Monday, 10 December 2018
Libraries have passed the two degree threshold that spells global catastrophe. This, despite ducted air conditioning systems. This, despite their projected image as a democratic refuge for worthy books and whatever contemporary lifeforms text find themselves in.
Try this test. Go to your local library headquarters. At the front desk, ask for the Collections Manager. Be prepared to explain what a “collections manager” is. In the unlikely event one is available, ask her to name a book – any book – she’s read recently to decide whether or not to order it in.
You might be surprised by the glazed look in her eyes.
Yes, I know. Libraries are under threat. Budgets are shrinking. Staff resources are dwindling. Librarians are trained to tame Big Data, develop profiles, analyse borrowing trends, sniff the airwaves to detect celebrity authors.
Enter a Superhero to save the day: the “library supplier”. Treating books as commodities, these companies allow librarians to outsource their primary reasons for being – to discover and curate content. Publishers plead their case with the suppliers in a pecking order from multinational to independent.
Guess who gets the crumbs?
Are you being well served by your library? Are they helping you discover the very best in content by employing staff who actually read the books that are offered to them? Are they actively promoting new talent in your country? Would they recognise a Joyce, an Atwood, a Patrick White if it came to them from a publisher they hadn’t heard of?
Are they fearful of poetry, “literary” novels and experimental books eating up their budgets?
Here’s a case in point. Our publishing house, Interactive Publications Pty Ltd has been in business for 21 years. In that time, we’ve published more than 350 titles, many of them emerging authors who have gone to establish solid relationships with larger publishers. We’re located in Brisbane, Australia and focus mostly on Australian and New Zealand authors.
Prior to Big Data and the Call of Accountability, the Brisbane Libraries, which comprise over 30 branches, ordered most of our titles, many of them in substantial quantities. As inter-library loans took hold, the library system ordered fewer of our titles. We accepted this because our titles were still available, even if readers had to wait a bit longer to access them.
But as BCC Libraries, like many other library systems here and overseas, delegated their responsibility to curate content and to favour home-grown books to suppliers who treat books as commodities to be moved rather than read, our orders dwindled even further. Because we felt this 3rd party supplier did us no favours, we began sending books on approval directly to BCC Library Headquarters.
We hit rock bottom recently when an Acting Collections Head determined that NONE of the new 20 titles we sent on approval met their “current requirements”. When I questioned this, her superior sought to justify the ways of God to the naive publisher by referring me to a bland policy manual. I doubt that the Acting person had read any of the books. I KNOW her superior hadn’t because they had already been returned.
There is a quiet revolution happening in our libraries. Libraries are becoming more and more like chain bookshops where you can predict what brands will be available, and discovery is increasingly a thing of the past. Libraries’ role as a curator of content has been outsourced to enterprises whose interests are more commercial than aesthetic. Curating and discovery will still happen, but in the unreliable ecosystem of internet blogs and paid for review sites. Librarians are prime targets for replacement by robots who dispense rather than analyse and evaluate, although recent strides in AI cognition may yet save libraries from becoming ATM dispensers.
And global temperatures are still rising.
Do you have any library stories to share?
Thursday, 20 September 2018
Lauren Daniels recently attended the Thirroul Women Writers Festival to talk about her book Serpent's Wake: a tale for the bitten.
Bridget McKern, another author at the festival, was so moved by Lauren's novel that she wrote a review that we thought you might like to see.
This is the way Lauren Elise Daniel’s book Serpents Wake infiltrated my consciousness. I would describe it as a book that reaches the depths of human suffering, sacrifice and compassion but at the same time has a fairytale quality that keeps the reader in a mystical but safe relationship with the story just like being a child having stories read at my mother’s knee.
You know when you read a good book - you can’t put it down easily and it dwells in your waking and dreaming moments. It somehow reaches a deeper level of psychic consciousness and you feel as if you have been there before. The cover took me in with its Celtic swirls and strange mediaeval feel. The style is interesting as not one character has a proper name ... but it works by suggestion, action and character as the story unfolds. We gradually come to know the Girl, the Captain, the Poet, the parents and villagers; the crew of the ship, all by association with the storyline.
Serpents Wake is a mythic fairy story balanced with archetypes of enough conviction of reality to really reach down into trauma experiences and the tough but sweetest learnings of love. There is a veritable company of archetypal characters besides the Girl / Heroine / Wounded Healer who is swallowed by the great serpent. To name a few:
The Poet, the Wolf; the Hunter; the Serpent; the Beast (human and animal); the Mother; the Father; the Doctor; (3 doctors) the Doctor’s Wife (who is an indigenous healer); the Cook; the Wounded Hero / Captain....I would recommend this book for heroic girls and boys (who may not yet know they are hero/heroines who have been ‘bitten’ by life circumstances beyond their control); parents of lost children; students of life; trauma counsellors and psychologists refugees, asylum seekers and aliens.
The book is full of poetic imagery and imagination. The language has a gothic and mediaeval taste and some passages simply took my breath away with beauty.The one I wanted to keep for ever came in the love scene at the end (p. 299)‘In the bed of arms and legs, sleep softened them and made them edgeless.’I read it to my husband of fifty years and he agreed!