What I’m reading this week 😀📚 “World without mind: the existential threat of big tech”

What I’m reading this week 😀📚 *World Without Mind: The Existential Threat of Big Tech* by Franklin Foer.

I’m bracing myself for a deep dive into this book, which is billed as an unflinching look at the dangers tech leviathans Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon pose to human freedom and self-determination. Author Franklin Foer is the former editor of the liberal New Republic magazine. He was hired in that role shortly after the magazine was bought by Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes in 2012. It was a time when clickbait was ascendant and few people understood (or cared about) the extent of personal data collection taking place. The book has its defenders and detractors. Bouncing around the various reviews of the book, pro and con, is not unlike wading through a contentious Facebook comment thread. I’m looking forward to reading it myself so I can form my own opinion 🤔📖

Libraries without borders?

📚🌎✈️ Here’s an interesting vignette from my day at the library. Recently, a library user in Argentina sent a message to our Facebook page asking us for help with a book she had checked out from us. She had been in the US on a student visa, presumably to pursue her studies at the university. Over the holiday break, she flew back home to Argentina to be with her family. Before she left, she borrowed a library book to read while she traveled. She planned to return to the US before the book came due. But after arriving in Argentina, she learned that her student visa would not be renewed and she wouldn’t be able to return to the US as planned.

She messaged us and asked for advice how she could resolve the issue of the library book she’d borrowed, because she couldn’t bear the thought of not returning her library books. She offered to pay for the book. We said, can you simply mail it back to us? She traveled to the nearest city and inquired about shipping rates, and was told it would cost over $200 USD to ship the book back to the US. Hearing this, she sent us another message offering again to pay for the book, but she also mentioned that her American host family would be meeting with her during spring break, and suggested that her host family could bring the book back with them. We told her that we did not want her to pay so much for shipping, and we would rather have the book back than make her pay for it, so we happily agreed to extend the due date of her book until after spring break when her host family visits her. There are many things about this vignette that provoke thought, but I won’t offer analysis here. I will just say that this young woman’s conscientiousness and sincerity is extraordinary and I hope she is able to resume her studies here soon. 😀📚 #library#books#borders

What I’m Reading This Week

What I’m reading this week: “Becoming” by Michelle Obama. 😀📚

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First impressions:

Like the woman herself, this memoir is likeable, accessible, smart, insightful, humble and confident in perfect balance. The most interesting facet of the book’s first pages for me is her story of growing up watching her father’s advancing multiple sclerosis. Watch for her subtle yet skillful descriptions of the coping mechanisms employed by each of her family members to adapt to the stark yet slow-motion debilitation of the patriarch’s physical mobility. I like this book very much and can’t wait to read the rest of it. 📖👍

Downtown Hayward

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I love working in downtown Hayward. I feel very fortunate and thankful to be a part of my hometown’s progress and future. The new library is being built right across the street from my office in the old library. I can look out my window and see the construction proceeding nicely. (I even get a chance to go inside from time to time.) Library staff and city coworkers often drop by my office with questions or business that needs my attention. Just this morning, a respected local community member dropped in unannounced to let me know that his organization would be making a generous donation toward books for the new library. I was very happy to receive his message, as you can imagine. The kindness and generosity of people in the Hayward community truly knows no bounds. I take a walk for lunch. The world’s best hot dogs are one block away at Casper’s on C Street. The world’s best little bookstore is right around the corner at Books on B. Best of all, it’s Friday, the sun is shining, and the holidays are right around the corner. It doesn’t get much better than that.

The republic of letters

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Image: Weekes Branch Library, Hayward, Calif.

“There is not such a cradle of democracy upon the earth as the Free Public Library, this republic of letters, where neither rank, office, nor wealth receives the slightest consideration.” ― Andrew Carnegie

Branching out

The local newspaper reporter called me up earlier this week, wanting to do a story on our seed lending library. Already, I’m thrilled. So we talk for a while about the project, about libraries, about card catalogs and antique dealers, and in particular about the enduring power of books. All in all, a very nice conversation with a very kind, very generous journalist.

Then the story comes out in this morning’s paper. I’m excited to see it there on the front of the local section, but apprehensive because you never know what angle a newspaper will take with a story until you read it. So I read it. And I’m even more thrilled. It goes something like this: Libraries are checking out more books — real, printed books — than ever before. Even in today’s world of computers everywhere, people have a seemingly unquenchable desire for real, physical books and libraries. Plus, libraries are adding new services that people want and need, like after school homework tutoring centers and seed lending libraries. They’re even bringing back the card catalog, which they have kept in storage all these years, just waiting for the right time to bring it back into the sunlight again. Old is new again, and it’s a good thing.

It warms my heart. Given the theme of the article, it seemed only appropriate to share it in true “vintage” printed newspaper format and layout. The web version doesn’t really do it justice.
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