From the OverDrive Library Blog:
…we’re happy to announce that browser-based audiobooks will be joining your collection in 2015 – instant access, maximum ease of use. See audiobook, play audiobook – and that’s all it takes!
All of your MP3 audiobooks will also be automatically available as browser-based audiobooks: Download using the app or listen instantly in your browser!
A 26 second promo video can be viewed here.
One Format to rule them all, One Format to find them; One Format to bring them all and in the darkness bind them. – with apologies to J.R.R. Tolkien
It is now over 12 years since I wrote “MARC Must Die” in Library Journal. At the time that I wrote it, I think that I imagined a much redesigned metadata format expressed in XML. But it didn’t take long for me to realize the error of my ways. Not that we didn’t need to do something, but I was wrong to think that it required replacing. What it really required, I soon realized, was for us to not rely upon it solely. And that is a point that I feel has become lost in our discussions about our bibliographic future.
Here is how I put it in a follow-up piece in Library Hi Tech titled “A Bibliographic Infrastructure for the Twenty-First Century”:
What I am suggesting [in this article] is different in scope and structure than is implied by my “MARC Must Die” column in Library Journal, although I alluded to it in the follow-up “MARC Exit Strategies” column. What must die is not MARC and AACR2 specifically, despite their clear problems, but our exclusive reliance upon those components as the only requirements for library metadata. If for no other reason than easy migration, we must create an infrastructure that can deal with MARC (although the MARC elements may be encoded in XML rather than MARC codes) with equal facility as it deals with many other metadata standards. We must, in other words, assimilate MARC into a broader, richer, more diverse set of tools, standards, and protocols. The purpose of this article is to advance the discussion of such a possibility.
I went on to explain a number of characteristics that I felt our bibliographic infrastructure should support as well as a fairly specific proposal on implementation. However, despite being awarded for being the best article to appear in Library Hi Tech for that year, that salvo basically landed on deaf ears.
And now we are here.
“Here”, being, of course, that the Library of Congress is developing a new format.
I parse a lot of data. I even fancy myself to be a Data Geek. After all of the data processing I’ve done I’ve come to realize that there are really only three things I care about in terms of metadata: parseability, granularity, and consistency. Pretty much everything else can be dealt with. You call your author field “creator”? Fine and dandy. You record dates as MM/DD/YYYY? I can deal with that. So long as your metadata is:
- Parseable. Separate fields must be delimited in some way. It doesn’t need to be XML, it can be a JSON array or a pipe symbol (“|”) or even, in many cases, a tab (I process a lot of tab-delimited text files that are saved out of Excel, for example). But there must be some way of determining via software what has been kept separate.
- Granular. If I need first names separate from family names I want them in separate fields. Trying to break apart elements you need to be separate can be difficult, especially if the data is inconsistent. Oh, and by the way, punctuation (even ISBD punctuation) doesn’t count.
- Consistent. When processing data, inconsistency can cause a lot of problems. Even if a mistake is made, it’s best to make it consistently so the person processing it can treat all records the same. What is difficult is having to accommodate a wide variety of edge cases.
That’s really all I care about, since it is very unlikely that every library will create their own format. No, we are herd animals, so we will gather around a very small number of formats, and perhaps only one. After all, that is all we have ever known.
Photo by David Fulmer, Creative Commons License Attribution 2.0 Generic.
Non-Profit Group Plans to Open Omaha’s First Digital Library, Omaha Public Library Will Be a Partner
From the Omaha World-Herald:
Omaha philanthropists will transform a vacant former bookstore into the city’s first digital library, the nonprofit group Heritage Services announced today.
The library will be aimed at offering the entire community access to the latest digital information and technology, education in using it and equipment in spaces designed to foster creativity.
Heritage Services will renovate the former Borders bookstore, 7201 Dodge St., for the facility.
It will be run by the Community Information Trust, a private nonprofit corporation established for that purpose.
The Omaha Public Library and Metropolitan Community College will be partners. Omaha library employees will help the digital library staff develop programs and content. Metro will offer classes and user training there.
Read the Complete Article
See Also: Library project planned for 72nd and Dodge Borders building (via Omaha World Herald)
See Also: Community Info Trust (via GuideStar)
See Also: Heritage Services (via GuideStar)
UPDATE: Here’s the full text of the formal announcement about the new digital library. While the both articles shared above do mention the Omaha Public Library, the formal announcement does not. One of many questions we have is what, if any, remotely accessible digital services will the new digital library offer and if they will provide them, will they be duplicate the efforts of the public library and/or area school libraries.
OMAHA, Neb. – The next community project by Heritage Services will be Omaha’s first digital library, providing open access to technology for all. Set to open to the public beginning next fall and located at 72nd and Dodge Streets, this space will be for anyone and everyone in the community who wants to access technology to learn, explore and create.
“Something very different is about to happen at 72nd and Dodge,” said Walter Scott, Heritage Services co-founder and chairman. “People want access to useful technology and as a community, we should provide access to these resources. The digital library, a library of the 21st century, will help position the Omaha community as a leader in access to, and understanding of, the digital world in which we all live.”
The Omaha digital library will serve a wide range of citizens with dreams big and small, from those without access to technology to entrepreneurs who need access to the right technology to make their idea come alive and everyone in between. Examples of featured technology will include individual computer stations with access to databases from libraries around the world, dedicated children’s areas for interactive story times, innovation labs for creation in a digital environment, production areas featuring 3D printers that can help to revolutionize modern medicine, and more.
This space will link leading-edge technology with related user training through an on-site partnership with Metropolitan Community College. While the digital library will be available for walk-in use at any time during its hours of operation, programs will also be developed and delivered to address the needs of individual users.
“We will focus on community education in response to the needs of our entire service area and the digital library patrons,” said Bill Owen, Metropolitan Community College associate vice president of effectiveness and engagement. “We look forward to partnering with Heritage Services to provide collaborative learning opportunities and helping individuals of all ages meet their goals for professional growth and personal enrichment.”
