A Confederate statue—still stuck in the middle of Washington Street, as required by state law—is not the only sight or site in the Old Town section of Alexandria, Virginia, across the Potomac from D.C.
You also see cobblestone streets and $1-million historic brick townhouses. And wherever you go, more than a few people are jabbering on their cell phones as they walk along. Even at a check-cashing store in a shabbier area of Alexandria, many customers are phone-crazed. No longer is the tech too expensive for most residents, and, in fact, it can be a “must” for poor people juggling family responsibilities and multiple jobs.
Countless cities are like my hometown, and more will be in the future.
Now, how many of the phone-aholics are thinking of their local libraries and maybe even planning to read books on their iPhones, Samsungs, and Nexuses?
Precious few compared to the potential number. They’re talking to their friends, playing games, listening to music, watching Netflix, you name it. Libraries are up against zillions of rival choices—phone related and beyond—in their quest for a bigger share of mind and time.
That’s where CEO Trey Gordner and his colleagues at Koios come in. Koios specializes in search engine optimization and related activities for libraries of all kinds and sizes.
An in-depth Q&A follows. But first I’ll pass on some thoughts of my own, which will help you understand the significance of what Koios is up to.
The big picture: Amazon’s book discovery leaves libraries in the dust
Even if you love books, your local public library probably isn’t your go-to-site, whether for searching for new titles or just browsing. Amazon most likely is. You’ll find millions of paper and digital titles there—and not just books but also reviews and information on writers. When it comes to popular-level metadata and other amenities online, Amazon leaves typical libraries miles behind in the dust. But can you really afford everything you want to read from Amazon? Or from Audible, its audiobook subsidiary?
And what about the books that tempt you but don’t seem worthy of a gamble at first, regardless of Amazon’s first chapter previews? In other words, rich, middle-class or poor, you can still benefit from free books from your local public library. Just the other day, I discovered Richard Cohen’s memorable recollections of the writer-director Nora Ephron by chance while browsing among the biographies from a library system near me. I’d missed the book on Amazon. Jeff Bezos’s on-site links and email bots offer many ideas on what I may want to read, but they can’t anticipate everything. As it happened, OverDrive‘s Libby app was how I found She Made Me Laugh. But the Web services of the Alexandria and Fairfax County library systems pushed me toward using Libby in the first place. And to this day I still visit the Web sites. Regardless, I’d love to see more library content pushed toward me during my wanderings online—here’s to more serendipity!
Of greater importance, consider the millions of Americans who don’t buy or borrow books often despite all the benefits to them and society at large. What if libraries enjoyed such good search engine optimization that even the phone-a-holics at the check-cashing stores couldn’t help but run across compelling, library-related links for them? And suppose, too, that we augmented such a campaign with in-context embedment of library mentions in social media and TV programs, in addition to far more face-to-face outreach and other kinds.
The links and the rest could promote not only books but also locally originated content and library-related events, including those related to community matters, not exactly the stuff you’ll find on Amazon. Imagine the possibilities, too, for using Web SEO to foster family literacy by steering those in need to the right resources. A national library endowment like the one proposed at LibraryEndowment.org could help pay for discovery-related activities and services and many others (here and here) such as the creation and operation of two national digital library systems. Especially libraries need money for content, since marketing can go only so far if the rewards for patrons aren’t there. Part of the problem here in Alexandria is that so many of the e-titles are checked out even though digital library usage is far short of what it could be.
No, the idea isn’t to displace Amazon and smaller stores—in fact, library sites could include buying links to it and competitors for people who wanted to buy now to avoid waits, or purchase personal copies of loaners. But surely libraries can at least narrow the discovery gap with Amazon and ideally also mention paper books available at local bookstores, not just titles from Jeff & friends and other megacorporations. Not to mention the related content issue!
From SEO to Amazon-style affiliates
For this to happen, however, we need not only financial and other resources but also good vendors since librarians can’t do everything, regardless of all the information out there on such topics as DIY search engine optimization for libraries.
Koios may or may not be right for every library system—I’d love to hear from possible competitors via email and the comments area of this post—but I myself am very excited about what Trey and colleagues have been up even if they’re not doing everything that LibraryEndowment.org proposes.
Here are services that Koios, several years old and based in Columbia, South Carolina, and Crystal City, Virginia, offers now or or will soon:
l. Libre, “a search platform specially designed for libraries. We analyze your holdings and link them to common, relevant keyword searches in your service area. As a result, your materials can appear side-by-side with Amazon and Wikipedia in local Google search results.”
