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Simon & Schuster to begin library lending in New York

Simon & Schuster, the last of the Big Six multinational publishers to venture into ebook library distribution, will make its entire ebook catalogue available to libraries in New York City. A one-year trial will begin at the end of April at New York and Brooklyn public libraries and by mid-May in Queens. There’s no word on Canadian distribution yet.

S&S did not disclose details about ebook rates, though it stipulated fairly generous conditions compared to other publishers. Unlike HarperCollins, S&S won’t limit the number of times a book may be checked out. However, S&S has stipulated that titles may be checked out only one user at a time.

Unlike Penguin, which instituted a six-month lending delay after titles go on sale in stores and online, new titles will become available for purchase upon publication.

Ebook titles will be available to libraries for a one-year term. Following the lead of Penguin, the one-year expiration date is designed to mimic the shelf life of print books. Titles will also be available for purchase through libraries, presumably to patrons who don’t want to wait on the hold list until the book becomes available.

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Books to boost your mood

The Reading Agency, an independent charity in the U.K., is helping people turn to bibliotherapy through its Books on Prescription program, which launches in May.

The agency is asking the public to recommend mood-boosting fiction, non-fiction, and poetry via Twitter and Facebook. According to its website, the program is based on evidence that stress levels can be significantly reduced by reading.

The charity currently has a list of 27 “core” books to help you feel better, which were selected by eight reading groups across the country. Titles include Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden, Bill Bryson’s Notes from a Small Island, Salman Rushdie’s Haroun and the Sea of Stories, Mark Haddon’s A Spot of Bother, and Jasper Fforde’s The Big Over Easy.

The mind-boosting book series will run alongside the government-endorsed Books on Prescription program, which focuses on self-help books. The  program will see U.K. doctors prescribing titles from an approved list of 30 books to patients suffering from mild to moderate mental health concerns, including anxiety and depression. Local libraries will stock the titles, which include Christine Padesky and Dennis Greenberger’s Mind Over Mood, David Burns’s The Feeling Good Handbook, and Frank Tallis’s How to Stop Worrying.

Similar programs have already been adopted in Wales, Denmark, and New Zealand.

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New Innisfree library serves rural Alberta population of 220

Innisfree, Alberta, has opened its first permanent public library. The 220 residents of the rural village now have access to free DVDs, CDs, e-readers, books (about 2,600 books have been catalogued so far, with another 1,000 on the way, the Vermilion Standard reports), and literacy programs.

The Innisfree Public Library, which occupies 1,400-square feet of the village’s community centre, has been in the works for the past four years, since the village became part of the Northern Lights Library System. In the year preceding its July 4th opening, the library board and volunteers had generated community interest by running the village’s first-ever youth summer reading program, hosting the Alberta Prairie Classroom on Wheels bus, and organizing a book swap and donation drive.

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Should the incarcerated have access to books?

Residents of Toronto’s provincial detention centres have gone without regular access to books for about two years, the Toronto Star reports. Funding cuts have forced volunteers to take over responsibility for libraries in the province’s correctional facilities, and the candidate pool seems to have run dry.

From the Star:

At the Toronto East Detention Centre, library service has been sporadic for 16 years because of a lack of volunteers, said Brent Ross, a spokesman for the Correctional Services ministry. Student volunteers have filled in occasionally during the last two years, he said, adding that jails have relied on volunteers since 1996 when the province laid off all librarians in correctional institutions…. Toronto West and East are the only two of Ontario’s 29 detention centres without library volunteers, Ross said.

The article was sparked by a blog post by Alex Hundert, who was an inmate at Toronto West Detention Centre after pleading guilty to charges related to 2010’s Toronto G20 protests.

From Hundert’s blog:

When I requested to have the library cart sent to the range so I could borrow a book, the guards told me they haven’t seen the cart in ages…. [T]hose of us locked up here, most not yet having been convicted of any crime, have had no access to books to read…. I have no idea why those in charge of the system would want to deny people books. I would think Corrections would encourage literacy in here, especially when so many of those incarcerated are so young and undereducated…. Denying people books feels like somewhat cruel and unusual punishment.

Hundert goes on to note that though inmates can purchase some books from the canteen, or have books sent in from the outside under very strict conditions, a recent search of the unit he lived in saw all books and magazines confiscated.

The article and Hundert’s post raise a few important questions: if part of the purpose of incarceration is to rehabilite criminalized people and prepare them for re-entry to mainstream society, what role can books play in these processes? And provided books and libraries have their place in detention centres, should these resources be government- or volunteer-funded and operated? Should the responsibility of promoting literacy and access to books fall to average citizens?

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Toronto’s LGBTQ speed dating gets a literary reboot

Toronto Public Library Homepage

Speed dating has been given a bookish twist, thanks to the Toronto Public Library’s debut LGBTQ Literary Speed Dating night, which takes place July 4, 6:30 p.m. at the TPL’s Bloor/Gladstone branch.

Organized by librarian Raymond Lam to coincide with the end of Toronto’s Pride Week, the speed-dating night is open to anyone who identifies as LGBTQ, between the ages of 19 and 35. The event gives participants a chance to discuss a favourite book, CD, or DVD with like-minded people.

