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Chris Barton writes about Chris Barton's writing ... and other, more fascinating elements of the world of children's book publishing.
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The latest in a series from me and Jennifer Ziegler, part of it here, and part of it there.
Jenny: What do you think Ernie thinks about the written word and these careers that keep us at our computers for long stretches?
Chris: I’m guessing that he thinks we need to write more about belly rubs, particularly the giving of them, and that we need to do a lot more active research in order to make sure that we get the details right.
But he’s been a good sport about our need for butt-in-chair (BIC) writing time, and has gone so far as to model that behavior for us, along with ample amounts of BOS (butt-on-sofa) and BOO (butt-on-ottoman) time.
And Ernie has also lent his ears to me when I’ve needed an audience that I can read a manuscript to. I try to hit that sweet spot where I get him to stop whining without lulling him to sleep.
Best of all, apparently I’m teaching Ernie to read. (What, you thought it was the cushioned cover of that David Byrne book that attracted him?) You know that magnetic poetry set we’ve got on our refrigerator? A couple of weeks ago, I caught the dog snuffling around at an overturned magnet that had fallen to the floor. It sure looked to me like he was trying to eat it.
“No, Ernie,” I said. “No!”
I pulled him away, and when I turned the magnet over, what did I see?
The latest in a series from me and Jennifer Ziegler, part of it here, and part of it there.
Jenny: Who are your heroes?
Me: I’ve touched on this subject before but didn’t really get around to providing examples of my own heroes or even a definition of what I think a hero is. After much deliberation, however — meaning, during the time it took me to walk Ernie this morning — here’s the definition I’ve come up with:
A hero is someone whose actions, admirable in and of themselves, serve as a lever for moving other people to realize and act on their own better qualities.
This week, I can’t think of a better example of that definition than Antoinette Tuff:
She not only saved the lives of children in her school and inspired who knows how many of us who have heard her story this week, but she treated would-be shooter Michael Brandon Hill with compassion and humanity and moved him to put forth a far better version of himself than he had been prepared to show.
The latest in a series from me and Jennifer Ziegler, part of it here, and part of it there.
Jenny: Do you have any guilty pleasures? Are there any TV shows, songs, musical acts, etc., that you are (or were in the past) ashamed to admit you like? If so, what? Defend them!
Me: This falls closer to “self-conscious” than “ashamed,” but when I was a kid I was a huge fan of the Oak Ridge Boys. You know:
And when I say “huge fan,” I mean huge as in seeing them in concert three times (including once on a bill with the Commodores!), as in joining the Columbia House record club largely so I could stock up on their back catalog, and as in trekking to East Texas State University just to wait in a receiving line so I could shake the hand of one of them being honored by his alma mater.
But when I was in eighth grade, I went on a weekend trip to an Episcopal youth conference in Dallas. The kid hosting me was blasting Suicidal Tendencies –
– and here I was traveling with a cassette case full of the likes of this:
I remember feeling very self-aware about that. Not long after, I stopped listening (much) to the Oak Ridge Boys. They became not so much a guilty pleasure as guiltily remembered nostalgia — and, really, they were guilty only of being wholesome and uncool. The Oaks could sing, and eventually — after I had drifted down the path of becoming wholesome and uncool by having kids of my own — I indulged myself in reacquiring some of their favorite songs that I wouldn’t mind being caught listening to, if it came to that.
What I never could figure out, though, was why the Oak Ridge Boys took such hold of me when I was 10 years old and retained my interest decades later. Then, in the course of a conversation with a friend a few years ago, I put together the facts that:
1) my dad died in 1979, when I was 8
2) I became aware of the Oak Ridge Boys (through their best-known song, above) within couple of years
and 3) there was at least an outside chance that I saw in them not one but four father figures.
And had I known that this was coming not long after –
– it would have given me a fourth reason for finally being a-OK with my appreciation of Duane Allen, Joe Bonsall, William Lee Golden, and Richard Sterban.
Meet Ernie, the newest edition to the Barton-Ziegler household:
(Note: The following is from the most recent edition of my monthly email newsletter, Bartography Express, which you can sign up for from the big yellow box on my home page.)
