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Texas library creates amnesty program for late fees

by Public Libraries on September 15, 2014

Overdue books

The Houston Public Library is in a forgiving mood. Patrons that have a balance on their accounts due to a lost or misplaced item such as a book or DVD can have their fines erased from the system under an amnesty program the library is currently offering.

The program is only available to those that sign up for the “My Link” library card by Sept. 26 and have less than $25 in fines. Houston Public Library is providing this incentive so it can reach its goal of 1 million registered users by the end of 2015. It currently has about 773,000 cardholders.

My Link library cards are the first new cards generated by the library system in over 14 years. Although there isn’t an added bonus over the current library cards, library officials say current cards will soon become inactive. The My Link cards will help deliver advanced data regarding the user experience at the library.

Houston Mayor, Annise Parker said the new program gives library patrons a clean slate. Stating if users were worried about going to the library because they owed money, that worry should be instantly wiped away. She added the new cards will help the library gain a better understanding of the services used and how to best allocate those resources going forward.

Houston Public Library Communications Manager, Greg Simpson said nearly 171,000 people are qualified for the one-time amnesty program. He said that accounts for roughly $1.8 million in fines. The library system expects a total of $100,000 worth of fines to be waived through this initiative. The public library estimates it collects roughly $550,000 in fines each year.

The amnesty program has piqued the interest of a few patrons that have left the library system to avoid the rising fees. It has also made the day of others that weren’t aware of the program and were told that their fees were no longer due.

Simpson said many library members forget to return a book or DVD altogether or simply don’t have the time to return an item. He said communications are sent to each person that has an overdue book by e-mail, text, and telephone call. Even with all of those options, people still end up accumulating significant fees.

Jerry Davis a District Councilman is all for the amnesty agreement. A father, whose children have racked up a few fees of their own, is happy to wipe the slate clean with My Link. He laughed, stating he will finally be able to take his children back to the library. He added that he still finds library books while house cleaning.

Library Director Rhea Lawson said while the amnesty program helps individuals get out of a small debt, garners good will, and a new card can create excitement. This process is part of an overall transformation in recent years, Lawson said with the library expanding its electronic resources, it has evolved into a community center that can link users to anywhere in the world. What was once a place to sit and read books has opened up to become a link to the entire world.

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Floating library makes a stop in New York City

by Public Libraries on September 9, 2014

Reading while floating

More and more libraries are becoming creative and pulling out all of the stops to try and bring new patrons through their doors. Many libraries are starting to offer ebooks, while others are completely digital and don’t offer traditional paper books at all.

New York City is offering something a little different for a month when the Floating Library comes to the Hudson River from September 6 through October 3. The pop up library is aboard the historic Lilac Museum Steamship at Pier 25.

Artist, Beatrice Glow, who masterminded the library, said it took well over 70 people to make the dream a reality. The main deck is a reading lounge where visitors can enjoy a large collection of local authors, art books, and poetry. The collection of books will be donated to a local high school.

In August, Minnesota had its own Floating Library which was created by local artist, Sarah Peters. The library, located in the middle of Cedar Lake, was a handmade wooden structure that was 8 feet by 8 feet and contained about 80 books. Peters said the effort was very popular, she lent books to readers on kayaks, paddleboards and canoes.

In New York, residents are very excited about their own Floating Library. Glow has collected a total of 400 books from area donors. All books must stay on board and visitors are encouraged to bring a book to share. She believes people have wanted something like this for some time now, pointing to the idea that people want to escape the digital world and have meaningful encounters with people and texts relevant to their interests in real life.

Among the many features of the Floating Library, there will be a listening room that offers music by local artists. Throughout the month, they will host several roundtable discussions, as well as performances and workshops. The roundtable discussions will focus primarily on a do-it-yourself attitude and will target things like sustainability and community engagement. Workshops will include furniture building and classes on book making. Many of the rooms on the Floating Library will contain featured art from around the city.

