The Califa Library Group and Contra Costa County Library (CCCL) today officially announced the beta launch of Enki Library, a new ebook platform designed to host and lend library-managed ebooks using the Douglas County model. Named after the Sumerian god of mischief, creativity, and intelligence, Enki went live at CCCL and the San Francisco Public Library (SFPL) on May 6, and will soon serve multiple libraries in California, beginning with members of the Bay Area Library and Information System (BALIS) consortium.
Califa and CCCL worked closely with Douglas County Libraries (DCL) and Colorado’s Marmot Library Network to create Enki, according to Califa Project Manager Heather Teysko. DCL pioneered the use of in-house Adobe Content Servers to manage ebooks purchased directly from authors, small publishers, and indie distributors such as Smashwords, and they were eager to help launch similar projects elsewhere. But it wasn’t as simple as handing over their code.
DCL’s system “was written just to serve one ILS, and with us being a consortium of 220 libraries, we needed it to authenticate against multiple ILSs,” Teysko said. “That was a real stickler for several months.”
There were other significant issues. For example, many publishers provide ebook metadata and order information in spreadsheets or other formats. New code had to be written to simplify metadata ingestion so that it does not have to be done manually.
The result of their work is a fully-functional, open-source platform that will soon enable hundreds of library systems to manage directly—rather than license via an aggregator—a portion of their ebook collections (the issue of intellectual property ownership, which would cover ebooks, remains a topic of much debate, but one that does not seem to legally favor libraries despite some use of the word own rather than license). The State Library of Kansas, which provided early financial support to the project, plans to adopt Enki soon as well, and other consortia and state systems have expressed interest.
“I don’t think everybody needs to reinvent the wheel,” Teysko said. “Each library doesn’t have the resources to do something like this on their own. That’s why we saw the need for us to be able to step in and say ‘we’re a consortium, we can do this, and maybe others can join in.’”
In terms of reinventing the wheel, CCCL had been working quietly on its own approach to developing an ebook platform for which libraries manage file distribution and digital rights management (DRM) directly, and was in the process of applying for grant funding just prior to Califa’s announcement of the project last year. The two organizations soon partnered. CCCL provided significant software development support with assistance of The Quipu Group, and Califa focused on facilitating the project and negotiating with publishers, which will initially include Workman, Dzanc, Smashwords, Akashic, Crossroads Press, National Highlights, Infobase, and others.
“It just turned out to be a perfect match,” said CCCL Deputy County Librarian Cathy Sanford.
Sanford added that Enki offers patrons an experience very similar to what they might expect from vendor platforms.
“It’s a pretty good user interface for keyword searching,” Sanford said. “The login, the checkout, all of the things that people are accustomed to seeing on OverDrive or any of the other platforms, they’re pretty much the same.”
With more advanced searches, Enki suffers by comparison to the latest commercial platforms, she added, “but I don’t think the user is experiencing [Enki] much differently than the other platforms…. The feedback we’re getting from our staff and from other people, including other IT professionals who understand what Enki is and what it’s supposed to be doing—and who understand that we’re still working on it—they’ve all said that they think it looks very good and it works very well. And we’re not getting any complaints from the public. That’s always a good sign.”
The open-source nature of the platform will also enable Califa, Marmot, and other libraries and developers to potentially add features and functionality to Enki and then share them with the library community.
The library ebook landscape has changed significantly since the project was first announced in March 2012. At that point, Random House and HarperCollins were the only two big six publishers committed to licensing ebooks to libraries.
The past several months have brought a series of welcome announcements, and now all of the largest U.S. publishers have begun either fully licensing ebooks to libraries once again, or have become involved in ebook pilot programs with libraries.
Yet in every case, titles from those publishers are only available via agreements made through third-party distributors. Developing a platform on which ebooks are managed directly rather than licensed remains vital to the future of libraries, Teysko said.
“I don’t think the library mission is about making OverDrive profits. To me, the idea that you would take such a major part of your business, and turn it over to another company that has very different motivations than you do,” is far from ideal, she said. “This isn’t about us trying to replace the vendors. But it is about us having some ownership over what we’re putting out there to the public.”
At CCCL, Sanford agreed.
“I believe that it is so important of our content, and control the destiny of what happens with our reading material. Just because [publishers and vendors] decide today that they are coming around doesn’t mean that they won’t change that model six months or five years from now. It’s not set in stone. And I have this real fear that we could turn into a country where only rich people are able to read…. And, I believe that libraries are tired of other people telling us what to do and shaping our industry for us. We have got to step up to the plate and take ownership.”
This spring, BiblioLabs, the Charleston, SC–based developer of the free multimedia anthology production platform BiblioBoard Creator, began offering a subscription service that will allow users to download and view anthologies created by libraries and other third parties.
Meanwhile, several institutions have already used the Creator tool to produce anthologies on topics ranging from the history of Jazz in New Orleans to a biography of Daniel Samper Ortega, Director of the National Library of Colombia from 1931 to 1938. Most notably, last fall, BiblioLabs developed a 19th Century Historical Books iPad App for the British Library, and the library then used BiblioBoard Creator to sustain the app by generating smaller thematic anthologies on complementary topics.
Individuals have created interesting collections as well: David Ensminger, instructor of English, Humanities, and Folklore for Lee College Texas, has been an active chronicler of U.S. punk rock since the 1980s, conducting interviews with bands, collecting show flyers and ephemera, and publishing the 1980s fanzine No Deposit, No Return, and later the magazine Left of the Dial, which was distributed through record stores from 1999 through 2005.
Some of his personal collections can be viewed on his blog Visual Vitriol or in his books. But his new anthology “The Punk and Indie Rock Compendium: Left of the Dial” presents the material in a more interactive way than print or the web, he said.
“To me, it’s a really immersive environment,” he said. “You can click on photos, you can click on interviews, you can click on letters [to the editor], you can click on the old covers to the magazine. On your mobile device, you can open up and read these magazines that… have literally disappeared.”
Meanwhile, at the University of Denver, Lecturer in Music Theory Kristin Taavola, PhD, used the Creator tool to produce Musical Form: A Curated Collection for Tonal Analysis, an anthology that is now used as a digital textbook for her students.
“The benefit to students is huge—I was able to focus the repertoire for a single course on Form and Analysis, and embed not only scores but videos into the app,” she told LJ. “Most music theory textbooks include recordings by university students rather than famous musicians whom the students know and respect. In addition, with Bibliolabs, students can use scores online or print them out, so if they want to do several analyses of one piece, there is always a clean score available.”
The anthology also saved her students money, Taavola added.
“Because any of the musical anthologies available in text form cost $100 or possibly $200+, the app is a great savings for the students. It’s also easier for me; when I use a published anthology, I often supplement with other pieces I want to teach.”
Anthologies are produced in a three step process using the creator interface. During the “discovery” stage, users can select from public domain content provided by BiblioLabs—such as out-of-copyright books—or upload their own content. Basic metadata is then entered for each new item, via fields including license type, title, subtitle, creator, publication date, publisher, volume, edition, description, and source URL.
During the second stage, “enhancement,” users must check to ensure that each item has been uploaded properly, check for quality, and select a thumbnail image to display for each item. Then during the “marketing” stage, users upload icons and logos for the collection, and input keywords, a search engine optimization (SEO) description, an anthology description, and an audience description to make the anthology discoverable online.
Ensminger was an early adopter of the creator platform, and said “at first, I did have trouble with it. I didn’t think it was very intuitive.” But the company upgraded the platform twice during the three months that he spent compiling his Left of the Dial anthology. In terms of ease-of-use, he said that the latest version was much improved, and compared it to a content management system (CMS) used to generate posts on websites.
“It’s kind of like using a WordPress blog,” he said. “There’s ready-made templates, you click and upload, create captions. They had kind of a rough start, but it’s become much more streamlined.”
While the tool may be useful, the quality of the resulting anthologies is dependent on the effort that the curator expends compiling them.
The app blog iPad Insight gave BiblioBoard a negative review after downloading the free BiblioBoard app and then exploring two anthologies—the works of Jack London and Dogs: A Historical Collection—each priced at $15.99. The reviewer complained that “the vast majority or perhaps all the content in BiblioBoard is freely available, public domain material,” and argued that for anthologies priced at a premium, one would expect a more optimized experience, rather than a collection of scans. In addition, neither of the anthologies purchased by the reviewer included audio or video, which led him to question the app’s promise of a multimedia experience.
Inconsistent experiences may prove an issue for customers who are paying for anthologies created by third parties, especially those looking to generate a profit. But BiblioLabs is working on its own set of modules on subjects including Military History, African American History, Women’s Studies, and Spanish Language History and Literature that will be released this summer. Along with the British Library’s 19th Century app, these new modules will help showcase the platform’s potential and set a bar for quality.
But the app itself is free, and libraries can set their own pricing for the anthologies they create or make them free to patrons of individual library systems or consortia.
Mitchell Davis, Chief Business Officer of BiblioLabs, said that the anthology format could be especially useful for showcasing archived content that would otherwise remain undiscovered by most patrons.
“I think that’s what we’ve been very good at, taking these materials that are ‘lonely’ out in the research world, putting them in creative packaging and making them easy to use,” he said.
For subscription access, pricing begins at $1000 annually for small libraries, and increases based on patron count or student population.