The development and operation of the digital library will be managed by Community Information Trust, a non-profit organization formed by Heritage Services. Leadership on the Community Information Trust board includes Heritage Services board members Walter Scott, David Slosburg and Michael McCarthy and Heritage Services President Sue Morris. Community Information Trust has purchased the former Borders book store at 7201 Dodge Street, located in the center of the city at the busiest intersection of Omaha. The digital library’s access to the transit hub at 72nd and Dodge ensures direct bus routes from all parts of the city.
“All Omahans will benefit from increased access to all the good things technology can provide – the opportunity to learn, to explore and to create,” said Michael McCarthy, Heritage Services board member. “This space will welcome everyone from our children learning to read and our grandparents applying for social security to the emerging creative class who will develop the tools and products of the future to our next generation of entrepreneurs. This space will allow the Omaha community, our community, to leap forward through better access to technology – access to the future.”
The digital library, funded through private donations, is scheduled to open in fall 2015.
SELF-e is the partnership between Library Journal and Charleston, SC’s BiblioLabs. A BiblioLabs product, Biblioboard, is a platform that seeks to bring (among other things) self-published works into the library ecosystem.
I spoke recently with Hallie Rich, Cuyahoga County Public Library’s communications and external relations director, about the library’s pilot project with the platform.
It all began when LJ reached out to the Cuyahoga team about a year ago. In October of this year the library did a soft launch, then rolled out a call to local writers and writer groups. It culminated in a talk by BiblioLabs’ Mitchell Davis, and a discussion panel of local authors.
I asked Rich why the library was interested in the pilot. Her answer: “we have been looking for technology to help support a really strong local writing community here. We’ve been keeping an eye on the growth of self-publishing, and know that our writing classes fill up instantly. We particularly liked the idea of LJ‘s ‘quality assurance’—and the opportunity for local writing to be recognized by the LJ seal of approval.”
I asked her how the new platform works for a local writer. In brief:
- The local author (someone who has or claims to have a local library card) goes to the library website and uploads an EPUB or PDF.
- BiblioBoard staff briefly review the content to check that it isn’t illegal—for example, child pornography or plagiarism. However, beyond that, there are no other filters. (In a future column I’ll address the potential for mischief here—imagine a file that is part plagiarized work, part link to pornography, and part malicious code. You know it’s coming.)
- Authors may indicate that they wish their works to be considered for LJ curation. This gives authors the opportunity to find a nationwide library reader audience.
- Alternatively, authors may indicate that they only want their works to be made available locally: local authors for local readers. In this case, it seems that the title will probably be accepted by the library as a matter of course.
- BiblioBoard will eventually provide MARC records. At present, the 50 titles submitted in the first month to Cuyahoga will be distinct from the ILS, or regular catalog. Cuyahoga is waiting for a “critical mass” before they import the titles to the general catalog: 50 wouldn’t be a problem; 5,000 might be.
The project is still new enough that none of the titles has yet been made available to readers (though when they are, they will be more like a “streaming,” or in-browser book, than a download). So far, most of the submissions by local authors seem to be fiction, with a smattering of poetry, self-help, and health and fitness.
So far, that strong writing community is keenly interested in this initiative. While authors don’t get paid for the books they upload to SELF-e, they do get (potentially) national exposure at precisely the moment when many library users are scrambling for enough good digital content.
Some authors have asked, What happens if their books really take off?
Since BiblioBoard runs on an unlimited, simultaneous use model, libraries themselves won’t need to buy more copies if they find they have a hit on their hands. However, authors can sell their later books to libraries through other means. They can even remove their BiblioBoard submission at any time and sell it, too, elsewhere. Since BiblioBoard distribution is nonexclusive, they can even simultaneously use SELF-e and try to drive library purchases through print-on-demand via other platforms.
At present, the main value proposition to authors and readers is that this is a platform to greatly expand discovery, eventually leading to purchases of these and later books, not just by libraries, but by new fans who find the books through the library. The value to libraries is that it encourages librarians to begin to get their arms around a whole new channel of content.
I asked Rich if she thought there would be local consumer demand. “Oh yes,” she said. “It’s kind of fun to read what your neighbor wrote! And I expect to see some works about local history, or of local interest.” We also talked about the possibility of the library teaming up with local media to offer longer nonfiction writing—say, a 25,000-word piece of local investigative reporting.
Thus far, she said, there have been “no hiccups relative to the technology.” Of course, she cautioned, it’s still in beta, and she fully anticipates that there will be questions to which library staff won’t immediately have the answers.
Meanwhile, Rich said, she’s “excited to have the opportunity to pilot with BiblioBoard and LJ, because we think it will be of such tremendous value to our writers and readers.”
Simon & Schuster (S. & S.) last week announced that it will no longer require libraries to offer a “buy it now” option with the publisher’s ebook titles. In June 2014, following the conclusion of an extensive one-year pilot program, S. & S. became the last of the big five publishers to enable libraries to license its ebook titles. However, in a move that elicited criticism from many librarians, the publisher required participating libraries to make S. & S. titles available for patrons to purchase through the library’s website via OverDrive’s Library BIN (Buy It Now) option, 3M’s Buy and Donate option, Baker & Taylor’s MyLibraryBookstore customized ecommerce sites, or links to S. & S.’s website. In theory, these buy it now links enable patrons to avoid long hold lists while ensuring that a small percentage of their purchases went to their library, rather than to an online retailer such as Amazon. However, many libraries and municipalities have policies in place prohibiting this type of arrangement, and others simply find the library-as-retailer concept objectionable or even unethical.
“I told OverDrive that we would not purchase any of Simon & Schuster’s titles because [City of Austin] Purchasing would not allow this,” explained Sandra Cannon, Division Manager, Collection and Cataloging Services for the Austin Public Library (APL) in Texas. “We were not the only ones not allowing these titles to be purchased. Other public libraries had the same policies. Bottom line, many non-municipal libraries were purchasing and many municipal-owned libraries were not.”
Sarah Houghton, Director of California’s San Rafael Public Library (SRPL) and author of the Librarian in Black blog, said that as a result of S. & S.’s buy it now requirement “our library consortium [MARINet] Board of Directors…was going to recommend against any further licensing of Simon & Schuster products.”
