viewed by lonely adults at public computers. Placing screens around computers to protect the kids from these unfortunate patrons' obsessions is one solution, another is to provide an enclosed adults-only computer section where kids aren't allowed.

But that would force library managers to rethink the physical placement and arrangement of furniture and collections, which might well overstrain the abilities of some. It's a lot easier for library managers to just sit back in their offices and leave the computers as they are, abdicating their responsibities to their communities. It's a tough job being a librarian, isn't it?

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Rice University Revives Its Press Online

Rice University's Press went belly-up 10 years ago. But now it will be relaunched online. People can read the entire book online or order a bound copy from an on-demand printer.

The article in the Wall Street Journal states that electronic books "have been slow to catch on generally, and some universities that have experimented with the format have found lackluster demand."

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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

North Korean Libraries

The reclusive nation of North Korea, led by the strange dictator Kim Jong-il, has been in the news lately for continued bizarre antics, this time for firing missiles into the Sea of Japan.

According to a recent AP story, North Korea is "embracing the digital age." There is a new e-library at the Kim Chaek University of Technology with 10 million titles on its local intranet:

"Our e-library built under the deep love and concern of the great general Kim Jong Il is superior compared with other libraries because the students can search and access any kind of books that they want to read in a quicker way," spokeswoman Won Yun Ae told APTN.

The books available online at the university are approved by authorities in North Korea, where all media is state-run, and are mostly technical or scientific. The Korean government tightly restricts access to the broader, worldwide Internet.

Libraries are mentioned in a couple recent books on North Korea. From Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader by Bradley K. Martin:

Kim [il-Sung] got involved with some friends in organizing a reading circle and a private one-room library in a rented room. Their library offered love stories as a come-on to attract new members but concentrated on revolutionary works, which he says the group kept on a "secret bookshelf." [p. 22]

After the party they were taken to see the Dear Leader's [Kim Jong-il] personal film library, which they found to be a three-story building where some 250 employees cared for an astonishingly full collection of more than 15,000 films from around the world. [p. 315]

This effort was evident during my visit to the Grand People's Study House, a grandiose pile of masonry billed as the country's central library and "center of intellectual activity." Predictably, a gigantic chalk-white statue of Kim il-Sung, seated in an easy chair and reading the Workers' Daily, dominated the vast lobby. Several rooms of the library were devoted to an exhibit of books published in North Korea. A librarian there, Li Hyung-ran, boasted that more than 1,300 volumes of Kim il-Sung's works and more than 700 volumes of works by Kim Jong-il had been published. The latter included a fifteen-volume set of Kim Jong-il's achievements in guiding the country's literature and art.

The shelf for Korean literature in general -- novels, poetry, criticism -- was considerably smaller than the shelf for the works of Kim il-Sung, and even there it was impossible to escape the main theme.

Here, said the librarian, was a historical novel, also in fifteen volumes -- a fictionalized account of the deeds of Kim Jong-il. And over here, "these are the illustrated fairy tales told by the Great Leader and the Dear Leader," she said.
[p. 352]

And from Kim il-Song's North Korea by Helen-Louise Hunter:

Not far away is the beautiful Korean-style Kim il-Song Library, dedicated to Kim on his seventieth birthday in April 1982. The North Korean people devoted hours and hours of volunteer labor to the building of the library, as they did to the building of the Revolutionary Museum in 1972. [p. 23]

The Kim Il-song Library, designed to accommodate 10 million books and to serve as North Korea's Library of Congress, was constructed in a matter of a few months. [p. 125]

Each year the regime has allocated additional resources to improve the facilities of Kim il-song University. The main campus library boasts over 3 million volumes and 1,200 seats, but according to foreigners who have toured the campus, the elaborately furnished library rooms have no one studying in them. Many different editions of Kim's collected works, bound in leather, adorn the bookshelves, but no one seems to be reading them. [p. 213]

Here is a photo of the Grand People's Study House (also called the Kim il-Sung Library), North Korea's version of the Library of Congress.

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Monday, July 10, 2006

Chewing Tobacco Banned at Seattle Libraries

The new rules at the Seattle Public Library are out:
  • No chewing tobacco outside the library (Do they have a library cop monitoring this? Do they inspect your mouth or what?)
  • You can't take your shoes off while in the library
  • You can't bring any article into the library that is bigger than 14 inches wide by 17 inches tall by 20 inches deep
  • You can't put your feet on the furniture
This last rule brings back an awful memory from many years ago when I was a regular visitor to the Akron Summit County Public Library (OH). I was reading a book and had propped my feet on a small low table directly in front of my chair. A psychotic librarian (no exaggeration) ran over to me at top speed from all the way on the other side of the library and demanded I remove my feet from his precious table.

