If you are involved in technology at all, you no doubt have heard about GamerGate. Normally at this point I would say that if you hadn’t heard about it, go read about it and come back.
But that would be foolish.
You would likely never come back. Perhaps it would be from disgust at how women have been treated by many male gamers. Perhaps it would be because you can’t believe you have just wasted hours of your life that you are never getting back. Or perhaps it is because you disappeared down the rat hole of controversy and won’t emerge until either hunger or your spouse drags you out. Whatever. You aren’t coming back. So don’t go before I explain why I am writing about this.
Wikipedia has a lot to offer. Sure, it has some gaping holes you could drive a truck through, just about any controversial subject can end up with a sketchy page as warring factions battle it out, and the lack of pages on women worthy of them is striking.
You see, it is well known that Wikipedia has a problem with female representation — both with the percentage of pages devoted to deserving women as well as the number of editors building the encyclopedia.
So perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Wikipedia has now sanctioned the editors trying to keep a GamerGate Wikipedia page focused on what it is really all about — the misogynistic actions of a number of male gamers. But the shocking part to me is that it even extends beyond that one controversy into really dangerous muzzling territory. According to The Guardian, these women have been banned from editing “any other article about ‘gender or sexuality, broadly construed'”.
I find that astonishingly brutal. Especially for an endeavor that tries to pride itself on an egalitarian process.
Get your act together, Wikipedia.
Imagine an app that flips traditional augmented reality games. Instead of having players look at a screen and virtually manipulate digital bits and pieces, Osmo looks at what you’re doing in real life and incorporates your activities into its games.
Osmo ($79.99 on playosmo.com, $129.99 on Amazon), from Tangible Play, is part app and part iPad, with a little physical hackery thrown in. When you order one, you get an iPad stand and a mirror attachment for your tablet’s camera. The base fits third- and fourth-generation iPads, as well as the iPad 2, iPad Air, and iPad Mini. One box includes a set of tangrams for use with Osmo’s Tangram game, and another has letter tiles for Osmo’s spelling game, Words. A third game, Newtown, just requires your own pencils and paper.
Setup takes minutes, and everything looks clean, colorful, and appealing. The tangrams feel solid and fit well inside their box. But the Words letter tiles don’t sit especially well inside their tray, so if you use them in the classroom, you may want to store them in plastic baggies. The game boxes snap together and slide back into the case for quick clean-up and easy storage.
How does it work?
After you’ve set up your iPad and downloaded your apps, Osmo’s patented Reflective Artificial Intelligence comes to life. The area in front of your iPad becomes an interactive play space, thanks to the Osmo’s camera attachment, which uses a mirror to feed your iPad’s camera live footage of your hands, tangrams, letter tiles, and drawings. You physically assemble, build, and sketch things in response to on-screen prompts, such as a tangram design or a spelling cue. Osmo recognizes what you’re doing.
Lowdown on the games
Tangram feels like the most successful game. Players begin with a small field of designs to build, and you get visual and audio feedback clarifying whether you’ve placed each tile correctly. A melody plays when you lay the tiles right, but darker notes sound when you misplace one. Most designs feature several levels of play, upping the difficulty as you go. For example, when you first attempt a design, you see all the colored blocks placed in their correct positions. The next time, the blocks might appear in a progression of gray hues until you have to reconstruct a black shape using spatial reasoning and memory.
Each time you succeed, you earn points relative to the difficulty level. You can use them to buy “hints” to help you solve more difficult shapes. After you complete a design on all difficulty levels, it turns into a little gold statue. The interplay of physical tiles, audio and visual feedback, and overall design let this well-designed puzzle game shine.
Newton also shows a lot of promise. During play, tiny spigots at the top of the screen drop beads of color at regular intervals. On a piece of paper in front of your iPad, you hand-draw paths, which also appear on screen. The beads follow these paths in order to hit onscreen targets of the same color.
More complex levels include spigots, beads, and targets of different colors. If you put your hand under Osmo’s eye, it will render its outline and wrinkles as lines for the beads to follow.
The game pauses when you draw or move your paper. I wish players could also pause to problem-solve at the start of a level. I’d also love for Newton to feature a custom-level creator so kids could create and swap their own spatial reasoning puzzles on the fly. Nevertheless, I like that Newton involves using your hands.