Kathi Appelt has been teaching and inspiring me since before she ever knew my name — and well before either of us knew that we shared a birthday or mutual friends outside the world of children’s books. Her warmth and generosity of spirit mean that any day that you find yourself in conversation with her is a good day — and that especially includes days spent drawn into one of Kathi’s books, which include both picture books (Bubba and Beau, Best Friends; Miss Lady Bird’s Wildflowers: How a First Lady Changed America) and novels (Newbery Honor book and National Book Award finalist The Underneath; Keeper).
Today, then, is a good day. Because not only will one Bartography Express reader win a copy of her rapturously received brand-new novel, The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp (Atheneum Books for Young Readers), but we also get to have a quick conversation with Kathi about her latest book came to be.
CB: What made you want to write The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp?
KA: One morning, Cynthia Leitich Smith sent me an email with one sentence: “Write something funny.” At first, I was confused. What did I have to say that was funny? Could I even write a funny story? I think funny is hard. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I needed to lighten up. Most of the work I had been doing was serious, and in some instances, it was downright dark. So, it was time for me to add some laughter to my work, and Cynthia somehow knew that. Besides, it’s the smart person who pays attention to what Cynthia says. [Bartography's Note: This is true.]
Also, I had always wanted to write a story featuring raccoons, so this was my chance. When I decided to make their home an old DeSoto, the pieces began to fall into place. From there, the whole experience of writing it was just a kick. It’s going to be hard to go back to writing something serious. Hmmm….maybe I won’t.
CB: Tell me about the kind of child you think The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp will appeal to the most.
KA: I hope it’ll appeal to any reader, young or old. However, despite the light-hearted humor of the story, there are some important environmental and family themes, so I think that any kids who are interested in the environment and in endangered animals will take to this tale. I hope so anyways. And of course, those readers who are into alligator wrestling should also find their places here. Actually, there’s something here for pie eaters, pirate lovers, appreciators of Big Foot and rattlesnakes, old car enthusiasts. You know, everyone!
I hope you’ve been reading the answers that my wife, Jennifer Ziegler, has been posting in response to my questions to her about shifting to a younger audience and being married to a member of one’s critique group.
Another week brings another round of questions, and so while Jenny answers mine (“Do you ever think about what your characters read?”), I’ll answer hers:
Jenny: How has being a writer changed you?
Me: I could answer this in several ways. Such as:
“Not at all. Why, I can still fit into the ‘do rag I wore in college.”
“Changed me from what? I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember.”
But seriously, folks — I mean, dear — I think it’s interesting how being a writer has changed me compared to what I thought I was going to be: an editor.
I approached the end of my college career all set to be a magazine editor. No, not just an editor, but a famous one. And not just a famous editor, but a famous magazine founder, visionary, mover and shaker, etc.
The problem was, I had hardly any sense of who my audience would be, or what my magazine(s) would communicate to those readers, or what would be the basis of my relationship with them. My plans had everything to do with my admiration for the achievements of Willie Morris at Harper’s and Jann Wenner at Rolling Stone and nothing to do with what I had to say or to whom.
My interest in editing faded, and after an aimless period of a few years, I hit upon the realization that I wanted to write books for young readers. Specifically, I was inspired to write a particular story for a particular kid — my toddler son — but that established the template for my work that continues to this day. As a writer, I have a much more instinctive sense of what it is I want to say and who I’ll be saying it to.
That’s the big change from Potential Editor Chris to Actual Writer Chris: My work is as much about appealing to the interests and experiences of my readers as it is about appealing my own, and I’ve got a meaningful relationship with that audience to show for it.
On her blog and here, my wife and I continue our interrogations of each other…
Jenny: When the world around you sparks a story idea, how do you decide if it’s best told as nonfiction or as fiction inspired by real life?
