Friday, October 17, 2014

Let's Talk Ebook Privacy

If you borrow ebooks from the Free Library of Philadelphia, you may need to take some steps to ensure your privacy. Public libraries have always tried to protect their patrons' reading privacy but we don't always have control over how ebooks are managed by other companies.

Reader privacy seems like no big deal, but imagine these examples. Someone has an abusive spouse and wants to read about others who were able to walk away from an abuser. A student has a research paper due on terrorism and has to focus on specific hate groups and crimes. A person wants to read about suicide signs to watch for because they are concerned about a friend. There are any number of legitimate reasons why people don't want others to know what they are reading, or where what someone is reading could be taken the wrong way, and librarians believe everyone has the right to keep their reading private.

Ebook distributors like Overdrive use Adobe Digital Editions (ADE) to manage permissions and rules for library ebook users. Adobe recently released a new version of their software. Version 4 collects a large amount of information about the ebooks viewed using ADE, on your computer and any connected ereaders. It does not include your name and other contact information, but given that the information is sent to Adobe in a non-secure format and includes a vast amount of other detail, a savvy computer snoop could figure out the source. You can read more about this on the Free Library's Blog and from the original report of the problem (thanks to Nate Hoffelder of The Digital Reader).

The easiest way to protect your reading privacy is to use Adobe Digital Editions version 3, which can still be downloaded from the Adobe website. If you haven't updated to the latest version, your information has not been shared.

As the Free Library's blog post notes, this is not a security breach but a privacy breach. Adobe made the changes because they wanted to offer more services to ebook readers, but those things come with a heavy price. Librarians and ebook readers across the country have started calling for Adobe to reverse some of the changes that were made, but until then staying with an older version of ADE will keep someone else from knowing what you are reading.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Know a Teen Who Has Questions? We've Got Answers!

Teens have a lot of questions they want answered, either for school or on their own. Sometimes those topics can get uncomfortable, and they don't know where to turn for reliable information. The Pottsville Library Reference Department has some trusted online resources that might be able to help!

There are a growing number of online books available to our library patrons with their library cards. To read these books, just go to our homepage at We added a whole series to our Infobase Ebooks collection, available to you from any computer. If students are worried others might see what they are reading, this is a great way for them to get this important information in private.

Some of the new teen titles include:

The Truth About Eating Disorders

The Truth About Smoking

The Truth About Alcohol

The Truth About Rape

The Truth About Sexual Behavior and Unplanned Pregnancy

The Truth About Anxiety and Depression

The Truth About Stress Management

The Truth About the Internet and Online Predators

All of the Infobase titles are also available in print format in the Reference Collection, if you prefer to read the old fashioned way.

Monday, June 30, 2014

New Titles in the Reference Collection

While the Reference Department doesn't add nearly as many titles every year as the other collections, we try to find interesting, authoritative resources to help library users answer basic or bizarre questions. Here are just some of the titles just coming in!

The Kingfisher Encyclopedia of Life: Minutes, Months, Millennia - How Long is a Life on Earth?
Did you know that an ocean quahog, a hard clam that lives in the Atlantic Ocean, can live 250 to 500 years? An American flamingo can live to 50 years old, but a porcupine only lives 5-7 years. There are fungi colonies that are believed to be more than 2000 years old, and the Great Barrier Reef is more than 10,000 years old! This heavily-illustrated book looks at the average life spans of plants, animals, and microorganisms around the world.  (Ref 508.03 B223)

The Graphic Designer's Business Survival Guide
Being a really good graphic designer is just the start of what you need to go into business. From creating a business plan, to knowing when you should hire someone to do your bookkeeping, to managing your time and building your reputation, this book covers many of the basics a graphic designer would need. Marketing, time sheets, how to deal when things go bad, and other aspects of small business are all discussed here. (Ref 741.60 D228)

Real Ghosts, Restless Spirits, and Haunted Places, 2nd edition
 Helpful and threatening, human or animal, this book gives the details of many paranormal experiences around the world. Churches, cemeteries, highways, castles, apartments, restaurants, trains, stores, and inns are all scenes of visitations. (Ref 133.1 St33)

