How Authors Can Help After a Disaster

 

by Debbie Burke

@burke_writer

NASA Goddard Photo of the Camp Fire, Paradise, CA

The Camp Fire in Paradise, California killed scores of people and destroyed 13,972 homes, 528 commercial structures and 4,293 other buildings (according to NPR, 11/27/18).

Our nephew and his wife were among those who lost their homes, barely escaping with old family photos and two pairs of pants—the size 36 jeans he was wearing, and the size 28 US Navy trousers that had belonged to his grandfather (my father-in-law) when “Pop” served on the USS Enterprise during World War II.

The fire destroyed countless memories, mementoes, and relics of history—the foundations upon which people build their lives, identities, society, and culture.

Amid the devastation, the Paradise Library remained standing, although damaged.

Beth Zimmerman, a national expert on disaster recovery says, “The library will be a key to providing [survivors] a known place to gather and take time to commune with their neighbors. Libraries can soothe children’s fears and help them cope, especially if they are used to going there.”

When everything familiar and comforting is lost, books can help recreate a sense of safety and security.

Melanie Lightbody, head of the Butte County Library System says, “The library is one of the few buildings which survived and therefore will be even more crucial to the community as it rebuilds. A symbol of possibility and hope.”

Efforts are underway to rehabilitate the structure and contents. Author Phil Padgett is spearheading a pledge drive for books to repopulate the library’s shelves. A former FEMA reservist who deployed to New York after Hurricane Sandy, Phil understands the complex, long-term logistics of rebuilding.

Unlike immediate necessities, such as bottled water, food, clothing, and construction materials, books fall into the category of way-down-the-road work. Yes, they are needed but what do you do with them in the mean time when there is no place to put them?

For now, Phil is compiling a list of authors who have pledged to donate their books. In coming months, he will coordinate collection, cataloguing, and storage. Later, when the library is ready to receive the books, he will arrange for shipping.

Books can be solace in time of tragedy, taking people’s minds off their troubles.

One of the best compliments I ever received came from a reader in Florida. My thriller Instrument of the Devil was released at the same time Hurricane Irma hit. The woman said my book had helped her pass the long, difficult week when she (and millions of others) had no electricity.

As authors, we don’t necessarily run bulldozers or nail up plywood but we can help rebuild lost culture.

If you’re an author who would like to donate to the Paradise Library, Phil’s email is: philip.j.padgett@gmail.com 

 

 

 

Does your Amazon holiday gift card have spare change left on it? Catch the January sale of Debbie Burke’s award-winning thriller Instrument of the Devil  for only 99 cents. Or read for free on Amazon Prime. Click here.

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The Reinvention of the Library

By Joe Moore

Dylan said, “The times they are a changin’.”, and it’s true in so many areas of our lives. An obvious example is analyzing the demographics of the recent presidential election and realizing that 20th Century political strategies don’t work in the 21st Century. But beyond politics, there are many other changes taking place, particularly in the publishing industry with the rapid growth of electronic books.

BranchPhotoNOSo in this age of digital publishing, how will the community library adapt and survive?

Some, like the ones in my South Florida region are reinventing themselves with a solid plan for keeping their doors open. Libraries still have millions of books to lend, but what some are doing, and all need to consider, is to turn themselves into active community centers. They need to expand book-lending into a wide variety of community services and functions from helping with job searches to offering classes in a wide variety of activities for all ages. Getting bodies in the door and becoming places to socialize are the keys.

BranchPhotoNO1In my community of Coral Springs, among teaching dance and cooking lessons, and how to use Craig’s List, the library system offers a smart phone app that helps patrons learn more than 30 languages.

Because of the expanded features, local libraries are defying dire predictions of death in the digital age and are now busier than any time in their history. Statistics show that fewer than half of the library’s transactions involve the checking out of a printed book. Patrons are downloading e-BranchPhotoNO2books, audiobooks and music through the library’s online sites.

The use of the library’s cybercafés and free WiFi is exploding. Now patrons can borrow DVDs, e-book readers and iPads. Their popularity is evident with long waiting lists for each. There is an abundance of online classes including foreign language courses and arts and crafts.

The goal as stated by so many library managers is to let the public know that they’re about more than just books. The main library in the county has a first-floor lounge with 56 computers available for their patrons, many struggling with the economy. With many out of work, they no longer have Internet access. That’s where the library comes in. Advice and classes in resume writing, interview techniques and how to search want ads are basic features of the reinvented library.

The times are changing for the better with libraries becoming less of a dusty, silent reading room to an active, busy community hub; a fun and useful place for everyone.

