Bookmark Now

Special treat, folks. For the rest of the week I’m dedicating this page to an interview with my friend Kevin Smokler, editor of Bookmark Now: Writing in unreaderly times. I met Kevin while sitting on the floor at the South by Southwest Interactive conference. He handed me a slip of paper on which was written directions to dinner that night. “Paper email,” he said.

I’ll be e-interviewing Kevin all this week on subjects writerly and librariany as part of the Virtual Book Tour.

Erica: Kevin, as a long-time advocate of literature and literacy (real literacy, not that “cultural” or “visual” silliness) you and the Librarian Mafia (as we like to call ourselves) have much in common. What do you think librarians can do to improve our services to young writers like those profiled in Bookmark Now?

Kevin: Erica, first off, thank you for having me. The opportunity to speak and share ideas with librarians, the ball and socket joints of our profession, is one I don’t get very often.

A few thoughts: From a professional standpoint, libraries are crucial research centers for us non-fiction authors and many novelists too. But that relationship seems mostly a functional, transitory one, which ends with the book being stocked on the library shelves and the library and staff getting thanked in the acknowledgments. Hundreds of books owe their existence to the research materials afforded by any major library. Why not make hay from that? Why not find the authors using the library in their research and have them give midway seminars about their research and discoveries? Why not have a quarterly reception for all authors using the library to encourage community with the library as the locus? Why not make sure the library is a stop in the publicity efforts for that book? What all this requires, as you can already see, is some way for authors using the library to make themselves known to library staff. Perhaps a special “registration” for authors? There’s probably a less ethically thorny solution I haven’t thought of yet.

Specific to young authors, it comes down to a question of accessibility and convenience. Young folks keep later hours so wouldn’t it be great if fund were available for the library to be open late a few nights a week? Wouldn’t it be great if library announcements, events, new acquisitions were available via a series of rss feeds so I didn’t have to remember to go to the SFPL’s web site to remind myself when that Richard Rodriguez lecture I wanted to see was. Wouldn’t it be great if the library paid some kid on a bicycle to deliver reserved materials to requesters nearby so I didn’t have to remember to walk by the library on X hour and Y day when it’s open. The sad truth is that, with Google available on my desktop, if the library is less convenient, I won’t bother with it. However, unlike google, the library is a physical place. Highlight the benefits I get going to it instead of staying at home. Art galleries do a “First Thursdays” in cities across the country. What about one for libraries?

4 Replies to “Bookmark Now”

  1. A library open-house (perhaps with wine and cheese, or local beers) with an emphasis on the depth of services the library can give you would be a cool event.

    I disagree COMPLETELY with the guy you interviewed about the utility of Google and the resources of a library being interchangable. At least at this point in time, Internet reseach (though a wonderful starting point) is shallow at best, hindered by pay sites and ads and requires a great deal of “operator wisdom” to sort the few grains of wheat from the vast amount of chaff. The power of the Internet in terms of access to individual voices is a detriment for research, because the credentialing is nil. Don’t misunderstand me, the Internet is a powerful tool, and I use it daily for my job: but it doesn’t have the depth and the authority of a library with professional librarians.
    –lambiepod (commented earlier on your “Flintstyle” entry)

  2. The RSS function is not yet available to us from the vendor, but:

    A caveat that our online library environment is going to experience a massive change come August with a new catalog interface, new services, and an entirely new information architecture. Exciting times!

  3. Leslie,

    That friggin’ rocks. Please provide a link to your library so I can check it out.

  4. I’m a digital librarian (and I met Kevin at Virginia Festival of the Book ) and I just wanted to comment that libraries are catching up in some ways. Library system vendors (like Sirsi) are introducing RSS capability for their catalogs, so users could get notified of new acquisitions. Some libraries have blogs. More should and could use RSS for their calendars of events. I’m at an academic library, and we do deliver books, at least to faculty and staff. And access to our collections is available through Google Scholar (Open WorldCat) and more and more libraries (including ours as of next week) are supporting direct linkages for authorized users to our licensed materials through Google. Our catalog is not our only service or pathway to our collections.

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