Toronto's Metro Reference Library has unveiled its new makerspace, which sports 3D printer and scanners, Arduino and Raspberry Pi kits, and digital AV production gear. They've also lured the Toronto Mini-Maker Faire into relocating to their space. The library's makerspace will over classes and workshops on programming, hardware hacking, and repairing your electronics. It's a great all-ages/all-comers complement to Toronto's existing makerspaces, including Hacklab, Site3, and Makerkids.
The location couldn't be any better, either. I love Metro Ref. When I was 14, I dropped out of high-school without telling my parents and started taking the subway down to Yonge and Bloor every day, spending all day at the reference library, spelunking in the shelves, subject indices and (especially) the newspaper microfilm, which was amazing. And I've always loved the idea of makerspaces in libraries: as I wrote during last year's Freedom to Read week, "We need to master computers — to master the systems of information, so that we can master information itself. That's where makers come in."
Andy Forest from Makerkids, a Toronto makerspace for kids, writes, "Together, Kids Learning Code, MakerKids, TIFF and the Toronto Public Library have just finished developing 7 comprehensive maker curriculum modules for libraries, schools and other organizations who want to get kids started being Makers. The Mozilla Hive Network Toronto provided funding support. The modules are designed for a non-technical audience and contain all the information needed to teach these topics:" Read the rest
The Library of Congress has acquired The Seth MacFarlane Collection of the Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan Archive, and has begun to catalog and digitize the materials in it, posting them to the library's website. The scanned materials include Sagan's personal papers, and are divided into three categories: models of the cosmos throughout history; history of the possibility of life on other worlds; Carl Sagan's life and contributions to science and society." Read the rest
Canada's Conservative government, led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, has led a brutal attack on government libraries: literally burning the country's environmental records and doing such damage to the Health Canada libraries that scientists have set up clandestine libraries in the basements of their offices. But that was just for starters. In all, the Harper government has demolished the library collections of twelve ministries, including:
The Canada Revenue Agency, Citizenship and Immigration, Employment and Social Development Canada, Environment Canada, Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Natural Resources Canada, Parks Canada, the Public Service Commission, Public Works and Government Services, and Transport Canada. Read the rest
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. Read the rest
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. Read the rest
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. Read the rest
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. Read the rest
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. Read the rest
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! Read the rest
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.
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!"
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.'" Read the rest