While the floating library is unlike any other in many regards, it still has a few of the same rules as a traditional library. One of these is that the reading lounge is a quiet zone. There are assigned locations dedicated to quiet activities such as reading, writing, and listening to music. Mobile devices must be turned off while visitors are aboard the ship. This is so people can relax in a quiet atmosphere free of the distractions mobile devices create. There is a discussion room where visitors may talk amongst themselves.

Curious patrons can visit the Floating Library at Pier 25 in Hudson River Park. Its hours of operation are from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. Public transportation will be making regular drops to Hudson River Park. The library is located on an open vessel; it is recommended that visitors wear cool, comfortable clothing and shoes. Visitors are also urged to wear protective covering such as hats and sunscreen while aboard.

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Florida Polytechnic University features a bookless library

August 29, 2014
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The newest public university in Florida is trying something a little different with its 11,000 square-foot structure – going totally green. Florida Polytechnic University, located in Lakeland is taking a bold step by offering a digital catalog of 135,000 ebooks. Paper books will not be offered at the fully digital library. FPU, which is not yet an accredited school, has an enrollment of 550 students in its inaugural class. Students […]

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Taneyhills Community Library joins consortium so they can offer ebooks

August 25, 2014
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The Taneyhills Community Library in Branson, Missouri now officially offering ebooks. Kent Olson, Board President of the Taneyhills Community Library said the service became available to its patrons a week ago. Olson said charging for library cards and other services at the library has helped make it possible to loan out ebooks. Without these small fees, he surmises, it would not have been possible to install an ebook system at […]

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Seattle Public Library encourages authors to write ebooks

August 8, 2014
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Seattle Public Library is hoping to pique the interest of area writers with an opportunity to show off their talents in the form of an ebook. The library has partnered with Smashwords, an independent publisher and distributor of ebooks, to offer a self-publishing platform for aspiring and established Seattle, Washington writers. The pair have also teamed up to offer a self-publishing contest, in which up to three individuals will have […]

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Summer programs boost library attendance in Florida

August 4, 2014
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There aren’t many empty seats at the South County Regional Library in Estero, Florida. The library recently reported a significant increase in traffic during the summer months. More than 2.8 million people have visited the 13-branch Lee County Library System this year with South County Regional Library boasting record numbers this summer. Terri Crawford, Deputy Director of Lee County Library System said the response of the community has been great […]

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Miami-Dade County to increase public library budget

July 25, 2014
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Miami-Dade County in Florida is experiencing an all-too-familiar crisis in recent years for librarians: public funding and budget crisis have prevented libraries from operating at full capacity for several years now. Combine that with the slow-creeping epidemic of library abandonment amongst youth, and Miami-Dade’s libraries have definitely been feeling the squeeze. Luckily, county commissioners just last week voted for a tax increase in the area that would result in an […]

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Amazon tries to appeal to Hachette authors

July 18, 2014
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The feud between Amazon and Hachette has been detrimental to many authors and readers. Not only are readers not getting access to upcoming titles, authors are not able to market their new releases. Amazon, at least, is now making it possible for the authors to make a bit more money off the ebooks they do manage to sell. Like any other publishing company, Hachette makes a percentage out of every […]

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Borrow a drone from the library?

July 10, 2014
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Libraries are extending their collections beyond books and movies. More than ever, libraries are trying to meet the needs of their communities by providing computers, printers, and classes. However, the recent purchase of drones by the University of South Florida may create even more headaches for them as they consider how the drones are used. The drones that were purchased can fly up to 400 feet above ground and record […]

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Simon and Schuster ebooks are now available at libraries

June 30, 2014
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Within the past decade, traditional hardbound paper books, which have been a staple in society for centuries have slowly given way for ebooks, or electronic books. There are many reasons why ebooks have experienced such a boom in popularity. For one, they are much more convenient. One ereader can hold up to thousands of books, making titles more accessible to readers across the world. That is why many major publishing […]

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