2. Other SEO-and-ad-related services covering everything from book-specific links to the display of phone numbers and hours. The services include managed campaigns on Google AdWords and comprehensive search consultations.
3. Libre Lists, “helping librarians make beautiful, digital displays in five minutes that are visible in search and social media. These landing pages associated with common search terms can offer the aesthetics of a good-looking page within a bookstore.”
4. A plug-in for Chrome, Firefox and Safari that alerts you when you’re browsing Amazon or certain other sites and land on a page for a book you can check out for free at the library. Trey Gordner actually prefers other approaches, since this one requires the book-seeker to be proactive. Still, it’s nice if your local public library is included. Check out a YouTube walk-through. The Koios Web plugin lists these systems: the Richland Library in Columbia, South Carolina, the New York Public Library, the San Francisco Public Library, the Washoe County Library serving Reno, Nevada, the Anderson County Library in South Carolina, the Tulsa City-County Library, and the system for Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College.
5. Recruitment of “bloggers and authors to link to the same book in all libraries with one URL.”
The first four services exist. The fifth, the blogger affiliate one, is on the way. The business model isn’t locked down forever. Should a book blogger or author get paid for promoting libraries, affiliate style? Or should this be a pro bono public service? For now, it appears that “free” will be the word of the day since so many book blogs—at least from librarians—are more labors of love rather than commercial endeavors.
KOIOS SERVICES IN ACTION
Q&A with Trey Gordner
Now here’s the Q&A (mostly via email), restructured and slightly edited for clarity and readability even though I have not changed anything of substance. I’ve also added some explanatory links to augment Trey’s. A little background outside the Q&A: While attending the University of South Carolina, he worked in special collections at the library there. “We had millions of fascinating materials, but few weekly visitors. I studied business, so I recognized that our library had a marketing problem. But at the time I felt there was little I could do.” The more he learned about SEO and related activities, the more Trey realized he could indeed help.
Origins of company name? Wait. A YouTube answered that question. Cool choice!
Koios—Greek titan of intellect and search! Good on you for finding it.
Are you stand-alone or do you have corporate parents?
We are a stand-alone company, and plan to stay that way. I founded Koios two years ago after winning Startup Weekend (similar to a hackathon) with my concept for “a browser extension that checks the library for you.” Full story here.
Case histories with stats?
We’re working on a couple of case studies right now. One is a study of how people actually search for books in Google. To date, there hasn’t been much analysis on the relative frequency of certain patterns: using a book title alone, using part of the title with an author’s last name, using format-specific words like “pdf” or “ebook.” There’s a lot we don’t know, but we’re using the data we’ve gathered from library promotion to find out.
I really like your “free PDF of” SEO strategy.
Thanks. We found that, in most people’s vocabularies, “PDF” is not a specific file format—it’s shorthand for “free, easily downloaded, online copy.” This is an interesting case in search engine marketing where the searcher’s word choice is very different from his intent.
I’m curious about people you’re doing business with—libraries or systems. Stats? Just who?
Two of our earliest adopters were the Washoe County Library System in Nevada and the Chattanooga Public Library.
Over the course of last month, CPL appeared in over 10,000 local searches for book titles and authors in their collection. We also did some competitive placements, so anyone who searched “audible” saw an ad for free audiobooks through the library.
WCLS, on the other hand, has been more focused on their databases. When anyone in Washoe County searches for terms related to language learning, they see language learning resources at the library appear at the top. We’re especially proud of this campaign, because we have a 7.83% click-through rate. For perspective, some of the top brands in the country boast just a 1% click-through. It’s really a testament to people’s trust in libraries, and the continued appeal of free, authoritative, and local resources.
Tell us about the conflict between the local library model and the search engine algorithms? How do you address it, in a “mindshare” context?
A search engine is trying give you a good result quickly, with a minimal amount of processing power. In some cases there are answers that are globally good—meaning that the same answer is equally good for any searcher anywhere. An example of this would be “why is the sky blue?” Google excels at this kind of ready reference, and you can see that the algorithm is so confident with this answer that it actually presents it in the search results—no click needed.
By contrast, some answers are only locally good. My results for “plumbers near me” or “city hall” will be different from yours, because having just one consistent set of results for the whole country would be a bad answer. However, even Google’s resources aren’t infinite. It has to limit the circumstances in which it generates a locally good result over a globally good one. The most sweeping example is ecommerce: Google has long considered a result from an online store to be globally good. Amazon ships anywhere–it’s just as relevant in New York as New Bern. So Google hasn’t put much effort into providing locally good results for products, including books. The challenge for libraries is that they are always, by definition locally good answers. If they’re going to compete against globally good results, there needs to be a central website of record for library resources with a built-in method to route you to your local library’s holdings. That’s the purpose of Libre.