1001 Ideas That Changed the Way We Think
When you think of the history of ideas, things like "I Think, Therefore I Am" come to mind. While the background of that idea is in this new reference book, you'll also find things like the origins of the newspaper (first stone or metal tablets in 131 BCE Rome that were public notices of important events, then after the Gutenberg press was invented, in 1605 the first modern newspaper appeared in Germany), a brief history of angels, the possibilities offered by the theory of genetic determinism, and many, many more. Organized by time period when the idea arose, you can use the category index to help you find the origins of things like reggae music, fatalism, ageism, Kwanzaa, Prohibition, etc. (Ref 153.4 A15)


Monday, June 2, 2014

Looking for Magazine Sponsors!

It's the time of year where we look over the magazine titles the library receives and try to figure out if our budget will cover everything. As a district center, we are required to subscribe to a certain number of titles. However, budget cuts from state and local sources mean that it's tough for us to reach that standard on our own. That's where you can step in!

We are looking for people to "sponsor" their favorite magazine title at the library. What does this mean? All you have to do is donate the amount of the subscription price for your favorite magazine title. We take care of the subscribing! There are titles that cost as little as $9 a year (like Philadelphia or Motor Trend magazines). Most of the titles are under $30, although there are a few that are much more pricey. National Geographic costs us $34 a year; Entertainment Weekly costs $60; and Sports Illustrated goes for $89.

We also know that a lot of people aren't aware of just how many different subjects our magazine collection covers. The titles on the display stand near the public computers are just a few of the current titles; we don't have enough space to display them all! You can find our entire current collection in the Magazine Room, near the back of the Reference Department. Kids' magazines are in the Children's Department, with titles for younger children near the Children's Desk and titles for teens in the Young Adult section in the back of the room.

New titles added within the last year include Autism Spectrum Quarterly, Gluten-Free Living, Motorcyclist, Yoga, More Magazine, and Wired Magazine. There are classics like Highlights for Children, Good Housekeeping, Money Magazine, Popular Science, and one of the few remaining weekly news magazines, Time. Conservationists, animal lovers, movie buffs, financial geeks, gardeners, hunters, cooks, celebrity watchers, sports fans, amateur astronomers, ... we have magazines for you and many others!

If you are interested in becoming a Magazine Sponsor, just stop by the Circulation Desk next time you're in the library. Pick a title, donate the amount for that subscription, and leave your name and address (so we can thank you in a future library newsletter!). Every sponsor brings us that much closer to meeting the standards for district centers in Pennsylvania, and helps us bring reading material to a wide variety of library users!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Remembering Violence Before an Election in Schuylkill County

The primary this week is a good reminder of how far we have come in this county. 80 years ago, things were not so civilized.

The Kelayres Massacre took place on November 5, 1934 when one party, the Democrats, decided to have a parade celebrating the coming general election. The leader of the Republican party in town took exception to that, and members of his family opened fire on the unarmed parade marchers. Five people died as a result of the gunfire, and the next day the Republicans were defeated in elections across the state. 

You can find more information about this violent event from newspaper articles written at the time. The Pottsville Library has collected some of the articles from the Pottsville Republican newspaper and put them into our Vertical File collection for easier access.

There are also two books coming out this year that will discuss the topic. Keystone Tombstones is a series that looks at famous graves in Pennsylvania, and volume three (read the newspaper article about it here) will include photos of some of the graves of those involved.

A quick search of the Internet revealed that another book coming out this fall will focus on the massacre and the political environment at the time. The Kelayres Massacre: Politics and Murder in Pennsylvania's Coal Country, by Stephanie Hoover, is expected to be released in September. We'll be looking to add the title to our collection when it comes out.

