It's fantastic. It was built by Andrew Carnegie in 1895 and most of it is original. I get inspiration from the 20 foot ceilings and hand made ornamentation everywhere you look. They simply don't build things like this any more. There are quiet reading rooms, large tables, plenty of light, and oh yeah, a Crazy Mocha coffee shop in the building. I use a cell phone dongle on my laptop and most people know that email is my preferred communication method.
If I need a break, I can look at priceless artifacts in the Carnegie museum through the windows in the open stacks. Or just get the world's most disgusting hot dog at the "O" a block away. If I need inspiration, that'll either make me or break me.
One of these days, I'd like to make the claim that some incredible technology of the 21st century was conceived in an edifice borne out of the some of the best technology of the 19th century.
"My aspirations take a higher flight. Mine be it to have contributed to the enlightenment and the joys of the mind, to the things of the spirit, to all that tends to bring into the lives of the toilers of Pittsburgh sweetness and light. I hold this the noblest possible use of wealth." - Andrew Carnegie at the Dedication of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, November 5, 1895.
The small liberal arts college I attended in PA had a Carnegie library that was converted into an art museum. I took photography and other art classes in the building. It was very small, but an inspiration.
Likewise, the small liberal arts school I attended in IN. At the time it was converted, it was structurally in better shape than the "new" library, but unfortunately, quite undersized.
The most awesome thing about the extended Carnegie Library system is how quickly I can go from seeing mention of a book (e.g. on HN) to finding it in the catalog and getting it delivered to the branch near my home. ILL is still a bit of a bother in contrast.
The combined catalog of all the libraries in the system has tremendously increased my use of the library, and I always was a library geek.
[bg: I really like libraries - worked at one in the suburbs in high school and have since moved to the city, which exaggerated the weird bits]
One thing that's worth noting: if you're on a college campus, a great place to find some legit quiet time is in departmental libraries, especially the social sciences.
Porto Alegre is notorious for having a disproportionate number of cute girls. I was on the Engineering floor and, even there, I got distracted several times by them.
So, no, it's not every library that's cute-girl-free.
Unfortunately, they don't serve coffee.
"Broad" is an old-fashion slang reference for woman in the US- much like "chick" became later. People who used the term "broad" non-perjoratively are well into their seventies now.
That being said, sometimes it's safer to study abroad from afar.
alexophile: you may be correct about this- I'm too young to remember. But I heard it used by people who had no other signs of misogyny that I ever noticed, which is why I had that impression. Carlin was one of those people to the best of my knowledge.
steveklabnik: But there are terms that you "can't use" now that were never perjorative. The scientific name for the race to which African-Americans belong is "Negro." Sometime in the '60s (I think) the leaders of this ethnic group took offense at the term. So, you can't say that somebody who used the term in, say, the '50s, was necessarily using it perjoratively (although you could make the argument that somebody using it non-scientifically in the '80s may have been).
If too many replies happen too fast, HN hides the reply link to try and slow down conversation. You can always get around this by clicking the 'link' link, but the idea is to encourage in-depth replies over chatty conversation, so use it wisely!
That said, while some people may have been running around saying "Negro" in a scientific manner, I'm sure many more were using it as a slur. Even then, they may not have intended it to be a slur, but that doesn't mean it's not exposing institutionalized racism; "he's not racist, he's just old."
I see this happening myself with 'gay' and 'faggot.' I have nothing against homosexuals, yet in anger I often use terms that are derogatory to them. It's something I'm working on.
But I understand your point, and I think you understand mine, and there's lots of other important stuff to discuss- so, good thread.
People who can't afford a few hundred dollars for their own computer and the monthly bill for internet access? If you're looking at porn in the library, it's because you can't do it anywhere else, not because you're abusing tax dollars.
Would I like the poor, the disadvantaged, the isolated to be using the library resources my taxes pay for to advance their lives? Hell yeah. Am I going to begrudge them - let alone get pissed off about - them using it to do the things I can do on my phone, on my way to the well-paying job? Hell no.
It's not like it's encouranged. Be realistic. It's usually grounds for banning, and I doubt my library system was unique there.