Me: There’s hardly ever any gray area for me here. My nonfiction projects tend to begin with my discovery of an actual, amazing fact — or with my awareness of an actual person’s life filled with amazing facts — and so weaving those facts into a piece of fiction would be counter to the exciting sense of OH MY GOSH CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS REALLY HAPPENED? that I get at the moment of discovery.
A lot of my fiction stories do begin with my observation of something in the world around me, but those somethings are usually commonplace. It’s not the somethings themselves that hook me, but rather the series of what-if’s that my mind conjures up, that make me want to try turning those somethings into stories.
The one exception that comes to mind is a musician whose story I wanted to tell. I heard about her on a radio show when the host mentioned in passing an anecdote that seemed so vivid and telling that I knew it would be at the heart of a story I had to write. But the information and documentation that I would need about that episode and the musician’s life at that time in order for the story to be nonfiction — those did not exist, and my would-be subject had already died, so I couldn’t ask her. In that case, I did write a fictionalized story based on what I was able to learn — with that first striking anecdote front and center.
As a couple in the same line of work, my wife and I frequently talk shop — not just about writing itself, but about the inspiration, organization, and promotion that go with the territory. Jenny has written novels for young adults and — coming next spring — middle-grade readers, and my titles have all been picture books and/or nonfiction. So, there are lots of things about how we each do what we do that intrigue — or even mystify — the other.
We have questions, but rather than keep those answers between the two of us, we thought we’d let you regularly listen in at her blog and here as well, starting with:
Jenny: How do you balance working on several books at once — especially those written for different age groups — without confusing yourself?
Me: There’s a difference between having several books in the works at once, and working on several books at once. I don’t know how I’d manage the latter, but luckily it’s the former that best describes what’s going on with me.
For instance, I do have four picture books under contract, but one project is out of my hands and awaiting illustration, one needs from me only an author’s note, one is waiting for me to make a research trip this fall, and one is awaiting notes from an editor. None has taken much sustained effort from me lately, which has freed me up to tend to other projects.
I’m not trying to work on those other projects simultaneously, though. Our life has too many other things going on — personally, parentally, professionally, politically, and in other realms that don’t even start with “p” — for me to be able to swing that. Instead, I try to pick one project at a time, work on it exclusively, move it as far forward as I can, and then pick up something else without much downtime in between. That might mean writing a nonfiction proposal for our agent to consider while I work on completing chapters for another project, which I’ll then submit to our critique group. And while I’m waiting on the crit group’s feedback on those chapters, I’ll try out an idea for a new picture book, or tinker with something that hadn’t been working quite right a few months ago — something relatively short-term, if I expect a higher-priority project to land back on my desk sometime soon.
That may sound like a lot, but it’s really one thing at a time, even if it’s a different “one thing” than it was just a week or two ago.
Audrey Vernick and I may (OK, do) tend to provoke and fuss at each other like siblings, but sometimes that’s what you get from a pair of occasionally juvenile kindred spirits. (Especially when one of them is a babyhead.) Like me, she’s the author of both seriously researched picture books (She Loved Baseball, Brothers at Bat) and purely playful ones (Teach Your Buffalo to Play Drums), among other things.
Audrey’s latest hoot of a picture book is Bogart and Vinnie: A Completely Made-Up Story of True Friendship. Illustrated by Henry Cole, it hit the shelves just this past week. One reader of Bartography Express (which you can sign up for in the yellow box on my home page) will win a copy of Bogart and Vinnie (Walker Books for Young Readers). Maybe it will be you. Maybe it will be your least likely friend. But first, let’s hear from Audrey about her new picture book came to be.
CB: What made you want to write Bogart and Vinnie?
AV: When the first interspecies friendship book, Owen and Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship, was published, I was charmed. And then they kept coming: nonfiction picture books sharing heartwarming stories of friendship — between elephant and dog; blind homeless cat and his homeless seeing-eye dog; orangutan and dog. They all shared a similar look and told a similar story.
At some point, I started to wonder how the authors of these books defined friendship. Were animals photographed together always friends? I thought it would be fun to explore what happened when an interspecies animal pair were mistaken as best friends. Vinnie, the crazy-happy dog, would be over the moon; he thinks Bogart the rhinoceros, his nose-friend, is the very best thing ever. Bogart, however, prefers quiet and peace. And would be happiest if Vinnie just disappeared.