“The library gets the entire tablet distribution ecosystem as part of their subscription,” Davis said. “When a patron downloads the app from their library the first time they identify themselves on the tablet, everything that the library subscribes to is immediately on their tablet and works… There’s no multi-user limits.”
We’ve all endured “death by PowerPoint.” It’s a painful experience for the audience and probably not all that fun for the presenter either. To help my students deliver effective presentations—free of those deadly bullet points—I have my go-to applications.
First, a good presentation begins with a clearly outlined story. Even presentations that are strictly fact-based can have a narrative. I always have students write outlines for the stories their presentations are going to tell, and I offer them a choice of outlining tools, including Text2MindMap, Penultimate, and that reliable standby, Google Documents.
To get started with Text2MindMap, students type their outlines on the provided “canvas.” When they click “draw,” a mindmap appears, illustrating the connections between the topics they provided. If the visualization doesn’t match what the students think are the connected items, they can edit their outlines and generate another mindmap.
Penultimate, a free iPad app, allows you to use a stylus to handwrite and draw in digital notebooks. Students can drag and drop pages into any order at any time during the outlining process. For the student who likes the long-hand approach, Penultimate is a nice blending of analog and digital processes.
After the outlines are done, we can begin creating slides. Telling a story with the aid of a slideshow is best accomplished with high-quality imagery. High-resolution pictures won’t become pixelated when you expand them to fill the slide. If students don’t have their own pictures, they can search for public domain (PD) and Creative Commons licensed images. Pixabay is an outstanding place to find images in the public domain. The Flickr Commons is another recommended source of PD content.
A free, beautifully designed application, Haiku Deck is the best presentation tool currently available for the iPad. Haiku Deck helps you find Creative Commons licensed images for your presentations. Each time you add a slide to your set, the application provides an image search button alongside it. Enter a search term and Haiku Deck will suggest high resolution images for you to use. You can also upload your own images from your iPad or import them from Instagram and Facebook.
When it comes to presentation software, there are plenty of alternatives to PowerPoint or Keynote. There’s Google Slides, which in the last year has expanded its theme options. Like Google Docs, Google Slides is a collaborative tool that students can use to create a presentation as part of a group project. Another benefit of using Google Slides is that as a teacher I can attach comments to specific parts of student slide shows, whether its calling attention to spelling mistakes or praising an especially well-designed slide. Two other worthy applications in this category are Empressr and Slide Rocket.
Empressr is a Web service for creating and sharing high quality online slide presentations—with a couple of features differentiating it from its competitors. First, Empressr gives you the option of embedding video from multiple sources into your slide show. Next is the editor feature, which allows users to draw, create, or edit images inside their slides.
Slide Rocket is similar to Empressr, with some very nice features such as 3-D transitions and a collaboration feature that enables other users to co-create presentations. Slide Rocket makes it easy to include video, images, or third party plug-ins. There’s also an option to sign in with a Google Account, which is why Slide Rocket has become fairly popular in schools that use Google Apps. Students can log in using their Google credentials, work on their projects, and save their work without having to keep track of a separate username and password.
Before my students stand in front of their peers to share their presentations, there’s one last thing that I require. And that’s to share their speaker notes with me so that I can provide some guidance if the images they’ve selected don’t match the spoken message.
A well-designed slidedeck is key, with the potential of making a good presentation into a great one. Have your students try these tools to help them do their very best work.
The Public Library of Science (PLOS) last week launched PLOS Labs, a new division that will develop software prototypes and coordinate open-source development projects aimed at generating “disruptive ideas and products for scientific communication,” according to the announcement on the organization’s official blog.
The idea for PLOS Labs originated during the development of their suite of article-level metrics (ALM) tools, which focus on tracking the use and influence of individual articles, as opposed to usage records at the journal level. Last week, PLOS also announced the release of the first iteration of Relative Metrics (Beta), a tool that helps provide context to this suite of ALMs.
“The board at PLOS wanted there to be more of that kind of activity, so we created PLOS Labs,” tech startup veteran and new PLOS Labs director Jonathan Dugan told LJ. “There have been discussions to create PLOS Labs for about a year and a half, and we finally got it off the ground during the past couple of months.”
Dugan said that PLOS Labs is considering a broad range of projects that could help enhance any part of the open access publishing process, including authoring tools, streamlining peer review, enhancing the way in which data is stored and disseminated in papers, or the way metadata about the papers—and who is reading them—is collected, stored, and managed.
“We’re specifically looking at things that are not currently being built inside PLOS,” Dugan said. “We’ll be taking those ideas, crystallizing them down into workable prototypes—whether they are paper mocks, or actual software prototypes—and then running user studies with researchers. Putting those prototypes in front of researchers and asking them to use them, and getting feedback specifically on [questions such as] ‘would you use it? How do you feel about this type of idea?’”
Through this process, PLOS Labs will collect information about these ideas and prototypes, and then share that information with publishers and other service providers that are working with academic publications. Most of the concepts being discussed are “highly focused on using open source and being broadly collaborative with other publishers,” but information about these projects will be openly shared with all academic publishers.
“Science works because people are open with their results,” Dugan said. “The whole premise is that people take their work, publish it to the world, and have other scientists talk about it, review it, criticize it, leading to scientific progress. All of the projects that Labs is going to be working on are going to be to further that mission of PLOS—both open access and the transformation of scientific communication.”
By the end of year one, Dugan is hoping to have between three to five prototypes ready and receiving feedback from researchers.
In Part 1 of “Where the Problems Lie” I focused on some issues that I see with the set of technologies and standards that I have lumped, for simplicity’s sake, under the heading “MARC”. In this post I am passing along issues that my OCLC colleague Jean Godby ran into with her work to crosswalk different bibliographic metadata formats (e.g., MARC21, ONIX, Dublin Core) from one to another.
As you might imagine, doing this well requires both intimate knowledge of the data being captured in the various standards and a very detailed and painstaking process of determining where those elements need to end up — and how. Therefore, the issues below are often quite specific and backed up with evidence.
- Some critical information is represented redundantly. Example: A description of an e-book is spread across the 245, 008, and 300 fields, but is concisely represented in a more modern standard such as ONIX.
- Some MARC fields are ambiguous. Example: The MARC 300 field has an ‘extent’ sense when it appears in a record that describes a sound recording. But it has a ‘page count’ sense in a record that describes a printed book. The Crosswalk has to make an unreliable check for data in a free-text field to disambiguate the two senses. When distinctions exist in 5xx fields, they may not be recoverable at all.
- Many MARC free-text fields have formatting requirements. Example: ISBD formatting rules for titles require that only the first word be capitalized. Since this convention is not widely used outside the library community, it must be taken out when a MARC record is translated to a non-MARC standard.
- Punctuation in free-text fields is sometimes meaningful, sometimes not. Example: In a 100 field, the comma separates parts of a structured name and indicates an inverted presentation order. In a 500 field, the comma is just another character in a stream of text.
- Some MARC fields are coded with hidden assumptions. Example: A MARC record that describes the author of a printed book has no explicit mention of the author’s role or the physical format of the work. But a MARC record that describes a musical score identifies the material type in a code in the 008 field and the contributor’s role in a $4 field.
- MARC data elements are semantically complex and built up from many components. In most contemporary non-MARC standards, the elements are semantically simpler and resemble the words in a dictionary that make up a bibliographic description, such as title, contributor, personal name, and subject. Example: Marc 245 $a is not a title. It is an AACR2-defined access point that may contain a concise bibliographic description with title, author, author’s role, physical description, producing another one-to-many mapping.
- MARC has a “long tail.” In other words, the standard is large, but MARC tag usage studies (1, 2) show that most of the specification is rarely used. In fact, many of the most widely used fields are the 5xx notes, despite many opportunities for representing a description in more explicitly coded data. This can be interpreted as evidence that MARC is no longer the best fit for bibliographic data, perhaps because new concepts are not represented and some existing concepts are not modeled effectively.
From The White House:
The Executive Order declares that information is a valuable resource and strategic asset for the Nation.
Under the terms of the Executive Order and a new Open Data Policy released today by the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Office of Management and Budget, all newly generated government data will be required to be made available in open, machine-readable formats, greatly enhancing their accessibility and usefulness, while ensuring privacy and security.
Under the President’s Open Data Executive Order, more data will be made available allowing these types of entrepreneurs and companies to take advantage of this information, fueling economic growth in communities across the Nation.
Much progress has been made. But many more government datasets are still hard to find or are locked-up in unusable formats. By requiring that government agencies provide newly generated government data in machine-readable formats like CSV, XML, and JSON and, when appropriate, expose data via Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), the new Executive Order and Policy will further accelerate the liberation of government data.
Read the Complete Statement
Read the Full Text of the Executive Order
Open Data Policy-Managing Information as an Asset (Office of Management and Budget)
Even after being in this business for over 20 years, it seems I’m still a hopeless library and information science geek. I learned this anew in the process of reviewing ResearchReady courseware from ImagineEasy Solutions, when I found myself giddily addicted to finishing the program’s research skills lessons. There are currently six ResearchReady courses with between three and six lessons in each—enough for an average student to spend about 3 1/2 hours to complete—and I breathlessly took them all, pausing only long enough to print with pride my Certificates of Completion. (And I capitalize those leading Cs intentionally; these documents are very special to me.)