In this age, mindshare and search rankings trend very closely. Amazon dominates search results for products, and is now seen as “the everything store.” Wikipedia dominates factual research. Yelp dominates local ratings. Zillow dominates house listings. They have competitors, but do you know their names? Probably not, because these companies are the top result. It’s one of their greatest assets. Amazon has proven that a top search result has as much real value as a physical location.
Interactivity? Reader forums and reviews on the way?
Right now, we’re primarily connecting readers to great content at their libraries, and to their librarians for recommendations and advice. We’re not as focused on connecting them to each other, as we think Goodreads and LibraryThing already do that well. We are interested in user contributions, but we want them to be original, high-quality, and unique to Libre. That’s one of the reasons why we’ve started with Libre Lists, which allows librarians to make expert contributions.
On the point of what makes us unique, we’re also developing a tool called “Free My Wishlist” that would let a user quickly crossreference their Amazon wishlist or Goodreads shelf with their local library collection. People can sign up to be alerted when we release Free My Wishlist.
One thing I can say is that any interactivity or personalization we offer to end users will be optional, require a clear opt-in, and can be deleted at any time. That’s our middle way between users demanding personalized service and librarians demanding patron privacy.
Prices of various services? Can even small, underfunded libraries afford you? Any grants sources you’re pointing them to, beyond IMLS, which, let’s hope, will survive? Update: You said in a YouTube that charges are between 5K and 25K depending on the size of the system. What about the largest systems? Is there a $25 K cap?
There’s an incredible and little-known opportunity called Google Ad Grants: Google provides $10,000 a month in in-kind pay-per-click advertising to qualifying 501(c)(3)s, including Friends of the Library organizations. Koios will manage that $120,000 grant on the library’s behalf, ensuring that they get maximum exposure every month, for as little as $3,300/year.
There are other options as well. A smaller library (especially academic) may want to start with the browser add-on. A large public library may be ready to invest in Libre. We also offer standalone components like Libre Lists or SEO audits. There are many different ways to work with us, so I would tell any library wondering about exact pricing to contact us. We’ll help identify a package that suits you.
How much of a book is exposed to search? Just metadata or, in some cases, entire texts, just like Google? Ask publishers for permission, if fair use doesn’t apply here?
Currently, we expose the basic metadata common between libraries. We’ve considered hosting full-text for items in the public domain, as I personally have been very dissatisfied with the quality of existing options. Our primary interest, though, is in enhancing library resources with unique and valuable content. We’ve found Reimagining the monograph project from JSTOR Lab to be very inspiring. There are definite opportunities to analyze a text for major themes, characters, settings, and events.
In a related vein, are you hoping to pick up a lot of people who are not looking at the start for books but who are very interested in specific topics? How many of your purchased search terms are directly book related and how many are simply subject related?
The clear first step for us was to help the library show up for local title and author searches in Google. We’ve since diversified into more general skill-building terms: for example, a phrase like “learn to speak swahili” or “small business accounting” will trigger an ad for Mango Languages or Gale Courses, if the library subscribes to those.
For subject-related searches, our strategy is to give librarians the tools to build their own search-optimized lists of resources. Librarians can use Libre Lists to create a list like “Library Resources for Entrepreneurs” that could appear for a local search like “starting a business.” This gives the library a lot of flexibility over the specific resources they want to promote and populations they want to reach through search results. We’re just facilitating that process.
Are you worried about Amazon or OverDrive or others preempting you with similar services, at least in the SEO area? And meanwhile have they created any obstacles, especially Amazon, given its interest in book sales?
OverDrive certainly has very solid SEO, but I don’t think they’ll create a competing service that promotes all library resources equally. It would be a conflict of interest: OverDrive wants to promote its own content. It doesn’t care about 3M or Hoopla, or library services. By contrast, Libre is vendor-neutral. We’re completely focused on discovery. Ultimately, that benefits everyone involved: libraries see more use, vendors grow awareness of their products, and users benefit from the full range of library resources.
As for Amazon, I don’t think they mind. Many libraries promote Amazon Smile as a way to benefit the library. I’ve even seen libraries include Amazon affiliate links in their catalog, when wait times are too long. Moreover, even if we were consistently appearing side-by-side with Amazon for book searches, their priorities are in drones and AI right now. Very little of their focus is on books—perhaps just enough to instigate publishers every now and then.