I should say here that I've never been to Seattle. Don't know that I'd want to go either--at least after hearing about the Seattle Public Library. I wrote something earlier about their phony librarians acting as willing dupes of socialist and Democratic party organizations by drafting a petition to impeach President Bush and present it at ALA in New Orleans.

Seattle Public Library sounds odd, doesn't it? Don't you seriously wonder about the management, not to mention the regular "librarians"? The entire system sounds atrocious from my perch on the other side of the country.

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Librarian Fired Over Religion Reinstated

A federal judge in Kansas City ordered the Rolling Hills Consolidated Library (MO) to reinstate Connie Rehm, who lost her job in 2003. She claimed religious discrimination, saying working Sundays conflicted with her religious beliefs as a Lutheran.

I had written about this earlier ("Librarians and Religion").

I think the question now is whether the librarian would really care to work in such an environment--and for such awful library management. I wouldn't.

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Sunday, July 09, 2006

Dust-Up Over R-rated DVDs

A public battle between the Loudoun County (VA) Board of Supervisors and the library board of trustees has developed over spending money on R-rated DVD movies.

The Supervisors voted 8-1 to ask the trustees to stop spending county dollars on adult-oriented movies. The trustees decline, and intend to buy more of the same. It's amazing that the Supervisors are almost unanimous on one side of the issue, but the trustees, I assume, are all on the other side. Where sits the Loudoun community between them?

The librarians unnerve me by resorting (as usual) to charges of "censorship" (the last refuge of scoundrel librarians). It's almost a cliche that when librarians scream "censorship!" then you know they're doing something wrong and inappropriate for their communities.

What is proper for the community? Not all libraries should have the same materials. The San Francisco Public Library should probably have a very different collection than the public libraries in Loudoun County. The reason, as anyone who reads this blog knows, is because it is the library's role to reflect its community. Are the library trustees in Loudoun reflecting their community?

According to the story:

In Loudoun, the policy espouses a "freedom to read" philosophy that encourages the acquisition of materials for "everyone within the community," said Douglas Henderson, the system's director.

"It's not our goal to have material that's appropriate only for kids 13 and under," Henderson said.

It's a somewhat strange statement from the director, isn't it? I don't see anyone asking that the collection include only materials for 13 and under. And his response begs the question why his libraries don't include X-rated materials since, according to him, the libraries must have something for "everyone within the community."

If R-rated materials are "necessary," then why not X-rated? I don't see from these comments where Henderson has given this much thought, or perhaps he's hiding something.

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Thursday, July 06, 2006

Was Borges a Lousy Librarian?

Jorge Luis Borges is remembered as one of the greatest writers of the 20th Century, based on the strength of his short stories, "The Library of Babel" among them.

Borges was also a librarian. But was he a good one? I recently combed through the bargain book shelves at the local barnes & Noble and came across a book called "Borges: A Life" by Edwin Williamson. Naturally, my first thought was to go to the index in the back and look up the word "library." This led me to page 292 and a discussion of the well-known story of how Borges had been "promoted" out of the Miguel Cané branch of the Buenos Aires Municipal Library in 1946 and installed as the director of poultry inspection. (Borges was later appointed as director of the National Library in 1955 by an anti-Peronist government.)

The author suggested that there may have been objective grounds for Borges' removal from the library:
  1. His record of absenteeism (apparently not a proud one)
  2. Infringing standard civil service rules against becoming involved in political activities
The "promotion" to inspector of poultry is always given in biographies as a deliberate insult to Borges--as a reward for his anti-Peron agitations. But was someone trying to do him a sincere favor? According to the book:

The only difference between Borges and the many others who were to lose their jobs was that he was one of the best-known writers in the country. And it was for precisely this reason that he gained the sympathy of certain writers who worked at the Secretariat for Culture.

The only way to keep Borges from being fired was to transfer him elsewhere. It was decided he would be a director of Beekeeping (apicultura in Spanish). The book states that it was Borges and his pals who distorted the word to avicultura (poultry in English) for the purpose of marketing the transfer as a deliberate humiliation. Borges then played it up as an instance of "political persecution."

