Archive for March, 2020

Friday, March 27th, 2020

TinyCat’s March Library of the Month: The Sitting Room Library

To read more about TinyCat’s Library of the Month feature, visit the TinyCat Post archive here.

In honor of Women’s History Month, we’re featuring the library of the Sitting Room!

Karen Peterson, Librarian and co-founder of the Sitting Room with J.J. Wilson, fielded my questions this month:

First, what is your library, and what is your mission—your “raison d’être”?

The Sitting Room provides the local community with a library and reading room for researching women’s literature, art and related issues. To that end, we present cultural events such as poetry readings, lectures, exhibits, and performances, and we provide a place for writers’ workshops and other educational activities. The building and cataloguing of an extensive collection of reading and research material and the development of a supportive, friendly, non-intimidating environment for study are thus primary.

Tell us some interesting things about how you support your community.

The Sitting Room is within walking distance of Sonoma State University and we are fortunate to have regular student interns work with us. We have also served as a residency for students in the online Masters of Library Science program at San José State University. Northern California is home to an abundance of writers and artists and our public events provide a space for them to share their work. All special events are free and open to all, no membership needed or gender excluded. The free monthly book groups and writing workshops are open to all and provide a unique emphasis on women’s voices and visions.

What are some of your favorite items in your collection?

We have a fabulous 1,000-volume collection of poetry filling an entire wall. Many of these are chapbooks by local as well as nationally renowned women poets. The chapbook collection of over 400 has the droll name “Spineless Wonders.”

One of the founders of The Sitting Room, J.J. Wilson, is a Virginia Woolf scholar. Over the course of her research and teaching, she amassed an amazing collection of Woolf’s writing and critical works, and creative works and history of the Bloomsbury Group.

Our International Fiction collection provides excellent opportunities to experience how women writers view and experience their native countries. Historical and contemporary perspectives from a wide range of countries are represented. With over 600 volumes, and some hard to find translations, it is a great browsing collection, either in person or online through TinyCat.

What’s a particular challenge you experience as a small library?

The Sitting Room is located in a lovely home surrounded by redwood trees. We have a kitchen! And all are welcome to brew a cup of tea or join us for lunch. The domestic setting suits the collection and while visitors are at first a bit bemused to find us in a residential neighborhood, they quickly make themselves at home.

What is your favorite thing about TinyCat, and what’s something you’d love to see implemented/developed?

First of all, TinyCat is quite simply visually appealing. We love the parade of book jackets that adorn the simple search page, announcing recently cataloged items. The design draws people in: it is inviting, not intimidating.

Some items are on our implementation wish list:

  • We would love to be able to curate the animated cover display on the home page.
  • We don’t use the circulation module of TinyCat, but would love to generate some usage statistics.

Great suggestions. Customizing the cover display is on our list of requests, and you can add your own Google Analytics to your TinyCat via the custom JavaScript setting on your Content Settings page. Hope this helps!


Want to learn more about the Sitting Room? Follow them on Facebook, visit their website here, and check out their collection on TinyCat.

To read up on TinyCat’s previous Libraries of the Month, visit the TinyCat Post archive here.

Calling all TinyCat libraries: become TinyCat’s next Library of the Month—just send us a Tweet @TinyCat_lib or email Kristi at kristi@librarything.com.

Labels: libraries, Library of the Month, TinyCat

Thursday, March 19th, 2020

Interview with Josh Christie of Print: A Bookstore

Josh Christie of Print: A Bookstore

Josh Christie of Print: A Bookstore

LibraryThing interviewed Josh Christie, co-owner, with Emily Russo, of Print: A Bookstore, in Portland, Maine about his bookstore and what book lovers can do for bookstores during this crisis.

Q: How has Print handled the Coronavirus?

On March 16th, we closed our doors to the public. We’re anticipating reopening on March 30th, though this could certainly change—our course of action will be determined by advice from state and national authorities.