What would you say to publishers who’d object to your slogan of, “Don’t buy—borrow?” Will “Try, then buy” still help the publishers? But then again, won’t library patrons be buyers in the end in many cases? Research from OverDrive suggests that regular library patrons buy more books than other people do.
I have seen data to suggest that library users also buy more books. We haven’t tried to confirm it, but that conclusion wouldn’t surprise me. “Don’t buy—borrow” is a bit tongue-in-cheek. It’s our way of remind the average reader of an irrational habit: they buy what they could have for free. That said, reading is not a zero-sum game. If I read a book I like from the library, I buy it for my brother. My dad knows I’m a voracious reader, so he buys me books at Christmas. So my library habit leads to sales in other ways. More generally, though, I would argue that borrowing vs. buying is the “small game.” The “big game” is ensuring that the book remains a viable format in an age of social media, virtual reality, and clickbait. Even if our service causes publishers some grief in the small game, our help in the big game is undeniable.
If you can get more people to request library books, do you think libraries ultimately will get the money for more copies even at a time when many localities are cash strapped? Is there a risk that a lot of patron-taxpayers will feel rather frustrated with libraries, since so many items, even non-bestsellers, may have to be on hold? Needless to say, I’d like to see America’s public libraries have a lot more money for content than the current four dollars per capita they’re able to spend each year. Hence my interest in a national library endowment to help pay for content and plenty else—including marketing.
It’s certainly possible. Our ultimate goal is to build strong community support for libraries. That starts by informing people about what libraries offer. I always tell libraries: marketing is information too. We pride ourselves on connecting people to the right resource within the library, but we become bashful about advocacy beyond the walls. The library offers resources that will improve your life. Period. And many people in the community are taking advantage of them. These are hard facts, just like “History can be found in the 900 section.” We have a duty to share these facts, too.
There’s an opportunity for frustration. There’s also an opportunity for education. If a book has many holds on Libre, we can say, “Did you know that your library spends only $4 per capita on materials every year? Help us make it more.” We can then direct them to a contact page for a county official, or a donate page for the Friends of the Library. Our friends at EveryLibrary are the experts on library advocacy, so we’ve been talking to them about doing this well. We may even partner with them during bond referenda to broadcast information about library budget and value through Libre.
There are some challenges with the underlying economics of certain library resources. We’re already having to make difficult decisions about what to promote and how much. Hoopla, for instance, has a pay-per-use model. Too many holds in one month, and we stop promoting Hoopla, because the library’s budget simply can’t take it. It’s a tragedy that any model would penalize libraries for being “too successful.” On the other hand, there’s an incredible opportunity to grow some of the databases that are licensed for unlimited users. I don’t know how much Libre will alter other vendors’ business models, but I would love to see us become a force that pushes some of the digital content agreements to unlimited, simultaneous use.
URL of the government-funded project doing SEO for Libraries? What do you offer that it can’t?
Bibframe is a new metadata standard for libraries. It’s sponsored in part by the Library of Congress and championed by Zepheira and OCLC. Zepheira also created the Library Link Network, the main provider of linked data conversion. While linked data is a great first step, it shouldn’t be confused with SEO. Linked data is not a ranking factor—just because you have linked data on your site does not mean you will rank higher in Google results. It simply gives you greater control over how your search results look (for instance, whether they also show an average rating or a price).
By contrast, we approach library search visibility from the perspective of digital marketing. A few things we offer that linked data can’t:
- We manage the technical aspects of SEO and Pay Per Click, so libraries can focus on meeting needs
- We recruit bloggers and authors to link to the same book in all libraries with one URL
- We give librarians the tools to create fresh and original content on top of a shared set of resources
- We help libraries interpret their search performance and improve over time
Any plans to get into the highly targeted embedding of library mentions and links in social media? Especially promos of specific titles found at libraries?
In general, we have to force library promotion outside the walls and online especially. If a patron has a project, and she wants to know the best resources at the library to help her with it, right now she still has to go to the reference desk. Many longtime library patrons couldn’t name two databases their library offers. It’s arcane knowledge. To increase awareness, you have to change that “pull” model (come and ask us what we have) to a “push” model (here’s something we have that relates to your search). So while Google is the clear first frontier for library visibility, social media is another great “push” channel. If you go to a Libre page now, you’ll see a Share & Embed tab. That’s our first step toward boosting library visibility on social media. In the future you’ll see more from us—possibly even advertising options there too.
Tell us about the library affiliates program for bloggers. Will they be doing this as a public service, or will they receive compensation? Is the program already in existence, and if so, how many bloggers have been signed up so far?