Think I’m just a pathetic old librarian desperately in need of a new hobby? I challenge you to sign up for a free trial and not get hooked. This is unusually good courseware and real head-candy for infogeeks like me. In fact, it’s just about everything we try and teach condensed into a single convenient, Web-based and tablet-friendly can.
A pair of line-drawn cartoon characters lead students through the lessons in a way that’s breezy without being cheesy. One is an earnest ResearchReady student named Scott, the other an information-illiterate owl named Bubo who thinks he knows it all. Together, they cover topics like the differences between primary and secondary sources and between popular and scholarly ones. They talk about how search engines work, what “The Invisible Web” is and how research databases are different. They send students out to real-world sources and ask them to evaluate their purpose, usefulness, and credibility. They devote a solid chunk of time to covering Wikipedia in particular, and do so in a thorough and even-handed way, discussing its strengths and weaknesses, and teaching students to tap the history and references sections to evaluate Wikipedia articles on a case-by-case basis. Of course, learning to properly cite sources in order to provide evidence and avoid plagiarism is also stressed. In short, ResearchReady systematically covers all the research-related Common Core standards that school librarians and ELA teachers lie awake at night wondering how on Earth to address.
Launched in January 2012 and still in beta, ResearchReady features quickly evolving course management tools for tracking individual and class progress and understanding, plus it allows teachers to add, remove, or adjust lesson content. ResearchReady can be used in its entirety as linear courseware, or librarians and teachers can have their classes pop in randomly to reinforce just the skills they’ll need to undertake a given research task.
As mentioned, I’ve been a school librarian for a while now, and I once believed that I could cover an entire information literacy curriculum simply by co-teaching library research projects on a catch-as-catch-can basis. I’ve long since realized that I can’t reliably do that. That’s why I recommend ResearchReady as a practical prerequisite to provide high school students with a foundation of instruction and practice that imparts the knowledge and skills they’ll need to conduct effective and ethical, college-level research.
In Part 1 of this series I looked at what has become the inevitability of change in our fundamental bibliographic metadata standard MARC. And by MARC I really mean the collection of technologies, rules, carrier formats, and what have you that could be hung off that rubric.
However, as I turn to identifying specific problems that I and other see with our present situation, I should take pains to point out that I am mostly referring to the MARC21/AACR2/ISBD formulation that has held North America in its sway for lo these many years.
Also, it became clear that I as I shared a draft with colleagues that I had enough to work with that I should break it into two parts — this first part are largely the things that I see as problems and the second part will be things that my colleague Jean Godby has identified as specific issues discovered from her voluminous and thorough work at crosswalking MARC21 to ONIX and other formats and vice versa.
So with that, let’s get started, and in no particular order:
- Needless complexity. Over the forty or so years that MARC has been around, it has accreted many fields and/or subfields. Some of these are veryinfrequentlyused and yet they remain part of the standard. This means that any software written to produce or process MARC records must accommodate fields and/or subfields that hardly anyone uses. Such complexity comes at a cost that is not always justified.
- Over-reliance on punctuation for semantic purposes. Punctuation marks are used in MARC for display purposes or for indicating different elements (that is, for enhancing granularity). For example, commas, slashes, and colons often appear to indicate separate elements and yet those marks can damage the ability to unambiguously parse the elements for purposes other than simple display.
- Lack of sufficient granularity. For example, the 100 field where a personal name is recorded relies upon the placement of a comma to delineate parts of a name. This prevents, for example, the delineation of the male and female surnames for the names of Spanish creators (order can no longer be assumed to be male-female as it might have been in the past).
- Lack of standardized statements/declarations when those would be useful. One of the most basic things a library use expects to be able to do is to identify content that is fully digital and openly available, and yet we have no way to unambiguously state this using MARC (see, for example, “MARC and the Trouble with Online”, http://www.infodocket.com/2013/03/05/slide-presentation-roy-tennant-on-marc-and-the-trouble-with-online-or-metadata-carnage-and-where-we-go-from-here/ )
- Inability to unambiguously encode important characteristics. We presently have hundreds of ways that we attempt to encode the concept that a given URL in an 856 field will lead the user to the full item online. This is because we have no unambiguous way to encode this information. Neither do we have an unambiguous way to encode the information that an item is open access. Both of these are extremely valuable aspects of our bibliographic data that users rightly expect us to be able to provide.
- Lack of easy extensibility. MARC lacks the ability of a given community (for example, archivists) to specify their own set of descriptive elements that could either be processed or ignored by consumers of MARC given their needs. Rather, even the most minor of changes must be vetted through a time-consuming process to eventually be added to a standard where every element has equal weight to every other element (see “Needless complexity” above).
- Technical marginalization. The only users of MARC are libraries, and to a much lesser degree, publishers. Meanwhile, the publishing community has created its own standard, ONIX, which will likely marginalize MARC even further in the bibliographic metadata world. MARC itself is anachronistic as a computer communication standard, since to have even the remotest chance of understanding it requires reference to documentation that identifies the purpose of – for example – every byte in the header. And yet our complete reliance on a single record format means we are ill-equipped to deal with anything else.
Those are just some of the issues that occur to me as I think about where we are now and where we need to be. I would be interested to hear your thoughts — whether for or against — in the comments below.
ALA Highlights Benefits of Federal Broadband Funding, Argues that E-Rate Must Be Enhanced to Sustain Progress
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s $4 billion Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) has helped about 20 percent of U.S. libraries make improvements to publicly available technology resources and digital literacy within their communities, according to a report released on Monday by the American Library Association’s (ALA) Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP).
Funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 stimulus package, BTOP has helped increase broadband Internet access and adoption nationwide, and many of its beneficiaries have considered programs launched by BTOP a success. For example, in Colorado, more than 367,000 of the state’s citizens increased their digital literacy skills through programs launched with the help of BTOP funding. Of people who participated in formal digital literacy courses, 95 percent said that they had learned a valuable skill and would recommend the classes to others, according to the report. The New York State Libraries hosted “Broadband Express @ your Library” programs that helped 600 people secure employment using online job resources available at their local library.
Meanwhile, Alaska, Delaware, Maine, Oklahoma, and Rhode Island have established new videoconferencing capabilities in libraries, providing a vital link for rural communities. The Maine State Library is already using videoconferencing for its Volunteer Lawyers Project, for example, offering real-time legal advice to patrons in rural locations.
Yet as part of the 2009 stimulus package, BTOP was a one-time program.
“The majority of libraries that are involved with the BTOP project for improving their computing centers are now trying to figure out how to sustain the investments that have been made,” OITP Assistant Director Marijke Visser told LJ.
Many of these libraries plan to sustain these projects using funding from the Schools and Libraries Program of the Universal Service Fund, more commonly known as E-Rate. Fortunately, the Universal Service Fund, administered by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) since its creation in 1997, does not use appropriated funds, so unlike many government programs, E-Rate is not in jeopardy from the budget sequestration. Unfortunately, the fund is currently capped, while demand for publicly available technology and broadband access is growing rapidly.
“We know already in the last funding cycle that [in] some states, the amount that they requested for Internet connections really jumped—more than doubled in many of the states, because [libraries] made all these connectivity improvements through BTOP projects,” Visser said. “And that’s going to continue. We don’t want to go backwards now that they have … more computers or better access stations.”
Many patrons already view public broadband access as one of the most important services offered by public libraries. A recent survey by the Pew Internet Project found that 77 percent of Americans ages 16 and older say that free public access to computers and the Internet is “a very important service” offered by libraries. By comparison, 80 percent said that offering books for borrowing was a very important service.
Current FCC leadership is aware of this emerging challenge, and ALA praised FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel for calling for multiple enhancements to E-Rate during an FCC oversight hearing in April. Citing several specific examples of successful programs funded by E-Rate, she noted that when the program was launched, only 14 percent of United States schools had Internet access, whereas more than 95 percent of classrooms are now connected.
“Impressive! But laurels are not good resting places,” she told the committee. “Because great programs do not thrive without continuous reassessment and support. Already, year-in and year-out, the demand for E-Rate support is double the $2.3 billion the Commission now makes available annually. Moreover, the agency’s own survey indicates that 80 percent of schools and libraries believe that their broadband connections do not meet their current needs.”
Visser said that ALA and the OITP were pleased that Rosenworcel emphasized protecting the program, even as she expressed the need to review E-Rate to ensure it continues to meet the future needs of libraries and schools.
“Even though she’s calling for E-Rate 2.0, she made reference to the fact that we do want to protect the current program,” Visser said. “So not just shake it up for the sake of doing something new, but really look carefully at what has worked in the program, and then look at future needs.”
Baker & Taylor (B&T) has announced the release of axisReader, a new ereader app developed specifically to work with the company’s Axis 360 digital media platform. The axisReader app is now available for library patrons to install on both Android and Apple iOS tablets and phones via the Google Play store and iTunes. Patrons can also find links to these download pages in the “App Zone” of Axis 360 library websites.
The new app will be available alongside the existing Blio ereader. Best known for its accessibility features, the Blio ereader app has been closely tied to the Axis 360 platform since its launch in June 2011. While Blio is compatible with PDF and EPUB formats, its primary format is XMS (Open XML Paper Specification). The new axisReader will offer a more streamlined experience for the more common EPUB format, according to a company announcement.