While our doors are closed, we’ve shifted to online (printbookstore.com) and phone orders. We’re offering free nationwide shipping or local delivery for orders over $20, and curbside pickup for orders of any size. We’re also letting people know about their options for ebooks and audio books from Print, via Papertrell and Libro.fm.

We’re also using the temporary closure to tackle administrative and back-end tasks in the store, like updating our website and point-of-sale system, as well as deep cleaning and organization. There’s no lack of things to do, and we hope to keep our entire staff on for their regularly scheduled hours while we weather this crisis.

Q: How bad is this for indie bookstores like yours?

It’s hard to overstate just how hard this will hit independent bookstores. Most stores—even profitable ones—operate with precious little cash on hand, so any interruption in income makes available funds dry up quickly. With margins on books generally running about 5–10 percent less than other goods (and little opportunity to adjust prices, as they’re printed on the product), an already thin-margin business is about to get much tougher. And, since most don’t warehouse books of their own, any disruption to local or international supply chains could make getting books to customers difficult.

There’s also book signings and author events, which are impossible in a time of social distancing. Events aren’t a huge part of the bottom line for every store, but for many (including ours), they’re significant. We’ve already cancelled everything through the start of April, and if the need to socially distance extends to the summer these will only grow.

Which is to say, I don’t think it will be any easy time for any business of any size, but some of the structural and economic realities of bookselling make it particularly fraught.

We’ve already seen stories about stores laying off or furloughing staff, and we’re undoubtedly at the start of this rather than the end. For the majority of stores, I have to guess the best case scenario is a big impact on income and a reduction of payroll. For many, I fear this will result in closures.

Q: How can LibraryThing members help Print and other indies?

The most direct way to support bookstores like ours is to shop with us. The most significant impact would be made by buying gift certificates, which immediately injects cash into our businesses. However, any purchases are a huge help. It’s also still a great time to preorder books, which don’t provide income now but guarantees future business.

And, while it’s not a form of financial support, following our stores on social media and signing up for our newsletters will help us get the word out about how we’re navigating this crisis. Similarly, even if you aren’t in a position to buy from us, boosting and promoting us to others will get more people through our (virtual) doors.

We always end with two questions.

Q: Tell us about your home library. What’s in it, and how is it organized?

I live alone in a pretty small one-bedroom apartment, but there are multiple bookcases and bookshelves in each room (including a few I added to the walls myself when I ran out of space). I’ve been a buyer for bookstores for almost a decade, so I’ve got a pretty even split of finished books and bound manuscripts/galleys. My tastes tend toward narrative nonfiction, largely contemporary, and most of what I have reflects that. I’ve also written a few books, including one on the history of beer in Maine, so I’ve got a lot of older books about beer, brewing, and Prohibition.

Organizationally, it’s a bit of a mess. 7 or 8 years ago I scanned every book I owned into my library on LibraryThing, but at this point I’ll admit I don’t have a great sense of what I have or where it is. I could lie and say it’s meant to inspire browsing and seeing what strikes my fancy, but it’s really just laziness.

Q: What are you reading now?

As always, I have a few half-finished books scattered around me. There’s You Never Forget Your First (>Print | LibraryThing), the first significant biography of George Washington from a woman, by Alexis Coe. It reminds me quite a bit of Stacy Schiff’s Cleopatra (Print | LibraryThing) and Emily Wilson’s Odyssey (Print | LibraryThing) in how it recontextualizes history we’ve heard a million times. And then there’s Michele Harper’s The Beauty in Breaking (Print | LibraryThing), a memoir from a female African American emergency room physician being published by Riverhead Books this summer. I’m also a person who actually reads cookbooks from front to back (I love food writing, and recipes with a voice), and Alison Roman’s Nothing Fancy (Print | LibraryThing)  is on my nightstand. Finally, Homie by Danez Smith (Print | LibraryThing). Smith has been a favorite of mine since his 2015 collection Black Movie (Print | LibraryThing), and I’ve been slowly devouring his new collection over the last few weeks.

 

Labels: bookstores

Wednesday, March 18th, 2020

LibraryThing Is Now Free to All

LibraryThingNowFreetoAll

Starting today, LibraryThing is free to all! We’re dropping all membership fees and limits.