Curious about who else is buried in Pennsylvania? We have the first two volumes of Keystone Tombstones in the Reference Collection of the library. Some of the people you'll find in Volume One include Harry Kalas, Jayne Mansfield, The Molly Maguires, and Jim Thorpe. Volume Two continues with people like Richie Ashburn, Jim Croce, Milton Hershey, and Fred Rogers. We've also ordered a copy of Keystone Tombstones Civil War, which will be added to the Reference Collection as soon as it comes in.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Who Controls Your Information?

Two observances this week are trying to raise awareness of who knows what about you and who controls your information.

Choose Privacy Week is an annual observance running May 1-7. Sponsored by the American Library Association, the intent is to draw library users (and everyone else) into a conversation about privacy rights in the digital age. Just about all public libraries have privacy policies in place to protect those who borrow books and everything else from our collections. We don't tell other people what you check out, what you were looking at on the computer, or what you asked at the Reference Desk. But libraries can only protect so much, it's up to the library users to further protect themselves outside of the library building. Things like using the privacy controls in Facebook, or using a search service like or to search the Internet more privately. Have you noticed that once you look online for, say, a new pair of shoes, you start seeing ads from businesses selling those kinds of shoes? That's because businesses track your searching and shopping habits while you are using the Internet. Some browsers have an option in their "Privacy" tools that theoretically tell web sites not to track what you are doing, but that is not a guaranteed way to avoid being tracked. The site can still choose to ignore the request and you won't always know if the site tracks you or not. Some internet security programs have additional Do Not Track (DNT) methods, and you can read about them here. It is a problem, and will remain a problem for a while because so many companies are making so much money off of your data: who you are, how much money you spend on what kinds of items, where you live, etc.

May 6th is also International Day Against DRM. What is DRM? DRM determines what kind of software you need (or what kind of device) in order to read the ebook you wanted to purchase. DRM controls how many devices can hold that ebook, and prevents you from loaning that ebook to a friend to read. DRM also helps publishers control how many times a book can be read: some publishers license ebooks to public libraries, but limit those books to 26 uses and then the file is automatically deleted. Some might argue that DRM is a method to protect copyright, but it's really a method to control what you can do with the item you just paid for. It can also create a problem by denying you access to your own equipment: some people might remember when Sony used DRM on music CDs that ended up crashing listeners' computers. There is a list of Frequently Asked Questions about DRM that you can read for more examples. DRM isn't just on ebooks, however: it's also on the DVDs you purchase, the files you stream from video companies, the iPad you use.  Want to find DRM free materials? This list is a good place to start.

Have more questions about your privacy? You can find out more on sites like the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, and's "Protect Your Privacy Online" page. Or contact the Pottsville Library Reference Department, and we'll help you find answers to your questions.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April is National Poetry Month!

Today begins National Poetry Month, a time to celebrate poems and poets past and present. There are a number of ways you can take part!

The Academy of American Poets has two web pages to help get you started. What Is National Poetry Month? answers some of the questions you might have about NPM specifically, such as who started it, why April, and how groups can get involved. 30 Ways to Celebrate gives some ways you or your group can take part in the celebration, such as using chalk to write a poem on the sidewalk, some classic poems to read and share, how to start a poetry group, and more.

You can find many, many poems and poets at the Poetry Foundation website, including a variety of poems specific to a season, occasion, or even region (like poems by poets from the Mid-Atlantic region).

If you are trying to find out more about a particular poet, you might try using your Pottsville Library card in the POWER Library Network, and explore the Contemporary Authors database there.

If you enjoy short, funny poems, why not attend the Pottsville Open Writers (POW!) meeting this Saturday, April 5? The topic for the day is "a funny short story or poem". Everyone shares what they came up with, then there is another writing assignment during the meeting on a topic chosen by that day's leader. POW meetings are open to anyone age 18 and older, new members are always welcome, and there is no fee to join! POW meets on the second floor of the Pottsville Library from 11 a.m. - 1 p.m.

And, in hopes we've seen the last of the winter weather, a haiku from the Reference Desk:

Winter is now gone
Cool wind blows across blue sky
Slowly Spring arrives.