Makerspaces and libraries: two great tastes that taste great together


Alex Duner describes the rise and rise of makerspaces in libraries, rattling off an impressive list of public libraries that have taken the mission of turning knowledge into action to the next step. Especially inspiring are the stories of library makerspace users who are finding new ways of expressing themselves, earning a living and improving their lives and making their worlds better through making.

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All library audiobooks going to DRM-free MP3s

Ben writes, "Overdrive, which is one of the main suppliers of downloadable audiobooks to public libraries, announced that it is retiring its DRM-encrusted .WMA formats and pushing everything to DRM-free .mp3s."

This is a big deal. Audiobooks are the last holdouts for DRM in audio, and one company, Audible, controls the vast majority of the market and insists upon DRM in all of its catalog (even when authors and publishers object). Itunes, Audible's major sales channel, also insists on DRM in audiobooks (even where Audible can be convinced to drop it). Audiobooks can cost a lot of money, and are very cumbersome to convert to free/open formats without using illegal circumvention tools. To stay on the right side of the law, you have to burn your audiobooks to many discs (sometimes dozens), then re-rip them, enduring breaks that come mid-word; or you have to play the audio out of your computer's analog audio outputs and redigitize them, which can take days (literally) and results in sound-quality loss.

Overdrive going DRM-free for libraries is a massive shift in this market, and marks a turning point in the relationship between the publishers/creators and the technology companies that act as conduits and retail channels for their work. It's especially great that libraries are getting a break, as they have been royally screwed on electronic books and audiobooks up until now.

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Health Canada scientists setting up unofficial libraries as national libraries fail

More from the Canadian Harper government's War on Libraries (see also: literally burning the environmental archives). Dave writes, "Health Canada scientists are also facing difficulties with government controlled libraries. It takes an insanely long time for them to receive any materials due to third-party delivery companies; they've started opening up their own unsanctioned libraries and have started taking advantage of external sources (industry and universities). This is turning into an insane story. There's obviously demand for the material within government circles, but policy and cuts are making it impossible to access, resulting in statistics of diminished use, which results in more cuts."

Health Canada used to have 40 librarians. Now it has six.

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Chronology of Canadian Tories' war on science libraries

As I've written, the Canadian Harper government's purge of environmental and scientific libraries has been a horrific shambles, as priceless and irreplaceable books and documents going back centuries were thrown away or even burned. Science librarian John Dupuis has assembled a comprehensive timeline of the disaster, with links to news stories and first-hand accounts that should have warned us something was amiss. Cory 15

Canadian libricide: Tories torch and dump centuries of priceless, irreplaceable environmental archives


Back in 2012, when Canada's Harper government announced that it would close down national archive sites around the country, they promised that anything that was discarded or sold would be digitized first. But only an insignificant fraction of the archives got scanned, and much of it was simply sent to landfill or burned.

Unsurprisingly, given the Canadian Conservatives' war on the environment, the worst-faring archives were those that related to climate research. The legendary environmental research resources of the St. Andrews Biological Station in St. Andrews, New Brunswick are gone. The Freshwater Institute library in Winnipeg and the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Centre in St. John's, Newfoundland: gone. Both collections were world-class.

An irreplaceable, 50-volume collection of logs from HMS Challenger's 19th century expedition went to the landfill, taking with them the crucial observations of marine life, fish stocks and fisheries of the age. Update: a copy of these logs survives overseas.

The destruction of these publicly owned collections was undertaken in haste. No records were kept of what was thrown away, what was sold, and what was simply lost. Some of the books were burned.

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America is in love with its libraries: Pew report


The Pew Internet and American Life Project released a new report today entitled How Americans Value Public Libraries in Their Communities (PDF), that shows a very large majority of Americans value libraries, viewing them as critical to their communities and vital to providing services that ensure equality of opportunity for people who would otherwise be at a terrible disadvantage in life.

This is in contrast to a few privileged blowhards who've opined that the library is an obsolete institution in the age of the Internet -- and worse, an unaffordable luxury in a time of austerity and recession. The mission of libraries is to help the public navigate information and become informed -- a mission that is more important than ever. As Eleanor Crumblehulme said, "Cutting libraries in a recession is like cutting hospitals in a plague."

Read on for the study's key findings.

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British Library uploads one million public domain images to the net for remix and reuse


The British Library has uploaded one million public domain scans from 17th-19th century books to Flickr! They're embarking on an ambitious programme to crowdsource novel uses and navigation tools for the huge corpus. Already, the manifest of image descriptions is available through Github. This is a remarkable, public spirited, archival project, and the British Library is to be loudly applauded for it!

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All Norewegian books to be digitized, made available

The National Library of Norway has struck a deal to digitize all of its Norwegian books and make them available online to anyone coming from a Norwegian IP address. This is great work, and a model for other countries. (It probably helped that Norway's publishers enjoy a laudable program of subsidies and incentives, including funding to translate foreign titles into Neu Norsk).

Photos of "the world's most exquisite libraries"


Here's a gallery of photos from the amazing new book The Library: A World History by James W. P. Campbell and Will Pryce, published in October. It's the first comprehensive history of library buildings through the ages by Cambridge University's James Campbell, and its centrepiece are the magnificent photos by Will Pryce.

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Reading net creates a kids' level in a library


Spain's Playoffice -- a design firm focused on kid-centric designs -- conceived of the "reading net" as a way of transforming "a traditional family library into a fun place for kids." It looks amazing.

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Wordplay Festival of Writerly Games


Jim Munroe sez, "The first WordPlay Festival of Writerly Games is happening at the majestic Toronto Reference Library on Sat. Nov. 16 for International Games at Your Library Day. It has an in-discussion-with interview with the Chicago-based Kentucky Route Zero game makers, a workshop led by Christine Love for making your own interactive fiction, and a panel on book/game intersections featuring Hamlet CYOA author and webcomics impresario Ryan North and Hugo award winner Peter Watts. It even features a world premiere delivered by Oculus Rift!"

Curl up with a good game. (Thanks, Jim)

Librarian to sister superior, 1948: comic books are good for kids!


Shawn from Muckrock sez, "MuckRock and MIT asked more than 1,200 libraries across Massachusetts for records of book challenges. We didn't find much, because it's Massachusetts in 2013, but the few we did find were solid gold. One such nugget was a letter from 1948, in which a snarky anonymous librarian essentially tells the local sister superior to stop trying to keep comic books away from sixth graders. In her words, 'The Library makes a practice of having all kinds of books available for all kinds of people.'"

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Neil Gaiman explains the worth and value of libraries

In an absolutely stirring, smashing speech delivered as the Reading Agency annual lecture, Neil Gaiman explains why libraries matter, and what duty we as writers and readers and citizens owe to reading and libraries.

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Photos: library building inspired by brain

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NewImageFelix Loechner created a gorgeous photo series documenting the Philologische Bibliothek on the campus of the Freie Universit├Ąt Berlin. Designed by architect Norman Foster, the library's form was inspired by the human brain. See the photos over at Designboom.

Harvard Business Review to universities: your subscription doesn't include classroom use

The University of Toronto's School of Business has advised its faculty to avoid assigning articles from the Harvard Business Review to their students. Though the U of T library has a digital subscription to the Review, Harvard has put it -- and other schools -- on notice that they will be billed separately if they are caught assigning, suggesting, or referring to HBR articles in classrooms. That's because the license agreement for academic HBR subscriptions forbids using HBR in coursework, and Harvard is now enforcing those terms, and hoping to extract rent from universities where the profs assume, foolishly, that just because a scholarly journal is in their library on a paid-up subscription, they can tell the students to go and read it.

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