reading and goals

“Reading” by Stefano Corso

I’ve had ┬álot more time on my hands over the past few days than I usually do. The University is closed, and I’ve been on a paid holiday since last week. I returned from visiting family on Saturday, and since then my time has pretty much been my own. This has involved mid-day naps, lounging in pajamas, and reading.

Normally, I don’t have much in the way of true leisure time, in part because I don’t allow it. On the occasions when I have found myself with “nothing to do,” I quickly get stir-crazy and regret not planning something in advance. I worried that might happen this week, but I had plenty of house projects if I felt inclined to tackle them, so I knew I’d be okay. What has surprised me, however, is how I was able to slip into a mode of relaxation I haven’t be in for a long time.

A big part of that has been trying desperately to at least get to half my 2013 reading goal before midnight last night. 2012 was a good year for me and books — I read 27 that year, starting at a goal of 25, so I figured I could make the goal of 30 this year. I didn’t anticipate eventually taking on music director responsibilities at WRIR in late spring, a job that consumes most of what remained of my downtime. As of last week, I had read only 11 books in 2013. The time off over the past few days coupled with a road trip (yay audiobooks!) helped me cover the ground and hit 15 in time. You can see what a motley crew they were on my GoodReads page.

I prefer to read my fiction cover to cover in one sitting, unless it takes more than four hours. I’m a pretty fast reader, doing about a hundred pages an hour of your typical mass market paperback, so four hours or more makes for a long book. I prefer to read my non-fiction in audiobook format, where stops and starts don’t interrupt the narrative too much, and having someone talk at me makes me pay better attention to the words. Given those conditions, and the types of nonfiction and fiction I prefer, it’s not always very easy for me to find something I’m interested in at the moment, and far too easy to choose a podcast or a project instead of reading. I’m not making excuses — I’m just working to understand myself better so I know how I can “trick” myself into making the time and space for books.

But why? What’s so important about reading? Funny thing for a librarian to ask, don’t you think?

Reading books was a huge part of my identity as a kid. Growing up, I spent a lot of time in my bed, propped up on my elbows, mind far away in the story in front of me. Relations with my younger sister were tense after years of yelling at her to leave me alone when she would come in my room, looking for a playmate. Even then, I didn’t like to interrupt the story. We’re friends now, and ironically, she’s more of a reader than I these days (she read 80 in 2013, with an original goal of 75).

I distinctly remember when I stopped craving books and reading regularly. It was the year I went to graduate school for my MLIS. The coursework demanded so much reading, and I was taking four classes a semester instead of the usual three course full load, that after a while, I took more pleasure in not reading a book, using my time for other leisure activities. I recognized this shift a long time ago, but the new hobbies and interests didn’t go away, either, so I’ve struggled to make time for both.

I’ve winnowed down my book collection regularly over the years. I still acquire new ones, particularly hardcovers I plan to keep forever, but the discount books and mass market paperbacks I picked up over the years because they looked interesting have had to survive several severe weeding projects to remain on my shelves. And so many of them remain unread. At times it feels like a weight around my neck, dragging me down. At other times, it’s so overwhelming that I can’t choose what to read from among them, so I keep whittling it down, becoming more selective, and also having fewer to pack with each house move.

Books still remain important to me. Stories rattle around in my mind long after I have finished reading them. I don’t need their escape as much as I did as a kid, thankfully. But, I do appreciate the mind-expanding properties they offer.

So, I continue to set annual reading goals, striving to meet them, and struggling to not feel like I’ve failed when I don’t. The last thing I want to do is to turn this into a chore or assignment, which is what turned me off from reading all the time in the first place.

Charleston 2012: The Twenty-First Century University Press: Assessing the Past, Envisioning the Future

Lecture by uniinnsbruck
“Lecture” by uniinnsbruck

Speaker: Doug Armato, the ghost of university presses past, University of Minnesota Press

The first book published at a university was in 1836 at Harvard. The AAUP began in 1928 when UP directors met in NYC to talk about marketing and sales for their books. Arguably, UP have been in some form of crisis since the 1970s, between the serials crisis and the current ebook crisis.

Libraries now account for only 20-25% of UP sales, with more than half of the sales coming from retail sources. UP worry about the library budget ecology and university funding as a whole.

“Books possessed of such little popular appeal but at the same time such real importance” from a 1937 publication called Some Presses You will Be Glad to Know About. Armato says, “A monograph is a scholarly book that fails to sell.”

Libraries complain that their students don’t read monographs. University Presses complain that libraries don’t buy monographs. And some may wonder why authors write them in the first place. UP rely on libraries to buy the books they publish for mission, not to recover the cost of production by being popular enough to be sold in the retail market.

Armato sees the lack of library concern over the University of Missouri Press potential closure and the UP role in the Georgia State case as bellwethers of the devolving relationship between the two, and we should be concerned.

But, there is hope. The evolving relationships with Project Muse and JSTOR to incorporate UP monographs is a sign of new life. UP have evolved, but they need to evolve much faster. UP press publications need better technology that incorporates the manual hyperlinks of footnotes and references into a highly linked database. A policy for copyright that favors authors over publishers is necessary.