CB: Tell me about the kind of child you think Bogart and Vinnie will appeal to the most.
AV: Henry Cole’s illustrations tell so much of this story, so I think one ideal reader for this book will be an observant one, or the kind of picture-book reader who gives illustrations their due. Bogart’s body language and facial expressions convey so much, way beyond the words on the page.
But I think that the children Bogart and Vinnie will appeal to the most are those who are Bogarts in some of their own relationships: I’m imagining older siblings in a house made noisy and hectic by younger ones. Any child who ever longed for a quiet moment to herself will share Bogart’s frustration. On the other end of the spectrum, the Vinnies of this world will likely be amused by Vinnie’s unfailing enthusiasm, good nature, and complete inability to read a situation/accept rejection.
Without having thought too much about it, I realize that I’ve been pretty actively strewing books in my kids’ paths lately. Not that they need help finding books that engage them, but a little extra, sneaky, non-pushy parental input never hurts.
Here’s a sampling of the books that have just happened to turn up recently — on the sofa, on the coffee table, on the CD player in my car, etc.:
Alex & Me, by Irene Pepperberg
Face Book, by Chuck Close
Who Do You Think You Are? Be a Family Tree Detective, by Dan Waddell
Looney Tunes: The Ultimate Visual Guide, by Jerry Beck
Rocks and Minerals, by Chris Pellant
Born Standing Up, by Steve Martin
How about you? What books are you hoping that your children might just happen to notice?
Get your summer started with Shark, Train and me at Brilliant Sky Toys and Books. This Saturday, June 8, I’ll be reading and signing Shark Vs. Train at 11 a.m. Show up prepared to GRRRRRR! and CHUGRRR-CHUG!
Do you need a book recommendation for Australia Day (January 26)? Editor and publisher Anita Silvey offers John Flanagan’s epic adventure Ranger’s Apprentice: The Ruins of Gorlan.
Children’s Book-a-Day Almanac How about for Squirrel Appreciation Day (January 21)? Anita suggests Mélanie Watt’s picture book Scaredy Squirrel.
And for what would have been the 101st birthday of painter Jackson Pollock (January 28)? Try Action Jackson, the biography by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan and illustrated by Robert Andrew Parker.
So says Anita. And nobody knows or loves children’s literature more than she does.
That fact is evident on every page of her recently released Children’s Book-a-Day Almanac. The almanac offers an essay on a beloved book for young readers for every day of the year (including my own Shark Vs. Train for May 2), along with a satisfying dose of historical and literary trivia.
Though you can also access the essays through Anita’s website, the print edition is so simply and thoughtfully organized — it indexes books by type (biography, fantasy, mystery/thriller, etc.) as well as by age (from babies and toddlers all the way up through high school) — that nothing could make it any easier to find the right book for the right child.
I gave my younger son an early birthday present the other day — a Lego set that I figured he’d get going on and have completed by the day he actually turns 9. But it’s not going happen, because he’s got way more discipline at building with Legos than I do with researching.
Legos sets come divided into plastic pouches numbered 1 through whatever, and my son announced that rather than get caught in mid-build when he had to go do something else, he would stop with pouch #1 for that first day. I doubted he would stick to that limit; I fully expected to hear, “Okay, maybe just one pouch more” a few times before the day was done. But he proved me wrong. He finished the first pouch and called it a day, spending the next long while playing with what he’d built so far instead of proceeding to the next phase of the instructions.
Contrast that with the research I’m doing now — not for a book, but for my own family tree. Once I get going (which is frequently), I have a hard time stopping. There are lots of resources out there, and I’ve made lots of progress, but every bit of progress — every new name or date or place — leads to more research that I could do, more progress that I could make. And every dead end I hit just shifts my attention to a new way of searching for the piece of information I’m trying to find.