We’re creating a “library affiliate program” so that bloggers can link to the same book in all libraries across the country with one URL, or embed it with a widget similar to this:
The library affiliate program isn’t public yet. We’ve been quietly reaching out to some well-known blogs and media outlets. While some writers do earn income from Amazon affiliates, others would much rather link to the library if they could. So it’s public service at the moment. Consider that some of the most prolific book bloggers out there are readers’ advisory librarians. There’s a similar program we’re working on for authors, but I’ll keep that one under wraps for now.
How can someone contact you for more information?
Thanks for the interview, David. The best way to reach me or the Koios team is through our contact page. You can also tweet us at @koioslib. And if you plan to be at ALA Annual next month, be sure to drop by our booth in the Mobile App Pavilion of the exhibit hall.
From David: One more endowment-related thought—on the costs of library SEO and related services on a national scale
There are around 9,000 public libraries (administrative units), some 3,800 academic libraries, 98,400 school libraries, 7,000 special libraries, 250 armed forces libraries, and 900 government libraries in the U.S. or on overseas bases. The total is very roughly 120,000. The real action, however, will be among public and academic libraries (even though we must not neglect K-12!). Settling arbitrarily on $10,000 annually per library, the cost of SEO and related services for those two categories would be $128 million.
Such an estimate could be too low—but then again, maybe not if we take advantage of economies of scale. What’s more, the endowment could extensively use matching grants, another way to keep its own costs down. Training of librarians in sophisticated SEO could also help lower expenses in many cases. But not all. Libraries are stretched as it is, and some tasks just might be better performed by specialists. Just keep in mind that my calculations are merely a starting point for discussion.
Although $128 million sounds like a lot, keep in mind that public library spending alone totals around $12 billion annually, and wouldn’t it make sense for just a tiny fraction extra to be spent to encourage more and better use of libraries?
Consider, too, the possible size of the proposed National Library Endowment within five years, $20 billion, with more than a billion spent. Achievable? Yes. This is the era of the Gates Giving Pledge, and just the top ten billionaires in the U.S. are together worth more than half a trillion dollars. The 400 richest Americans are worth North of $2.3 billion. In other words, we are talking about a speck of a speck. Even with contributions from only a tiny fraction of the billionaires, an endowment would be doable.
Last updated: June 1, 2017.
Image credit: Here.
Game-changer! I’ve been using the Chrome app, and it works wonderfully. My friends and I are using it; whereas we used to open up both Amazon and our library’s website, separately, to check availability, now it is together. Quicker, easier. And the other ideas are exactly what we need for libraries. Letting libraries “show up” in lists and on websites – perfect.
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@Bebesarah4: Thanks. If you can spread the word about the possibilities, that’ll be great. Let’s hope more libraries not only try out the browser service but also get really, really serious about SEO!
I find it odd, and a bit insulting, that you would begin an article about promoting the reading of books via digital devices by making a “dig” at the Confederate Monument which has stood tall for 128 years. What possible relevance does your opening paragraph have to the rest the article?
Quote: “A Confederate statue—still stuck in the middle of Washington Street, as required by state law—”
“(a)s required by state law;” yes, thank God the patriots of Virginia and other sovereign Southern states had the foresight to protect their public property by law. I can only wish that Louisiana, Mississippi, and other states of the Confederacy had followed suit. Lincoln trampled the Constitution and centralized the government, contrary to the laws and purposes contained in the Bill of Rights. The USA is now the most aggressive, power-mongering nation on earth. General William T. Sherman, with Lincoln’s wholehearted blessings, introduced warfare on women, children, and other non-combatants, when he shelled and then burned Atlanta before beginning his destructive “March to the Sea.” Some heroes the North has to look up to!
And when they had defeated and subjugated the South and her people to a century of poverty and second-class citizenry, they quickly turned their war machine on the Native American tribes, wiping out their food sources, murdering women, children, old men indiscriminately, introducing cholera and other pestilences via contaminated blankets and other means, and breaking treaty after treaty. Some great nation the USA is!
And today it continues with the nation’s lustful thirst for the riches (oil and ?) of other nations. Under the guise of “bringing democracy to the poor, downtrodden peoples” of those sovereign countries, the USA continues its policy of rape and pillage.
As for me, I joined the USMC out of high school, fought in Vietnam (1967-68), and shed blood for my comrades-in-arms. “Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children” indeed.
I can only hope and pray the ignorant populace of this once great nation will open their eyes and mind and wake up before it’s too late. I fear it already is.