See also: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=759069
Some people spent time on facebook, myspace, flash games, etc., but some people spend lots of time on Hacker News, too. Not sure what your point is, there. It's not like kids were allowed to sit playing flash games all day when people wanted computers for schoolwork (or whatever).
Because this is the internet, the above probably seems really snarky. It's meant to be a calm, civil anecdote to illustrate my point, but I apologize if it does seem hostile. In any case, I think preventing people from using their library computer time as they see fit 1) will result in upset users due to many false positives, 2) results in more ... "big-brother-ism", if you will, 3) will cost as much money as it saves.
I don't care if there's a nude painting on display, but I do care if there's some hard core humping on a computer monito in a public place where my child can see it... I mean he was just born, give him at least a few years innocence!
* At the library system I worked at, it was a matter of staff judgement.
When I said .1 cents I actually meant a small amount but not a trivial amount per paycheck multiplied by the tax paying population. So around 7 million per year. Not sure if that's significant enough, but it was just a figure off the top of my head meant to demonstrate that by paying a small amount individually we could help the issue.
Anyways, I've over-explained it now... but I felt like a douche when I checked my threads this morning.
Mainly, I just wanted to point out that it's a quintessential "Small Matter of Programming" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Small_matter_of_programming) issue in library policy, and people who have never worked for a library can easily underestimate the difficulty. My response was a bit over-bristly, though, sorry.
Didn't mean to say it was easy, jus worthwhile.
These are the places with a sign up in the windows that said "The FBI has not yet raided us," after all.
The problem is that you're presenting it as a class issue. Read it again:
> Glancing over the screens I could see a variety of pornographic images, facebook and myspace pages, and youtube. The library is a great resource, but I was completely pissed off that my tax dollars go to support that.
This is a bit different than an argument that they could cut down on 'probably a significant number' of computers if there was lower usage. The whole point of having a resource is to use it, so I'd argue that we should be trying to promote utilization anyway...
'surfing youtube' vs 'how it's intended to be used' is missing the forest for the trees: libraries are about disseminating information.
> Thus, modern libraries are increasingly being redefined as places to get unrestricted access to information in many formats and from many sources. They are extending services beyond the physical walls of a building, by providing material accessible by electronic means, and by providing the assistance of librarians in navigating and analyzing tremendous amounts of information with a variety of digital tools.
Calling someone else's argument asinine seems to be exactly what the guidelines specifically ask not to do. eg:
"When disagreeing, please reply to the argument instead of calling names. E.g. "That is an idiotic thing to say; 1 + 1 is 2, not 3" can be shortened to "1 + 1 is 2, not 3.""
Strangely enough, I often study at a public law library (where I am right now) and I occasionally see the staff kick someone out for misuse of the computers here, even though it's run by the county. Perhaps it's because there are only 6 of them and they're meant for accessing legal databases like Lexis/Nexis, not checking your facebook status. (I'm using my laptop, they probably wouldn't approve of me using HN on a library machine either!)
You really shouldn't watch porn on your phone while you drive. ;-)
But that is beside the point. Paying taxes does not give you the right to a) break the rules (surfing porn IS against the rules) and b) causes an environment that is not conducive to the intended use (i.e. a filthy environment that drives away legitimate users)
People breaking the rules is certainly a valid complaint. However, I'm not aware of libraries banning YouTube (if people are using headphones), Facebook, or whatnot.
And a lot of cigarette taxes and booze excise taxes. Really poor people pay a much larger proportion of their incomes in taxes.
Is it just the vagrants watching porn that pisses you off? That's maybe caring too much about the topic, but it raises a fair point.
Decide for yourself: Is this thread about viewing pornography in public places? Is this thread about _homeless_ or _too poor to pay for internet access in any way_ people looking at porn? Or are we seriously discussing about tax dollars being spent in a wrong way?
Disclaimer following: I'm not a US guy and I've never been there, but both based on extrapolation (looking at my country, guessing it's not that different over there) and some public media stunts I'd like to reset some expectations here.