When S. & S. announced that it was making its catalog available to libraries “it was really rewarding to find out the last holdout [of the big six/five] was on board,” said Sue Polanka, Head, Reference & Instruction and Interim Associate University Librarian for Wright State University Libraries and founder of the blog No Shelf Required. “But the requirement for ‘buy it now’ was disappointing and isolated many libraries, particularly those in states where libraries can’t sell books. The mandate to add the buy it now button put many libraries in a difficult spot. The phrase ‘with strings attached’ comes to mind when I think about it.”
Polanka added that she didn’t find this requirement as disappointing as the various loan caps and price hikes that have been imposed on library ebooks by major publishers, including S. & S., stating, “sadly, I think librarians got used to the ebooks with strings attached proposition and settled for [an] ‘at least we can get the books’ type attitude.”
Houghton agreed that ebook pricing and licensing terms continue to be problematic for libraries, but said that the MARINet Board of Directors would begin considering S. & S. licenses now that the requirement has been dropped.
“I still believe the S. & S. licensing terms for libraries (the title is only usable for one year, on a one-copy-one-user model) are draconian as are most publishers’,” Houghton said. “At least now, however, our library consortium will…consider licensing S. & S. titles alongside the other publishers’ ever-shifting licensing requirements, whereas with the buy-it-now requirement our ethics would not have allowed us to do business with the company.”
Library as retailer
In a statement to the press on November 20, S. & S. President and CEO Carolyn Reidy indicated that the requirement was being dropped after receiving feedback from libraries, and that S. & S. hoped that library customers would continue to consider incorporating buy it now options in the future.
“Since we first began offering ebooks to libraries, we have been gratified by the enthusiastic response and valuable feedback we have received from our partners in the library community,” Reidy said. “We very much look forward to serving the broadest possible segment of the library community in order to bring our ebooks to their patrons, while at the same time we hope libraries will consider ‘Buy It Now’ as a new and viable option to generate revenue for the library and provide a service for their patrons.”
The American Library Association praised the move. ALA President Courtney Young stated that the organization appreciated that the publisher was now offering libraries a choice.
“Providing options like these allows libraries to enable digital access while also respecting local norms or policies,” Young said. “This change also speaks to the importance of sustaining conversations among librarians, publishers, distributors, and authors to continue advancing our shared goals of connecting writers and readers.”
The initial requirement, and the move to scrap it, are another sign that “publishers and libraries still haven’t figured out quite how to partner,” consultant and former Douglas County Libraries, CO, Director Jamie LaRue told LJ. S. & S. “came late to the ebook game with libraries. When they did start selling to us, their insistence that libraries sell to consumers what S. & S. used to not sell to libraries at all smacks of arrogance—and a fundamental misunderstanding of library culture.”
LaRue believes that there remains a great deal of potential for ebook sales partnerships between libraries and publishers, if publishers are willing to work with libraries in more creative ways, and to invest in “thoughtful, effective marketing.”
“For instance, we know that displays move materials…. Suppose that S. & S. rolled out a large touch screen pre-populated with their [ebook] content,” LaRue suggested. “Suppose they provided these to libraries? And suppose that patrons could buy the book, at Amazon-competitive prices, then give the book to the library when they were done? This would both promote sales, and make patrons feel good about the purchase. They would see their money stay in their community instead of going to the big conglomerates.”
The concept of library-as-retailer has potential in certain situations, said Polanka, but “it is up to the libraries to determine if this service is something they wish to add for their community. These types of decisions are best made at the local level, not through a national mandate,” she said. “I would support it because it brings revenue to the library. I think it opens up new opportunities for libraries [that] go down the publishing path. Libraries can help their patrons publish and/or market new books. It gives libraries an opportunity to play a greater role in introducing a local author to the community and sharing in the revenue.”
Meanwhile, negotiations and discussions with the Big Five continue. Carolyn Anthony and Erika Linke, co-chairs of ALA’s Digital Content Working Group, wrote in a press announcement that libraries and publishers alike are “still in the early days of this digital publishing revolution, and we hope we can co-create solutions that expand access, increase readership and improve exposure for diverse and emerging voices. Many challenges remain including high prices, privacy concerns, and other terms under which ebooks are offered to libraries.”
A wide-ranging technology acceptable use policy for students in a Tennessee school district has led to accusations by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a nonprofit digital rights group, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) that the district is violating students’ free speech and constitutional rights not to be searched.
In late October, the EFF received notification from Todd Pomerantz, a concerned parent in the Williamson County (TN) Schools district (WCS). Pomerantz had recently reviewed the district’s Acceptable Use, Media Release, and Internet Safety Procedures. His signature on the policy was required in order to allow his daughter to participate in school activities on campus computers.
Pomerantz’s concerns with the policy led him to not sign the form, and as a consequence, his daughter was denied participation in a class assignment. At issue for Pomerantz were the policy’s statements that appear to put constraints on students’ constitutional right to free speech and suspicionless searches. The acceptable use statement maintains that students in grades three to 12 may bring their own technology (BYOT) to WCS campuses and also that “the school district may collect and examine any device at any time for the purpose of enforcing the terms of this agreement, investigating student discipline issues, or for any other school-related purposes.”
After reviewing Pomerantz’s letter, the EFF staff sent information about WCS’s tech policy to the Tennessee branch of the ACLU (ACLU-TN). Thomas Castelli, ACLU-TN legal director, then penned a letter to WCS board members and the school system’s superintendent, Mike Looney, outlining what the ACLU says are breaches of constitutionality. In defending students’ constitutional rights on campus, the ACLU called up a 1969 legal precedent protecting students’ constitutional rights within school grounds. In that case, relating to free speech, the Supreme Court ruled that Iowa students were allowed to wear black arm bands to support the anti-Vietnam War effort: “As the United States Supreme Court famously held in the landmark case Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, students do not ‘shed their constitutional rights…at the schoolhouse gate.’”
“My daughter shouldn’t have to trade away her rights to free speech and privacy just to get a quality education,” Pomerantz states in an ACLU media release.