The “axisReader integrates fully with a library’s Axis 360 digital repository, allowing patrons to instantly borrow and download best-sellers and new release fiction and nonfiction titles in EPUB and PDF formats,” the announcement states. “The app is loaded with features including search within, dictionary lookup and highlighting selections while reading. Personalization within the axisReader also gives the user the ability to Find A Library, and to bookmark that link for easy discovery and download from the Axis 360 library.”
Sample is skewed to white, well-educated parents, say critics
A recent national report from the Pew Research Center that stated that most parents consider libraries important for their children has attracted some criticism from the library community, with concerns that the findings are based on a skewed sample and put too much emphasis on reading.
The study found that the vast majority of parents with children under 18 consider libraries to be important for their children. Three of the top reasons given for libraries’ importance were that they helped to spark a child’s love of reading and books, provided children with information and resources not available at home, and offered a secure environment for children.
But critics of the report, such as Jeri Hurd, a high school library media specialist at the Western Academy of Beijing, and Buffy Hamilton, a learning strategist at the Cleveland Public Library, say that the sample is skewed toward parents that are white, relatively young, and well-educated, and so do not represent the general population.
“I am interested in the literate practices of many families of diverse backgrounds, not just those who have the cultural/school capital,” Hamilton tweeted, taking the discussion to social media.
Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, says the report’s methodology is sound, and that the sample “mirrors the parent population of the United States.”
Indeed, the sample that Pew surveyed was 61 percent white, 54 percent under the age of 40, and 62 percent college-educated. In comparison, the sample surveyed in the Census Bureau’s 2011 Annual Social and Economic Supplement was 59 percent white, 58 percent under the age of 40, and 65 percent college-educated.
“The ages line up, the racial compositions line up,” Rainie says. He does acknowledge, however, that Pew’s sample slightly overrepresented parents of younger children.
In an animated discussion on the LM_NET listserv, Marcia Mardis, an assistant professor at Florida State University and the associate director of the PALM Center, echoes Rainie’s point about the census bureau. But she admits that there were “substantive differences between parents of younger children and parents of older children on questions related to reading, library use, and perceptions of libraries. It seems to be that the most clear caution about applying the findings broadly would be to not overstate the findings for older children.”
Hurd says that she is concerned that the report’s celebration of libraries, if scrutinized, will end up hurting the community. “Librarians really are under attack, and so I understand the need to grasp at something that seems to advocate how significant our role is at schools. But I think we need to be really careful.”
“Frankly, I think Pew let us down on this one,” she wrote on the listserv.
Hamilton tweeted her concern that “advocacy efforts serve as blinders from interrogating data and pushing more representative kinds of data.”
In response to Hurd’s comment, Rainie stresses that Pew is non-partisan and was not in the business of advocating causes. “It’s perfectly OK by us if librarians feel that some of our work is affirming of libraries and some of it is challenging,” he wrote. “We reported what we found in a very well-constructed survey. But we’re not constituted to buck up librarians or ‘let them down.’”
Another concern shared by Hurd and Hamilton is that report places too much emphasis on reading, which Hurd says ends up neglecting “so many equally important services that libraries offer. It’s kind of feeding into that stereotype.”
“I just wonder what other literacy practices are important and don’t get valued,” Hamilton tweeted.
The report, however, clearly acknowledges other services, with a section discussing parents’ attitudes toward e-books and interactive learning experiences. Indeed, the report shows that parents are largely in support of expanding both e-book offerings (62 percent) and interactive experiences (54 percent).
It’s also important to note that surveys suffer from a self-selection bias; people who choose to respond to a survey about a particular topic may be more interested in that topic than the general population, and as such, may skew the results. Hurd acknowledges this dilemma, but says that it makes it even more important to not consider the survey’s results as indicative of a national trend.
As reported by CNet and elsewhere, Adobe is make a dramatic move to “cloud-only” versions of its famous Creative Suite of software applications. Creative Suite includes such programs as Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator, among others. Suffice it to say that most creative professionals rely on Adobe software on a daily basis. And it’s quite possible that for creative professionals who keep up-to-date on the latest Adobe software that this move makes quite a bit of sense.
But for the rest of us it’s a disaster. This is why.
Those of us who don’t have an employer to buy the software are usually hobbyists or freelancers. We might be a hobby photographer who appreciates the power of Photoshop to make our photos look their best. Or a starving artist using InDesign to do flyer or poster design on the side. For folks like us we would typically buy a copy of the program we couldn’t do without and then wait for a couple updated releases to pass before catching up again. The thing is, we could barely afford it to begin with, and now they want to charge us a monthly rental fee? It’s not happening.
At $20/month for one application, that means you would spend around $240 a year. Not $240 every once in a while, but yearly. Constantly. Forever until the end of time. Or until you died or stopped using the software, whichever came first.
For we librarians, this refrain is all too familiar. First it was e-journals, then e-books that we were forced to rent, not buy. As soon as we stop paying we have nothing, so we pay and we pay. Well, I’m not buying it — literally and figuratively.
Now before someone comments that I’ve said good things about cloud computing in the past, so what’s up with this screed against it — I’ve always said that cloud computing can make a great deal of sense for certain situations and applications. I just don’t happen to think that the situation described above is a good one for me or others like me. And apparently we will not be offered a choice in the matter.
Ebooks—it’s been a tough time. The bestselling fiction titles that users want are simply unavailable to libraries under terms that are friendly to our institutions. We’re left with business models in which publishers restrict the number of loans, expensive schemes that jack up the cost of those titles, or deals that tether us to specific reading devices.
One option, championed by Jamie LaRue, director of Douglas County (CO) Libraries(DCL), is to pursue other sources of content. LaRue has struck deals with independent—meaning self-published—authors. DCL recently launched a deal to purchase titles from Smashwords, an aggregator and reseller of self-published content and so-called independent publishers, some of which offer hundreds of books on the site, while others publish just a couple titles. But the real problem is that most of the larger publishers and best-selling books on Smashwords deal in adult fiction—which is to say, erotica.
Even more troubling, in a recent interview by Publishers’ Weekly, LaRue was asked about DCL’s acquisition of children’s ebooks from Smashwords that were being made available with no review. “‘Can we vet every children’s book before we add it? I am not sure that we can,” LaRue responded, noting that he suspects DCL might “get stung once or twice.” This laissez faire approach simply will not cut it in school libraries. Truly inappropriate books in schools result in lawsuits, not minor stings.
I understand LaRue’s frustration and his desire to work actively toward a solution. Yet the maxim of quality over quantity certainly applies here. Publishers serve a critical role in the information ecosystem and are especially important for school libraries.
Unlike public and academic libraries, which have whole departments dedicated to new title acquisition, school librarians largely work alone. Even if we don’t always realize it, we rely on publishers to help with book selection. It’s the publishers who bear the cost of paying people to read the thousands of manuscripts submitted each year. Publishers pay for someone to then work with the selected authors to ensure that the books are accurate, grammatical, and appropriate in content and reading level for the intended audience. We’re left with the relatively easy task of having to select from the small percentage of books that make it through the established publishing houses each year. Our biggest challenge is that there always seem to be more books that we want than we can afford.
Imagine for a second if, instead of just having to consider among a few thousand vetted and professionally produced books, you had to wade through exponentially more choices? There are about 20,000 children’s and young adult books listed on Smashwords, but are any of them worth your time? The highest reviewed children’s book, Storm and the Magic Saddle, has 12 5-star reviews. But on deeper examination, I found only 10 actual reviews (two are duplicates), and only one of those reviewers has assessed any other books. There are also two reviews with no rating that question the accuracy of the information about horsemanship in the book as well as the age-appropriateness of the writing.
It all seems so, well, unprofessional. Given the publishers, aggregators, and professional review sources like SLJ that we’ve come to rely on, I just can’t believe that self-publishing is ever going to be the next big thing for libraries. Not when there are so many other great books still waiting to be read from the expert and established publishers with whom we already work.
OverDrive and Sourcebooks are preparing to launch an innovative and ambitious pilot program whose goal is to clearly demonstrate the impact library ebook lending has on book sales and author recognition.
OverDrive sent a letter today to about 35,000 librarians worldwide and invited them to opt in to a program that will run from May 15 through June 1 and allow all participating libraries to feature simultaneously on their OverDrive home page, at no cost, a single title from Sourcebooks.
The book, Four Corners of the Sky by Michael Malone, will be accessible simultaneously to all participating libraries’ patrons worldwide during the two-week program, which is called “Big Library Read.”
“We want to demonstrate once and for all the enormous influence of the library demographic, and that when libraries put an ebook in their catalog it serves a valuable role in increasing exposure and engagement with an author’s work,” said Steve Potash, OverDrive’s CEO.
During the 18-day program, data associated with the title, which will also contain a special “Dear Reader” note from Malone (see below), is going to be closely tracked.
Sourcebooks, which has worldwide rights to the book, will chronicle the impact on sales not only for this particular title but also the effect on the other seven books that Malone has published with Sourcebooks. The Amazon rankings will also be monitored (as of today, Four Corners of the Sky had an Amazon Best Sellers Rank of 149,512).
“Steve and I have over the years talked about a lot of different collaborations between Sourcebooks and Overdrive, always focused on expanding the reach of authors,” said Dominique Raccah, the CEO of Sourcebooks. “When Steve called with this idea a few months ago, I was delighted to apply the ‘discovery’ conversation that publishers, authors and retailers are engaged in to libraries.”
“It has always been an assumed ‘given’ that library support helped drive author success, both short- and long-term. Seeing if we can provide data around that assumption is fascinating,” Raccah said.
