One City, One Book Events

In case you don’t know, Steve Lopez’s The Soloist, the story of a homeless, African American man of prodigious musical talent but beset by schizophrenia, is Greensboro Public Library’s One City, One Book choice this year.

The library kicked off its One City, One Book events on Wednesday, and there are plenty more to come: 

You’ve Read the Book, Now See the Movie

We will be showing “The Soloist,” starring Robert Downey, Jr and Jamie Foxx, Thursday, Sept 23 at 2:30 at the Kathleen Clay Edwards Branch (1420 Price Park Rd). 

“Homeless in America”

See this award-winning documentary on Friday night at 7 PM at the Central Library. Made in 2004 in Los Angeles, “Homeless in America” is a short (30 minutes) documentary about the homeless and those who help them, including the LAPD, Los Angeles Mission, and others. Presents a variety of points of view from those who are directly involved. All the interviews are spontaneous and unrehearsed on location. (219 N. Church St)

Pre-Teen Book Club Reads “Darnell Rock Reporting”

On Thursday (Sept 23) at 4 PM, pre-teen youth (ages 8-12) will discuss “Darnell Rock Reporting,” a novel by Walter Dean Myers about a teen who joins the staff of the school newspaper. After he has a chance encounter with a homeless man, he tries to help him out by writing a story about him (sound familiar?). The discussion will take place at the new McGirt-Horton Branch Library (2509 Phillips Ave.) 

Eternal High

On Saturday at 3 pm, see “Eternal High,” a movie about a 16-year-old boy who documents, over the course of a year,  his experience with depression and suicidal urges. Hemphill Branch Library (2301 W. Vandalia Road).

Touring Theater Presents an Adaptation of “The Soloist” at Triad Stage

The play doesn’t open until October 12, but it is not too early to order your tickets. It runs October 12-17. All performances are at 8 pm except for a Sunday matinée at 2 pm. Tuesday, Oct. 12 is Pay-what-you-can.”  All other performances are $7.50. Call (336) 272-0160 to reserve your seat today.

“Outsider Artist” Presley Ward Featured in Sunday’s News & Record

N&R writer Jeri Rowe features local artist Presley Ward, aka “The Stick Man.”  Mr. Ward shares his experiences as an artist who has frequently experienced homelessness.

Facilitators Trained and Ready

Over the past two weeks, we have trained about 40 people in book discussion facilitation techniques. They are now ready to lead discussions of The Soloist. The training, designed and led by Whitney Vanderwerff, was well-received by all who participated. If your group needs a facilitator, contact Beth Sheffield at 

Thanks to Our Sponsors

About a dozen nonprofit organizations helped plan and implement the 2010 One City, One Book and dozens of other volunteers have already gotten involved in the project. Without all of them, the project would not be possible. Also, we would like to thank the sponsors that have provided financial support: Cemala Foundation, Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro, GTCC, WUNC radio, News & Record, Friends of the Greensboro Public Library and the Greensboro Public Library Foundation.

For more information, please contact:   

Steve Summerford, Asst. Director, Greensboro Public Library, City of Greensboro, Phone:  336-373-3636, PO Box 3136, Greensboro, NC 27402-3136

The Future of eBooks in Libraries: The Coming Revolution for the Book

“Das Buch ist nicht tot!”  The book is not dead.  So reads a sign in old German typeface which hangs in my cube, given to me awhile back by one of my librarian colleagues.

And while that sentiment may well be accurate, we’re nonetheless at the beginnings of a sea-change for the book, probably the most dramatic change since the invention of the printing press in the 15th century.  For the “codex” (the basic format of the modern book with separate pages bound together, which supplanted scrolls by the 6th century AD) is at last beginning to be displaced — by a book in digital form.

In case you don’t know, they call these new digital or electronic books “ebooks.”     

Late last month, journalist and media expert Ken Auletta published a much talked about article in the New Yorker which addresses the pricing of ebooks and how this has been especially influenced by competition between Amazon and Apple.  Though Auletta estimates ebooks to represent no more than 3-5% of book sales at present, sales grew 177% last year and could eventually account for 25-50% of all book sales.  Obviously, whoever can control the ebooks market can make a lot of money.     