For example, if I can’t find what I’m looking for on a great-grandparent’s parents, I can just switch to looking for that great-grandparent’s siblings, and that can lead to what I was looking for in the first place. Or not, in which cases there’s always something else I can try, even if it’s just hopping over to another line of my family where I haven’t hit a wall.
Now, that sort of doggedness can come in handy. It allowed me to find details about a great-great-great-grandmother who previously I knew of only as a name. But I get the sense that it also means that I’m missing out on some of the joy in savoring what I’ve already discovered. Now that I’ve found that great-great-great-grandmother, do I hurry on to her parents and siblings, or do I pause to appreciate the efforts — mine and others’ — that have made this discovery possible? Do I take a little time to ponder what her 39 years on this planet might have been like?
I ought to, it seems. If nothing else, I’ve learned from my son that the next pouch will still be there waiting even if I don’t hurry to it right away.
Capped off a satisfying year of writing by sending a picture book biography revision off to my editor this morning. Thank you to everyone who has read, edited, critiqued, inspired, encouraged, or otherwise contributed to my work this year. You make this author business a whole lot of fun.
Says my friend Conrad, author of Adios, Nirvana, “I lost track, long ago, of the number of times I have solved my writing problems while I’m out walking.”
I’m not hurting for projects — I’m mid-draft on a novel, and revisions on a couple of picture books are looming, and I’m figuring out how to put my post-election political energy to use, and here comes Christmas — but I’ve taken on a new one all the same.
Actually, my 8-year-old son and I are doing this one together: expanding on the family tree information I gathered when I was just a few years older than him, working on my Genealogy merit badge back in the mid-1980s. The technology and available data are light years ahead of what were available back then, so rather than dealing with the issue of frustratingly slow progress, he and I are both faced with the challenge of pacing ourselves and walking away from the computer when we just want to run one more query on familysearch.org.
He doesn’t know it, but in addition to increasing what we know about our ancestors, he’s also getting a taste of what it’s like to research a nonfiction book when the fresh discoveries are flowing. While he’s collecting facts about great- and great-great- and great-great-great-grandparents and -aunts and uncles, he’s also learning a little more about Dad.
I’ve got news! And it’s good news, too, especially for those of you looking forward to seeing another playful picture book from me in the vein of Shark Vs. Train.
As I shared earlier today with subscribers of my Bartography Express newsletter, Disney-Hyperion will be publishing my not-yet-titled picture book in which a hapless hawk’s attempts to catch a not-so-helpless bunny are thwarted again and again. We don’t yet know who the illustrator will be, but I’m beyond excited that I’ll be working with editor Kevin Lewis.
I went on a bit more about this in Bartography Express, where I also featured a quick Q&A (and book giveaway) with Deborah Underwood, author of the new Christmas Quiet Book. There are a few other goodies in there, too, and you’re welcome to read the newsletter through the links here. But to get it in your inbox (and be in the running for book giveaways and occasional other freebies), you’ll want to sign up here.
No matter what happens today, there will plenty of work that needs doing during the next four years. Might as well start thinking about what you’re going to do — to help fix, solve, make better — and how you’re going to go about it.
As shown by this librarian’s creative use of Shark Vs. Train as a tool for teaching about elections (be sure to click through so you can see the downloadable materials she kindly shared with the world):
I went back and forth a lot as to whether I should put something in the Story Action Pod about the election. I’ve heard of other libraries doing Vote-for-Characters, such as Best Bear in a book or something; I’m sure that works for them, but I just couldn’t get excited about it.
So I decided to create a Story Action Pod based on a book that kids could use to make an informed opinion in one sitting: Shark vs Train by Chris Barton and Tom Lichtenheld.
If you don’t have this book in your collection, you should probably get it immediately. We have 2 copies that are ALWAYS OUT, except for today, so I could check it out, because it’s a Shark vs. Train miracle.
