Friday, May 5, 2017

Won the Hugo? Pfft! "The Man in the High Castle"

Our Science Fiction book discussion group met, I suppose appropriately, on May 4th to discuss Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle.

In general, our assessments of the book were mixed. One member ranked it among her least favorites and another as definitely not a favorite. The rest of us liked the book, with certain reservations. One difficulty, I think, is that The Man in the High Castle is an alternate history science fiction, which is not a popular style with some of our members, myself included. Also, having been written in 1962, the novel very much shows its age. There are strong prejudices evident especially against the Japanese. WWII propaganda against the Japanese was much more virulent and hateful on the whole and I think had a gigantic impact on the way Americans thought and wrote about them for a long time after the war.

Personally, I liked the book mainly because I enjoy Dick's writing style. It just clicks with me, I suppose. The novel is really three main story lines that intertwine in various ways. Overall, Americans are not portrayed in the best light, being shown as opportunists in a world that turned out very differently from ours. Strangely to me at least, the Germans/Nazis are not universally reviled in a way that seems fitting to me considering in Dick's imagining, they were able to put many of their most horrifying and brutal plans into action where as in our world, those plans remained merely plans.

I would recommend the book, especially to those watching the television version. In my opinion, it's always good to see the source material. PKD is responsible for shaping the way we look at science fiction in many ways because of the visual interpretations of his works - Blade Runner (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?), Total Recall, Minority Report, A Scanner Darkly, etc.

As an aside, we've changed the meeting location of our book group again, this time to Carl's Bar and Grill on Main Street in Hutchinson. We had met a couple of times at the Metropolitan Coffee House, but the acoustics aren't the greatest there for a detailed conversation. Carl's, surprisingly, seemed a little better. Why aren't we meeting in the library? Well frankly, we've met and discussed science fiction there since 2012 and we got tired of looking at the same four walls! Also, it's nice to be able to enjoy a snack or a beverage that someone else has prepared!

In June, we'll be discussing John Wyndham's "Day of the Triffids". We'll be meeting at Carl's Bar again - dutch treat dinner at 6pm and book discussion at 7pm. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

An interesting year

HPL went through a pretty exciting year of change in 2016. We started off the year by hiring a Marketing expert in anticipation of our spring brand launch. What we didn't anticipate was a small job of repainting the Business Office turning in to a major mold remediation job! Despite that upset, we managed to launch Seemore and the new look for the library. We bid for and hired a contractor to remodel the Main street entrance and a part of the Children's library. We did all of our regular stuff - programming, Summer Reading Program, checked out materials, answered questions, and much, much more all while maneuvering around construction areas and plugging our ears during long days of jack-hammering.

Despite all the chaos, our door counters recorded 252,332 entries in to the building. Our wifi was used 38,850 times by 4,267 different devices and we answered 22,414 reference questions! Amazing! Believe it or not, our circulation of physical items was 369,101. That's real, solid stuff, not digital. And our digital circulation grew as well with over 50,000 checkouts of ebooks, eaudio, music, and emagazines.

We did well. We did amazingly well, I think. I'm looking forward to 2017 and some additional exciting projects we have planned. But right now, I'm just thankful for the great people who make HPL the wonderful resource that it is - the staff and volunteers who work so hard to make it a place for all to come and discover something new, explore, and connect with others.

Finally, thank you Hutchinson for using our great library, and thank you to all who come from farther afield as well. We will continue to serve you to the best of our abilities in 2017 and beyond.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Print or screen?

More evidence that paper books just aren't going away. Data from the Christmas season are being analyzed and this article from the British online newspaper, "The Independent" lends more evidence that paper is still a strong medium.

I haven't looked at any reports for ebook and paper book sales in the US, but I hope that the trends were upward in sales here too. We need more people reading as much as possible!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

A Little Breathing Room

The light at the end of the tunnel is bright. We are finally nearing the end of our renovation project that included both entrances to the library, bathrooms, reading spaces, the Friend's Book Store, and the Children's Story Time Room.

I have to say that I am excited, but at the same time a little bit sad because I do love a project.

For the time being though, I think I'll sit down, take a little rest, and enjoy the view...

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Interesting NYT article

This article about public libraries illustrates the resilience of our type of library and our type of librarian.

The article is focused on libraries in and around New York City, but it could easily be describing public libraries across the country. Public libraries have shifted their focus from being warehouses and custodians of things to being places that focus on the users and their goals.

The flexibility and innovation shown by public libraries may surprise people, but we've been doing this for decades - adapting to the times. It doesn't always happen all at once, nor does it happen in equal measures everywhere across the country, but it happens. Most importantly, a good public library adapts and changes for the betterment of its community!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The "Plan" is coming together

We have been working through almost 3 months of construction, but we are beginning to see the light - literally - signaling the end of this phase. Here's a pretty good idea of what the Main Street entrance will be like when it reopens in a few weeks:

Those little cleats above the new windows will hold a metal sunshade. There's only a very little that needs finishing on the exterior besides the shade. A little bit of paint work and we're set.

Here's what it looks like from the inside on the second floor - no carpet yet, but the ceiling grid is going in today and you can get a general idea of what the view will be like sitting in what will be a nice new reading area.

Here's another view from inside looking basically straight east.

Downstairs, the Friend's Book Store is getting a remodel. Here's what it looks like at the moment. The new enlarged foyer is visible beyond. The new foyer area will help us keep a more stable temperature in the front area of the library.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

It's happening!

Robots will be replacing us in libraries! Sure, this article says the intention is to relieve librarians of "menial" tasks but that's only to get their foot in the door. We all know that our robot overlords are just biding their time, gradually insinuating themselves into our everyday lives. Before you know it, we'll all be scurrying around like rats in the rubble of our meat-bag civilization as the robots take over.

OK, maybe I'm getting a bit carried away. This is actually a really interesting technology. The robot could search the stacks at night, and help us humans find mis-shelved and lost items in our stacks. The Hutchinson Public Library has well over 250,000 physical items. It takes a considerable amount of time to keep the shelves in order. It is also very time consuming to look for items that didn't get checked in properly.

I'm looking forward to this step towards Skynet myself.