Lam says he got the idea after reading an article about the success of similar events at other libraries across the country. (In February, The Globe & Mail wrote about the Vancouver Public Library’s popular “Read Dating” nights.) He explains that literary speed-daters create an alias, and when participants meet someone they’d like to see again, they can check their name off on a speed-dating card. If two people show an interest in each other, Lam will put them in touch via email.

About 20 people have registered so far, and Lam is “hoping for some drop-ins” to reach the cap of 40 people. Participants can register by calling the Bloor/Gladstone library.

Lam, who has already declared tomorrow night a success, is planning a heterosexual literary speed-dating event for Oct. 24.

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Introducing the Uni, NYC’s portable reading room

Vision for The Uni (photo: Street Lab)

Street Lab, a U.S. non-profit that creates interactive programs for public spaces, has invented what could be a potential replacement for bookmobile services, which have been phased out in many communities.

The Uni is a portable open-air reading room that can be installed in any location, thanks to a series of 144 stackable shelves and waterproof covers that do double-duty as benches and tables. Volunteer librarians and educators oversee the donated book collection, which focuses on kids’ books, poetry, short-story collections, art books, and other titles that can be read and enjoyed on the spot.

Through donations received on the crowd-funding website Kickstarter, Street Lab is now operating one moving library that travels around New York City, and has shipped a second one to Almaty, Kazakhstan, in a collaboration between the U.S. Embassy and a local children’s library.

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Penguin to launch ebook lending pilot with libraries in New York and Brooklyn

Four months after cutting digital ties with libraries, Penguin has greenlighted a year-long pilot project that will see its ebooks loaned out at two New York library systems.

Penguin, which pulled its digital titles from OverDrive’s ebook lending platform in February over security concerns, has reached an agreement with New York Public Library and Brooklyn Public Library to distribute digital titles through 3M’s cloud-based system. The Wall Street Journal has sketched out the details:

The pilot, crafted to protect ebook sales, will delay the release of ebooks to the libraries for six months after the titles go on sale in stores and online. Each library ebook will expire after a year.

Tim McCall, vice president of online sales and marketing at Penguin, said the company will make all of its titles available — some 15,000 ebooks. He declined to discuss specific prices, but said ebooks will be priced for libraries in the same range as prices that retail consumers pay.

He said the six-month delay is intended to prevent library e-books from undercutting other sales. The renewable one-year expiration date on e-books, meanwhile, is designed to mimic the natural shelf life of print books.

The WSJ goes on to note that the Queens Library hopes to sign on to the agreement once the municipal budget is passed, and that should the pilot prove successful at New York and Brooklyn — two of the largest library systems in the U.S. — a similar program could likely roll-out nation-wide.

Today’s news leaves Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, and Hachette as the only Big Six publishers that don’t distribute ebooks to libraries. Among the remaining multinationals, Random House sells ebooks to the library market at significantly higher prices and HarperCollins enforces a circulation cap of 26 checkouts.

There’s no word yet on a similar ebook lending deal between Penguin and library systems in Canada, though Canadian libraries have been hard at work with publishers to find a Canadian-made licensing agreement.

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Book links roundup: Can fictional characters influence people? Florida libraries ban 50 Shades of Grey, and more

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Book links roundup: Federal libraries and archives to shut down, Tehran International Book Fair starts crackdown, and more

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Regina and Okanagan libraries vote to strike

With the dust of the 10-day strike at the Toronto Public Library settling, two other public library systems face the possibility of job action.

On Monday, public library workers in Regina voted 83 per cent in favour of a strike. The members of CUPE Local 1594 have been without a contract since Dec. 31, 2009. Roughly 180 library workers could walk off the job at nine branches if an agreement isn’t reached by April 10.

According to the Leader-Post, the major bone of contention is the proposal to extend library hours while cutting wages, and shrinking benefits for new employees. RPL staff went on strike for nearly a month in 2002 on the issues of pay equity and the extension of health benefits.

A day after the RPL vote, 96 per cent of workers at B.C.’s Okanagan Regional Library voted for a work stoppage. Members of CUPE 1123, the union representing 150 library workers at 16 branches, opted for the strike mandate after multiple bargaining meetings and two mediation sessions left contract discussions at an impasse.

In a press release, CUPE 1123 president Rose Jurkic says the sticking points are wage increases and benefits.

“The employer has put us in a tough position, the work we do inside our communities is important and we don’t want to see that disrupted,” Jurkic says. “However, in comparison to libraries of similar sizes we have fallen behind. We’re only asking for what workers doing the same type of work we do have.”

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Book Pictures

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Eva Stachniak's Empress of the Night

Eva Stachniak poses with a copy of her book, Empress of the Night

Tea and snacks inspired by Eva Stachniak's Empress of the Night

Rimma Burashko with author Eva Stachniak

Eva Stachniak talks to the audience about the best and worst of Catherine the Great's favourites

Eva Stachniak smiles as she signs a copy of Empress of the Night for a fan

Fans wait in line to have their copies of Empress of the Night signed by Eva Stachniak

Fans wait in line to have their copies of Empress of the Night signed by Eva Stachniak

Lesley Strutt, Dean Steadman, Amanda Earl, Alastair Larwill and Frances Boyle

Frances Boyle, Dean Steadman, Lesley Strutt and Alastair Larwill

Amanda Earl

Jewel of the Thames launch

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