Since opening in 2005, LibraryThing has charged a fee to catalog more than 200 books—$10 per year, or $25 for a lifetime. We felt it was important to have customers, not an “audience” we sell to advertisers. So we focused on attracting customers who paid us by choice—and kept us alive.

Meanwhile, we created a series of products for public and academic libraries. These include Syndetics Unbound, co-developed with ProQuest, which enhances thousands of libraries around the world. We also made TinyCat, our library catalog for very small libraries. Both of these draw in various ways from LibraryThing infrastructure, software and data, but, in time these have become our primary source of revenue. That gives us the opportunity to make LibraryThing itself entirely free, so nobody has to avoid using LibraryThing because of the cost, or drop a membership for financial reasons.

Our plan was to go free when we rolled out “LT2,” our upcoming redesign. But the coronavirus has changed our plans, along with everyone else’s. A lot of people are now stranded at home, with nothing to do but read and catalog their books, movies, and music. A lot of kids are at home too—free cataloging help. And with the economy in freefall, many are worried about money. We want everyone to be able to use LibraryThing. This is the right time to go free.

So, starting today, LibraryThing.com, both on the web and using our cataloging app, are free to all, to add as many books as you want. And, no, we’re not going to add ads. (We will keep showing a few Google ads to visitors, but they vanish as soon as you become a member.)

Thank you to everyone who paid for a membership before. You kept us alive when we needed it. We’ll always be grateful for that.

Tim Spalding
LibraryThing Founder and President

Come talk about it on Talk: https://www.librarything.com/topic/317841

Some links:

Labels: LibraryThing

Tuesday, March 17th, 2020

Work From Home Like LibraryThing Does

Kate's "Standing Desk"

Kate’s Microwave Standing Desk

Millions of workers are suddenly working from home (WFH) with the social distancing required to slow the COVID-19 pandemic. Well, LibraryThing staff have been 90% remote for more than a decade! So thought we’d pass on some advice on how to do it effectively—and stay sane. We don’t always agree, however.

(Come talk about your WFH experiences on Talk).

Where to Work

KJDON’T work from bed. It’s there, it’s warm and you have a laptop—ah, the siren call.

Tim: Or from your couch. Or a comfy chair. Zzzzz.

(KJ, who has successfully worked for years from many couches, contests this point.)

Abby: For years, people have thought when I say “I work from home” that it means I’m on my couch, watching TV, with my laptop just incidentally next to me. Spoiler: I am not. I have a desk, set up an external monitor and my post-it notes and all my stuff. And, now that my wife and son are also WFH, they have work spaces set up as well, albeit at the kitchen table.

Kate: Although I have a desk, if I need a break from sitting I sometimes work standing up with my laptop on top of my microwave. (See image). Luckily, it’s the perfect height. Get creative.

What to Wear

KJ: First, wear pants. Or leggings. Or a dress. Wear something. Trust us. You don’t want to be the one wearing a towel who accidentally turns your camera on when you don’t expect it. Also, change into something different from your pajamas, even if it’s “daytime pajamas.”

Kate: I’ve worked from home for nine years now and I maintain that if you wear one when leaving the house, you need to wear a bra when you work. Your brain will thank you with productivity.

Abby: Shower.

Tim: You’re at home. Wear what you want.

Set up Your Desk

Biking at the desk
Abby: Get thee a chair you can sit in for a long time. I used to have a ball chair, which yes, I fell off of many times, sometimes while on video calls. Now I have an ErgoErgo wobble stool, which is both comfortable, and I manage to stay seated on it. But I can’t imagine sitting on one of my dining room chairs for hours on end.

Kristi: Lighting is key: if your office space feels more like a dungeon in the basement or away from natural daylight, make sure you’re working for at least a few hours where you can get some natural daylight. Your future mood, and anyone sharing a living space with you, will thank you for it.

Abby: Get an external keyboard and mouse, so you’re not stuck using your laptop’s tiny mouse pad. It really does make a difference.

