Monday, October 30, 2017

Expert Picks — Books and Films You Should Check Out Before Traveling Abroad

Travel books | International | Reader's advisory

Foreign ambassadors to the U.S. share their book and movie recommendations for visitors to their countries. Be sure to read and watch them before you go!

Illustration by Jana Walczyk

Cultural immersion is a large part of what makes traveling to a foreign country so rewarding, but you can take in the culture before you even set foot on a plane. We asked international ambassadors in Washington, D.C. to pick the book and film they believe first-time visitors to their country should consume before they arrive. Their choices range from the very popular to the relatively obscure, but they all offer a good starting point for travelers who long for a truly rewarding experience.

We have created a digital guide to these ambassador’s cultural picks, which we will continue to expand upon as more ambassadors contribute. This list can serve as both a resource for readers to learn about other countries and a cultural guidebook for travelers.
Without further ado, here are the picks for each country (in alphabetical order). Some choices include commentary from the ambassadors themselves.

Note: "H.E." stands for His or Her Excellency, the official title for ambassadors to the U.S.
Happy reading and viewing!


H.E. Wolfgang A. Waldner recommends:
The Tobacconist (translated into English by Charlotte Collins) is set in 1937 just before the German occupation. It follows 17-year-old Franz, who moves to Vienna to become the apprentice in a tobacco shop. Its quiet wisdom and sincerity resonated with me very deeply."
The Third Man, the British noir from 1949, feels as fresh as ever. Shot entirely on location, you see the city [of Vienna] in ruins and split up into French, American, British and Russian sectors with spies and suspicious officials everywhere. The catchy film score, performed by Anton Karas on a zither, sets the perfect tone."


H.E. Elin Suleymanov recommends:
Ali and Nino recounts the love story of a Muslim Azerbaijani boy and Christian Georgian girl in the Azerbaijani capital of Baku from 1918 to 1920.


Ambassador and Permanent Representative H.E. Kunzang C. Namgyel recommends:
Treasures of the Thunder Dragon: A Portrait of Bhutan is a blend of personal memoir, history, folklore, and travelogue, creating a portrait of the Himalayan kingdom.
Travelers and Magicians is about Dondup (Tsewang Dandup), a Bhutanese official infatuated with American culture, who is bored with life in his tiny village and dreams of visiting the United States.


Monday, October 23, 2017

The UK no longer has a national public library system

Public libraries | UK | Funding

The UK no longer has a national public library system. Photograph: Rui Vieira/PA   
Since 2010, hundreds of local libraries have been handed over from councils to be run by the local community. One estimate is that 500 of the UK’s 3,850 libraries are now being run by local volunteers. Despite talk about empowerment and community involvement, the reality is that local people face a stark choice: take over a local library or it faces closure. Read more...

Thursday, October 19, 2017

New York City’s Libraries Will Forgive All Children’s Fines

Public libraries | Fines | Borrowing privileges

The Hamilton Grange branch of the New York Public Library, where about half of children have their borrowing privileges suspended because of unpaid fines. An amnesty at the city’s libraries will allow all children to check out books again. Credit David Dee Delgado for The New York Times

Library books are free, until they aren’t: Patrons who rack up $15 in late fees at the city’s public libraries are blocked from taking out more books until the fine is paid.

Among those with suspended privileges are 160,000 children, most of them from the city’s poorest neighborhoods, who cannot afford to pay.

“Learning is a right. Reading brings you to new worlds,” said Octavia Loving, a 17-year-old student at Special Music High School, as she stood amid the stacks at Countee Cullen Library in Harlem, one of the neighborhoods with the highest concentration of children with blocked cards, according to library officials. “They shouldn’t block us from reading because of money.”

On Thursday, the city’s three library systems — the New York Public Library, which serves Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island; the Queens Library; and the Brooklyn Public Library — will forgive all fines for children 17 and under and unblock their cards. The one-time amnesty is being underwritten by the JPB Foundation, a philanthropy that supports civic causes, which will make up $2.25 million of the shortfall in revenue from the forgiven fines.

The amnesty “is a dramatic way to message to kids and young adults that we want you back, and we want you reading,” said Anthony W. Marx, the president of the New York Public Library. The forgiveness is not conditional on returning any overdue books or DVDs. “We want you to be responsible, but we don’t want to penalize you just because you are too poor to pay the fines.” Read more...

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

In Italian Schools, Reading, Writing and Recognizing Fake News

Europe | Fake news | Social media | Italy

Laura Boldrini, president of Italy’s Chamber of Deputies, spearheaded a project to educate high-school students on how to recognize fake news and conspiracy theories online.
Andreas Solaro / Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
ROME — After reading the horrors in Dante’s “Inferno,” Italian students will soon turn to the dangers of the digital age. While juggling math assignments, they’ll also tackle worksheets prepared by reporters from the national broadcaster RAI. And separate from the weekly hour of religion, they will receive a list of what amounts to a new set of Ten Commandments for the digital age.

Among them: Thou shalt not share unverified news; thou shall ask for sources and evidence; thou shall remember that the internet and social networks can be manipulated.
The lessons are part of an extraordinary experiment by the Italian government, in cooperation with leading digital companies including Facebook, to train a generation of students steeped in social media how to recognize fake news and conspiracy theories online.

“Fake news drips drops of poison into our daily web diet and we end up infected without even realizing it,” said Laura Boldrini, the president of the Italian lower house of Parliament, who has spearheaded the project with the Italian Ministry of Education. Read more...