Speaker: Alison Mudditt, ghost of university presses present, University of California Press

[Zoned out when it became clear this would be another dense essay lecture with very little interesting/innovative content, rather than what I’d consider to be a keynote. Maybe it’s an age thing? I just don’t have the attention span for a lecture anymore, and I certainly don’t expect one at a library conference. As William Gunn from Mendeley tweeted, “To hear people read speeches and not ask questions, that’s why we’re all in the same room.”]

ER&L 2012: Does the Use of P-books Impact the Use of E-Books?

sweets & swag
ER&L sweets & swag

Speakers: Michael Levine-Clark & Christopher C. Brown

In Dec 2008, they added all the print and ebooks for university press publisher A, and the duplication is primarily in the frontlist. They did the same for an STM publisher B in Jan 2009.

The have gathered circ data that is compiled annually. Comparing ebooks and print books is like comparing apples and oranges. pBook checkouts are for an extended period of time, and we have no way of knowing how many times they view a chapter or copy a page, the measures of ebook uses.

What a cataloger thinks a title is and what a vendor thinks a title is are two different things. How do you merge use and circ data if the comparison points may vary? Solution was to create an ISBN9, by stripping away the first three numbers of ISBN13 and the last number of the ISBN10, which worked pretty well.

Publisher A had about a third of the ebook titles used, but publisher B had only about 2% used. For print, two thirds of Publisher A titles were used and a little over a third of Publisher B were used.

The two most heavily used ebooks from the UP were probably used for a course. The print books were only checked out a few times, but there were thousands of uses for the e. For publisher B, they were used less but with no print circ. For the top two print, the UP ebook was used some, but not even as many as the checkouts, and for the STM print books, the e wasn’t touched. Overall, there was a high rate of use for both formats of a single title, I think (need to study the slides a little more).

They saw increased checkouts of print books over the time period, but it is inconclusive and could be related to the volume of titles purchased. There isn’t a clear impact of e on p or p on e use, but there does seem to be a connection, since when both formats are used, the rate is higher.

Might there be differences by subject or date? What sort of measure of time in a book can we look at? How does discovery play in?

Date & time of usage rather than one year might tell more of a story.

Agree about the discoverability challenge, and have encouraged them to put in chapter level data in their catalog records to create their own discovery with the MARC record. Full text searching in eBrary is great, but get it in the catalog along with the pbooks.

Did you consider the format of the ebook? Some publishers give PDF chapter downloads, which may account for lower use of Publisher B.

What about ILLs? They get included in the circ stats and aren’t separated.

How much of Chris’s time was spent on this? Hard to tell. Was ongoing over time as other things took priority.

How will this affect your collection development practices moving forward? Trying to give users a choice of format.

NASIG 2011: Books in Chains

Speaker: Paul Duguid

Unlike the automotive brand wars, tech brand wars still require a level of coordination and connectivity between each other. Intel, Windows, and Dell can all be in one machine, and it became a competition as to which part motivated the purchase.

The computer/tech supply chain is odd. The most important and difficult component to replace is the hard drive, and yet most of us don’t know who makes the drives in our computers. It makes a huge difference in profit when your name is out front.

Until the mid 1800s, the wine sold had the retailer name on it, not the vineyard. Eventually, that shifted, and then shifted again to being sold by the name of the varietal.

In the book supply chain, there are many links, and the reader who buys the book may not see any of the names involved, and at different times in history, the links were the brand that sold it. Mark Twain and Rudyard Kipling tried to trademark their names so that publishers could not abuse them.

In academia, degrees are an indication of competency, and the institution behind the degree is a part of the brand. Certification marks began with unions in the US, and business schools were among the first to go out and register their names. However, it gets tricky when the institution conferring the degrees is also taking in fees from students. Is it certification or simply selling the credentials?

Who brands in publishing? We think the author, but outside of fiction, that starts to break down. Reference works are generally branded by the publisher. Reprint series are branded by the series. Romances are similar. Do we pay attention to who wrote the movie, TV series, or even newspaper article?

What happens when we go digital? The idealist’s view is that information wants to be free. The pragmatic view is that information needs to be constrained. Many things that are constraints are also resources. The structure and organization of a newspaper has much to do with the paper it is on. Also, by limiting to what fits on the paper, it conveys an indication of importance if it makes it into print. Free information suffers from a lack of filters to make the important bits rise to the top.

We think of technologies replacing each other, but in fact they tend to create new niches by taking away some but not all of the roles of the old tech. What goes and what stays is what you see as integral.


This book tries to be funny about librarians and libraries, but it has not aged well.

Last year, a fellow bookcrosser sent me a copy of Betty Vogel’s self-published attempt at library humor entitled A Librarian Is To Read. This copy is being passed around to librarians, and since I’ll be convening with quite a few of them at ALA Midwinter, I figured I’d better get it read and ready to pass off to someone else.

The book did not impress me. There were moments of genuine humor, but most of the book seemed to be a mixture of negativity and sarcasm. The age of the book did not assist it, either. While it might have been more applicable (and funny) at the time it was written, libraries and librarians have changed enough since then to make it less of an inside joke and more of a glimpse into a different time. Perhaps librarians who were active in the profession around the same time as the author would enjoy it more than I.