Jamie Williams, Frank Stanton legal fellow at the EFF, told SLJ that while the WCS policy is “well intentioned and designed to see to student safety and network security,” in the end it “opens doors to abuse of rules.” In comparison, the Metro Nashville Public Schools’ policy on BYOT items clearly outlines when and why technology could be confiscated and the steps for students and parents to follow if an infraction occurs.
WCS’s acceptable use policy also grants the school the option to install of a mobile device management client “for the purpose of managing the device while on the WCS network.” Castelli’s letter to the WCS board notes that the policy “permits a search of any BYOT device…whether or not the interest underlying the search is important or compelling. The policy also places no limits on the type of data that can be extracted from the device during the search or how the data can be used.” He concludes that there is potential for “arbitrary and abusive” use of these searches.
WCS policy rules about social networking among students on and off campus also concerns Pomerantz. “Students participating in any social media site are not permitted to post photographs of other students or WCS employees without permission from a teacher of administrator,” according to the WCS policy, which adds, “Personal social media use, including use outside the school day, has the potential to result in disruption to the classroom. Students are subject to consequences for inappropriate, unauthorized, and illegal use of social media.”
“[T]he policy’s social media guidelines impermissibly restrict students’ constitutionally protected off-campus speech,” according to an EFF article about the WCS policy by Williams and EFF staff attorney Nate Cardozo.
Williams points out that students must sign off on all aspects of the district’s tech policy in order to participate in school activities on school computers, WCS is “[f]orcing students to use school equipment to participate in school functions means forcing them to give up their rights.”
In his letter to Looney and the WCS board, Castelli wrote that “denial of participation in WCS’s computer and Internet program does not merely deny students a benefit, it denies them an equivalent education—to which they are unquestionably entitled.” He adds that computer and Internet access “are, in this modern world, fundamental to a complete education.”
“Our attorneys are looking into the letter from the ACLU and will be providing a response,” a representative from the WCS Board told SLJ. “Until then, it would be inappropriate for the Board to comment.”
According to a local media source, the Williamson Herald, Looney released the following statement in response to the ACLU-TN’s letter: “Our attorneys are reviewing the request…The district remains committed to protecting the constitutional rights of our students while maintaining a safe and secure learning environment for them.”
During a WCS board policy committee meeting on November 3, the technology policy did not appear on the formal agenda, according to Lindsay Kee, Communications Director for ACLU-TN. Leading up to a full session Board meeting on November 17, Williams said he hoped for a “quick conclusion” and an immediate recall of the policy. The more attention this issue receives, he said, “the better to make good policies from the beginning” for other school districts as they manage their own technology programs. As of November 21, he had not hear from WCS, and the school board did not respond to SLJ’s requests for comment.
April Witteveen is a community and teen services librarian with Deschutes Public Library in Central Oregon. She is the upcoming chair of the Printz 2016 Committee and has served on the YALSA Board.
Project ReimaginED is an online forum serving up tools, lessons, and other resources for K−12 teachers and technology coaches to strengthen the Common Core and International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Standards they’re serving students. Backed by ISTE and the National Council for Literacy Education (NCLE), the program has already attracted more than 130 members since launching last week and is collecting ideas and lessons through December 2015.
With the adoption of Common Core State Standards across the country, the demand for high-quality tools and tutorials that stitch these requirements into curriculum has never been higher. Educators are hungry for ways to learn what their cohorts are doing, and want to share about their own successes as well. A central online spot is an efficient way to connect, collaborate, and capture details they’re using with their own students.
Signing up for Project ReimaginED is free and takes seconds on the site. Once logged in, users can take part in discussions on infographics, images, and the use of online assessments. Tech tools are also being discussed from iPads to apps, and there are links to events as well. Members are even trying to rein themselves in a bit, their excitement palpable on the message boards.
“Please let me know if there is something specific a teacher needs,” writes one educator from Pine Grove, PA. “There are literally millions of sites out there, and I did not want to overwhelm them with an abundance of resources.”
ISTE is inviting users to submit lessons on the site through the end of the year, provided the lessons align to standards, which the organization will review and publish. Educators interested should hurry though. The top two submissions will be selected in January 2105, with winners sent to ISTE’s Conference and Expo set for June 28−July 1 in Philadelphia next year.
Sixty-six percent of schools nationwide offer ebooks, up from 54 percent in 2013, and overall, the figure is steadily growing, according to School Library Journal’s fifth annual “Ebook Usage in U.S. School (K–12) Libraries” report.
While ebook collections in school libraries have grown between 2010−2014, with growth projected to continue, the median number of ebooks per school remains low at 189 titles in comparison to 11,300 print books in a school collection.
The slow growth of ebook adoption in school libraries is attributed to limited access to ereading devices and cost of ebooks, according to the report, released in October 2014 and sponsored by Follett. Low ebook usage is also due to user preference for print books, lack of student awareness of ebook availability, and lack of training about the downloading process.
To continue reading, go to the article “Ebooks Take Hold in Schools—Slowly” on slj.com.
Recently I’ve been thinking about the recent past and the not-too-distant future. Mostly in terms of what we have been able to achieve in imaging our world.
For example, do you remember what the world was like before you could see a map and a photograph of any spot on the planet? It wasn’t all that long ago, right? And yet now we take it for granted. If I have a hankering to see what a particular spot in the wilds of Siberia looks like, I can. If I want to see what a particular store front on a side street in Manhattan looks like, I can. Frankly, it still astonishes me. As it should you, unless you are a lot younger than I am.
This has got me to thinking. Where does it end? With the simultaneous drop in price of both the ability to capture video and the cost to store that video, what would prevent us, from some point in the future, of capturing 24/7 video of particularly interesting places on our planet? Then, eventually, pretty much everything else? What if you could look up what the Grand Canyon looked like from a particular spot at a particular time on a particular day? What if?
Oddly enough, thinking these thoughts is a great deal less revolutionary than imagining where we are now from 5-10 years ago. So it is difficult to think that what I describe is all that revolutionary — frankly, it isn’t at all. At best, it is evolutionary. In other words, nothing all that special.
