What We’re Reading – April 19-25

Big data’s impacts on real estate, libraries in ‘third place,’ and Canada in first

Book Mountain, a new library in the Netherlands

Where is the library headed? It’s a frequently asked question near and dear to our hearts here at InfoCentral. Funding is on the decline and the continued spread of home-based (and even smartphone-based) internet access makes the idea of the digital knowledge center a less than permanent solution. Libraries are instead focusing on their role as a ‘third place‘ — not home, not work — where people can gather in a community without feeling like loiterers. Slate has a longish article on this trend and how different libraries are meeting the challenge of moving beyond books and even beyond computer terminals.

Inman News had the first of several articles in a series on how the rise of big data is impacting neighborhood choice and the role of the REALTOR® in the transaction. More and more websites and apps are offering hyperlocal data on crime, political affiliation, race, sex offenders, and hundreds of other points of interest. Is all this data going to simply empower consumers to make smarter choices or will it lead to more segregation and ‘self-selection’ of neighborhoods, against the spirit of fair housing? How should REALTORS® react? Is this a positive or a negative?

Net neutrality appears dead. The Federal Communications Commission said on Wednesday that it would propose new rules that allow companies like Disney, Google or Netflix to pay Internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon for special, faster lanes to send video and other content to their customers. The problem is, with broadband as something gets faster, the rest gets slower. Keeping the internet as a level playing field has been an important cause for many. This latest change could end that. Others are less worried about the rule change, likening them to a carpool lane on a freeway. Still they see higher costs and a stratified internet emerging.

The Washington Post’s Wonkblog features an interesting map showing how much a worker would need to earn per hour in order to afford a one-bedroom apartment in each county in the United States. Urban and coastal areas, unsurprisingly, are generally the most expensive areas, particularly around San Francisco and the Boston-New York-Washington corridor.

The New York Times ran a story this week on how the US middle class is no longer the world’s richest, having been tied — if not surpassed — by Canada. While this tracks with several trends over the recent past, The Atlantic counters some of this is caused by Canada’s still strong housing market. A great deal of US wealth evaporated in the recent housing downturn that Canada never experienced. As Canada appears to be ready to pop its own housing bubble, things could change.

Also in Canada, a ban on doorknobs seeks to make buildings more accessible to the elderly and disabled, although local bear populations appear to benefit as well.

Ever wanted to buy an island?  How about a haunted island? How about a haunted Italian island?  If that is your dream property, you may be interested in Poveglia Island in the Venetian Lagoon. The Italian government has put the island up for auction, with bids starting at $490,000. Amenities include an abandoned mental hospital, bell tower, a fort and a church. Might be the perfect place to film a horror movie.

Summer’s almost here and that means one thing: roller coaster season! Time rounds up some of the top new thrill rides around the country.

How would your smartphone fare after a quick bath? Gadget insurance firm SquareTrade gave this treatment to four popular smartphones, in an effort to find out which one is toughest.

I don’t play golf, so I don’t find this shocking, but some traditionalists might—Big Hole Golf. Why the change? Golf participation is down 20 percent, and this change could bring newcomers to the game. Hope or heresy?

Everyone encounters a tricky fabric stain from time-to-time. Jolie Kerr’s Ask a Clean Person column and book provides all the Q&A you need to find out how to remove the trickiest of stains. For example: got those yellow underarm stains on a nice white shirt? Don’t use bleach! Sweat and anything else that, in Kerr’s words, “Comes from your body” needs to be treated with an enzymatic cleaner. Listen to her interview with Terry Gross here.

Have a cat? Maybe the cat desk will help you get some work done without being disturbed.

Dave

Senior Information Specialist

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