Public libraries, Camel Club and Dark Materials

Just finished the fourth book in the Camel Club series, by David Baldacci. A great series.

I only really enjoyed thrillers and crime stories the past few years. They used to bore me. Felt like a convoluted way of catching the reader. Fantasy and sci-fi, or more "traditional" literature made a lot more impression on me. Why read about some police officer/agent and some bad boys, when there was Tolkien or Austen, to be a bit rhetoric 😉

I read The Gorkij Park many years ago, which I thought was excellent, and with surprising turns. When I was young I enjoyed Sherlock Holmes, which I think few did at that time. Watching old movies with Basil Rathbone on tv. Crime did not really interest me that much.

Anyways, if you like suspension, action and some conspiracy theories (true or false), I recommend the Camel Club series.

Thank you, public library

The Camel Club books I have borrowed from the local public library, which is an institution that functions well (I think) in my small Swedish home town. There are Swedish towns that have privatized their public library. I strongly disagree with that. If anyone has a strong urge to have  private public libraries, why don't they just start one? That doesn't mean the public libraries can be critiqued for the choice of books they have, due to e.g. some moral or political leanings of the librarians. Recently, quite a few libraries started following buy recommendations from one of the biggest Swedish Internet book shops, Ad Libris. It is owned by Bonnier, the largest media corporation in Sweden. Maybe it saves time for the local librarian, but it is dumbing down to have a few persons, employed at a private book selling site, in practice decide a lot of the books bought by, and lent by, public tax-funded libraries. Just another instance where I feel the politics is not about freedom, nor justice, nor fairness, but how private sector just want to prey on public money. Politicians and economists usually only point out how much money companies make so the public sector can be financed by taxing them and their employees, but they seldom point out that a lot of companies exist only, or mainly, on public money.

Copyriot describes how a library buys Wikipedia books sold by "robot" publishers. What an utter waste of money. Ignorance or corruption? Adlibris, as others, sells hundreds of these books. Adlibris do point out the content is from open digital sources, but why do libraries buy these books? Wikipedia even have instructions how to produce a book like this. That is great, in a context when a printed copy of stuff is better/preferred than a digital one. But they shouldn't be bought by a public library. Libraries these days usually have Internet connected computers for public use. Libraries might even have a non-profit printing service for public domain/CC licensed stuff? Maybe hard to administer, but they do often have copying machines already. Oh well, maybe a bit utopian, but what is wrong in wishing?

In the USA, and maybe elsewhere, libraries are changing, and sometimes becomes hubs of sharing, see sharable.net. However, if libraries becomes a place to "learn" how to use proprietary "social networks" then the library has totally lost its purpose, in my opinion. A bit like the library would help people how to get a member card for supermarket chain, or become a member of an organisation. I found quite a few Swedish public libraries doing that with a simple google search. That is just dumbing the library down. It makes librarians into sales people. The proprietary social networks "gives away" a product, but takes away power from the individual. Libraries should empower and entertain people. So, courses in e.g. search techniques and source criticism, writing and self-publication through e.g. a weblog would be in line with the promotion of knowledge and entertainment. When you borrow a (paper) book and take it home, no corporation stands behind you reading over your shoulder. That happens in the "social media".

I started this post as I had read the forth part of the Camel Club, and I just wanted to recommend it. I have no bloody Amazon buttons on this site, nor shop links. I do not care how you get the book. It is easy enough, with plenty of shops, libraries(hopefully) and maybe a good friend that already owns a copy to lend it. I recommend the books.

Update October 26.

I learnt today that author Philip Pullman has been a public defender of the libraries in U.K. for some time. He defends the book and literature and claims that "Using the internet is like looking at a landscape through a keyhole". He mentions Google, and I think his critique is very apt in some senses. Try using scroogle or a search engine like DuckDuckGo and realise how Google serves you what they think you want, and probably also a bit what others want you to see. For search and knowledge seeking, Pullman hits google right between the eyes. Most people use only google for search, so his critique is very valid.

What Pullman really describes is the server-client structure of how most people most of the time today use Internet. So-called "social media" is social interaction through an intermediary that logs everything, be it facebook, MSN, gmail or whatever. Classic email or IRC you chose a server to trust, or create your own, and can still communicate with everyone. The giant cloud services does not give you that freedom.

Pullman also seems to argue there is no place for Internet in libraries simply because it is a waste of money, not least because software needs to be updated. The good solution to that is of course to use free software. No cost, it can run on older hardware while still have the latest versions, and it promotes freedom and respects the user. There is still some hardware cost of course. Libraries should get extra resources for that, books and manpower is the main cost of course. Literature is also both a worldmaking and insight giving entity that nothing else can give.

Anyway, I read and reread Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy years ago, and also some of his other books. I really recommend those. There is a also a film made from the first book, The Golden Compass. I think it is a fascinating movie, and better than many seem to think, even if the religion-critique is weaker than in the books. Sadly, there seems to be no more films, and some argued it is because the Catholic Church somehow put pressure.