Meanwhile, today we landed a probe on a comet. Think about that for a minute. Landing a spacecraft on an oversized rock hurtling through space. The astonishing has truly become commonplace. And yet I still don’t have the jetpack I was promised back in the ’60s. Technological advances are extremely difficult to predict. And that is where all the fun lies.
In schools, the videoconferencing platform Skype has gone from being a novelty to an everyday tool, as much a part of the school day as whiteboards and textbooks.
“We’re living in a whole new virtual world,” author and Skype expert Kate Messner writes in her article “The Skyping Renaissance,” the November 2014 School Library Journal cover story. “Ask teachers and librarians about their experiences with Skype today, and you’ll be treated to a long list of projects, from the traditional Skype author visit to virtual writing workshops, interviews with scientists in the field, Mystery Skype connections, and more.”
Messner adds that educators who use Skype once or twice tend to become advocates—big believers in its potential. Students who have been exposed to this kind of virtual visit also grow to believe in the power of the technology.
Read the full story to learn more about how educators are innovating with Skype and to access a list of Skype educational resources.
Perhaps you really had to be there to understand what I’m about to relate. I hope not, but it’s quite possible. Imagine a world without the Internet, as so totally strange as that is. Imagine that we had no world-wide graphical user interface to the world of information. Imagine that the most we had were green screens and text-based interfaces to “bulletin boards” and “Usenet usegroups”. Imagine that we were so utterly ignorant of the world we would very soon inhabit. Imagine that we were about to have our minds utterly blown.
But we didn’t know that. We only had what we had, and it wasn’t much. We had microcomputers of various kinds, and the clunkiest interfaces to the Internet that you can possibly imagine. Or maybe you can’t even imagine. I’m not sure I could, from this perspective. Take it from me — it totally sucked. But it was also the best that we had ever had.
And then along came HyperCard.
HyperCard was a software program that ran on the Apple Macintosh computer. It would be easy to write it off as being too narrow a niche, as Microsoft was even more dominant in terms of its operating system than it is now. But that would be a mistake. Much of the true innovation at that point was happening on the Macintosh. This was because it had blown the doors off the user interface and Microsoft was still playing catchup. You could argue in some ways it still is. But back then there was absolutely no question who was pushing the boundaries, and it wasn’t Redmond, WA, it was Cupertino, CA. Remember that I’m taking you back before the Web. All we had were clunky text-based interfaces. HyperCard gave us this:
- True “hypertext”. Hypertext is what we called the proto-web — that is, the idea of linking from one text document to another before Tim Berners-Lee created HTML.
- An easy to learn programming language. This is no small thing. Having an easy-to-learn scripting language put the ability to create highly engaging interactive interfaces into the hands of just about anyone.
- Graphical elements. Graphics, as we know, are a huge part of the Web. The Web didn’t really come into its own until graphics could show up in the UI. But we already had this in HyperCard. The difference was that anyone with a network connection could see your graphics — not just those who had your HyperCard “stack”.
As a techie, I was immediately taken with the possibilities, so as a librarian at UC Berkeley at the time I found some other willing colleagues and we built a guide to the UC Berkeley Libraries. Unfortunately I’ve been unable to locate a copy of it, since it’s still possible to run a HyperCard stack in emulation. I’d give a lot to be able to play with it again.
Doing this exposed us to principles of “chunking up” information and linking it together in different ways that we eventually took with us to the web. We also learned to limit the amount of text with online presentations, to enhance “scannability”. We were introduced to visual metaphors like buttons. We learned to use size to indicate priority. We experimented with bread crumb trails to give users a sense of where they were in the information space. And we strove to be consistent. All of these lessons helped us to be better designers of web sites, before the web even existed.
For more, here is another viewpoint on what HyperCard provided a web-hungry world.
No one enjoys being stalked. Well, at least no one I’ve spoken to. So recently, when I discovered I was being stalked online I felt…uncomfortable. Creeped out. Even freaked out.
But this kind of stalking wasn’t even as freaky as the usual kind. I’m being stalked by retailers. And so are you.
Of course I’ve known that retailers, Google, Facebook, and just about everyone tracks my every move. But what took me by surprise (which in hindsight, it shouldn’t have) was the level at which this information was following me around.
The first incident happened in Facebook, when I noticed that the ad off to the side was a camera that I had recently viewed and bookmarked at Amazon. It was like whomever was serving ads up on Facebook knew that I hadn’t bought it yet, and they were tantalizing me with the best clickbait possible — something they knew I was interested in.
The second happened only today when I went to a blog post by someone I follow and I noticed an ad for something I had added to my shopping cart at REI.com but hadn’t purchased. Again, this was a very specific item that was unlikely to appear in an ad except for the fact that I had recently viewed it.
So…yeah. I’m being followed online. You are being followed online. We all are, every single second of the day. Call me seriously creeped out.
Photo by Patrik, Creative Commons License CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Ninety-five percent of public libraries currently offer ebooks to patrons, up from 72 percent in 2010, and 89 percent in both 2012 and 2013. However, money remains the biggest impediment for libraries looking to add ebooks or expand collections, according to Library Journal’s fifth annual Ebook Usage in U.S. Public Libraries report, sponsored by Freading.
The growth in demand for ebooks has cooled during the past four years, although as the report notes, this “is only because [ebooks] have become less of a novelty and more mainstream.” Survey respondents said they expected to see their library’s ebook circulation grow by 25 percent this fiscal year, compared with 108 percent growth in 2011, 67 percent in 2012, and 39 percent in 2013.
Collections have grown substantially during the past four years as well, and increased options and availability for patrons likely played a role in slowing the growth in demand. In 2010, the median number of ebooks offered by libraries was only 813, compared with a median of 10,484 titles in 2014—an increase of nearly 1,200 percent. Median circulation, meanwhile, increased five-fold during that period, from 2,600 in 2010, to 13,418 through the end of FY2013. Respondents from the largest library systems—those serving populations of 500,000 or more—said that their ebook holdings have increased even more substantially. Those collections, on average, now exceed 30,000 titles.
Sixty-four percent of respondents also said that membership in a consortium enables their library to offer access to a larger selection of ebook titles.