In addition to this halo effect on sales, OverDrive will provide libraries a free MARC record, will track how many patrons sampled the book, how many checked it out, how many pages were read, and will invite patrons to follow Malone on Facebook and Twitter in order to see how the pilot impacts the author’s social media presence.
Raccah said there is a “deep and fruitful conversation” occurring between libraries and publishers, but this model would move the conversation past discussions of lending and financial models.
“This pilot is of value because it moves the conversation towards what we might accomplish together if we partnered at a deeper level. The world is different now than it was five years ago, and that¹s OK,” Raccah said. “Now is the time for experimentation and innovation in order to make sure that readers have the opportunity to experience the best of new and established authors.”
OverDrive and Sourcebooks will present early results at BookExpo America (BEA) which runs May 30-June 1 in New York City, and Malone will be there as well. LJ will be reviewing the data following the program.
“I expect the borrowing of this title will be unprecedented because we are going to have easily millions of visits and millions and millions of people sampling it,” Potash said. “It’s going to be interesting to see where this book goes over 18 days.”
“We want to further educate publishers and authors that there is no better friend than libraries,” Potash said.
The program is reminiscent of an idea that was floated in January by Eric Hellman, the founder of Gluejar, where he proposed just such a controlled experiment.
OverDrive is also providing posters and other materials to help promote the event and around which libraries could possibly build local campaigns to spur an increase in patrons.
“It could help change the equation that most people don’t know that libraries offer ebooks,” Potash said.
Here is the text of the letter from Michael Malone that will appear in the edition:
I'm thrilled to present my latest book, The Four Corners of the Sky, to you and millions of other library members through this unique global ebook event.
I am passionate in my commitment to public libraries. They are the guardians of both our knowledge and our art, and have always been champions of the faith that reading enlarges our humanity. Thanks to programs like Overdrive, we now have access to the best of world literature in practical, easy-to-use digital formats. That possibility is tremendously exciting to me.
Books are not dead; they are indeed more vital than ever in an age in which ideas and stories can travel across the globe with miraculous speed. By these new means of writing stories and reading stories, we can all travel together, a pilgrimage of strangers at first, but learning that we share a common road through the books we read together. Libraries keep our stories safe for us. Without libraries, the stories end.
I sincerely hope you enjoy The Four Corners of the Sky, and that you take the opportunity to recommend it to friends and family ahead of June 1st, so that they can enjoy it free of charge too. There’s a website with some further information about me, the book, and the Big Library Read at biglibraryread.com, and you can also reach me directly on Twitter and Facebook if you’d like to talk about Four Corners, books, and the truths that literature can bestow.
The deep truths of our literature don’t change. And one of them is the lesson Annie learns in The Four Corners of the Sky: that laughter is a prayer and the worst of sins is the waste of love. We might as well say yes.
Purdue University Libraries (PUL) and its Distributed Data Curation Center partnered with the Purdue University e-Pubs Repository recently to launch the Data Curation Profiles Directory, an online resource that will track research data management projects at academic libraries.
The management of research data is an emerging field, and many academic librarians have begun working with researchers to preserve and share research data sets. With funding from a 2010 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), PUL developed the Data Curation Profiles Toolkit. This toolkit helps librarians capture and organize information about those research data sets as articulated by the researchers themselves, regardless of their field. It then offers guidance on how to create a data set profile. As a directory of data set profiles generated by this toolkit, the new Data Curation Profiles Directory marks the latest step in the project.
“Data Curation Profiles tell the story about a research data set from the researcher’s perspective,” D. Scott Brandt, Associate Dean for Research and Professor of Library Science, wrote this week in an IMLS Up Next blog post about the directory. “Profiles contain contact information for the creator of the data set and give key information about what the data set includes, how it is encoded, who its audience is, conditions for use, and much more. The Directory already contains profiles representing a variety of disciplines: for example, history, architecture, sociology, seismology, plant genetics, and food technology.”
Brandt adds that PUL previously had simply posted all submitted profiles to the DCP Toolkit website, but the library “started wondering how sustainable that would be. We also wanted to develop a means for authors of DCPs to have their work recognized as scholarship in the library field.”
The new directory offers more tools to support and encourage publication of data curation profiles, “including the assignment of a permanent identification number using the Digital Object Identifier (DOI) system, as well as a citation for each published profile, improved visibility through indexing and new discovery tools for each profile, and finally the implementation of CLOCKSS and Portico to provide a digital archive service for profiles that are added to the directory service,” he writes. “Epic gain!”
The SkyRiver decisionThe SkyRiver decision was the sharpest break to date with III’s past corporate strategy. “This was a litigation process that at best was going to take a lot of years to go anywhere, and it was going to be a pretty expensive process,” Massana said. “And I don’t think the library community liked the idea that we were settling our differences in a court battle.” Instead, Massana said the company is going to put all of its focus and money on improving the SkyRiver product. “One thing I want to make very clear is that we are very, very, very committed to SkyRiver and that we are going to compete head to head with OCLC.” Massana said that integrating SkyRiver into III streamlines the organization and places the support and reach of III’s development and sales team behind it. “We believe very strongly that we have an attractive alternative and what we want to do with all this is get traction faster and at a bigger scale,” Massana said. “Our sales force can remind clients every time they interact with them of our capability in the bibliographic utility space, which is something we were not doing effectively in the past.” Also, company officials said developers can now more easily leverage SkyRiver’s bibliographic database to complement other III products, such as eMARC Express, which can provide full MARC coverage for ebooks in a day or two of acquisition. “We are looking to make that part of our larger ebook strategy,” said John McCullough, the vice president for product strategy. McCullough was one of about 90 III employees in attendance at the conference, which drew 973 attendees from 42 states and 17 countries as well as 28 exhibitors.
APIs and PartnershipsMassana said the API rollout is also a complete shift in philosophy for the company, and it indicates how III is more interested now in collaborating with a range of third parties. “You will see a significant number of announcements over the next few months on partnerships and our API rollout is a big part of that,’ he said. “This is a big change from the way we use to deal with third parties.” Aaron Choate, the head of technology integration services at University of Texas at Austin Libraries, is in the middle of a Sierra implementation. “We are most interested in what they are doing with the APIs,” said Choate, adding that since the change in leadership the company has become more agile and responsive to the larger ecosystem. The API announcement helped swing the decision to migrate to Sierra, Choate said. “We really want to see that succeed as a model for Sierra. Being more open is very important to us and we’ll be watching it to make sure it happens. And if it doesn’t happen it’s the kind of thing that would make you make other decisions in the future,” he said.
EBSCO and OverDriveIn the case of EBSCO and OverDrive, Massana said both were very complementary businesses to III with the competitive areas only being marginal. In the past, he said, the company focused too much on the margins and not the bigger picture. “We want to be much more engaged into the community. We don’t have to provide all the services but we want to make sure we talk to everybody the libraries want us to talk with,” Massana said. . “We feel very proud of the partnership with OverDrive. We think there is a good relationship between the two companies, but we think that we can go much deeper, and we will follow the lead of libraries on how far they want us to go with that partnership.” In the case of the EBSCO partnership, Massana said there were different philosophies at work with EBSCO concentrating on content and III on library automation with the two meeting each other in the discovery space (EBSCO Discovery Service [EDS] versus Encore Synergy). “As long as we have clear rules of engagement and we respect each other and we understand when we are going to cooperate and when we compete and how we do it we’re fine,” said Massana, who commutes to the company’s headquarters in Emeryville from his home in Los Angeles. “We’re becoming much more comfortable in these kind of situations. As companies our goals are very well aligned and we feel a lot of trust. They have been a great partner.” Under the OverDrive deal (and similar to what the company already does with 3M), III can consume OverDrive’s checkout and hold API. Checkouts and holds will happen completely in the local library interface, which is one of the main demands of the Readers First Initiative. In addition, III will expose certain APIs to some of OverDrive’s collection development services so that a staff user evaluating purchasing ebooks will have a real-time call to the print inventory for the title. McCullough, the vice president for product strategy, said that even though Sierra has clear native strengths, such as RDA integration or various outreach features, bringing APIs online into things like holds and item status and other functions was the defining characteristic of “Sierra 2.0.” “This represents a real shift from our black box reputation, our fortress-like corporate reputation,” McCullough said. “The APIs are free and included, and the library has the ability to open up the system to discovery partners they are working with, including discovery layers competing with III’s. That’s the paradigm shift of Sierra.” If the library likes the Encore interface then the agreement allows III to consume the EDS API and present that fully integrated with the local catalog results. Or, if the library prefers, it can go directly to EDS and III will expose some patron record functions (e.g., outstanding print holds and checkouts). “Wherever the user’s eyeballs are we want their full experience to travel with them,” McCullough said. “That means consuming APIs and that means exposing APIs,” and then letting products compete on their own merits. The situational approach extends so far that EBSCO’s sales force is training with III’s. Sierra has been gaining traction, according to III officials, and already has 400 commitments with 200 live, the lion’s share being Millennium customers migrating. Company officials said that even though the goal is to move the client base to Sierra that Millennium will be maintained and migration is a customer’s choice. Hope College in Holland, MI, also went live with Sierra recently, and Brian Yost, the head of technical services and systems, was at IUG to learn about the company’s new ownership (“I’m taking a wait and see approach”) as well as the APIs. “The APIs will be nice if it actually ever happens,” Yost said. “They’ve been saying that for two years and we’re still waiting to see the real benefits of Sierra being an open system with open APIs that can interact with other systems.” Yost also said he was interested in the rollout of Decision Center, but again he was a bit wary. “We have purchased certain Innovative products and then they weren’t supported very well so I’m a little hesitant to buy a new Innovative product right now, and so I’m definitely looking at other vendor options as well.” Massana said increasing the company’s metabolism depends in part on being more focused on such comments from customers, which even went so far at the conference to having a bulletin board where attendees could post comments and III officials would respond. “We need to be a little bit more accountable and better at doing all the things we say we are going to do and doing them right the first time,” said Massana, a native of Spain who sheepishly admitted that during his job interview he did not realize that the company’s chairman, Steve Young, was far more famous as a U.S. football player than as an investor.
