How Libraries Stack Up

There have been mumblings in certain quarters recently suggesting that libraries are a waste of money in this day and age.

Pardon me, but I beg to differ; and this is why:

  • Two-thirds of Americans have a library card.

  • Every day 300,000 Americans get job-seeking help at their public library.

  • 13,000 public libraries offer career assistance. By comparison, the US Department of Labor offers 3,000 career centers.

  • Americans are six times more likely to visit a public library than they are to attend a live sporting event. US public libraries receive 1.4 billion visits annually.

  • Small business owners and employees use public library resources 2.8 million times each month to support their businesses.

  • 5,400 public libraries offer free technology classes - that's more technology training classes than there are computer training businesses in the US. Every day, 14,700 people attend free library computer classes - a retail value of $2.2 million.

  • Every day, 225,000 people use library meeting rooms at a retail value of $11 million. There are more meeting rooms available at public libraries than there are meeting rooms in all the US conference centers, convention facilities and auditoriums combined.

  • Most public libraries offer internet access - a vital resource for the approximate 1 in 4 people who do not have internet access at home.

  • Every day, US libraries circulate 7.9 million items. That's more materials than FedEx ships worldwide.

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The Hidden World of Fore-Edge Painted Books

There was a time when the hunt for a rare book, or even just an out of print book, was a major undertaking - you could either travel the country scouring multiple used bookstores yourself or pay a commission to a book dealer who would put feelers out through his local network and, if necessary, to the wider world of book dealers through a classified ad in a trade magazine. However, with the advent of the internet and search engines such as AddAll, most of us have been able to cut out the middle-man and, with a few clicks of the mouse, track down that old childhood favorite without ever leaving the house.

But there is at least one area of book collecting that still benefits from the hands on touch - where the thrill of the chase is discovering the hidden secret of an apparently run of the mill book - and that is the search for fore-edge paintings.

To create a fore-edge painting, the pages of a book are fanned out and held in a vice. A painting is then applied usually with water color. When the paint is dry the book is released from the clamp so the book is flat again, and the edges of the book are then either gilted or marbled to completely hide any evidence of the painting from casual eyes. I was introduced to fore-edge painting while visiting a friend's father on New York's Upper East Side a few months back where, even though the book's secret was known to me, I still felt a sense of discovery in fanning the pages to find the hidden painting.

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Check out a prejudice at the Living Library

Davina Morgan-Witts, BookBrowse editor

A Living Library event looks much like a conventional library - tables and chairs are set out for study, librarians staff the check out desk and borrowers can browse a catalog of books.  The difference is that what's on loan are not books but people!  The heart of The Living Library are Living Books - people that, for one reason or another, are subjected to stereotyping and prejudices. All are unpaid volunteers.

The concept is simple; interested participants check out a Living Book on a topic of interest and spend 30 minutes in discussion with the particular Book. 

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If The Creek Don't Rise