@EMH: The vast majority of people in Alexandria want the statue removed—we resent the state legislature imposing its wishes on us. I am endlessly embarrassed that the statue is one of our city’s most conspicuous landmarks. Read the speech by the mayor of New Orleans to understand why Confederate statues are a mark of shame. I do think the statue should be preserved in a library or museum. Ok. We’ll agree to disagree on this issue. I’m sure there are others we’ll agree on. My thanks for your USMC service.
Then I would challenge the city of Alexandria to hold a vote on the matter. At any rate, state law protects the monument in question. The city council is comprised largely of current-day carpetbaggers, seeking to impose their will over the citizens. Hold the vote, and then we’ll see.
I have read the speech by Landrieu. His cowardice shines through his words like the lights used to take down the monuments in the dark of night.
Oh, how I wish they WOULD build a monument for the “slave ships” and “auction blocks” the mayor mentioned. I ask you, where were these ships built, outfitted, and from where did they sail. You only have to look to the northeast, New England in particular. For profit, these slave ship builders/owners sailed to Africa and bought slaves captured by other warring African tribes for filthy lucre. And then they shipped these slaves to southern markets so they could raise cotton, tobacco, rice, and other items the north wanted but couldn’t effectively grow in their climate. And when the north continued passing legislation and increasing taxes detrimental to the South, the people of the South decided they’d had enough. The South DID NOT make war on the Union. The original Southern states withdrew (as was their right under Article 10 of the Constitution) to form their own government and nation comprised of sovereign, independent states.
When the USA occupied Fort Sumter, the Confederate government appealed to the US government to abandon their rightful territory. Lincoln forced the South’s hand when he broke his word about re-supply Ft. Sumter. The fort fell the next day with zero casualties. The conquered Union soldiers were given free passage to return to the USA. And then Lincoln put out his infamous call for 75,000 volunteers to put down the “rebellion.” Almost immediately sever other Southern states pass ordinances of secession and joined the Confederacy.
An estimated ten percent (a generous assumption) of Southerners were slave holders. Why then, would young men from all over the newly-formed CSA leave their homes, farms, businesses to fight the invading Northern army? To protect slavery? I think not. They fought to protect hearth and home from an invading army. There was no “Civil War.” A civil war is defined as “Armed conflict between a government and another group from within the same country.” The Confederate States of America wanted no part of interfering with or overthrowing the United States of America. They only wanted to “go their own way in peace.”
The statement by CSA vice-president Alexander Stephens that “the negro is not equal to the white man . . .” had been mouthed by Abraham Lincoln years earlier. Look it up. It’s a fact.
In short, the citizens of the USA need a history lesson, not revisionist history, as the South is so commonly accused of. The truth is out there. But the ignorant will remain ignorant in this generation of short-patient citizens. I’ve wasted enough of my breath on this subject.
“There is none so blind as he who will not see.”
It seems we are adopting Russian influence in more than one way….such as “revisionist” history for facts and influences we wish to expunge.
— a librarian
@V.I.: As I wrote, I believe the statues should be preserved in libraries and museums. But one shouldn’t be proudly exhibited right in the middle of the main street of my hometown. Perhaps a fifth of Alexandrians are African-American. We were a slave port, as they know. Men and women were chained and sold as animals—that’s what the Confederate Army was fighting to preserve.
History books should be fair and factual. I totally agree with E.M.H. that some Yankees profited massively off slavery. We need to make that fact widely known! Same for information on unscrupulous Yankee economic exploitation of the South, which in different forms continues today. And the misery from Sherman’s March!
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“Men and women were chained and sold as animals—that’s what the Confederate Army was fighting to preserve.”
Oh, PUH-LEASE! As stated before, perhaps as many as ten percent of southerners owned slaves. Slavery was detrimental to hardscrabble white Southerners scraping out a meager existence on farms scattered throughout the South. Slaves were taking jobs away from poor whites who would have gladly labored in the big plantations’ fields for whatever measly wage they might pay. Anything is better than nothing when you are hungry.
Fact is, the North was using the South and its products to benefit themselves. And they were slowly, bit-by-bit, increasing the stranglehold on the South, increasing their profits by punishing the South through unfair tariffs and taxes. It was becoming “unfair taxation without representation.” Sound familiar?
But nothing I say will sway your way of thinking. After all, you are the conquerors of the traitorous South! You must continue to punish us for our despicable, deceitful attempt to overthrow the government of the USA! (Hmm, where is THAT found in historical records?).