Paying for library internet access and the machines there won't ruin your country, period. If the libraries are somewhat similar to ours, the machines are old/reused/will stay for years or are a gift of a local company. Internet is a given for most places anyway and doesn't cost more if you're not only using it behind the counter but offer a couple of public places to use it as well.
So in the end I think the "tax dollar" argument is moot. It's - with my limited understanding - completely bogus and just tries to reinforce a moral problem with the use of public workstations ("I don't like your use case _and btw I pay for that_"). Chances are, you're not. Not in any way worth mentioning. Had a donut or a coffee at Starbucks (bridging the gap back to the article again) recently? Chances are you paid a lot more than the amount of your taxes going into "funding for internet usage in libraries".
Seriously. This thread seems completely disconnected from reality and nothing but a "WAH!" in my book.
I've lived in 3 major cities, and I've only once seen what I would describe as unwarranted attention from the police directed the homeless. In fact, the majority of the time the police seem to completely ignore them, even when they're purposely making a scene. They know there's realistically nothing they can do, crazies will be crazy.
Not everyone in the library should have to read Shakespeare, ya know.
Tax dollars go on random, pointless crap pretty much most of the time, and to be honest if I had to choose between, say, paying for the govt to invade Iraq or paying for someone without a computer to view pornography or visit facebook, I would choose the latter without hesitation.
Its a shame you dont approve of how others utilise their available resources, but maybe you could discuss the issue without faux-outrage. Its a boring and (these days) over used means of communication.
That's not even considering the far thornier problem that porn filtering programs can often block legitimate web browsing, such as looking for information about sex education, safe sex, STD's etc.
Ha! Reminds me of my Brooklyn Public Library experience. The building looks fantastic on the outside, but on the inside it is a dreary, institutional wasteland. I had to pick my inspiration up off the floor when I walked in. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Brooklyn_Public_Library_by...
After I located the one room with outlets, I crammed my way onto the folding table and connected to the flaky wifi, which needs to be reauthorized every hour. While answering emails, I could not help but notice the hardcore anime porn viewing session at the bank of workstations across from the table. I doubt I'll be back.
This has been my experience too. My current favourite is the Earth Sciences library. It's in one of the older buildings in my university, so the whole place has a much more humane feel than the concrete box of the main library. There's also more space to stretch out, and it's not as busy.
+1 on the distraction comment.
Thats the one reason i've left the library. I tried a starbucks for working but he is right, the tables are not big enough etc, so i actually went to a local coffeeshop and talked to the owner about me liking to work at his place.
I made a deal with him, i did all the quick-wins of online advertisement for him, (it's in germany so: qype, facebook, twitter, simple page with a fair amount of seo).
For this i got my special table, big enough for everything i would ever need(i could easily place 2 macbooks + papers on it) + a coffee and bagle flatrate for a year.
I think we both made a good deal.
These might be the size of a typical restaurant booth (or a bit larger), but would be enclosed spaces that allow you to block out noise and distractions.
It wouldn't even need to be a coffee shop; maybe something like a capsule hotel for workspaces.
The failure rate for new coffeehouses is a mere 10 percent, according to the market research firm Mintel, which means the vast majority of cafes stay afloat no matter where Starbucks drops its stores. Compare that to the restaurant business, where failure is the norm.
There's a reason you can find coffee shops--both franchised and independent--everywhere you go. Selling $.16 of coffee for $4 is quite profitable!
First, the article: http://www.slate.com/id/2132576/
Second, the question: does that "10% failure rate" stat include Starbucks, Seattle's Best, Caribou, Peets, or Tully's? The rest of Mintel's stats do.
Finally, the observation: the margin on coffee beans doesn't determine the margin of a coffee house. Coffee beans aren't the dominant expense of a coffee house. Wages, followed by rent, are instead. You'll like that Slate article; it has math, and everything.
First off, it's not clear to me whether the establishment the author opened was a coffee shop or a restaurant. The subtitle says "coffee shop", but the article then talks about finding someone to "whip up pretty crepes". I recognize that the dividing line between restaurant and coffee shop can be a bit fuzzy on occasion, but it's there and relevant. Most restaurants fail.