How about the libraries in your community. Are they adapting or struggling? And even more interesting, when was the last time you visited your local library.

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THE BLADE, coming February, 2013 from Sholes & Moore
"Full-throttle thriller writing." — David Morrell
"Sholes & Moore deliver razor-edge suspense." — Lisa Gardner

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Teach Your Children

I’m actually encouraged about the publishing business. I don’t know how the publishing industry, as it now exists, is going to do; my guess is that it will still be here when the dust settles and the smoke clears, though it’s probably going to be a somewhat leaner. But the publishing business will still be here, and still be strong: it will be because of the authors who are now writing books aimed at children and young adults.
Reading is something you learn to love when you are young. Either your parents read to you or you encounter a teacher who opens up the library to you but you get that jones while you are young. I have yet to meet anyone who turned 30 and suddenly decided that they had to start reading for pleasure. My mom read Rudy Kazootie books to me and my dad brought home a set of the hardbound “All About” books and that was that. I started reading comic books — I got a Dick Tracy comic when I was four, somehow — and that’s all she wrote. I saw a serial adaptation of a Hardy Boys’ book — THE TOWER TREASURE — on The Mickey Mouse Club and then discovered that there were twenty-odd books (at that point, which was 1959) in the series and read all of those, and went on to read Tom Swift, Rick Brant, and Tim Holt. In one summer. What next?
Well, a year or so later I discovered Shell Scott paperbacks but what really got me rolling were books by established authors of adult fiction who also wrote for the children and Young Adult markets. We’re talking Andre Norton, Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, and the like. There weren’t many, not like there are now, but there were some. I read them and then ventured into their adult work. I haven’t stopped reading for pleasure since. But it all started with children’s books and the Young Adult market, such as it was, way back when.
We can talk about changes in publishing and e-books and physical books all that we like but if we don’t have readers then writers will be relegated to the status of the appendix. And we won’t have readers unless we grow them early. Those authors who labor in the grammar mine of the Children and Young Adult markets, regardless of genre, are the most important link in the chain of which we are a part. I am not smart enough to understand the markets, but I know enough about it to understand that there are books that will interest anyone with who is fourteen and who has a pulse. Take them to a bookstore or put them on an online book site or yes, a library, and set them loose.
Just for curiosity’s sake: how old were you when you started reading? What was the book? And how did it influence your ultimate love of literature?
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Teach Your Children

I’m actually encouraged about the publishing business. I don’t know how the publishing industry, as it now exists, is going to do; my guess is that it will still be here when the dust settles and the smoke clears, though it’s probably going to be a somewhat leaner. But the publishing business will still be here, and still be strong: it will be because of the authors who are now writing books aimed at children and young adults.
Reading is something you learn to love when you are young. Either your parents read to you or you encounter a teacher who opens up the library to you but you get that jones while you are young. I have yet to meet anyone who turned 30 and suddenly decided that they had to start reading for pleasure. My mom read Rudy Kazootie books to me and my dad brought home a set of the hardbound “All About” books and that was that. I started reading comic books — I got a Dick Tracy comic when I was four, somehow — and that’s all she wrote. I saw a serial adaptation of a Hardy Boys’ book — THE TOWER TREASURE — on The Mickey Mouse Club and then discovered that there were twenty-odd books (at that point, which was 1959) in the series and read all of those, and went on to read Tom Swift, Rick Brant, and Tim Holt. In one summer. What next?
Well, a year or so later I discovered Shell Scott paperbacks but what really got me rolling were books by established authors of adult fiction who also wrote for the children and Young Adult markets. We’re talking Andre Norton, Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, and the like. There weren’t many, not like there are now, but there were some. I read them and then ventured into their adult work. I haven’t stopped reading for pleasure since. But it all started with children’s books and the Young Adult market, such as it was, way back when.
We can talk about changes in publishing and e-books and physical books all that we like but if we don’t have readers then writers will be relegated to the status of the appendix. And we won’t have readers unless we grow them early. Those authors who labor in the grammar mine of the Children and Young Adult markets, regardless of genre, are the most important link in the chain of which we are a part. I am not smart enough to understand the markets, but I know enough about it to understand that there are books that will interest anyone with who is fourteen and who has a pulse. Take them to a bookstore or put them on an online book site or yes, a library, and set them loose.
Just for curiosity’s sake: how old were you when you started reading? What was the book? And how did it influence your ultimate love of literature?
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Yet Another Sign of the Times

By Joe Moore

Things just keep on changing.