Survey respondents reported that their ebook collections are 74 percent fiction and 26 percent nonfiction, while print book collections were split at 57 percent fiction and 43 percent nonfiction. The top five fiction ebook categories reported by respondents are bestsellers, mystery/suspense, romance, general adult fiction, and YA fiction, while the top five nonfiction categories are bestsellers, biographies/memoirs, history, self-help, and cooking.
Although almost 60 percent of respondents said that their library does not offer “alternative” ebooks, 20 percent now include ebooks from small and independent presses in their collections, while 14 percent offer e-originals and self-published content.
The report projects total spending on ebooks by U.S. public libraries to be nearly $113 million in FY2014. “In their last complete fiscal year, public libraries independently purchased or licensed a mean of 1,933 ebook volumes (median 565) and spent on average $57,342 (median $13,002) on them,” the report explains. “If we divide one by the other, we can estimate a cost range of $23.01 to $29.66 per ebook. This is oversimplified, of course, as many titles have maximum usage restrictions and others are purported to cost up to three times the cost of the same title in print.”
Finding the funds to build these collections has posed an ongoing challenge for many libraries. Budgets, in many cases, have remained flat during the past several years, leading two-thirds of libraries to re-allocate funding from elsewhere in their materials budget in order to build their ebook collections. As a percentage of total materials budgets, ebook spending has risen from less than 2 percent on average in 2010 to more than 7 percent in 2014, and respondents expect this percentage to double by 2019. Fifty-eight percent of respondents said that funds for ebooks had been pulled from their reference materials budgets, while 56 percent said that their library had drawn from its print budget. More than 20 percent of respondents said they now purchase fewer print books. And, of the five percent of respondents who said that their library does not offer ebooks, 70 percent cited the lack of funds as their primary reason.
Tablets Take Over
For the first time this year, tablets overtook dedicated e-readers as the device of choice for ebook readers. Eighty-four percent of respondents said that their library’s patrons were using tablets such as iPads, Kindle Fires, or Google Nexus tablets to check out ebooks, while 78 percent said that patrons were using dedicated e-reader devices such as NOOKs or Kindle Paperwhites. This compares to 66 percent who said patrons were using tablets for ebooks in 2012, and 90 percent who said patrons were using dedicated e-readers.
“Tablets will likely continue to take over, as they can access a wider variety of content, from ebooks to streaming video, to music, to audiobooks, to the Internet in general,” the report notes. “The killer app for the earliest dedicated ereaders like the Kindle was the reflective display which was ‘as easy to read as paper.’ Well, these days, people are more used to reading on screens than on paper, and backlit screens have improved so that older eyes can read even smartphone screens with minimal squinting.”
The number of libraries that lend out e-readers dropped from 40 percent in last year’s survey to 32 percent this year. About 55 percent of respondents said that their devices were preloaded with ebooks, while 25 percent said that their library offered preloaded devices and also enabled patrons to download their own content. Often described as a means to enable patrons to explore new technology, the programs appear to be declining as a growing number of patrons own their own smartphones, tablets, and e-readers. While 13 percent of respondents said that their library had plans to acquire more dedicated e-readers, and 17 percent said that they planned to replace broken devices, 55 percent said they had no plans to purchase additional devices.
E-reader lending programs continue to be most popular in small to mid-sized libraries, with 33 percent of respondents from libraries serving populations of 25,000 or less reporting such a program, and 38 percent of respondents from libraries serving a population of 25,000 to 99,000 reporting such a program. Only 13 percent of libraries serving 500,000 or more patrons loan e-reading devices.
The fifth annual Ebook Usage in U.S. Public Libraries report consists of responses to a survey developed, hosted, and tabulated in-house by Library Journal, and fielded from April 4 to July 2, 2014. With data cleaned to eliminate duplicate responses from the same library, the final survey results consist of responses from 538 public libraries throughout the United States. The complete, 120-page report, featuring granular data on the topics listed above and more, is available for free in PDF format, courtesy of Freading, a Library Ideas company. A companion survey and report was created for U.S. school libraries by School Library Journal.
As every teacher knows, good classroom management can make the difference between a great class experience and a poor one. While technology doesn’t replace the need for a solid approach to classroom management, tech tools, including these, can certainly help.
Whenever I have long blocks of instructional time, I like to offer students some oxygen in the form of short breaks and/or timed, hands-on activities. Countdown timers can help keep these breaks from stretching on for too long. The Classtools Countdown Timer (classtools.net/timer) sports two slick features. For one, you can create, set, and view multiple timers on one screen. This means that if you have students sharing presentations in rapid succession, you don’t have to reset the timer for each student, but simply move on to the next timer. The timers can also be set to music—standard options include Mission Impossible, The Apprentice, and Countdown themes—and more music can be accessed with a built-in YouTube search tool.
If you don’t need or want all those features, try the countdown function built into Google. Simply go to Google.com and type “set timer” into the search box, followed by an amount of time. A timer will appear, and an alarm beeps when the time is up. Clicking a box icon to the right of the timer will expand the timer to appear full screen, without ads.
When my students are working on group projects, some volume is good, but too much noise isn’t. Too Noisy (free version: http://ow.ly/BirIr; pro version: http://ow.ly/BnzHO) is an iPad app designed to help students learn to recognize appropriate volume for conversations. The app measures the volume in a room and displays a meter indicating whether or not it is too loud. Too Noisy has four situation settings: silent, quiet, group, and class, and you can adjust the sensitivity of the meter for each situation. The pro version ($2.99) offers additional background themes for the meter display, star awards if the class maintains an appropriate volume, and alarms that alert students when they’re being too loud. The pro version also removes pop-up ads that otherwise appear when you change screens. Whichever version you choose, projecting the Too Noisy meter so that all your students can see it is a good way for them to gauge the appropriate volume.
We’ve all experienced that moment when we ask for volunteers to present or answer a question, and alas, not a hand goes up. Then there’s the opposite—when all hands are raised to participate in some exciting opportunity. In both situations, a randomizer comes in handy. Random Name Selector from Primary Technology (primaryschoolict.com/random-name-selector) is a simple tool for picking names from a list you’ve created. To use it, type in or copy a list of names and hit “go.” Once a name is selected, you can launch a two- or seven-minute countdown timer. You may also remove a name from the list after it has been chosen.