Chris C: I use Apple’s trackpad instead of a mouse—too many hours mousing is no fun. I find the trackpad ergonomic in the sense of not having to contort my hand into one position to make the mouse go.

Tim: External mouse, keyboard and a huge monitor. A lot of programmers use multiple monitors, but I find they fragment my concentration.

Although we all work on computers, a number of us keep paper to-do lists on the desk. There’s magic in that separation.

Liquids and Laptops!

Tim: The risk of laptop accidents goes way up when you work from home every hour of every day for weeks. LibraryThing employees have ruined several. We even had coffee go into a laptop during an employee all-call. (Abby exclaimed “No!” Then it sounded like she was tumbling down a hill. Then the line went dead.)

The key is to anticipate failure. You WILL bump your drink, and the table too. Your system needs to survive these eventualities. I have a “drink zone”—back and to the left of the laptop, where even a full tip won’t end up on the keyboard. The cup doesn’t rest anywhere else.

If you get your laptop wet, TURN IT OFF as fast as possible, before the liquid shorts everything out. You have seconds, so find out how, and practice doing it. Once it’s off and unplugged, you can Google around for advice on how to dry it out, and how long to wait.

How to Communicate

Here at LibraryThing we use Slack for text conversations, calls, screen-sharing, sending one-off files, sharing funny cat memes, etc. We used to use Skype, but it kept getting worse (and didn’t allow for GIFs).

The Office It's Happening GifKate: I think the secret to LT’s success is that we all enjoy our work and get it done, but we also have fun. For instance, I employ the Steve Carrell “IT’S HAPPENING” GIF at least once a week. Schitt’s Creek gifs also abound.

Chris C: Stay in constant contact and be prompt with replies. Be present—not incommunicado.

Abby: We have a separate channel set up for “off topic” which tries to keep the cat memes and “how is the world exploding today?” chatter contained in one place.

Tim: LibraryThing does most of its group calls without video. One of the perks of working from home should be not having to prepare visually for a call. There are all sorts of articles online about prepping the camera zone to look professional, suggest sophistication, etc. Yuck!

Also, video adds technical complexity and bandwidth. As anyone who’s done a lot of video calls knows, the moment things get choppy, turn off the video. Skip that nonsense and start without video.

Avoid Distraction

Tim: Distraction is the mind killer. I’ve found some solace in Freedom, which allows you to disable specific websites for a period of time.

Abby: You might be able to avoid checking Twitter every two minutes, but if you’ve suddenly got an “office” that also happens to contain your kids and your spouse, then distraction isn’t going to come from the laptop. Build in more breaks, be more forgiving, accept that it’s going to keep happening.

Caring for Yourself

Winnie the Pooh working out at homeYou probably had a whole routine worked out to help you maintain sanity and also so you got up and moved every so often in your office job. Now you get to rebuild that routine inside your house!

Kristi: Break for snacks and meals, walks. Just like in the office, you get a lunch break. Take breaks for yourself, walk away from your desk, couch and screen. Get outside. Pro-tip: use your breaks to prep dinner and get ahead of the game for the evening!

Abby: I always do this! Use your lunch break to chop a butternut squash and get it roasting, make pizza dough so it has time to rise, etc. You work from home now! You get to be one step ahead of yourself for dinner!

Kate: Taking a break once an hour to do a few jumping jacks (in addition to grabbing water, visiting the restroom, putting clothes in the dryer, etc.) helps me wake up a bit and have renewed energy when I return to my computer. Oh, and TAKE SHOWERS. Daily.

Abby: I also recommend doing squats while waiting for the coffee to finish brewing your 30th cup of the day. Squats are the perfect “while you wait” activity. All the squats.

Tim: I do my best programming away from the keyboard, taking a walk. But I do not attempt squats.

KJ: I’m not great at remembering to get up and move, so setting an alarm helps me get going. Also, for the duration of this period of social distancing, I’ve also set up virtual “lunch dates” with friends now working from home. Tomorrow I’ll “have lunch” with a friend from Boston, later one in Rome, next week a friend from just across town.