The really notable part of the article comes at the end, however: "There was, of course, one way to make the cafe viable: It was written into the Golden Rule itself. My wife Lily and I could work there, full-time, save on the payroll, and gerrymander the rest of the budget to allow for lower sales."
Yes, Mr. Michael Idov, you could have done that. You should have done that, from the start. That's what small business owners do: They work. That's what your competitors were doing. The goal may be to eventually make enough money to hire people to do all the work, but that's not where you start. You start by busting your ass.
That's the story of a dilettante who opened a restaurant as a fashion statement and went the way of all such fools.
Anyway, back to coffee shops. I don't know if Mintel's stats include the chains. They probably do. You might note, however, that the article I referenced is entirely dedicated to the proposition that Starbucks's presence in the market has been good for small, independently-owned coffee shops. Furthermore, even if we assume that no chain stores fail at all, a 10% industry failure rate would still have independent coffee shops doing pretty well. (Back of the envelope calculation: 14,000 independent coffee houses in the US in 2005, 11,000 Starbucks in the US in 2010, so let's say indies are only 25% of the total. If 10% of the total fail and all failures are indies, then 40% of indies fail. 60% success rate isn't bad for small businesses.)
And, finally, you're right that the margin on coffee beans doesn't determine the margin of a coffee house. That's what happens when your cost of goods is effectively zero, and I assure you that any restaurant or retail outlet would love for their margin to be solely determined by wages and rent.
[...] The logistics of a food establishment that seats between 20 and 25 people (which roughly corresponds to the definition of "cozy") are such that the place will stay afloat—barely—as long as its owners spend all of their time on the job. There is a golden rule, long cherished by restaurateurs, for determining whether a business is viable. Rent should take up no more than 25 percent of your revenue, another 25 percent should go toward payroll, and 35 percent should go toward the product. The remaining 15 percent is what you take home. There's an even more elegant version of that rule: Make your rent in four days to be profitable, a week to break even. If you haven't hit the latter mark in a month, close.
A place that seats 25 will have to employ at least two people for every shift: someone to work the front and someone for the kitchen [...] Budgeting $15 for the payroll for every hour your charming cafe is open (let's say 10 hours a day) relieves you of $4,500 a month. That gives you another $4,500 a month for rent and $6,300 to stock up on product. It also means that to come up with the total needed $18K of revenue per month, you will need to sell that product at an average of a 300 percent markup.
[...] the coffee [ed: with its acknowledged killer margins] needed to account for all of our profit. We needed to sell roughly $500 of it a day. This kind of money is only achievable through solid foot traffic, but, of course, our cafe was too cozy and charming to pop in for a cup to go. The average coffee-to-stay customer nursed his mocha (i.e., his $5 ticket) for upward of 30 minutes. [...].
Since the article both starts and ends with the observation you've tried to damn it with (that the owner of this coffee shop didn't know what he was getting into), I don't think that alone is a compelling response.
Finally, your analysis assumes that the coffee shop market is divided between "Starbucks" and "Independents". It is not. Other chain coffee shops account for nearly 30% again as many shops as Starbucks does.
PS: Respectfully, I'm not sure the guy who starts a thread with "coffee shops are pretty much the opposite of money losers" and "coffee shops have a 10% failure rate" gets to write smugly when his own revised math reveals his numbers to be wildly off, or his primary data point about coffee shops to be a single study from an industry marketing organization that included Starbucks in its numbers.
Segment Year 3 Cum. Turnover
Subs and bakeries 76.69
Coffee and snacks 70.00
Casual dining 53.13
Family dining 45.00
Buffets and cafeterias 38.46
You state: "your analysis assumes that the coffee shop market is divided between 'Starbucks' and 'Independents'." It does not, and I'm not certain how you can read it that way. Also, describing what I referred to as a "back of the envelope calculation" as "analysis" is silly.
Furthermore, the comment that I was originally responding to did not distinguish between chain coffee shops and independent ones, so your insistence on excluding Starbucks from consideration is bizarre.