We should today, even after 150-plus years, be ground under the heel of the virtuous North who knows no sin. Praise God for your virtuous treatment of the conquered South, and the Native American tribes, and the continuing number of poor, ignorant nations who don’t know any better than to resist the mighty USofA in bringing “Democracy” to their land! Hallajeuha!
Again, ignorance is rampant in this country, thanks in great part to our central government run schools who teach corrupted history as “fact.”
Challenge yourself to study things for yourself, not what your “government” has decreed as fact for the past century-plus. But alas, that would take time and effort, and you don’t want your belief tray to become upset in any way. Oh well.
Expunge facts and influences in your own state, V.I. Leave the individual states to their own business.
Everyone: I fervently agree with E.M.H. that economic competition from slavery was not helpful to poor whites—but they still fought for an illegitimate government that enabled such bondage. A good book to read is White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America, which among other things discusses class within the antebellum South. In fairness to the poor whites, we need to remember that many were drafted. But guess what. Slave-holders, just like certain politicians of today, convinced lower-class whites to let racial prejudice prevail over economic interests. Meanwhile I’ll remind E.M.H. again that I share his belief in the guilt of certain Northerners—for example, the builders of slave ships and those who ruthlessly exploited the rural South. I also agree with him about our government’s shameful treatment of Native Americans.
I’ll give E.M.H. one last round on the Civil War issue, if he wants it. Then everyone, back to the 21st century. E.M.H. and others, what do you think are the biggest needs of small-town and rural libraries in the South and elsewhere? How could the proposed library endowment most help? For what it’s worth, the rural South gets far less from big-city Yankee coastal philanthropists than it deserves. A national library endowment could at least help mitigate this.
P.S. It’s good to see E.M.H. so engaged in a TeleRead discussion even if we passionately disagree. You can find his Amazon page here. Fans of war novels and war memoirs might want to check him out.
I believe libraries, like education, should be left up to the individual sovereign states. NOTE: I AM NOT for segregation in any way, shape, or form. I abhor racism. In 1966 my high school (Bay High, in Panama City, Florida, panhandle coast) integrated peacefully. Never a problem, and that’s the truth. Nothing like the riots over forced bussing in the Boston, MA area. One more item before we leave the issue of The War Between the States; check out the facts regarding the draft/race riots of 1863 in New York City:
The following is copied from The History Channel website,
In 1863, in the midst of the American Civil War, Congress passed a conscription law making all men between 20 and 45 years of age liable for military service. On July 13, the government’s attempt to enforce the draft in New York City ignited the most destructive civil disturbance in the city’s history.
Rioters torched government buildings and, on July 15, fought pitched battles with troops. Conservative contemporary commentators, concerned about an anti-Union plot, claimed that 1,155 people were killed. In fact, about 300, over half of them policemen and soldiers, were injured, and there were no more than 119 fatalities, most of them rioters.
A majority of the rioters were Irish, living in pestilential misery. The spark that ignited their grievances and those of other working men and women was the provision in the law that conscription could be avoided by payment of three hundred dollars, an enormous sum only the rich could afford. In a context of wartime inflation, black competition for jobs, and race prejudice among working people, particularly the Irish, New York’s blacks were chosen as scapegoats for long-accumulated grievances. Many innocent blacks were slain and their homes sacked. A Colored Orphan Asylum was razed. In this intersection of ethnic diversity, class antagonism, and racism lay the origins of the draft riots.
The Reader’s Companion to American History. Eric Foner and John A. Garraty, Editors. Copyright © 1991 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Peace to all. –E.M.H.
@E.M.H.: As promised, I’ll let you have the last word (other than to say that, yes, you are absolutely right about the N.Y.C. draft riots and the related information). As for the proposed endowment, it most definitely would not replace local and state libraries. While national collections would exist, cities and states could still buy whatever books they chose. Do think of the positives. We need a way to increase the number of qualified librarians, especially K-12 ones in the very poorest districts in the rural South and elsewhere. Peace right back. David
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David, if the corrupt, centralized, anti-Constitutional government in Washington, DC would quit stealing from the individual states (through excessive taxation and threats of withholding the revenue states were forced/coerced to give to the crooks in DC), there would be no need for a National Library Endowment. Let the states keep more of their money. Stop wasting money by giving BILLIONS in foreign aid to countries that would backstab the US if the opportunity arose. Deny the military industrial complex (that runs the US government behind the scenes) funding for their incredibly wasteful spending on more and more weapons, fighter jets, bombs, missiles, etc., etc. Use that incredible pile of wasted money to train doctors with free tuition, and pay them a decent wage (half a million per year, or?), and provide every single citizen of the USA with FREE and FULL health care.