Auletta tells a fascinating story.  For the last several years, Amazon, as he recounts, has been selling ebooks which can be viewed on Amazon’s own reading device called the Kindle.  It’s now estimated there may be as many as three million Kindles out there. 

But in order to gain market share and sell Kindles, Amazon was actually selling ebooks for less ($9.99) than they were paying for them ($13.00).  Publishers felt this was too low and would eventually hurt their profits by devaluing ebooks.  And they were also concerned about an Amazon monopoly.         

To the publishers’ rescue has thus come Apple and its much ballyhooed iPad, which, among other things, can also function as an ebook reader.  Apple co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs has managed to fashion an agreement with five of the six top U.S. publishers to price ebooks at what is for them a more satisfactory $14.99.  (Giving publishers control over pricing is referred to as the “agency model.”)  In addition, the iPad offers a multi-media potential which the Kindle lacks — for example, with an iPad you could be reading a book and then link to an associated video clip.     

Also in the future ebooks equation is Google and their Google Books project.  Google, as many of you will know, has digitized millions of books.  Though the project, which has ambitions to be literally the largest library in the world, has become bogged down in litigation over copyright and other issues, there are nonetheless plans to open an ebooks store called Google Editions later this year.  Google will allow the publishers to set their own prices for ebooks, and Google’s ebooks have the advantage of being readable on any device.       

How all of this will ultimately shake out (as well as how quickly) is unclear.  As Auletta pointed out in a follow-up interview on NPR’s Fresh Air, Apple’s iTunes application (introduced in 2001) challenged the free-for-all/pirating culture of the internet by introducing the notion of paying for content.  Now, much as with the music business, publishers are seizing upon another Apple development (the iPad) as a way to breathe a new digital life into an “old media” industry which, in order to survive, must somehow be paid for digital content.        

Auletta said nothing about what all this may mean for libraries.  His focus was more upon the symbiotic fates of the publishing industry and independent booksellers.  But there is likely to be an effect upon libraries, and it could be substantial.

First of all, and though print will be the principal medium for books for at least a few more years, we have to assume that ebooks will nonetheless gradually evolve into the medium of choice for many library readers, and they will want free access to these ebooks.  But will libraries be able to afford to provide new fiction and non-fiction bestsellers in digital form to its readers if they must pay publishers $10-15 for each download?

Secondly, if a dedicated device such as an iPad or a Kindle is required to download an ebook, will libraries be able to buy these devices and loan them to patrons who cannot afford them?  And if this proves impractical, how will libraries ensure access to ebooks for less affluent patrons who cannot afford the special devices necessary to view them?      

Another issue is the possibility that some publishers (or even authors themselves, bypassing publishers) may go straight to digital publishing, perhaps not even producing print editions of books.  Digital publishing, as a music industry phenomenon for example, drove many retail music sellers out of business.  How can libraries ensure that the same fate does not befall them and the digital divide between information haves and have-nots does not widen even further?

Lastly, even if libraries are able to resolve ebook access problems, there will still be information literacy issues.  Patrons, many of whom may have inadequate computer skills, must be taught how to download ebooks and use the devices necessary to view them.                    

Of the options which libraries will undoubtedly explore in their efforts to provide access to ebooks, one will likely be the formation of consortia.  Consortia afford a model whereby libraries can share costs and jointly provide access.  Even now, through the NCLive network, Greensboro Public Library and most other libraries across the state of North Carolina have access to tens of thousands of full text newspaper, magazine, and journal articles, as well as books and even videos.  And several thousand audio and electronic books are already available through the North Carolina Digital Library

As for the special devices needed to view many ebooks (if indeed the necessity of a dedicated device, contra Google, becomes the norm), it does seem likely that the cost of these devices should drop dramatically over time — much as other technologies such as calculators, televisions, etc. — and perhaps much sooner than we think.

Here at Greensboro Public Library, information literacy is already a major focus, and each week our reference staff teach classes on how to use personal computers, the internet, Microsoft Word, and so forth.  As we move further toward a future in which the use of ebooks will be commonplace, we will probably need to incorporate classes on how to use ebooks and/or dedicated ebook readers into our already intensive information literacy efforts — at least during the coming period in which virtually all of us will have to transition from print to digital.         