As always, I set up the book with directions for voting and the ballot (located below for easy download). Then, my coworker created some awesome “I Voted Today” stickers. Suddenly, this idea had a trifecta of Kid Friendly Things:
But also, sadly, as shown by what happens when you don’t read (or at least don’t take to heart) one of my favorite picture books ever, Daniel Pinkwater’s The Big Orange Splot. As summed up by Tanya at books4yourkids.com:
Mr Plumbean buys some paint and fixes up his roof (and whole house) in the middle of the night because that is when it is cooler. The neighbors awake to quite a surprise. Mr Plumbean’s paint job only inspires him to get more creative in the cool of the night, adding a clocktower, baobab and palm trees, a hammock and an alligator. Then Mr Plumbean settles into his new oasis to enjoy a pitcher of lemonade.
The neighborhood is in an orderly uproar and they ask Mr Plumbean’s next door neighbor to go and talk to him. The two share a pitcher of lemonade under the palm trees in the cool of the evening. The next morning the man has transformed his house saying, “My house is me and I am it. My house is where I like to be and it looks like all my dreams.” The uproar continues, as does the change in perspective as various neighbors try to reason with Mr Plumbean.
By the end of the book the whole street is transformed and ends with these words:
Whenever a stranger came to the street of Mr Plumbean and his neighbors, the stranger would say, “This is not a neat street.” Then all the people would say, “our street is us and we are it. Our street is where we like to be, and it looks like all our dreams.
Contrast that with this article from yesterday’s Austin American-Statesman:
Nicholas Aarsvold, 9, does what little boys do: Play in the woods, throw rocks in the creek and build stuff.
However, his latest creation, a small “fort” nestled between two nandina shrubs in front of his Northwest Hills townhome, is causing a stir with some neighbors who believe it’s unsightly.
Nicholas’s fort violates the architectural rules set by the Summerwood Homeowners Association, said Stan Scheiber, the managing agent for the community of 136 townhomes near Steck Avenue, west of MoPac Boulevard. On Thursday, the association’s board of directors voted to send Ramona Aarsvold, the boy’s mother, a letter giving her 10 days to take the structure down.
“That would be the wrong thing to do,” Aarsvold told the Statesman earlier in the week. “I don’t want to punish Nicholas’ creativity or squelch his spirit.”
Aarsvold said she’s unsure what to do now.
Might I suggest a neighborhood readaloud?
If you’ll be at the Texas Book Festival on Saturday, October 27, I hope you’ll start your day with the 10 a.m panel I’ll be moderating, “Together, They Could.”
The panelists will include authors Cynthia Levinson, author of We’ve Got a Job, and Winifred Conkling, author of Sylvia & Aki.
But it won’t be just us three authors. We’ll be joined by James Stewart, one of the teen participants in the 1963 Birmingham children’s march that reignited the civil rights movement — and one of the four marchers whose stories Cynthia focuses on in her book.
And we’ll also be joined by Medal of Freedom recipient Sylvia Mendez, whose family’s leasing of the farm of an interned Japanese-American family during World War II led to a groundbreaking precursor to the Brown vs. Board of Education desegregation case.
This will be a fantastic opportunity to find out what writing about history in general — and civil rights in particular — looks like from the perspectives of both author and participant. There’s lots that I want to ask. I’d love to hear what you’d want to know.
This past weekend, I sent out the latest edition of my Bartography Express newsletter, which included a brief but enlightening interrogation of Gary Golio, author of the new picture book biography Spirit Seeker: John Coltrane’s Musical Journey. Here’s a bit of that:
CB: What made you want to write Spirit Seeker?
GG: More than anything, it was…
You can read the whole thing here. In addition to finding out about Gary’s book, that amazing coincidence, and the panel I’ll be moderating at the Texas Book Festival this month, you can click the “Join” link in the bottom right corner to sign up to receive Bartography Express in your inbox — and automatically get in the running for giveaways such as Spirit Seeker.
What’s next month’s giveaway, you ask? Why, it’s…
Want to hear me read a little bit of The Day-Glo Brothers and Shark Vs. Train and talk about the origin of each book?
Or hear similar treatments for the new books by Rebecca Stead, Adam Gidwitz, Gary Schmidt, and others?
Get yourself (or your kids, or your students) over to TeachingBooks.net. There’s lots of good stuff there.