Back in August, my blog post Goin’ Through Them Changes was about how after 26 years I canceled my subscription to the local newspaper (South Florida Sun-Sentinel) in favor of a digital subscription. I now sip my Dunkin Donuts coffee each morning while reading the paper on my computer screen. Among the many advantages to digital over paper, there’s no recycling to the curb each week, no need to chop down trees, and no ink on my fingers. Since my August post I’ve discovered that many newspapers around the country including The New York Times are now offering digital-only subscriptions. The only thing missing is the thumping sound of the morning edition hitting my hard drive at 5:30 AM like it used to sound when the guy tossed the paper on my driveway.

In September, one of my posts was called The Great MMPB Vanishing Act about an article in The New York Times on the decrease in sales of mass market paperbacks and the growth of ebooks. Some say ebooks are the new MMPB.

Later on in September, I posted a blog called More Signs of the Times about a piece in The Economist on the slump of hardcover sales and the continued rise of ebooks. Are you seeing an industry trend here?

Well, this weekend I read about another ebook development that I think is equally exciting. Yet another sign of the times. Libraries in South and Central Florida now kindle4offer anyone with a library card free ebooks downloaded to their Kindle, Sony, Nook, laptop, desktop, iPhones, iPads and . . . well the list of devices goes on and on. Library patrons can check out up to 10 titles at a time and have 21 days to read each. Free Kindle downloads are issued directly from your Amazon account and include current bestsellers and new releases. My library has over 16,000 ebook titles and close to 9,000 audio books with the list growing all the time. Videos are available, too.

Here’s more good news for just about everyone. You can borrow Kindle books from over 11,000 libraries in the U.S. Chances are your local library already has this feature or will soon. So check it out and check out a free book. You can download the book in seconds and have plenty of time to read it.

What do you think of this latest development? Are you already reading ebooks free from your library on your Kindle, Nook or iPad? If not, do you intend to look into it? Will it affect or change your reading habits? Where do you think this is all leading? Happy reading!

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Libraries, an endangered species

By Joe Moore

I’ve been reading news stories lately about the changing role of libraries, and to a certain extent, their demise. Some blame the economy is killing libraries—shorter hours open less days per week with fewer features. Others heap a lot of blame on the rapid growth and popularity of smart-phone technology and e-books. In reality, it’s probably a combination of both along with a changing demographic in the community.

No doubt, someday in the future, history students might study the rise and fall of these cavernous, book-loaning institutions. They may wonder why this somewhat inefficient system of printing and storing large quantities of books ever made sense. And they may chuckle at pictures of endless shelves housing thousands of books with their ever-yellowing pages that, from the day they left the printer, were on a non-reversible journey to the landfill.

It wasn’t that long ago that you couldn’t read books on a handheld electronic device or a cell phone. You couldn’t easily download a book onto a computer laptop to read it. The world wasn’t debating whether libraries would one day be unnecessary, as book reading and book loaning become possible, even probable, online or wireless. And, more importantly, money wasn’t so tight that libraries would be considered an unaffordable luxury.

I live in South Florida. Down here, municipalities are having to decide whether some libraries should be consolidated or closed, and whether hours can be cut back even further. Library regulars are dealing with more of the electronic book world sooner than they expected as they see traditional library buildings closing. County government is wrestling with a budget that’s steadily dwindling. Library jobs are being cut and the hours of operation are being significantly reduced. All branches are now closed Saturdays, and they will no longer be open past 6 PM on weekdays. The county is not ready to close all the library doors and send patrons online yet. But it’s not out of the question for the future.

Electronic book readers are still too pricy to loan out, but many librarians are predicting a time when they’ll be cheap enough to do it. I’m surprised that a manufacturer hasn’t stepped forward with a specialized, scaled-down e-book reader that can be used just for that purpose—perhaps with a built-in GPS (like cell phones) for retrieval in case of theft or overdue status. Or better yet, sell the specialized e-readers to registered library customers at a greatly reduced price or as a rental. Maybe the device would have access to the content of that particular library system only.

Funding is one way to save a library. But with property values plummeting along with property tax revenue collections, libraries are way down on the list of priorities. I recently read that one in three people who visit a South Florida library are not there to read or borrow books. They’re there for computer access or training. With the jobless rate so high, many people can no longer afford Internet access at home. They head for the local library to job search and electronically apply for employment. And if they have a laptop, they’re in the library to take advantage of free Wi-Fi offered at some locations.

So what does the future of libraries look like in your community? Should library systems join forces with companies like Starbucks and have a café in each branch to generate revenue? Are there ways for them to self-fund? Is the day of free books coming to an end?What will help libraries keep their doors open and their patrons not left high and dry?

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