Upcycling Old Books

Completed Book ClutchThe books at the Dover Public Library are well loved.  Between 2012 and 2013 the number of items being checked out increased by over 15%.  A single copy of a popular title such as Gone Girl or The Hunger Games can be checked out 60 times or more.  It’s no surprise then that some of our books can become too damaged to read.  They are returned to the library with pages missing, spines broken, or with the art work of a two-year-old budding Picasso scribbled all over the pages.

These books can no longer be lent to the public, but we find it painful to discard them.  Seriously, the ghosts of books past haunt our dreams…  Our solution was to create an upcycling program at the library.

What’s the difference between recycling and upcycling?  Well, recycling involves breaking down materials to their base elements.  Cans, for example, get melted down and turned into other aluminum products.  Upcycing, on the other hand, means altering the material to make something new.  Ever hear your mom say, wait, don’t throw those jeans away, I can make them into a skirt? That’s upcycling.

So rather than throwing our damaged books into a recycle bin, we repurpose them and make them into something new.  Our first project was transforming a book into a purse.  Using an old book cover and scraps of fabric, patrons were able to create their own clutches.  The project only took a couple of hours and the results were great.  Pictures are below, but anyone interested in how we did this can find our instructions on the library’s instructables site.

Upcycling is great for the environment.  We’re generating less waste, we’re using less energy, and, best of all, we’re giving new life to the books we all love.  Our next program will be on November 16 at 2pm.  We’ll be making bracelets out of old book pages.  Hope to see you there!

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Gender Neutrality

Leckie_AncillaryJustice_TPIf we take a look back at some of our favorite books or movies, how important is the gender of characters to you as a reader? What kind of an impact does it have on how you view the different events that take place? Would those books or movies still be your favorite had the gender of the characters been an unknown?

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie has won quite a few awards, including the Nebula Award for best science fiction or fantasy novel, and is a fascinating example of gender neutrality in writing. Leckie challenges us again and again to think about the natural default words we use in everyday life, because often times they do carry a gender bias along with them, and it is usually masculine. Contrary to the norm Ancillary Justice uses feminine pronouns for almost the entirety of the story for both male and female characters, making it incredibly difficult to identify the gender of a specific character as the story unfolds. But it also does something else, it demonstrates how a very slight deviation from the norm can spark a reaction with readers. Most readers have a somewhat unique interpretation of what characters look like, even if they are described in detail to the reader, but not knowing the gender of a character allows for a much more open and interesting interpretation. Fan communities have had discussions about whether or not a particular character is male or female, leading to more analysis over the story, which can only be a positive thing. As Leckie’s story progresses some of the genders are actually revealed, which has a somewhat dramatic effect, as it causes the reader to reanalyze the characters actions. But should we reanalyze the story and the actions of a character simply because their gender wasn’t what we may have thought it to be? Why does it matter so much to us as a reader?

Perhaps Ancillary Justice isn’t the best example for complete gender neutrality, but it certainly provides enough substance to analyze ourselves and to ask some important questions. It is entirely possible that there are benefits from knowing the gender of characters in a novel, such as helping to make a stronger connection or understanding why a character may feel the way they do, but there should be a further exploration of the possible benefits in storytelling with gender neutrality.

Unlimited Google Drive

google_drive_600One of the most frequent issues I come across working at the library is people either forgetting or not knowing that they should bring their own flash drive with them when they are looking to do work on the computers provided. It happens to everyone at some point in time, but it happens with students more so than any other group. Now Google is looking to address that problem by offering unlimited Google Drive space for students and teachers.

The storage isn’t actually unlimited, as there is a 5TB cap, but that is more than ample for people who are mainly using it to hold text documents –  image and video editing take up a lot more space than documents and the space provided would still take quite a long time to fill up, probably years. The idea is that offering more storage online will allow students to rely less on physical books and decrease the cost associated with going to school. Unfortunately in order to qualify for the program the student or educator must be from an institution that supports Google’s education suite, but if you are unsure of whether or not your school does, now might be a good time to check.

Comic Con 2015

10548993_848722301804586_8505253383998154689_oWe’ve highlighted our comic con event in the past, and we were delighted with the outpouring of support and participation from the community. The question we’ve heard over and over again since then is, “when is the next one?!” Today the Dover Public Library is delighted to announce that the date for next year’s con is August 8th. Wheels have been turning since the conclusion of the past Comic Con on how to make the next one bigger and better, while dealing with the issue of having limited space at the library. This time around, the library will be working in conjunction with other local businesses and organizations in order to expand the event and bring even more to the people of Dover. We are hopeful that we will be able to encompass a larger space and have some outdoor activities as well, and there might also be other locations in the immediate area to visit as well.

While we are still in the very early stages of planning, there are already definite improvements that will be implemented and contests will also be held leading up to the next Comic Con, starting in the very near future. There will also be updates on social media pages dedicated to the event, so be sure to keep checking the blog and our facebook pages for more information.

Digitize Books without Permission

3D_Judges_GavelCopyright laws are a tricky thing to nail down, especially when you’re dealing with globalization. Recently the Court of Justice of the European Union made an interesting ruling that has impacted libraries ability to digitize books for their patrons. According to the ruling, the libraries do not to to have permission from the publisher in order to digitize books, as long as the digitized versions are at dedicated terminals, which would be used for research within the library itself. It seems the courts want people who are in libraries to be able to access as much information as possible, and not have patrons worry about the potential limited availability of certain works.

This does not mean that European libraries can duplicate copyrighted materials for distribution whenever they’d like, so there is still some limitation as to how the copied content can be used. It just opens up an interesting discussion about whether or not libraries should be exempt from certain copyright laws because of the service that they provide. Should tax paying patrons have materials available, regardless of copyright, while they are in the library itself? There are differences in the way libraries in the United States operate and are funded in comparison to those in the European Union, but it is still an interesting thought to ponder.