Decision Center rolloutDecision Center will replace Reporter, and the company will start providing a free upgrade to Reporter clients once the system rolls out. In general, it is a subscription based on the size of the library. “We’re pretty excited about Decision Center and we think in the long term it represents not just the idea of collection management but the idea of taking analytics to the next level in terms of how the library views itself and operates,” said Brad Jung, the vice president for product management and one of the company’s recent hires along with Amanda Schukle, the product manager for Decision Center. “Libraries today have to do a lot more accounting for why they exist than they used to,” Jung said. “Our ability to give libraries the ability to talk about what they are doing as well as analyze what they are doing we think is critically important.” Decision Center’s module for ebook analysis is waiting on the integration of ebook vendors’ circulation information into Sierra and Millennium, said Schukle, a former librarian. CollectionHQ announced last week the release of its ebook module which is included in the cost of a subscription. CollectionHQ targets just the public market, but Decision Center, like III as a whole, wants to have a significant footprint in both the public and academic sectors. “I’m glad to see more of a focus on data-driven decision making,” said Emily Clasper, the system operations and training manager at the Suffolk Cooperative Library System (SCLS), a New York consortium that provides Reporter to its 49 member libraries. “I’d rather see that than assumptions and anecdotes or incomplete data driving decisions. I’m excited to see these tools being put into place.” Schukle said that the idea of using “business intelligence” in libraries is “shockingly new.” Decision Center’s supply and demand analysis, for example, can provide public libraries looking to buy more titles of extremely popular titles a better tool for bringing down wait time than the traditional hold-item ratio, which often results in buying too many copies. “The ratio is really a guess. It’s not concrete,” Schukle said. “Because we have information about how long each title actually spends in circulation versus on the hold shelf versus in transit, we can predict how long people are currently waiting and then tell you how many copies to buy so they can wait a period of time determined by the library.” Clasper, a 2012 LJ Mover & Shaker, said there may be more work necessary for the product to work at a consortial level where members need the consortial analysis as well as analysis at the member level. “Members usually rely on consortium for these kind of tools, and they really need both levels, it’s not an either/or situation,” Clasper said, adding that III has historically been very responsive to making products more consortial friendly even if it does not always occur during the first iteration. Schukle said consortiums add layers of complexity that the tool, nevertheless, will handle. “For each of the tools you can set a subset of locations so if they are making determinations for just their location they can choose to filter by just that location,” Schukle said. In addition, the system offers breakdowns by postal codes, and III is looking at greater granularity based on census tracts. For academics, the product would likely be most useful as a deselection tool at this point, Schukle said, at least until more electronic resource analysis has been incorporated. Jane Costanza, of Trinity University in San Antonio, TX, who said she comes to almost every IUG, saw the appeal for public libraries but was unsure whether the product could serve the academic side as well. “I can’t quite tell if it’s ready yet for academic libraries,” Costanza said. “It’s very interesting to design something like that for both public and academic libraries, which is what III is trying to do, but that seems pretty hard to do so we’ll see if they can do it.” On the academic side, Decision Center would likely have to compete with products like the assessment module that Serials Solution is planning to release later this year as part of its Intota platform.
A Positive StepJohn Sterbenz, an IUG member since 1995 and an associate librarian and the manager for technical services and library automation at the University of Michigan School of Business, said III was heading in the right direction. “We haven’t signed a purchase agreement yet for Sierra, but the fact that innovative is developing these APIs and is working to get them out to the library community I think is a very positive step forward for Innovative as a company,” Sterbenz said. “I definitely think it is a shift for the company toward more openness compared to the really closed mechanisms of their original Innovative Innopac product and even Millennium which had a little bit more openness but not quite what people were really hoping for way back when it was announced in the late ‘90s. This really is a big change forward and a big positive change forward for the company.”
Following two years of pilot tests with the New York Public Library (NYPL) and others, Hachette Book Group today announced that it will once again sell its frontlist ebook titles to libraries, beginning on May 8. Hachette had discontinued the sale of new ebooks to libraries in July 2010, although the publisher continued to offer digital audiobooks, as well as a selection of backlist ebook titles published prior to April 2010.
Hachette’s entire catalog of 5,000 ebooks will now be available through OverDrive, Baker & Taylor’s Axis 360 platform, and the 3M Cloud Library, under a pricing and licensing model similar to the one employed by Random House. New titles will be made available to libraries immediately upon publication, and Hachette will charge libraries three times the retail hardcover price for new releases. One year after publication, the purchase price will drop to one and a half times the cost of retail, according Hachette’s announcement. These ebooks are then “owned” by the purchasing library. Licenses do not expire, and titles can be checked out an unlimited number of times under a one book/one user model.
“Our goal is to have authors’ work available on as many bookshelves and platforms as possible, and we’re looking forward to working with public libraries to serve their communities of readers as their reading habits evolve,” Hachette CEO Michael Pietsch said in the announcement.
The news first broke in a New York Times op-ed by NYPL President Tony Marx, who commented on improving relations between the Big Six publishers and libraries over the sale of ebooks.
“While HarperCollins…was the first to provide access, after the [economic] downturn, it limited the number of times each e-book could be lent, while Hachette decided to no longer sell new e-books to libraries, and Penguin, which had agreed to do so, said it might back out,” he wrote. “To their credit, the publishers have now each come around,” with Simon & Schuster and Macmillan also recently announcing pilot programs.
Yet while the situation is improving, “many issues still need to be sorted out,” Marx adds. Between the expiring licensing terms or loan caps or imposed by HarperCollins, Penguin, and Simon & Schuster, or the significantly higher-than-retail prices charged by Random House and Hachette, ebooks remain very expensive for libraries, during a period of rising demand and declining budgets.
Hachette’s announcement states that its library ebook pricing model will be reviewed annually, with input from stakeholders including the American Library Association (ALA). ALA President Maureen Sullivan today expressed hope that an ongoing dialog may lead to more favorable pricing for libraries in the future.
“We welcome Hachette Book Group’s assertion that they will continue to review their library pricing going forward,” Sullivan said in a statement to the press. “ALA and its members believe that there must be business models with lower price points for which publishers can still make a reasonable profit.”
“With open minds and open communications channels, I believe libraries, publishers and authors will continue to find solutions to bring more content and greater balance to the reading ecosystem.”
The vast majority of parents with children younger than 18 feel libraries are very important for their kids, leading to higher-than-average use of a wide range of library services, a new national report from the Pew Research Center shows. According to “Parents, Children, Libraries, and Reading,” 94 percent of parents feel libraries are important for their kids, with 79 percent describing libraries as “very important.” This is especially true of parents of young children (those under 6), some 84 percent of whom describe libraries as “very important.”
Of these parents, 84 percent say a major reason they want their children to have access to libraries is that libraries help inculcate their children’s love of reading and books, while 81 percent say libraries provide their children with information and resources not available at home, and 71 percent say libraries are a safe place for children. Almost every parent (97 percent of those surveyed) says it is important for libraries to offer programs and classes for children and teens.
“From the minute we started talking to library patrons in this research, it was apparent that parents are a special cohort because of their affection for libraries, their deep sense that libraries matter to their children, and their own use of libraries,” says Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet Project. “They do more and they are eager for more library services of every kind—ranging from traditional stuff like books in stacks and comfortable reading spaces to high-tech kiosks and more e-books and mobile apps that would allow them to access library materials while they are on the go.”
The report also found that the ties between parents and libraries start with the importance parents attach to the role of reading in their children’s lives. Half of parents of children under age 12 read to their child every day and another 26 percent do so a few times a week, while 58 percent of parents with children under age 6 read daily with them and 26 percent read multiple times a week with their children.
Other highlights of the report:
- 70 percent of parents say their child visited a public library in the past 12 months and 55 percent say their child has his/her own library card.
- Children who are library visitors use the library to borrow books, do school work, borrow DVDs and CDs, attend events, socialize with friends, or to attend a library-sponsored book club or program.
- Parents themselves are considerably more likely than other adults to use library services, and 30 percent of parents say their patronage of libraries has increased in the past five years.
- Compared with other adults who do not have children under 18, parents are more likely to have visited a library in the past 12 months, have a library card, to have visited a library website in the past year, and use a mobile device to connect to a library website.
- Parents are more likely to be interested in expanding library services and adding tech services.
- 43 percent of children ages 12 to 17 go to the library to use the internet.