Working with Children

whatcha doin bbc journalistTim: Not only does it seem everyone is joining LibraryThing in going remote, they’re doing something far more difficult—remote with children! And we’re expected to homeschool too.

Having worked remote for a number of semesters while homeschooling our kid, I can offer some advice:

1. You will not get as much work done.

2. Actual homeschooling is best done in the morning. In Turkey I could homeschool in the morning and start work at 2pm. Here, we’re doing a before-work shift.

3. You can’t wall your kids off all day long. They’re going to be around. So everyone needs to chill out about children interrupting office calls.

4. My family gets a lot of mileage out of audiobooks and drawing—two activities that are great for kids, and also cut down on extraneous, concentration-killing chatter. Check your library for online audiobooks, and Librivox.

5. Properly homeschooling your kid is a big topic. But there are shortcuts. First: Reading is the best homeschooling! If your kid reads for several hours a day, the rest is cream. I also recommend daily journaling, and Khan Academy math.

Abby: My 11 year-old thrives on structure, so we made up a schedule for him, but it’s day two and he’s standing behind me while I work, chanting “I’m bored, I’m bored, I’m bored.” Here’s how we’re filling his time: Duolingo (learn a new language, any language), Ari Shaprio’s new current events school, a million different baking projects—until we run out of flour—and then reading, reading, reading. My wife is also (luckily?) home, so we can take turns being the kid-point person.

Tim: When Liam says he’s bored I reply that boredom is important for kids, and good for creativity. Go draw something. He doesn’t like it at all, but it makes me feel good to annoy him that way.

Kate: There are a lot of online resources for kids stuck at home right now. Some I’m using with my three year old and five year old (who can’t quite read or write independently yet):

Exercise: Noodle, Cosmic Kids Yoga, and take them outside for fresh air at least twice a day (if possible).

Learning: Storyline Online, Scholastic Learn at Home, Mystery Doug’s YouTube channel.

Kristi: Being a new parent myself, I can only offer some tips for surviving working quarantine with an infant. Work when they’re sleeping or (if they’re old enough) playing independently. If they’re little enough—or if you want to get a little workout in at the same time—try babywearing* at a standing desk! I ran a meeting once with my 9-week old strapped to my chest. It’s challenging, but also you can enjoy the extra time you are getting with them.

*I love my Ergobaby 360: it’s got great lumbar support and a mesh screen so you can use it for quite a while without fatiguing or overheating.

That’s it! Good luck and work hard (albeit in your pajamas). We hope these tips help. Best wishes of health, hope, and home-productivity from all the LibraryThing staff.

Labels: employees, LibraryThing

Monday, March 2nd, 2020

March Early Reviewers batch is up!

Win free books from the March 2020 batch of Early Reviewer titles! We’ve got 70 books this month, and a grand total of 2,115 copies to give out. Which books are you hoping to snag this month? Come tell us on Talk.

If you haven’t already, sign up for Early Reviewers. If you’ve already signed up, please check your mailing/email address and make sure they’re correct.

» Request books here!

The deadline to request a copy is Monday, March 30th at 6PM Eastern.

Eligiblity: Publishers do things country-by-country. This month we have publishers who can send books to the US, Canada, the UK, Israel, Australia, France, Germany, and many more. Make sure to check the flags by each book to see if it can be sent to your country.

Thanks to all the publishers participating this month!

Unsolicited Press Petra Books Akashic Books
Tundra Books Black Rose Writing Revell
Candlewick Press Walker Books US Hot Tree Publishing
New Harbinger Publications William Morrow Ballantine Books
Red Adept Publishing Pulp Literature Press Lingo Mastery
Mirror World Publishing HighBridge Audio Prufrock Press
Tantor Media Odyssey Books Month9Books
Alaska Northwest Books ScareStreet NewCon Press
Entrada Publishing The Ardent Writer Press BHC Press
Chipper Press Temptation Press ClydeBank Media
BookViewCafe Open Books

Labels: early reviewers, LTER