Give these tools a try. They won’t do the hard work of classroom management for you, but they can make it easier—and more fun.
From the Seattle Public Library:
Patrons of The Seattle Public Library can now see which e-books are currently available for immediate check out.
E-books Now! is a new way to find and download e-books from the Library’s catalog.
Patrons can search or browse the Library’s digital collection of items that are currently available, with no holds or wait times! Catch up on recent bestsellers and discover a new favorite book. Search by e-book format, audiobook format or choose all formats.E-books Now! Features E-books when you want them Reading Roulette – a discovery tool that enables patrons to find “hidden gem” books that are currently available.The E-books Now! web interface was developed by the Library to help patrons more easily discover popular e-books that are available.
The list for E-books Now! currently repopulates once every hour with newly available books.
Direct to E-Books Now Section of OPACon Another Note…
New Digital History Collection About The Pike Place Market Now Available At The Seattle Public Library
The Pikes Place Market Digital Collection (481 Items) was recently added to the the SPL’s Digital Collection.
Here’s a formal statement from Adobe announcing an update to Digital Editions.
Now, today’s statement from Adobe.
The Digital Editions 4 software update (Digital Editions 4.0.1), which addresses the collection and transmission of certain usage data in clear text,* is now available. With this latest version of Digital Editions 4, the data is sent to Adobe via secure transmission (using HTTPS).
Adobe Digital Editions 4 users are receiving an update notification via the auto-update mechanism built into the product. The latest version of the product can also be downloaded from the Adobe Digital Editions download page. *It is important to point out that while it is correct that prior to the update, certain usage data was transmitted in clear text, Adobe did not transmit or store the actual user ID or device ID in clear text. Even prior to the update, both the user ID and device ID were obfuscated by assigning unique values (“GUIDs”), which were collected and stored in place of the user ID and device ID.
It’s worth noting (as we’ve done before) that many library OPACs transmit the searches users run over the Internet/wi-fi without encryption. Using one or more free wi-fi monitoring tools (let alone more sophisticated tools like a gov agency might use) and a very small amount of education it’s very easy to see the searches using are conducting. This can happen on a library’s wi-fi network, at Starbucks, on a wi-fi equipped network, etc. Moreover, these searches can be seen with the unique MAC address of the computer or device conducting the search. Plus, monitoring other wi-fi traffic from the searcher it’s quite possible to learn a specific name (along with the MAC address) and other info. To be clear, most OPACs encrypt services like reserves, holds, etc. if the user is logged in. We’re talking about what happens when the user is not logged-in. More here.
eBooks: Odilo Signs Three Year eBook Management/Lending Deal With The Library Network in SE Michigan
Note: We’ve mentioned Odilo several times on infoDOCKET in the past. Most notably in January 2014 when the European-based company was awarded a contract to power Colorado’s statewide ebook service, EVOKE.
About five weeks ago we pointed out that Odilo had just received $2.8 million in VC funding.
From Today’s Announcement:
The Library Network (TLN), a public library cooperative serving 65 libraries in southeast Michigan, has signed a 3 year agreement with Odilo for an eBook management platform. This new partnership with Odilo initially has 30 TLN member libraries participating; with plans to expand the service to the entire membership in the future.
Odilo will provide technology, content and distribution services as well as full integration with integrated library systems for seamless discovery and access. The service will strengthen the availability of digital content for the patrons of TLN member libraries from “Big 5”, mid-list, small, and independent publishers, as well as from self-published and local authors.
Work on the new integrated Odilo service into the libraries existing portfolio of digital content offering will begin immediately and the new service will go live in late 2014 or early 2015.
See Also: List of Other Libraries Working With Odilo (Global)
In The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (Putnam), the 1966 Hugo Award-winning science fiction masterpiece by Robert A. Heinlein, the economy of the moon colonies runs under a single key idea: “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.” The statement refers to the historic practice of bars offering “free lunch” to patrons. The meal, however, consisted of salty foods, which encouraged more drinking. The Internet may seem like a free lunch. But it isn’t.
At a recent Google Camp, I was surprised when a speaker said that she never pays for services online and wouldn’t recommend it. I thought, really? I guess she doesn’t mind those pop-up ads, and what about your data that’s mined and sold by the company providing the “free” product? Often, annoying ads and exposure of personal data are the price one pays for free services.
I’m all for paying a fair price for a fair deal. I want companies that provide quality services to be successful and am willing to pay for the value they provide.
EasyBib, for example, is a pretty slick tool for creating citations. This service, and similar products like NoodleTools, guide students through the full writing process, from source selection to final paper. You can use the free version of EasyBib and other products—if you love ads. Nothing against free stuff; companies have to make money from no-fee tools. But there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.
Free versions cost companies in server time and bandwidth fees. If I find enough value in a product to keep coming back to it, I’d rather pay the monthly or annual fee to have an enhanced, ad-free experience. School prices are reasonable for both NoodleTools and EasyBib, and most districts in my region happily use these tools.
There’s a trend toward an all-or-nothing policy in regard to service and content fees. PBS has “free,” ad-supported streaming of NOVA episodes. But it is extremely difficult for schools to purchase rights to the show for ad-free streaming, outside of a massive subscription package. Scholastic has terminated Storia as an ebook selection platform and gone to a subscription deal. Pay for everything, or get nothing.
I like the idea of subscription music services like Spotify, for which I pay for full access, even though I don’t listen to every genre. In cash-strapped schools, however, I can’t reconcile paying for an enormous subscription package with content we’ll never use. Our job as librarians is to curate the best content amid a flood of titles.
Consumers and providers have to come to a happy medium. Consumers can’t expect a free lunch on the Internet, and content providers must continue to sell individual titles rather than whole-package subscriptions. Unless we want to continue to pretend that telling kids to ignore the ads plastered on the “free” service is a form of media literacy instruction, librarians must be willing and able to pay for the things that enrich teaching and learning.
Privacy around what students read, along with other personal data, may be at risk due to software giant Adobe’s transmission of the data without encryption.
