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Smart talk, Feb. 19



Library still busy


The ever-expanding availability of books on-line has not reduced patronage at the Central Arkansas Library System. “Our circulation was up 10 percent last year,” executive director Bobby Roberts said. “It's up 42 percent over the last five years.” Some of the increase is due to economic hard times. “When times get tough, people start looking for books to borrow, not buy,” Roberts said. Nearly 2 million items were checked out from CALS last year, Roberts said. That includes books, tapes, and videos. Audio-visual materials make up about 12 percent of the total.

The reading of books on-line keeps growing. Best-selling author Tom Clancy, long a holdout, gave in recently. His books will now be available the new way. But old-fashioned books, the kind you hold in your hand, aren't being driven out of existence, according to Roberts. “A book is like the internal combustion engine. It's an old technology, but it works.” Downloadable music is popular, Roberts said, “but you may listen to the same music over and over. To store a book on a machine is impractical — you may never read it again. And you can't take it to the couch with you.”

“The Internet has changed our reference services more than anything,” Roberts said. “Our reference staff spends a lot more time helping people on computers than they do with books.”


Justice for Timothy


Remember Timothy, the blind Shih-Tzu that appeared on the cover of the Times to illustrate an article about the felony animal cruelty law? The operators of the puppy mill whose barbaric practices led to the dog's blinding had their day in Saline District Court last week. The operator of the Lonsdale facility got the maximum possible, a year in jail and a fine of $1,110. A co-worker got 30 days in jail and the same fine.


Scouting report


The Times reported last fall that Arkansas was in the final running in the Boy Scouts of America's search for a new permanent home for its annual national jamboree and other scouting facilities. The news came last week that Arkansas, one of three finalists, had not been selected. Rather than pick one site, the Boy Scouts decided to divide the mission between sites in Virginia and West Virginia.

Arkansas thought itself well-positioned with some 5,000 acres of Weyerhaeuser timberland near Lake Ouachita, along with easy interstate highway access and a nearby airport. Project Arrow, as the search was called, alas found another bulls-eyes.


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