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Now rescue N.Y.'s library branches

Advocacy | Public libraries | Budget

By Scott Sherman | New York Daily News | October 9, 2017

Necessary investment (James Keivom/New York Daily News)


Last month, the New York Public Library announced a remarkable $55 million gift that will enable it to finish a large-scale renovation of the Mid-Manhattan Library, at 5th Avenue and 40th Street. The Mid-Manhattan is a tarnished jewel in the NYPL system, and the gift will allow the facility, which has been decrepit for decades, to reach its full potential.

Library officials say that when it reopens in 2020, the new library will contain — in addition to books, periodicals, and computers — meeting rooms, a cafĂ©, and a rooftop terrace.

From the headlines, one might have assumed that the money came from a well-heeled donor in the five boroughs. But in fact the money was bequeathed by a foundation in Athens, Greece. In 2020, NYPL officials will give the Mid-Manhattan Library a new name: the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library.

The Greek connection highlights the problematic way in which public libraries are repaired and upgraded in New York City. Read more...

Books from 1923 to 1941 Now Liberated!

Copyright | Open Access | Internet Archives

[press: boingboing]

The Internet Archive is now leveraging a little known, and perhaps never used, provision of US copyright law, Section 108h, which allows libraries to scan and make available materials published 1923 to 1941 if they are not being actively sold. Elizabeth Townsend Gard, a copyright scholar at Tulane University calls this “Library Public Domain.”  She and her students helped bring the first scanned books of this era available online in a collection named for the author of the bill making this necessary: The Sonny Bono Memorial Collection. Thousands more books will be added in the near future as we automate. We hope this will encourage libraries that have been reticent to scan beyond 1923 to start mass scanning their books and other works, at least up to 1942.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Classic Books That Teens Will Actually Like | YA Literature

Classics | Teens | Book lists

by Jaime Herndon | 10 October 2017

Sponsored by Wednesday Books
I Capture the Castle“One of the most charismatic narrators I’ve ever met.” (J. K. Rowling)
I Capture the Castle has “one of the most charismatic narrators I’ve ever met.” raves J. K. Rowling of the beloved reissue with a foreword by New York Times bestselling author, Jenny Han.
Seventeen-year-old Cassandra Mortmain and her family live in a ramshackle old English castle. Here she strives, over six turbulent months, to hone her writing skills. Her journals chronicle the changes that take place within the castle’s walls, and her own descent into love. By the time she pens her final entry, she has “captured the castle”—and the heart of the reader—in one of literature’s most enchanting entertainments.

Classics get a bad rap. When many people think of classics, most often, they think back to the books they were forced to read in high school—great works of literature, but maybe not always books that teens would choose to read on their own. That’s about to change, because here’s a list of classic books that teens will actually like. Read more...

Seven Books on the History and Impact of Natural Disasters

Disasters | Book recommendations | Non-fiction

A glance at recent news—or even a brief check of the weather outside—has led many people to an ominous conclusion: something has gone very wrong with the natural world around us. In recent months, hurricanes have devastated the Caribbean and the southern United States. Island nations in the Pacific face the prospect of being entirely flooded within a few years. Increased droughts have prompted political upheaval throughout the world. The sort of scenarios that have cropped up in ominous speculative novels of the near future—Claire Vaye Watkins's Gold Fame Citrus and Paolo Bacigalupi's The Water Knife both come to mind—are increasingly turning into contemporary newspaper headlines. Here's a look at seven books that explore natural disasters, some on a macro level, others zeroing in on the impact of one catastrophe. Both options leave us with plenty to ponder, and hopefully provide lessons with which we can avoid repeating the errors of the past.

Curated by Tobias Carroll
Rain: A Natural and Cultural History
Rain: A Natural and Cultural History
Cynthia Barnett
Rain is a ubiquitous occurrence for many of us: sometimes it can herald a change in climate; at others, it can cause crops to grow and refill reservoirs. It can frustrate as well, when it turns outdoor activities into canceled activities. Cynthia Barnett's acclaimed book takes a grand view of its subject, beginning with the Earth in its infancy and bringing the reader up to present-day concerns about climate change. Barnett has written several books looking at the relationship between humans and water, and this comprehensive work makes an urgent case for the importance of this bond.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | iBooks
Books A Million | IndieBound

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The Radical Reference Librarians Who Use Info to Challenge Authority

Activism | Advocacy | Librarians

An unshushable social movement is afoot.

by Natalie Zarrelli | October 03, 2017

An adaptation of Banksy’s “Flower Bomber,” this depicts a librarian in protest, throwing Margaret Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale. Hafuboti/ CC BY-SA 4.0  

From August 29 through September 2, 2004, a series of protests erupted in New York in response to the 2004 Republican National Convention and the nomination of George W. Bush for the impending election. Nearly 1,800 protesters were arrested during the convention, and later filed a civil rights suit, citing violation of their constitutional rights.

During the protests, a steady team provided support to anyone who needed information amid the confusion: a modest group of socially conscious librarians from around the United States, armed with folders of facts ranging from legal rights in dealing with police to the locations of open bathrooms.

“We wanted to operate as if we were bringing a reference desk to the streets,” explains Lia Friedman, Director of Learning Services at University of California San Diego, who was at one of the protest marches in 2004. At the time, fewer people had smartphones, making this service both new and important. When someone asked a question that wasn’t included in their traveling reference desk folders, other librarians waiting at their home computers were poised to research and deliver information by phone. Read more...