Rare Book Monthly

Articles - October - 2010 Issue

Libraries: <i>The Rumors of My Death have been Greatly Exaggerated</i>

Opportunityforall

Opportunity For All study shows surprising use of internet access at libraries.


By Michael Stillman

Libraries would appear to be a threatened species, if you read the news. A 24-hour vigil was recently held at City Hall in Newark, New Jersey, to protest the closing of two branches and seriously reduced hours at others. Downstate in Camden, officials were debating whether to close one of their two remaining branches. Services in Long Beach, California, were recently spared reductions only after private contributions were offered, but libraries in Oregon that were severely cut after the loss of timber production revenues a few year back are again under assault. In Pasco County, Florida (Dade City), one branch was saved by reducing hours at the others.

Two factors have come into play to make this a difficult time for these cultural and educational institutions that thrived for a century in America after Andrew Carnegie made it his goal to cover the nation with local libraries. One is the difficult economic times that have impacted some of us financially, and others, still employed but fearful, psychologically. If the President, his economic advisers, Congress and the Federal Reserve are all struggling to rectify this situation, there's not much librarians can do to solve it.

The other factor is public perception of libraries as outdated, unused repositories of old technology. These are perceptions held primarily by those who don't use libraries. The reality is that while some may be dragging their feet, there are major changes going on in most libraries. Like us, they are feeling their way into the new world of technology, and their role in providing us with information, education, and entertainment is as crucial for many today as it was in Carnegie's time. Surviving this period of budget cuts is critical as libraries, which not long ago had all of the attributes of dinosaurs, are reviving their essential roles in the life of our communities.

Libraries around the nation have been making use of grants funded through the Library Services and Technology Act, passed in 1996, to upgrade their services to better serve people in the digital age. This act replaced an earlier one that had been focused more on providing aid for construction of physical space. In Georgetown County, South Carolina, the local library made use of these funds to purchase Kindle electronic readers. They bought 25 of them, which people can use at the library to read books (the Kindles are not available for check out). While that may not sound entirely convenient, the program is enabling people to learn how to use these devices. Additionally, with Georgetown being a rural and not wealthy county, many of its residents are not in a position to buy electronic readers or the books to be downloaded on them.

In Hartford, a grant is being used by the library to offer instruction in art and writing for people aged 55 and up. This may not be high technology, but it is drawing people into the library by offering services not likely to be found elsewhere. The Sayre Public Library in Pennsylvania is using these funds to offer computer instruction to people middle aged and up. In Carson City, Nevada, they used grant funds to purchase a radio frequency check out system. It has freed up personnel who used to check out books by hand to provide more help to patrons, and allowed the library to extend its hours, even with fewer employees. In Sevier County, Tennessee, grant funds were used to provide video gaming. That may not sound like a literary use, but it is bringing young people into the library, and by offering games suitable for intergenerational use, it may help bring diverse age groups together. The list goes on...

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> SMITH, CHRISTOPHER WEBB. 1793-1871. <i>Indian Ornithology.</i> [Patna, India]: 1828. $50,000 to $80,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DUPRÉ, LOUIS. 1789-1837. <i>Voyage à Athènes et à Constantinople, ou Collection de portraits, vues et costumes grecs et ottomans.</i> Paris: Dondey-Dupré, 1825. $60,000 to $90,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> ADAMS, JOHN. Autograph Letter Signed ("J Adams"), [to Dr. Perkins?] while recovering from his small pox inoculation, [late-April, 1764]. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUSTEN, JANE. Autograph Letter Signed ("J. Austen"), to her sister Cassandra, 4 pp, "Thursday – after dinner," [September 16, 1813,] Henrietta St. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUDUBON, JOHN JAMES. 1785-1851. <i>The Birds of America, from Drawings Made in the United States and Their Territories.</i> New York & Philadelphia: J.J. Audubon & J.B. Chevalier, 1840-1844. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DODWELL, EDWARD. 1767-1832. <i>Views in Greece.</i> London: Rodwell and Martin, 1821. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> JAMES, JESSE. Autograph Letter Signed ("Jesse W. James"), to Mr. Flood demanding Flood retract spurious accusations, 3 pp, June 5, 1875. $200,000 to $300,000.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Textile of the Great White Fleet, with portraits of Theodore Roosevelt, Rear Admiral Robley D. Evans & successor Charles Stillman Sperry, 1908. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> William J. Stone, <i>Declaration of Independence,</i> Force printing, 1833. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Shugart family papers including documentation of the Underground Railroad, 63 items, 1838-81. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Records of the Dickinson & Shrewsbury salt works, over 2000 items, with extensive slave labor correspondence, legal records & receipts, bulk 1820-1865. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Gloria Steinem, typescript for her speech <i>Living the Revolution,</i> with related letters and documents, 1941-77. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> <i>Liberty Triumphant or the Downfall of Oppression,</i> depicting the aftermath of the Boston Tea Party, c. 1774. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Juan Eusebio Nieremberg, <i>Historia naturae, maxime peregrinae, libris XVI distincta,</i> Antwerp, 1635. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Antonio de Mayorga, manuscript map of Mexico City, 1779. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Thomas L. McKenney & James Hall, <i>History of the Indian Tribes of North America,</i> first edition, 3 volumes, Philadelphia, 1842-44. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Samuel Walker, diary of the entire first cruise of the USS Kineo, a gunboat on the Mississippi, 1854-69. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Scrapbook on early Stanford football, with letters from Walter Camp, 1893-95 & 1931. $8,000 to $12,000.
  • <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Roberts, David. Twenty Lithographs of the Holy Land, 19th Century. $2,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Declaration by the Reps. of the United Colonies of N.A. 1775. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Composer Jerome Kern personal Letters, Albums and Other. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Paine, Thomas. <i>Common Sense,</i> London 1776. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Stowe, Harriet Beecher. <i>Uncle Tom’s Cabin,</i> Cleveland 1852. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Hobbes, Thomas. <i>Leviathan,</i> 3rd edition, London 1651. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Anno Regni Georgii III. Intolerable Acts and other Bills, 1774. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Wilberforce, William. An Abstract of the Evidence, 5 Letters, and two books. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Nightingale, Florence. Notes on Nursing and Signed Letters, ca. 1860 $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Tolstov, Leo. <i>War and Peace,</i> 5 volumes, 1886. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Dickinson, John. Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, 1768. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Twain, Mark. <i>Tom Sawyer,</i> 1877 [and] <i>Huckleberry Finn,</i> 1885. $4,000 to $6,000.

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