“Parents’ ties to libraries are all the more striking because parents are more likely than other adults to have computers, internet access, smartphones, and tablet computers,” notes Kathryn Zickuhr, research analyst at the Pew Internet Project. “The presence of this technology in their lives might make them less reliant on libraries because they have access to information and media through other convenient platforms. But the opposite is the case—the more technology they have, the more they’re likely to take advantage of library services.”The study also found that lower income parents (those in households earning less than $50,000) are more likely to view library services as very important. Compared to higher income parents, lower income parents say they would be “very likely” to take advantage of such technology and resources as classes on how to download library e-books (44 percent vs. 29 percent); e-readers already loaded with library content (40 percent vs. 22 percent); a digital media lab (40 percent vs. 28 percent); and classes on how to use e-readers (34 percent vs. 16 percent).This report is part of a broader effort by the nonprofit Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project that is exploring the role libraries play in people’s lives and in their communities. The research is underwritten by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The data are based on nationally representative phone surveys conducted between October 15 and November 10, 2012, of 2,252 Americans ages 16 and above. The surveys were administered half on landline phones and half on cellphones, and in both English and Spanish. Some additional findings come from several online and in-person surveys of a non-scientific sample of 2,067 librarians and library staff members who volunteered to participate in the study.
OCLC has begun supporting demand-driven acquisition (DDA) through the WorldCat Knowledge Base. DDA pioneer and ProQuest subsidiary EBL will be the first ebook service to provide data, with sister company ebrary to follow soon.
Interest in DDA is well established, but there are still challenges facing adopters of these programs.
When a library has a DDA collection, “they want that exposed to the patron in the same way as something that’s already available, and that’s one of the struggles [OCLC members] were having,” said David Whitehair, senior product manager of metadata management for OCLC.
The two primary questions that OCLC was receiving involved managing DDA content in their discovery interface, and managing DDA in WorldCat. While libraries with DDA programs typically prefer that patrons remain unaware of whether an ebook is owned or whether it simply meets a library’s DDA criteria, library staff do need to distinguish between DDA versus ebooks that have already been purchased.
Whitehair said that the new initiative will make DDA ebook titles available in an automated way not only to WorldCat Local, but to any discovery interface via MARC record feed.
OCLC’s DDA support will also extend to complex consortial arrangements, allowing libraries that are part of an ebook buying group to expose the holdings that they own, along with DDA content from their consortium, plus any DDA content from a separate program specific to their library. DDA content from programs specific to other libraries will be excluded, and individual libraries can still set up and manage their own automatic resource sharing and interlibrary loan deflection policies.
“One of the things that we’re very excited about is that we can mix those [DDA models] together,” Whitehair told LJ. “For the individual library, what they will have represented is both the titles that they have individually in their program, along with what they have from the group.”
The Douglas County Libraries’ (DCL) pioneering project to own, rather than license, much of its e-content has not only forged a new business model but also exposed a new frontier in metadata. As of March, about 22,000 of the library’s nearly 58,000 e-content titles had been purchased directly from publishers and stored on an Adobe Content Server (ACS), and it became quickly apparent to library staff that we were going to have to get creative with the metadata associated with this material.
Our charge was to add e-content received directly from publishers (25 publishers and growing) to our collection rather than acquiring it through traditional channels of e-content providers who play the role of intermediary between publishers and libraries.
Bib Services had previously dealt exclusively with MARC data. We use SirsiDynix’s Horizon, and from the early days of providing e-content to our patrons available through such providers as OverDrive and Gale Reference, we have always included MARC records in our integrated library system (ILS) catalog. However, it became obvious that we needed to be able to accommodate other metadata formats apart from the MARC format for one glaring reason: most publishers were not versed in MARC, the library world’s standard for metadata. While a few publishers did establish relationships with MARC processing companies and were able to provide us with MARC files, the majority did not.
The XML-based ONIX (ONline Information eXchange) is the metadata format endorsed by publishers. We were aware of ONIX-MARC crosswalks, but we were not familiar with any details. However, we also determined that not all the publishers were even versed in their own industry’s metadata format, so we needed to pursue other options. We had been using the freeware product MarcEdit for relatively simple editing of MARC files, such as those provided by OverDrive, and understood many of the capabilities of this powerful tool. However, the sense of urgency in gearing up for our ACS e-content project and getting records for the titles we were purchasing into our catalog for discovery made us realize that we needed to pursue other functionality provided by this versatile MARC editing tool.
MarcEdit supports the ability to integrate separately developed XSLT (Extensible Stylesheet Language-Transformation) stylesheets for crosswalking different types of metadata from one format to another, specifically ONIX to MARC, but we had no experience in how it worked. Early on we received sample ONIX files from different publishers, and we quickly saw that not all ONIX files are created equal. We needed a robust capability to crosswalk ONIX data elements provided via XML files received from different publishers to MARC fields and subfields.
We were fortunate to find a consultant, Dana Pearson, who helped to develop and refine such an ONIX crosswalk capability. Using as a basis the OCLC ONIX-MARC crosswalk that is similar to that defined by the Library of Congress, Pearson developed and has continued to enhance both ONIX 2.1 and ONIX 3.0 crosswalk versions that allow us to be flexible in supporting different flavors of ONIX files that publishers provide. Pearson used the XSLT technology well suited to XML ONIX, to create the crosswalk.
The third category we investigated was spreadsheet metadata. We explored the MarcEdit delimited text translator used to define a translation table that maps predefined spreadsheet columns to MARC fields/subfields. While we preferred to receive either MARC files or ONIX files, we found that many publishers were only able to provide us with metadata in spreadsheet format.
In our initial communication with new publishers, we inform them that we can accommodate three different types of metadata formats (in order of preference):
- MARC records
- ONIX (2.1 or 3.0) files
- metadata in a spreadsheet with a defined order of column data.
This is when that good working relationship becomes critical; after all, we are courting new publishers and definitely want a “second date.”
Figure 1 reflects the analysis of metadata that publishers provide us. Interesting to note is that over half of the publishers send us metadata via Excel spreadsheets.
Of the 22,000 ebook titles (EPUBs or PDFs and associated cover art) managed directly through our ACS server and VuFind discovery layer, about 7,000 (31 percent) of these titles began their life in the MARC format (see Figure 2). A handful of these titles, about 70, were ordered individually through publishers, for example Smashwords or Colorado Independent Publishers Association (CIPA), and original MARC records were individually created through the OCLC Connexion interface. Also, in a few cases of small add-on orders from existing publishers, we were able to find existing records in OCLC’s WorldCat for the titles and elected to download these versus waiting for metadata from the publisher. However, this was not frequently an option as often we could not find records in OCLC, or we would order and receive hundreds, even thousands, of titles at a time. We needed to add records to our catalog for titles ordered as quickly as possible so they could be available for patron checkout.
The remaining 69 percent, or about 15,000 titles, began their life as either XML data in an ONIX file or as rows in an Excel spreadsheet, and these files were either crosswalked (ONIX) or translated (spreadsheet) to MARC records.
Hitting the Ebook MARC
When processing incoming ebooks, ensuring that the titles can be easily found on a library’s OPAC is a top priority. At the most basic level, this means properly cataloging each item, but the free MARC records provided by publishers often include little information beyond an ebook’s title and author.
On-site copy cataloging tends to be impractical, particularly for small libraries or large orders. While OCLC can provide MARC records for ebooks, many subscribers must still pay an additional charge for this service. There can also be significant delivery delays when OCLC doesn’t already have a record prepared for a specific item.
Scott Reinhart, assistant director for operations for the Carroll County Public Library (CCPL), MD, notes that those delays can also make it a challenge to keep track of which ebooks have MARC records associated with them and which do not.
“There’s no way we would know, in any given file, [which MARC records we had] received and what we hadn’t received, versus what we had already purchased through OverDrive,” he says.
In the past ten months, vendors have launched two new services that address these issues: eBiblioFile, introduced by The Library Corporation (TLC) in July 2012, and eMARC Express, introduced by SkyRiver in October 2012. Both services offer fast turnaround of MARC records compatible with all major integrated library systems (ILSes) for ebooks purchased via OverDrive or 3M’s Cloud Library platform.
“When we first started testing to see if there was a market, we asked libraries if they had an easy way to get their ebooks into their catalog, how long it was taking, and how much it was costing them,” says Gar Sydnor, senior vice president for TLC. “The answers to those questions were no, they didn’t have an easy way; it was taking them, using their various methods, a long time to a very long time; and it was costing them a lot more than they wanted to spend.”
Tom Jacobson, director of resource sharing for SkyRiver parent Innovative Interfaces Inc., agrees. “It’s a lot different from the old days when you took a book out of the [shipping] box and cataloged it. Here, you’re buying 10,000 ebooks and they’re instantly available. Why can’t we get them instantly cataloged?”
With eBiblioFile, TLC promises to deliver Library of Congress MARC records modified for e-resources within 48 hours of purchase for $1 per record. Records can include custom headings and fields, as well as URLs linking the record directly to the OverDrive or 3M item. Through arrangements with 3M and OverDrive, the $1 fee is simply added to the total cost of an ebook.
“It is a seamless process, meaning they just let their ebook vendor know ahead of time that they’d like [eBiblioFile] to process their MARC records, and they let us know the particulars of their library, such as what collection to put them in,” says Sydnor. “That’s all they have to do. Every time they place an order we get notice of that and deliver the records to them via email.”
If a full MARC record is not immediately available for a specific item, a minimal record is sent for free as a placeholder. TLC’s cataloging staff then manually create full records as replacements, using a proprietary algorithm to prioritize the order in which missing records are addressed.