I could rant on, but it’s past time to hit the rack. BTW, I’m now following TELEREAD.
Peace. –Michael (who also writes mysteries). 🙂
@Michael: I heartily agree that D.C. is corrupt, bought off by defense lobbyists and others! On top of that, we’ve got voter suppression, sleaze-friendly campaign laws and gerrymandering. That is why I wouldn’t count on the present system changing soon.
The use of philanthropic donations is a way to route around this swamp. Furthermore, the creation of national collections in addition to local ones would be highly cost-effective and increase book choices for everyone, in this digital era.
What do you think rural libraries most need in terms of resources, beyond access to more books for their patrons?
Meanwhile thanks very much for following TeleRead. We go back to the 1990s and in fact are the oldest website devoted to commentary on e-books and related topics
Suggestions of all kinds welcome. At the same time, please keep in mind that we are all volunteers here (although regular writers are always welcome to set up tip arrangements, as Chris Meadows did). But if a suggestion overlaps with a contributor’s interest, then he or she can follow up.
Detail: Non-military foreign aid is just a speck of the federal budget.
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@David: I’m fully aware there’s more wasteful “dishing out” of OUR money than foreign aid. Here’s another gripe:
In Rwanda (I believe that’s the correct country; I could be wrong) and other destitute countries, people are starving by the millions. Why on earth doesn’t the United Nations send troops into those stricken countries, and insure that food, clean water, medical aid, and other needed services are provided to the people in such desperate need? What the heck is the UN for, if not to help the peoples of the world? Any aid going to places in dire straits is stolen by opposing warlords/bandits/name-your-villain, before the suffering masses have a chance to receive it. Let the UN troops go in and take care of this despicable mess! Surely they have BILLIONS of dollars at their disposal, and the manpower to do so. If not, then DISBAND the utterly useless, money-wasting, do-nothing waste of an organization.
Regarding libraries and their needs: I live in a rural area in the Upstate region of SC. Our county (Oconee) has adequate access to a plethora of books. There are computers available in every branch for public use. There are ebooks which can be downloaded from home or elsewhere. We have a few bookmobiles roaming the hinterlands of the county. If a person wishes to read, there is no shortage of resources, at least in this area (we border GA and NC). In yesterday’s local newspaper, there was a quarter-page article announcing summer reading programs at the various branches and other outlets for children of most age groups. Don’t get me wrong; this is not a “upscale” economic area by any means. Once thriving textile mills are crumbling into the earth and swallowed by kudzu. Most jobs (service) are at, or just above, minimum wage. A lucky few earn a decent living working at companies who have come south seeking lower payscales. Still, we make do. There are free medical clinics; a donation-funded school which takes in troubled/needy children. Those children/students receive guidance and counseling, free room-and board, medical care, etc., in a wholesome, family-oriented environment. Many live at the school for years, until graduating and stepping out on their own as prepared young adults.
I personally love libraries and spent many, many hours in my public library as a child, student, and adult. I simply don’t wish to be labeled a “beggar” by seeking money from the super-wealthy. If they wish to give, fine. But who will see that the funds are distributed equally? I see this as another opportunity for corruption. Will large inner-city, predominantly black and other ethnic minorities libraries receive more than once-thriving mill towns in the rural South whose livelihood disappeared overseas with NAFTA/GATT? Will the monies be population-based? There are simply, in my opinion, too many unanswerable questions, and a huge opportunity for mismanagement.
@Michael: Continued thanks for your interest. U.S. public libraries on the average can spend just $4 per capita on books and other content. Besides, the issue is not just the number of books but also the number matching people’s needs and interests.
What’s more, libraries are about a lot more than books – for example, reference services, which can help patrons find authoritative information on personal problems. And then there’s the issue of paying for librarians, especially school librarians, in low-income communities. Studies show they can indeed boost test scores. Endowment money could also go for other needs, such as improved outreach. The Q&A with Trey shows how much more libraries could do in the area of SEO.
One way or another, the present is not acceptable – not when almost half the adults in Detroit are functionally illiterate. It’s not just a “get more books” thing; we’re talking about culture and work ethic and the need to popularize such causes as family literacy. In many cases, not all, well trained librarians can help turn people’s lives around.
If nothing else, librarians can point young people and others to books and videos showing there are more desirable alternatives to their present lifestyles. And help them discover solutions on their own. Simply put, libraries can be powerful tools of self-empowerment.
As for where the money can go, let this be needs driven as much as possible. While rich and poor could access the national digital library systems, poor communities should be the ones receiving the most money for extra librarians and the rest.