Anyway, za book may not be dead.  But it’s changing mighty fast, and libraries and librarians need to start thinking about its future before events overtake them.

Don’t Forget! Friends of Greensboro Public Library Book Sale Coming Up Saturday, May 1st!

If you’re a booklover and want to spend your May Day having a blast, why not come to our semi-annual Friends of Greensboro Public Library book sale?  The sale is held at Central Library, located in Greensboro at 219 N. Church St., starts at 9 AM Saturday, just as the library opens, and runs until 2 PM with a bag sale to follow from 2:30-3:30 PM.    

You’re sure to find all kinds of great bargains! 

Also, while you’re here, be sure to stop by our Friends of the Library Booklovers Shop.  They’ve got plenty of books at bargain prices too!  And, just in case you have some “gently used” books you ‘d like to give to a worthy cause, the Booklovers Shop is where our book donations are accepted. 

Please, if you are donating, we’d prefer not to receive magazines, textbooks or condensed books.  Tax receipts are available. 

Interested in the next sale?  Well, mark your calendars for Saturday, November 6th.

All proceeds go to the Friends of the Library. 

Remember, Central Library, May 1st, 9 AM.  Be there or be square!

Some Great Spring Book Sales Coming Up in Greensboro!

Hey, if you’re a book collector or just love books and like to read, we’ve got a couple of great book sales coming up here in Greensboro that you will not want to miss.

First of all, one of Greensboro’s best annual sales is held each April by St. Francis Episcopal Church.  Back when I was a real fanatic, I used to get up at four in the morning just so I could be first in line at this one.  This year the sale will be held Thurs., April 29th (10 AM-8 PM), Fri., April 30th (10 AM-8 PM), and Sat., May 1st (10 AM-2 PM).  The church is located at 3506 Lawndale Drive.

On the same day St. Francis’ sale wraps up (May 1st), the Friends of Greensboro Public Library hold their Semi-annual Spring Book Sale at Central Library, located at 219 N. Church in downtown Greensboro.  Hours for the sale are 9 AM-2 PM & 2:30 PM-3 PM.  The latter time I believe is for their bag sale.

St. Francis’ sale is huge, estimated at about 50,000 volumes.  Greensboro Public Library’s is not so large, but you bibliophiles will find plenty of goodies at both.     

While I’m enumerating local sales, I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention the Beth David Synagogue Book Sale, but that’s a wintertime event & for the next one you’ll have to wait until January 29th-31st, 2011.          

If you’d like to learn more about book sales in North Carolina and elsewhere, you may want to check out

Rare Book Found in Toilet to be Auctioned

Here’s a neat AP story about a rare 1st edition of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species which will be auctioned at Christie’s in London on Tuesday.  The story seems to have originated with this report from the Oxford Daily Mail

The irony is that the book was kept on someone’s toilet bookshelf in Oxford, England, for many years — and now is expected to bring as much as $99,000 at auction!  The owner is said to have paid only a few shillings for the book when it was purchased some forty years ago.

You can find a description of the book on the Christie’s page here.

The story begs the question:  what unrecognized treasures might you have languishing on the bookshelves at your home?  For things like this happen all the time.

For example, back in the 1920s a book collector and Edgar Allan Poe enthusiast named Vincent Starrett wrote an article for the Saturday Evening Post called, I believe, “Have You a Tamerlane in Your Attic?”  Starrett of course referred to the great rarity, Tamerlane and Other Poems, Poe’s first published work, which he published anonymously in 1827.

As it turned out, a lady who read that article actually did have a Tamerlane in her attic (I think she lived in an attic apartment).  She tried to contact Starrett about it, but, missing him, instead gave her business to a prominent Boston bookseller named Charles Goodspeed — and the two of them made quite a good little profit.

About twenty years or so ago the twelfth and last copy of Tamerlane turned up in an antique shop in New Hampshire.  The man who bought it just paid fifteen dollars, then sold it at auction for a little under $200,000.