So, 14 months ago, this happened (as reported by Library Journal):
The new state biennial budget (FY 2012-13) in Texas, signed Tuesday by Governor Rick Perry, will reduce state funding for the Texas State Library and Archives Commission by 64 percent and will cut state funding for the agency’s library programs by 88 percent.
According to figures provided by the state library, the overall state library budget will shrink from $19.8 million each year of the two-year budget to $7.2 million. Funding for the state agency’s library programs will go from $12.8 million to $1.6 million. The Library Development and Library Resource Sharing divisions will be merged into a single division,
Jerilynn Williams, the president of the Texas Library Association and the director at Montogomery County Library, said the situation was dire.
“Everybody is just shaking their heads because this is more drastic than any measures we’ve seen in the past, and I’ve been around Texas libraries for more than 40 years. This is the worst Texas has ever seen,” she said.
“We are still reeling because programs that have been in place for decades, as well as the direct aid to libraries program will be no more when this budget goes into effect,” she said.
All funding for the Loan Star Libraries program has been eliminated. This program provides direct aid grants to public libraries throughout the state. The program received $13.4 million for FY10-11.
Because of Congressional action, the agency will receive $10.6 million in federal Library Services and Technology Act funding for FY12, $900,000 less than in FY11. “We expect further reduction in federal funds in subsequent years because we will not meet our federal maintenance of effort requirements,” Rudd wrote in her memo.
LSTA is the sole funding source for the state’s regional library systems and interlibrary loan (ILL). The regional systems will receive $2.5 million in FY12, down from $4.2 million, but “the future beyond FY12 is uncertain,” Rudd wrote.
In a statement on his website, Perry said the budget will help the state’s economy.
“… We followed the directions laid out by voters last November, and balanced our budget by prioritizing and reducing spending without raising taxes. I’m proud of Texas lawmakers’ hard work to accomplish this goal, which positions Texas for continued job growth and ongoing prosperity for Texas families in the years to come.”
Last Wednesday morning, less than an hour after submitting three Interlibrary Loan requests for research materials for a manuscript due next month, I received the following email:
APL Interlibrary Loan Service Change Oct 1, 2012
Wednesday, September 19, 2012 8:22 AM
From: “AustinPublicLibrary-Interlibrary Loan”
To: “Chris Barton”
Dear Interlibrary Loan customers,
I am sharing with you the Austin Public Library’s (APL) plans for continuing interlibrary loan services. Beginning Monday, October 1, the Austin Public Library will be offering only one active InterLibrary Loan (ILL) transaction, including requests and check-outs, to customers.
The State grant funding for the Austin Public Library’s Interlibrary Loan service was drastically reduced in 2011. As a result, APL limited ILL services to books only and 5 items per library card. Since that time APL has been providing ILL service with no staff and no budget. We can no longer maintain this service at the current level.
Beginning October 1, 2012 the Austin Public Library will limit ILL requests to 1 active request per customer (reduction from the current 5). Requests are still limited to books only and there is no renewal. The Library hopes this reduces the cost and workload enough to make it sustainable. Offering only one active loan per customer means that a researcher can still request a critical resource that is not available in any other way.
Austin Public Library
One item, in hand or requested, at a time. I just don’t see myself getting those materials before my book is due. I do, however, appreciate the staff at the Austin Public Library for doing what they can to keep Interlibrary Loan going even in this skeletal form.
Coincidentally, lately I’ve been reading Christopher Hayes’ fascinating new book, Twilight of the Elites. In it, Hayes explains the role played by “social distance” — the degree to which, say, well-off politicians are cut off from and ignorant of the lives and needs of their constituents — in all sorts of national debacles where the poor have suffered from the actions of the powerful. This happens because those in power often can’t even conceive of the effect of their decisions on the members of our society that they never see. Think WMD. Think Katrina. Think the housing bubble.
My situation pales just a little compared to those examples. Still, I’m guessing that state and national legislators don’t do a lot of their own research at their local library, so this does help bring Hayes’ point home.
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…that I didn’t keep my nose clean.