Saturday, July 24, 2010

Joan Rivers on the value of a library card to young women

Joan Rivers on the value of a library card to young women

By Walter Haan, www.war-books.com, www.southfarmpress.com

Comedian Joan Rivers once commented on the value of a library card to young, single women:

“No man ever put his hand up your dress looking for a library card.”

Having once been a young man, I can honestly agree with that statement.

In these day of ebooks, the Internet and Google, of what use is a library card you might ask. These days I use mine most of the time to check out DVDs of recent films.

Back in the 80s I used my local Russell Library in Middletown, Connecticut for research about the books Southfarm Press published. I even used it to garner a graphic or two that I couldn’t seem to find anywhere else for a book jacket design. I remember needing a small hammer and sickle graphic and couldn’t find it anywhere except at the local library. That was pre-Internet days obviously.

My older daughter lived in Los Angeles for two years in the 90s and was surprised to find that the libraries there were loaded with films, which were placed in the front spaces of the libraries. Actual books were in shorter supply she found. But this makes sense because LA is a company town for the film and entertainment businesses.

Southfarm Press books have been ordered by libraries, big and small, across the nation and by international libraries as far away as Manila, the Philippines over the years. Reviews in Publishers Weekly or Booklist or local newspapers or magazines such as Naval History spurred those sales.

But we were surprised that our fewest library and bookstore orders came from the state and region where our offices were located: Middletown, Connecticut and New England. In the 80s we had a banner up in the offices that declared we had more book orders from Guam, the American Island Territory north of New Guinea, than we had from Connecticut. I once came up with a statistic that pointed out that New England had fewer readers than any other part of the nation. That was surprising to me since New England includes such hotbeds of reading as New Haven, Connecticut (Yale) and Boston (MIT and Harvard).

One tactic of libraries has often irked me. That’s their habit of unloading older books to make room for newer ones. Why can’t they enlarge their facilities to have the best of both? And what’s going to happen now with ebooks and Kindle becoming popular? This past week, Amazon.com announced that for the first part of this year, it had sold more ebooks for Kindle than hardcover books. I don’t know that I actually believe that because Amazon.com is known for only promoting what it has the most financial interest in.

Once at my local library years ago, I was asking a librarian for research help and I guess she didn’t like having to actually work. So she asked me in a surly manner, “Are we done here?” I assured her that we were and never did my research there again.

Now that question can be asked about libraries themselves: “Are we done here?” Libraries could be, as we know them. Besides unloading worthy older books, they refuse to buy POD books, that is, books printed on demand. Over half the books published in this country are now POD books. –Copyright © 2010 by Walter Haan, www.war-books.com, www.southfarmpress.com

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