Do you have anything to offer other than insults and an anecdote? You appear to be arguing with some passion for the proposition that coffee shops are money losing operations. Provide some evidence, some reason for believing this other than a single Slate article about a single failed business in trendy part of Manhattan.
I'd never heard that before. Is Starbucks an exception? Does their volume make the difference?
Coffee shops, which are more profitable but also not usually a huge money makers, can make money from walk-ins and, due to the lower upfront prices, require less commitment from each customer. There are a few hybrid coffee shop/coworking spaces, but it's unclear how viable the model actually is. Commercial espresso machines are very expensive ($10K-$15K+), barista salaries are an additional expense and you need to balance serving people who walk in with the people who are on the coworking side. Also, if you have things like enclosed booths that means you have to fit in fewer people per square ft.
So, there's often a market there, but the economics are such that it's hard to make it very profitable, certainly much harder than many other businesses. Still, just so this doesn't sound completely pessimistic, it's not much work to maintain a straight coworking space (not much more than a regular office), it's entirely possible to make enough money to offset the work you put into it and there is a lot of value that extends beyond the immediate financial compensation.
But, I never have been able to work in coffee shops. I can't think long enough with all the distractions to do anything of real value. Email, sure. Browsing reddit, no problem. But, actual work? No way. Library would probably work, though I've only tried it a few times when I was in Canada and didn't have 3G; it didn't work very well, as the Internet was always too slow or broken.
The rest stops with wifi have been fun finds in the past. There's one 50 miles west of Omaha for instance with decent wireless internet - I got a lot of odd looks sitting at a picnic table with my Macbook doing emails for two hours. Now, I can do that anywhere!
I've found that rest stops with WiFi are rarely in working condition. I'm not sure why it's so hard for public hotspots to be kept operational, but apparently it is, as I'd say 75% of the ones at unattended locations are simply not working. I've learned to never expect WiFi to work, even if it is advertised on the sign or on the website or whatever. The same is true of campgrounds, 80% of which claim to have WiFi but only about 40% of which actually have usable speed and reliability. I'm tempted, being a nerd, to just go around fixing campground networks, free of charge. But, usually, I just use my 3G/4G modem. I'm getting 500kbps-1Mbps here in the desert, which is completely usable.
Some hotels have been similarly ruined for me by lack of acceptable internet service. As an entrepreneur, I'm never on a real vacation and thus a reliable, stable, reasonably fast connection is even more important than working plumbing. If a 3G device can take care of that, it's quite a relief. I always dreaded that I would sign in at a hotel, go to my room, and find the internet connection was lousy.
In short, click the "3G" radio button on the coverage map...suddenly San Diego will be thoroughly covered.
They even refused admittance to a friend of mine who was philosophy PhD student at U Penn. She was surprised because it is pretty normal to go to other campus libraries to do research for dissertations.
$500/year is generous? It would probably be cheaper to formally enroll and take no classes.
I'm sure Columbia is a little more strict (Wittenberg after all lets anyone into their library) but I'd imagine if you were determined you could gain access to the library for less than $500/year, though that still doesn't make any price generous so much as a price that Columbia has chosen. Generous would be giving free access.
Starbucks is outrageously expensive though - some cafés are much cheaper, and nicer.
I work on my laptop without internet access, then upload everything when I get home. I never thought to inquire about wifi at the library.
My biggest question is : does the fee include access to library wifi, but at $500, it's still rather steep.
It's quiet, and I've been conditioned from years of schooling that when I'm sitting at a table at the library, I ought to be working and not slacking. And, I can access journals, news archives, Safari/O'Reilly books, and all sorts of other useful resources while on the library wireless network.
I can still even get a cup of coffee at the coffee shop in the library for cheaper than Starbucks, and it comes right out of my paycheck.
It'd probably worth visiting and checking one's local library out if you need a remote place to work. Spend a couple of hours - leisurely find some books, read a magazine or two - and see whether you're comfortable there. If so, then try coming in with your laptop.
However, you'll have to find the quiet corners because roudy college kids can make the main areas distracting.