SkyRiver’s eMARC Express shares some similarities. “It’s designed to be supersimple, superlow barrier to participation,” says Jacobson. Libraries sign up for the pay-on-demand service
on SkyRiver’s website and then submit purchase manifests or have them submitted on their behalf. Like eBiblioFile, it is a pay-on-demand service with no ongoing subscription fees.
SkyRiver’s eMARC Express offers three-day delivery for full MARC records derived from SkyRiver’s databases for 85¢ each, or 75¢ for existing SkyRiver subscribers. There is no charge
for MARC records created only from vendor metadata.
“We were paying a $1.50 through OCLC, and it’s $1 through eBiblioFile,” says Reinhart, who is also head of Maryland’s Digital eLibrary, a consortium of 23 systems that purchase e-resources together. “The records are pretty much the same, and for 50¢ less [per record], it was pretty easy” to make the selection. Reinhart said that the consortium was familiar with eMARC Express, which launched several months after eBiblioFile. But thus far, it had been happy with its current service, and “we saw no reason
The service has grown quickly. Perhaps owing to its generous pricing scheme for consortia and buying groups—buy the record once, and it can be distributed to all members— almost 300 library systems and consortia now use eBiblioFile, including the Toronto Public Library and New York Public Library.
“I can’t say that pricing [for consortia] is going to stay in effect forever,” says Sydnor, “because we’re trying to align our pricing with whatever OverDrive is doing. But for now, it’s a pretty good deal.”
Matt Enis (firstname.lastname@example.org; @matthewenis) is Associate Editor, Technology, LJ
We were curious about the distribution of order size, specifically the percentage of large orders to small orders placed with publishers. Figure 3 illustrates the size distribution in terms of number of titles in metadata files we have received for ACS content. (It does not include the 70 or so titles mentioned above that were ordered individually from different publishers or directly from authors.) Since much of the metadata creation and editing is done via batch processing, this means, generally, that it takes close to the same amount of effort to create final metadata for a small order (e.g., 100 titles) as it might for hundreds or thousands of titles.
To date we have placed two orders of ACS e-content that were in excess of 2,000 titles each. One of these was for 9,637 titles, placed with Smashwords. The publisher delivered 19 ONIX files to us containing about 500 records each. We added about 1,000 titles to our catalog at a time.
Expediency requires batch-loading of records, but there are always inherent challenges in maintaining the quality of metadata, as it is not practical to review all individual records. Even when the metadata begins its life in a MARC format, batch-editing is required to some degree. There are two categories of batch-editing we perform. The first category is to clean up metadata we receive from publishers. This could be as simple as adding basic fields that are missing in MARC records we receive from a specific publisher to identifying and correcting in ONIX or spreadsheet files characters that are not recognizable by our Horizon ILS system. This is very publisher-specific. Apart from editing to improve quality and consistency, we also add basic fields to all e-content records in our catalog, including a publisher-specific local genre heading (e.g., Downloadable Smashwords ebooks). This allows us easily to identify and track titles in both our Horizon system and our VuFind discovery layer we have received and processed from any particular publisher. This likewise helps public service staff locate specific e-content titles more readily, and this tip has been passed along to patrons.
When metadata begins its life in a non-MARC format, as in the case of ONIX records and spreadsheets, by default nonlibrarians create the metadata. This introduces additional challenges. These include:
- SUBJECT HEADINGS The publishing industry doesn’t acknowledge the Library of Congress (LC) Subject Headings, the library world’s standard. Rather, it endorses BISAC (Book Industry Standards and Communications) subject headings. Publishers include at least one, and often more, of these BISAC headings in the metadata they provide to us.
- NAME HEADINGS Again, name headings are provided in the metadata that are inconsistent with those of the LC NACO authority file. So if we have both the ebook and physical book of a particular title in our catalog, they may not be collocated under the same author name. Also, it is not uncommon to find headings formatted as “Kemper, Kathi J., MD, MPH, FAAP” or “Sweeney, Susan, CA, CSP, HoF”, or even a corporate name in inverted format, e.g., “Press, HowExpert” versus “HowExpert Press.”
- SPECIAL CHARACTERS Publishers typically copy/paste book descriptions from those that have been developed for display on the web. As a result, they can contain HTML tags as well as characters from the UTF-8 character set that has become the dominant form of character encoding for the web. This is problematic for traditional MARC-8 library systems like our Horizon product. If not addressed before loading the records into our catalog, characters outside of the MARC-8 character set will appear as “junk” in the display. However, MarcEdit has the capability to allow libraries to account for these. We have documented so far more than 50 of these non-MARC-8 characters that we automatically change through MarcEdit, and the list continues to grow. Some UTF-8 characters present more challenges than others. Curved quotes, or as they are sometimes referred to, “curly” or “smart” quotes, are an example. This treatment of characters outside the MARC-8 character set might seem a trivial issue, but characters such as these can cause major upheavals if not accounted for, and patron searching will be affected.
- MANAGING RECEIPT OF METADATA AND EPUBS/COVER ART Libraries have created and refined quite efficient workflows over the years to manage the ordering and physical receipt of items that are added to the library’s collection, including the step of obtaining metadata so that these resources can be discovered in the library’s catalog by patrons. This workflow does not directly translate to the e-content world where virtual content is stored and managed locally on a server. Often the metadata titles we receive do not match the content files that have been sent, and neither may be the same as the titles ordered. This could be because a title ordered one day may no longer be available the following day or whenever the EPUB or PDF file and/or the associated metadata is delivered. Another aspect is that we are dealing directly with publishers, many of which have never worked directly with libraries before. We are developing a new process, just as they are, in order to facilitate e-content acquisition and delivery. To begin to address these issues, DCL has been one of the partners in a venture to develop an e-content Acquisitions Dashboard.
Managing the process
When we initially embarked on our efforts to support the district’s goal of acquiring, providing, and maintaining e-content on our ACS server, we developed a working document entitled “Econtent Metadata Processing Guidelines.” This detailed working document incorporates all the steps involved, including some described in this article, that are critical to our e-metadata process. Along the way, it has expanded from 16 pages to around 30 and is still designated as “draft.” We continually refine it as we bring new publishers onboard.
Bib Services asked to be copied in on any initial contact with publishers so no time was wasted in communicating with them about metadata requirements. We informed them of our requirements as early as possible and also requested that they send a sample metadata file for testing and approval. At the outset, our goal has been to establish a solid working relationship with publishers and their cataloging partners, sometimes beginning with a phone call to break the ice. Given that we were constantly pursuing any number of new publishers, we needed a way to keep track of where all publishers were in the order and metadata process, so we installed two large whiteboards in the cataloging area that served as our metadata “mission control.” On this board we keep track of all publishers, status of orders, and status of the metadata (waiting for or received) and note any issues with files received.
Early on we set up an “e-content tracking” spreadsheet on our shared server so that any library could check at its convenience the number of orders and the titles we had added to our catalog. This Excel spreadsheet incorporated one worksheet per publisher, in addition to a TOTALS worksheet that was an accumulation of titles added for all publishers.
An added challenge was that we were unable to add any new staff for this mission-critical project. We needed to find a way to work it into the already full schedule of existing cataloging projects.
There is an urgency in making newly acquired e-content available for patron checkout as quickly as possible. This means we frequently do not have the required time to do all the “cleanup” of MARC records loaded into our catalog that we would prefer to do. As described above, we do a certain amount of batch-editing of records using MarcEdit to globally add, change, or delete fields or subfields and also do some initial cleanup of name headings and book descriptions once the records are imported into our catalog, time permitting. However, database maintenance projects are planned to refine these records further as cataloger time is freed up from our outsourcing of copy cataloging. These include the following:
- Name headings and series headings need to be reviewed to ensure they are in the proper form to conform to NACO headings.
- BISAC subject headings continue to appear more and more frequently in all types of MARC records we import, for physical as well as digital materials. Sometimes these headings included in MARC records for physical materials and those in e-content records may not be formatted identically. As a result, split headings occur in our Horizon database as illustrated in the screenshot from our catalog display (Figure 4). These need to be combined for efficiency of searching and display and would be required even if it weren’t for our non-MARC e-content records.
- A final objective will be to update our holdings in OCLC for our e-content titles. This will be done, one publisher at a time, in a batch process after we have completed our planned cleanup projects.
We continue to refine our process of adding new e-content records to our catalog. As we work with new publishers we occasionally need to fine-tune our procedures and adjust our crosswalk. We have also become creative and proficient as a result of experience. We’ve become pretty good at the task of preparing for, receiving, processing, and loading e-metadata, as we have also become smarter and more efficient along the way. Despite challenges, the processes we outline here are part of those that will shape the future of cataloging. Dealing with forms of metadata other than MARC will be the norm for catalogers and metadata librarians. Use of macros, managed tasks, and other functionality available in tools such as MarcEdit automate the process to a large extent, allowing catalogers to focus efforts on what catalogers have always done best, description and classification of content, whatever its form.
Metadata in all its many forms is our bread and butter. After pushing through some initial challenges and frustrations, this new frontier feels more and more like home.
Julie Halverstadt is Bibliographic Services Department Head, and Nancy Kall is Senior Catalog Librarian, Metadata and Special Collections, Douglas County Libraries, Castle Rock, CO