At any rate, if you’ve got a book or any kind of collectible which you think may be valuable, Greensboro Public Library may be able to help you identify the item and get some idea of its value, though, of course, we cannot do formal appraisals.  For that, you should go to a reputable antiques dealer or the appropriate specialist, e.g., a seller of fine and rare books. 

But we have lots of books — too many and varied to mention — and other resources, such as our p4A Antiques Reference Database of auction records, which you may find helpful in researching an item.  As another example, sometimes local history resources, such as our old Greensboro city directories, can be useful in determining when a local item was manufactured.

By all means, if you have something you’d like to research, please feel free to contact us (335-5430) at the Informations Services desk at Central Library.  We’d be glad to help in any way we can.

Greensboro Public Library Book Sale Coming Up Nov. 7th

If you’re a book hound like me, you will not want to miss Greensboro Public Library’s Fall Used Book Sale, to be held at Central Library, Saturday, November 7th, 9AM-2PM.

At the sale, you’ll find all kinds of great deals on fiction, non-fiction, children’s literature, and much, much more.

Prices for most hardbacks and trade paperbacks will be $2.  Mass market paperbacks are .50 ea. 

There will be a bag sale from 2:30-3:30PM.  The price will be $4 per bag.

Central Library is located at 219 North Church St.  Parking is free.

Be there or be square!

R.I.P. Libraries?

The Good Old Days at Greensboro Public

The Good Old Days at Greensboro Public

As a librarian and a book collector, I suppose I should be concerned about this article from CNN entitled, “The Future of Libraries With or Without Books.”

Libraries are changing — and changing dramatically.  And I agree that books are on their way out — or at least they will not be as important for the libraries of the future as they once were. 

But I would lay emphasis on two points which are not really made in the CNN article.

First, I think modern libraries will continue to play a very important role in providing services to society’s information have-nots.

It is true that as virtually every conceivable type of information gradually becomes available in some type of digital format, folks who can afford their own computers will depend less and less on libraries. 

However, those who don’t have computers find themselves at a tremendous disadvantage.  For example, just try to find or apply for a job these days if you don’t have access to the internet. 

That’s where libraries come in.  We’re the social safety net for these information have-nots; in my opinion, this is an essential part of the mission of public libraries — now, and in the foreseeable future.  

And this is why adequate funding for public libraries remains important.  Society must embrace the idea that we have a social responsibility to provide our information have-nots with access to information — just as, for example, we provide medical care to the indigent.  

Secondly, librarians need to be more than just hip computer geeks with a Facebook page or a familiarity with Twitter — I think the article placed far too much emphasis here.  

Many library environments are very challenging.  Patrons in libraries may have special needs, such as a physical handicap or mental illness.  They also frequently lack the information literacy skills necessary to obtain the information they need.  And, as libraries morph further into social gathering places, librarians must also ensure that their facilities afford a safe and welcoming environment for patrons.

The truth is, that on any given day at a busy inner city library — such as Greensboro’s Central Library — a librarian will wear many hats — and may in a matter of moments find himself or herself transitioning from counselor to teacher to conflict mediator.  Above all, and I think in keeping with the social responsibility ethic which forms the foundation of our mission, librarians simply need to enjoy helping people.

But, anyway, yes, libraries are changing.

Missing Library Book Returned . . . After 145 Years

I suppose libraries have just about always had trouble with overdue and missing books. 

Medieval monasteries came up with my favorite solution:  chaining the books to the shelves (or desks) where they were housed.  I doubt we’ll ever do that here at Greensboro Public Library, but I did see an old book case in an antique shop in Asheville once that had a place for a metal bar which ran the length of each shelf; I’m pretty sure the bar was for attaching chains — always have regretted not buying that bookcase!

Anyway, ponder the curious story of the Washington & Lee University volume that went astray during the Civil War and only just found its way back home — after 145 years!  A Yankee soldier nabbed it during a raid in 1864; it had remained with his family and descendants all this time.  An antiquarian book seller in Tryon, North Carolina, named Harry Goodheart (and also a Washington & Lee alumnus) learned of the book and facilitated its return.  It was volume one of a four volume set called History of the War in the Peninsula and in the South of France by W.F.P. Napier.  Amazingly, the university library still owned volume two.  What a happy reunion it must have been! 