In any case, I always got around it by pretending to be an iPhone. :)
So if I want to get any coding done, and need access to the Internet, I have found the library to be a pretty bad place. If I'm just doing some quiet reading, the library can be great.
The sandwich shops are less distracting to me. All the conversations and background noise blend together for me. I try to avoid rush times and busy days so I'm not tying up a table when they need them.
The libraries are ok but have some problems. Neither really get many homeless guys but both have a lot of kids, especially in the afternoon. With big open floorplans, that's more noise than I can ignore. The availability of books sometimes distracts me, but to be honest, the book collections are now so old and unimpressive that it's not a big deal.
The other problem is that the libraries block a number of things on their network, like most webmail, instant messengers, and most VPNs. I'm still able to use https for GMail and my work tunnel so I can work there, but it seems unnecessarily restrictive.
Libraries are also a great place to get internet access. I spent a lot of time in local libraries while traveling around New Zealand.
About the "if you can find anywhere to sit". I've never been in a library that was so full. I found that upstairs in the glassed off area to be the best. Got a lot done there.
NZ really does have some great libraries. Whangerei, Wellington and Christchurch being examples.
My favorite is Hacker Dojo in Mountain View. What's yours?
Yes, I could set up a proxy server on EC2 or something. Or I could go to a coffee shop.
It was later picked up by the Boston Globe
Collegiate libraries in my experience are nice, but can get crowded at times.
Not sure about all the branches but the Capitol Hill branch has a decent sized meeting room which a monthly Tech Startup meetup used to use (though that was 3 years ago now).
My favorite coffee shops are loud enough that I'm not distracted by other people's conversations. Either the music is loud enough to drown them out, or enough people are talking at once that it all blends into a meaningless susurration. A place which is too quiet--like most libraries, actually--amplifies distractions.
Free wifi, power points for recharging laptops (indoors and in the gardens surrounding), free bookable meeting rooms, designated quiet and non-quiet areas, a cafe, and even a recording studio.
Libraries are torch bearers of civilisation, and in an age when Alexandria has been reborn in an ethereal form, they are devoted to sustaining culture and knowledge in whatever manner is required.
I love working there. No distractions is a great way to shut out the world and focus. My local libraries limited internet access to an hour a day. If 3g was cheaper in Canada, I'd just man up and get a stick or tether to my cell, but I'd need a line of credit to make that happen.
However, for social interaction and meeting people once in a while the coffee shop is a good change and/or alternative. Taking breaks more often works and being strict with your time management works well, but you have to be strict when your in the coffee ship from my experience. Meet lots of new interesting people too.
I like both, it will depend on my mood too. I say use both if you can. Where I live the coffee shop (not a big chain), is much more convenient though and mostly filled with students from the local university.
The chairs are not really a deal breaker, but the bandwidth totally is.
I'll add one more thing: horrible network filtering.
My local library however, is drab, too quiet and I feel out of place with my lap top working there. Like I'm being watched for doing something odd. I get more distractions as the noise level is less consistent.
The Lincoln Park Whole Foods is my new favorite spot. I work all afternoon, have a really healthy dinner, then do some writing over a wine flight.
I'll have to try the local community college library though -- I hadn't really considered it in the past.
The Minneapolis Public Library merged with the county a year ago, and I'm not sure if the policy changed.
As long as he's a customer and doesn't seem to pose a problem, they probably don't mind. (And bankers would do something if they perceived a problem, if only by having the security guard hang out very close to the people in question.) If they haven't noticed that a few people work in the lobby, then those people really must not be impinging on anyone there.
Saturday 10AM - 5PM
Sunday 12PM - 4PM
Saturday is a possibility but Sunday is a joke.
Last year, city budget cuts took the libraries in Queens and Brooklyn from 6 day service to 5, and we managed to keep NYPL open 6 days, but with reduced hours.
That said, there's a lot of people who freelance out of our libraries, and as strange as it sounds, one guy launched his hedge fund out of our business library (we have a few free Bloomberg terminals).
much easier to execute for a student.
As others noted, hacker work spaces are also good.
I stopped reading at that point.