“Adobe is collecting patron data and collecting it in a fairly open way,” says Sara Kelly Johns, president of the New York Library Association. “But they have to protect the rights of students’ privacy. Bottom line, it’s a little bit too easy for the data to be shared.”
Student rights are protected under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which protects the confidentiality of student records. Written in 1974 long before the Internet became today’s digital superhighway, FERPA still maintains an expectation of and a right to privacy for K–12 students.
Like many ebook platforms, Adobe Digital Editions—used by public libraries as well as schools—tracks what users are reading, their personal information, and even where they last finished reading in a book. This way, a user can stop reading on one device and pick up where they left off with a story on another device. In Adobe’s case, however, IP addresses, user IDs, and other details, were unencrypted during transmission to Adobe’s servers. And that’s a particular problem concerning student readers and, potentially, for Adobe.
School and public libraries understand reader privacy, and information about library usage by students is protected, notes Johns, an instructor at Mansfield (PA) University in the School Library and Information Technologies program. But Adobe has been allegedly collecting readers’ details in plain text without encrypting the data, making it very easy for the information to be captured and read by other parties.
“With [Adobe] sending the information in plain text to their own storage, the potential of it being hacked is much higher than [for] library circulation records,” says Johns. “They claim it’s in their licensing agreement to collect data, that some functionality for the reader would be lost if they didn’t collect that data. But the objection is the way they collect it.”
The American Library Association (ALA) has reacted with terse language after confirmation of Adobe’s “reader data breaches,” according to ALA’s release.
“People expect and deserve that their reading activities remain private, and libraries closely guard the confidentiality of library users’ records,” says ALA President Courtney Young in a statement. “The unencrypted online transmission of library reader data is not only egregious, it sidesteps state laws around the country that protect the privacy of library reading records. Further, this affects more than library users; it is a gross privacy violation for ALL users of Adobe Digital Editions 4.”
With the integration of private companies and our public education system, Capitol Hill has been paying attention. Just this year, Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) introduced a bill, the Protecting Students Privacy Act of 2014, adding safeguards to educational records held by private companies. Several outfits, from Microsoft to Follett, have decided to self-police, signing the Pledge to Safeguard Student Privacy, introduced in October by the Future of Privacy Forum and the Software & Information Industry Association, and scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2015.
For its part, Adobe has stated that it needs to change its procedure around data collection. The company responded to ALA, saying it expects to offer “an update to be available no later than the week of October 20.”
But privacy issues are nothing new in the library world—and affect students and adults alike. Gary Price, a librarian and co-founder and editor of Library Journal’s INFOdocket.com, says that when users borrow an ebook through OverDrive, and transfer it onto their Kindle, Amazon then has access to that user’s borrowing records and notes they’ve made annotating their reading—for perpetuity. He believes most users don’t have any idea how much of their personal information is available.
“Libraries owe it to the end user to explain what is going on,” says Price. “Adobe has the right to do this because of what you press ‘okay’ to [at sign up]. It’s what [librarians] should be doing ethically and what can they do legally. That’s the social issue.”
OverDrive is currently processing 350 million API server calls per month, and has supported 1.3 million checkouts via APIs to date in 2014, according to internal data given to LJ. API use has also risen steadily each quarter, with almost 233,000 checkouts during the first three months of the year, more than 529,000 in Q2, an estimated 692,000 in Q3, and a projection of at least 1 million during the final three months of the year.
The volume of activity can be attributed partly to the integration and use of OverDrive’s APIs by third-party vendors. The company made available its metadata, search, and availability APIs two years ago, and its content and patron authentication APIs, which enable vendors to streamline the checkout experience within an app or OPAC, were released during the fall of 2013. The market is still taking shape, but this usage data (provided by OverDrive in an infographic format) is beginning to yield insights into how patrons are accessing ebooks and other content when there are multiple different options for discovery and download.
Leading library app provider Boopsie—which had been working with OverDrive on integration efforts prior to the release of any of the APIs—currently leads all third-party vendors in OverDrive API traffic. Boopsie is followed by three integrated library system vendors—SirsiDynix, Polaris Library Systems, and Innovative Interfaces Inc. Open source library resource portal VuFind is fifth, thanks in part to the integration work performed by Colorado’s Marmot Library Network.
One outcome of API integration is that 16 percent of OverDrive ebooks are now borrowed directly from library OPACs. An additional three percent of API traffic comes from other third-party vendors, such as app providers. Together, this accounts for 19 percent of OverDrive’s total traffic. The top five city or county library systems leading API traffic are Minnesota’s Hennepin County Library, New Jersey’s Monmouth County Library, the Los Angeles Public Library, the Greater Phoenix Digital Library, and the Seattle Public Library. For state and regional consortia, the Ohio Digital Library led API traffic, followed by My Media Mall in Illinois, the Ontario Library Service Consortium, the Wisconsin Public Library Consortium, and the Washington Digital Library Consortium.
API traffic will likely continue to build as additional vendors complete integration efforts and users find that they have new options for discovering and downloading OverDrive content. For now, OverDrive’s own app remains the preferred avenue for access by a considerable margin, with 56 percent of OverDrive’s library traffic originating there. Meanwhile, 25 percent of the company’s traffic originates from an OverDrive-powered library website.
Discussing the data with LJ, OverDrive Director of Marketing David Burleigh said that one of the messages that the company had gotten from customers and from The Readers First initiative was that while OPAC integration would help libraries resolve a few specific problems, the ultimate goal was to expose more potential readers to content, and different users prefer to search for and access content in different ways.
“A lot of requests and interest in having the experience go through the library [OPAC or app] was absolutely valid, and all of the vendors, including us and others made this happen,” Burleigh said. “What we’re finding with ebooks is that there are other ways people want to do it, too.” Burleigh pointed to OverDrive’s recently announced partnerships with the Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, and Bing.com to embed samples of ebooks in online reviews and news stories and encourage readers to check their local library for the title.
“That’s what we’re finding,” said Burleigh. “Our role is to make it happen, to make it work efficiently, but also find new ways to engage and find new readers.”