A Publication of the Public Library Association Public Libraries Online

Ben Malczewski Author Archive

Email: benmalczewski@gmail.com  

Ben Malczewski is the Humanities Department Manager for the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library and lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He attended the University of Toledo, the University of Edinburgh, and Wayne State University and his background is in literary criticism and film studies. Before entering librarianship he was an Americorps volunteer and social worker in the Pacific Northwest. His freelance writing appears frequently in Library Journal (amongst others) where he primarily covers media market analytics and projection, as well as emerging technologies. His recently contributed chapter entitled “Meaningful Space in a Digital Age,” which considers our relationship with our physical surroundings and objects from a neurological/behavioral perspective, reflects on their roles in creating experience and memory, and evolves the library’s notion of content from passive to dynamic, appears in the recently published ALA Editions book Planning Our Future Libraries: Blueprints for 2025. He is currently carching up on back issues of Film Comment and the New Yorker, and re-reading The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne

reading outside

(Mis)reading Between the Lines: Fifty Shades of the Avatar Effect

The 2013 sales numbers from the Association of American publishers are in, and in what may be seen as a surprising reversal – at least in comparison to recent years’ trends – hardcover books sales increased, while ebook sales have begun to level off.

book store with bike

Frenemies: An Amazon Story of Courtship

Amazon recently announced the Amazon Source collaboration proposal for independent bookstores , “empower[ing][ them] to sell Kindle e-readers and tablets in their stores” by offering a discount on the price of Kindle tablets and e-readers. Stores also have the opportunity to make a commission on books purchased for that device anywhere, anytime. In examining this proposal, it seems at the very least as harmful as a wolf in sheep’s clothing, but at most a diabolical deal with the devil.

gift box

Outreach in a Box

You’ve heard of book groups in a box, or more broadly, programming kits for checkout, but what about (and why not) Outreach in a box?


Mantras of Library Design

Designing, re-designing, or updating your library’s space is an exciting (if not at times anxiety-provoking ) opportunity. With so many contributory factors to consider, it can feel overwhelming and at times, difficult to maintain the big picture, especiallywhen working out the little details.

stack of dvds

Keeping Content Value at a Premium

Regardless of how optimal or advanced the tech vessel becomes, studios (as well as, content producers and purveyors) still dictate the flow and order of release. Though many library systems are still experiencing high numbers for DVD circulation (or at a peak), many others are experiencing a gradual decline in circulation – nearly in tandem with their rise in digital/streaming video stats. The factors that contribute to this ebb and flow are subjective and unique to each community though – up for some, down for others – and naturally tied to what alternative media access methods may be available to compliment/cause one media’s decline (and another’s rise).


Can Public Libraries MOOC?

The academic world is certainly abuzz about MOOCs, and while, from a public library perspective, I find the concept of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Course) both interesting and exciting in terms of the possibilities, on an a conceptual level, they seem simply an organic extension of services the library already provides. If there is a […]


Why Social Media Isn’t Working For Your Library

I’m hard-pressed to find a profession given to including the post-signature-line inspirational or motivational quotes more than librarians – well, maybe coming in a close second to teachers. At about the same time the seed for this blog entry idea started to germinate, I scrolled a bit past “sincerely” to find the old gem “if you build it, they will come.”* Which struck me as odd, because it has all the structural and surfacely mystical makings of a pensively evocative Zen koan, but…after you roll it around your palate a bit…it doesn’t really work. All the ceremonial makings, but none of the actual substance.

a handshake between two people

How to Take a Bow

We’ve all had days where we fantasized about marching into the director’s office with steely eyes and cavalier confidence to say “I quit!” Then, smiling wider than a senior on the last day of high school, we peel out blaring Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out for Summer” and laugh as the building dissolves in our rearview mirror. But it’s probably more peaceable than that and you’re just ready for a career change.

television with static

DVDs? Blu-Ray? Streaming? Media Access and the Sense of “A la Carte”

Recent research reports from Pew Research Center (Library Services in a Digital Age) and The Digital Entertainment Group (2012 Industry Data Report) suggests the public has become comfortable living in a device-agnostic world. We have been trained by years of format dominance (LPs, cassettes, CDs, VHS, DVDs, etc.) to think in terms of media-format monotheism.


An Intro to Wayfinding and Visual Access

As many libraries have begun to decrease print collections or restructure their environments with a more technological or working spaces bias, how we order our space has become a popular topic of discussion. While the term “wayfinding” is often spoken of as being a relatively new phenomenon – or at least the mainstreaming or interdisciplinary co-opting of it – it could not be more innate to our daily functions.


On Collegiality, Leading at Any Level, and Non-Traditional Mentors

I’m surely not alone as a librarian who subscribes and partakes in conversation on many electronic discussion lists[i], and though this topic may feel taboo, I’m probably not alone in finding myself conflicted and befuddled by how to respond when colleagues (increasingly as of late), desperate in the 11th hour, make emergency pleas for lesson plans or proposals or board reports.

picture of a cell phone and a laptop

There’s No Such Thing as a Free App

What is it about the notion of “free” that causes a typically rational person to let down their guard so easily?? It feels relative to our “lottery gene,” that idea that we are  the individual exception to the rule,  the 1 winner among 5 million players. Subconsciously, we know or suspect that “free” means a […]

Information sign

The Talking Cure How do we process change (and lead) during uncertain times?

Librarians know better than anyone else how to reason knowledge from pools of information. It’s just what we do – our process – compile and deduce. An inverted triangle that filters and points to absoluteness. Inconclusiveness does not rest easy with us; it’s a toxin, it affects us, spurs us, and maybe even taunts us. We’re […]