ebooks, free & local

I mentioned recently that one of my goals this year was to participate in Nanowrimo, both personally and at the library. While the “book” I wrote ended up being a 135-page thesis (yeah, ok, that includes a boatload of appendices) and my writer’s group is not yet ready for prime time, I’m really excited about the idea of library-written books. Here’s the thing–I can’t find any instances of library-published Nanowrimo ebooks. It seems like a no-brainer to me to host the ebook files (converted to .azw, .pdf, etc.) on the library website, and make them accessible through the catalog.

Rich Adin discusses the drawbacks and benefits of reading such free literature. Obviously, some free ebooks are not going to be of stellar quantity. But the thrill of discovery has got to be huge when you connect with a book, especially one that is free and probably under-appreciated. I was always that girl who didn’t want anyone else grooving to my obviously superior taste in music (I got over it) and I still feel possessive of “my” little-known writers. (so Patrick Rothfuss isn’t really unknown–he’s local though. Unfortunately I forgot to give my kindle to my daughter, who was to get his ebooks electronically “signed” via annotation this weekend at DaishoCon in Wisconsin Dells–hey Patrick, are you listening? Want to send me an electronic “signature?” Just write “to S-h-a-n-n-o-n, my favorite fan…”)

But consider this idea further. How would it feel to know you were not only discovering a new talent when you read an ebook from your library, but that it was written by a neighbor. In only 30 days. Talk about inspiration.

For those of you who think only garbage is written during Nanowrimo, I just want to say two things: First of all, how amazing is it that regular people are getting off their asses and writing, no matter the quality or even if they ever do it again, or share it?! And two, Sara Gruen’s Like Water for Elephants was written for Nanowrimo. Take that, haters.

Here are some other Nanowrimo babies that have been published traditionally.



Content creation in libraries

OK, so I talk about this ALL the time (did you hear me say that just like Dr. Cox in Scrubs? maybe not) but it cannot be hammered home often enough: Libraries need to be creation spaces, not just warehouses. I had a conversation last night with someone absolutely thrilled with this idea and another who just wanted books. We can have both. In fact, ideally, we can write the books in the library and then make them available through the library.

Right now, I’m teaching a writer’s workshop at my library. My hope was to get it going in the summer, so by Nov. all the writers would be pumped for Nanowrimo, when they would pump out incredible fiction,let us release that fiction freely as e-content, and make it available through our catalog. Well, that didn’t happen. Writer’s workshop began in Sept. No one is ready for Nanowrimo this year. But next year: watch out.

In Madison, WI there is a small business on Lakeside, a community sewing space. There are machines to sew on, classes and one-on-one tutoring available. We need that type of tech in the library. Think how easy it would be to include a sewing machine and serger, ironing board and cutting table in a library lab. And how easy it would be to find a decent seamstress to offer classes. At the Horicon Public Library, the Friends meet once a year to make a quilt, which we raffle off to raise program funds. From there it’s a short step to incorporating sewing into the programming lineup.

What I want for Christmas

Ever since I heard about the MakerBot, I wanted desperately to be the first public library to have one, but snooze and lose. Fayetteville PL will beat us to the punch. Their FabLab is going to be fab indeed.

Any library that teaches knitting, art, writing, cooking, entrepreneurship, finance, or holds town meetings is a content creation space. We are already creating everything from jam to democracy in our libraries. Why not take this to the next level with a concerted focus on creation? I’d be willing to sacrifice 50% of my books to have room for creation spaces.

What do you create at/because of your library? Can you put a “library-made” sticker on it? We’ve got some of these stickers at HPL, if you want some. I’ve put them on gifts that I made with skills learned from library resources, staff, patrons and workshops.