By the way, Washington & Lee library staff estimate the late fees (if charged) would be in excess of $52,000!  Now, if you’re holding some overdue Greensboro Public Library books, let this be a cautionary tale. . . .

Library Book Sale Coming Up May 2nd!!!!!!!!!

If you’re a big book collector like me, I’m sure you’ll be glad hear that Greensboro Public Library’s semi-annual used book sale is coming up on Saturday, May 2nd.  I always find great stuff at their book sale!

The sale will be held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Central Library at 219 N. Church St. (map).

Readers will find books, books on tape and CD, music CDs, and DVDs. 

Books will include fiction, mysteries, non-fiction, history, religion, children’s books, and lots, lots more — just all kinds of stuff!  You may even find some rare and collectible items!

Most hardbacks are $2 and most paperbacks are 50 cents.

All items for sale are community donations.  Proceeds from the sale go to the Friends of the Greensboro Public Library, a diverse nonprofit organization whose purpose is to support the community’s cultural and literary needs.  If you’re interested in more information on the Friends, please click the link above or call 373-3777.

Abe Lincoln in the News

Speaking of past presidents, Abe Lincoln is again in the news.  When asked, during his recent 60 Minutes interview with Steve Kroft, what he was reading as he was contemplating his new administration, President-elect Barack Obama said he was “spending a lot of time reading Lincoln.  There is a wisdom there and a humility about his approach to government, even before he was president, that I just find very helpful.” 

And check out this Newsweek article, in which Evan Thomas and Richard Wolffe argue that Lincoln could indeed serve as a valuable model for Obama to draw upon as he seeks to transcend our divisions and unify the country.  As they point out, Obama himself once said that next to the Holy Bible, the book “he would find essential in the Oval Office” would be historian Doris Kearns Goodwin’ s Team of Rivals, in which she “recounts how Lincoln surrounded himself with advisers who were better educated and more experienced and who made no secret of coveting Lincoln’s job.”  News that Obama is exploring some bold choices for his cabinet — perhaps even his former foe Hillary Clinton and some Republicans — suggests that Obama is unlikely to surround himself with “yes men.”

Unrelated to President-elect Obama was also news that a famous Lincoln letter, the so-called Bixby letter, had turned up in the archives of the Dallas Historical Society.  Though the copy found is not yet definitely authenticated, the Bixby letter was a condolence Lincoln wrote a woman upon hearing that she had lost five sons in the Civil War.  Considered to be one of the most extraordinary examples of presidential prose (not unlike his Gettysburg Address), the letter received considerable attention in its day and seems to have even influenced the plotline of Steven Spielberg’s film Saving Private Ryan.     

All this attention to Lincoln reminds me of a time many years ago when I was in an antiquarian bookshop and the bookseller there handed me a very tiny book, about the size of my thumbnail, on which I could see the words, “Littlest Lincoln Book.”  It was meant as a joke, owing to there being so many books about Lincoln.  Certainly he is the most written about of our presidents.  And naturally Greensboro Public Library has its share.

If you’d like to read about Lincoln, here are some of our recent titles:  “We are Lincoln Men”:  Abraham Lincoln and His Friends by David Herbert Donald; Abraham Lincoln by Thomas Keneally; Abraham Lincoln and the Forge of National Memory by Barry Schwartz; The Age of Lincoln by Orville Vernon Burton; The Gettysburg Gospel : the Lincoln Speech That Nobody Knows by Gabor Boritt; Giants:  The Parallel Lives of Frederick Douglass & Abraham Lincoln by John Stauffer; Lincoln:  A Life of Purpose and Power by Richard Carwardine; Lincoln by David Herbert Donald; Lincoln:  The Biography of a Writer by Fred Kaplan; Lincoln President-elect : Abraham Lincoln and the Great Secession Winter 1860-1861 by Harold Holzer; Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation:  The End of Slavery in America by Allen C. Guelzo; Mr. Lincoln Goes to War by William Marvel; Our Lincoln:  New Perspectives on Lincoln and His World edited by Eric Foner; President Lincoln: The Duty of a Statesman by William Lee Miller; and The Real Lincoln:  A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War by Thomas J. DiLorenzo.