The account is interesting because this is the first I've heard that the promotion was for beekeeping not poultry, as well as the idea that his influential friends were actually trying to do him a favor, not humiliate him.

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Sunday, July 02, 2006

A Little Library Music

Considering the growing acceptance of "noise" in libraries, I think it will soon come to pass that more libraries will pipe in background music to modernize and round out the modern library experience.

What kind of music would be appropriate would depend on the library, but generally, I expect the future trend of music in libraries to follow this pattern:
  1. Classical (Mozart, chamber music, piano concertos, etc.)
  2. Jazz/Big Band
  3. Classic Rock (50s, Elvis, Beatles)
  4. Modern Rock/Country/Rap
In other words, libraries will gradually move chronologically through the history of music--starting gently, lightly, and as unobtrusively as possible with classical music, and eventually moving to current sounds (depending on the library--some may well stay with classical or jazz if the music somehow fits in with the libarry's mission).

Probably 20 years from now it will be standard practice and expected by users that public libraries provide background music throughout most of the building--excepting "quiet rooms" of course.

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Raves, Raps for Noise in Libraries

An article on the new library in Belmont, CA focuses on the increased noise level in libraries across the country:

As communities across the country eagerly raze their World War II-era libraries and replace them with modern counterparts, they're incorporating features like open children's areas, Wi-Fi access and islands of computers, along with teen zones and cafs.

Often accompanying these features is a steady hum of conversation, the sound of children calling out, audible sounds from earphones, and the tap-tap of computer keyboards.

But some, such as the person quoted here, see the end of silence as a tragic loss:

"Noise has increased in society everywhere, and I guess they just feel they're out of step," said Pera, a San Mateo resident, of those leading the cutting edge in library design. "They're trying to keep people's attention in a highly distractable age."

The first post on the Reflective Librarian a couple years ago (I'll have to repost it sometime) proclaimed that the Good Library is one that reflects its community, while the Bad Library is one that doesn't. (It follows that the Good Librarian is one that reflects the community as a whole as well.) By following the noise, libraries are mirroring trends in our society in general, so nothing wrong with that at all.

Another story discusses the new Greenboro District Library in Ottawa, Canada:

Ottawa's newest library is no quiet scholarly retreat, and that's just fine with the people who worked over the last decade to see it built. It is a busy, sometimes noisy place that resembles a big bookstore in the way it tries to connect readers to books.

But on the other hand, a private book club called the "Accompanied Library" was evicted by its tenant over too many noisy parties. This behavior seems strangely at odds with the Introduction posted on the library's Web site, which advertises itself as:

a quiet space for reading and working in busy downtown Manhattan.

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Saturday, July 01, 2006

Another Librarian Hinders Police

Hasbrouck Heights (NJ) library director Michele Reutty refused to give police the circulation records on a man who had allegedly made sexually threatening comments to a 12-year-old girl outside the library.

It's a familiar story by now. The cops want to get a bad guy and a librarian stands in their way.

Reutty told them they needed a subpoena. They got one. But no--Reutty said there was a mistake on the subpoena--she still couldn't give them the man's records. So she made the cops get a second subpoena before she finally had no choice but to hand over the records. It was well over a day before the police got the records they wanted as a result of Reutty's delaying tactics. Who knows what the wanted man might have done to some child in the intervening hours.

Borough officials were angered by Reutty's "blatant disregard" for law enforcement. The library board will meet July 10 to decide if any disciplinary action should be taken against her. I hope they do take action--like kicking her out of the library business and forcing her to go elsewhere.

Is Reutty's motivation here really about "privacy rights"? Does that explain her behavior which, to the casual observer, seems antagonistic and hateful toward law enforcement? Doesn't her behavior seem sympathetic to the potential criminal the cops were chasing? Some librarians are hiding their motivations behind an outward symbol of ethics (privacy rights), when their actions are guided by reasons deliberately kept hidden--reasons not so ethical.

The entire "privacy" rationale used by librarians and gaining nationwide attention is nothing but a sham to hide the immoral, unethical motivations guiding some librarians who unfortunately have found a home in our profession.

As I've stated before, my hope is that the increased technological proficiency demanded of librarians now and in the future will tend to weed out extremists and improve the profession as a whole, as higher salaries and status encourage a better class of people to enter our ranks. My wish can't happen too soon.

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