Words plays like Hangman mixed with Flickr. Players receive visual cues, like a picture of a seal, and spell what they see by placing letter tiles in Osmo’s field of vision. It comes with two picture libraries; you can download more. There’s a junior level with simple clues and words and a level for second or third graders.
Each letter earns points, and you play to 10 or 100. The regular play mode for older kids has a two-player setting and a more open one for any small number of players.
• Blek (blekgame.com) A clever iPad drawing puzzler
• Little Bits (littlebits.cc) Extendable, modular
• Hummingbird Robotics (hummingbirdkit.com) A great beginner’s robotics kit with Scratch-like programming
• Scribblenauts (scribblenauts.com) Creative puzzle game that lets you write solutions into existence
• Snap Circuits (snapcircuits.net) Electronic building blocks for the
I’m not sure that Words rises to the challenge as a spelling game. Since it plays like Hangman (you get five to 10 “wrong” letter guesses per word) there’s chance involved, and it can sometimes be difficult to figure out what each clue represents. Moreover, in words with multiple instances of the same letter, such as “tree,” you need only place one “E” tile for Words to fill in all the E spaces. You also can’t use substitute letter tiles, which makes me think that each Osmo tile has a radio tag broadcasting its letter name to the iPad. In the likely event that an odd tile might go missing, you may need a backup spelling activity. This also makes me wonder if Tangram works with any tangrams, or just Osmo’s tiles.
Osmo is undeniably neat, and Tangible Play presents a wonderful pedagogy to explore. It could be a classroom success if it keeps up the clean design and adds options for student production and creation. Words isn’t particularly valuable instructionally, but Tangram and Newton are critical and spatial thinking winners, and the Osmo could work well at a station in a learning space with iPads for small groups. I can’t wait for kids to get inspired by this and start building their own camera mirrors and interactive apps, too.
Officials at Amazon believe subscription-based ebook consumption is an inevitability, and will continue to invest in and build the company’s Kindle Unlimited service as part of an effort to stay ahead of the emerging trend, Russell Grandinetti, senior VP, Kindle, at Amazon explained during a candid general session interview on January 14 at the Digital Book World (DBW) Conference and Expo 2015 in New York. Michael Cader, founder of Publishers Lunch, and Mike Shatzkin, founder and CEO of the Idea Logical Company conducted the Q&A.
“We can all observe the fact, that in every single digital media category, subscriptions are playing an important role,” Grandinetti said. “In music, in movies, in newspapers—you cannot find a digital medium where subscription isn’t a model that succeeds at some level, and I don’t think books will be immune to this.”
“What we need to do,” he said to an audience of mostly publishers and ebook technology vendors, “is think about how subscription could be a great value for the customers who participate, but grow the business, and [have subscription services] be incremental” to regular book and ebook sales.
One problem, he said, is that “à la carte” sales of ebooks are currently a healthy and growing part of the publishing business. It is easy to take this growth for granted, and assume that people will always be content to purchase ebooks this way.
As a cautionary example, he pointed to the music industry, where companies now “are just so happy for anybody to pay anything for music.” Even streaming services such as Spotify compete with YouTube and outright piracy, he noted. Ebooks currently don’t suffer from this problem to the same degree. Amazon’s goal is to offer new, profitable ways to help customers access content, without damaging individual ebook sales, he explained.
“À la carte is healthy, so how can we structure [Kindle Unlimited] in a way where, for the right customer at the right time, and the right publisher or author at the right time, it helps to grow the business.”
Although Kindle Unlimited is just six months old, Grandinetti said that subscribers to the service continue to purchase ebooks, and appear to read more in general.
“One of the ways we gauge what’s happening is [by asking] ‘can we get people to read more?’” he said. “We measure this in a few different ways…. How many books do people read, that we can see? How often do they read? How many times a week do they read? And then the total amount of time they spend reading…. We have a robust sample of about 60 days before and 60 days after [customer adoption of Kindle Unlimited]—all of those metrics are up by 30 to 40 percent in the 60 days after joining the service.”
Grandinetti acknowledged that it is possible that some of this increase is due to “share shift” from other forms of reading, such as print books or other subscription services, but “the amount of growth and triangulating [data] a few other ways make us feel like there’s a significant amount of primary demand generation.”
Library Journal’s Patron Profiles surveys, conducted from 2011 through 2013 in conjunction with ProQuest/Bowker and the PubTrack Business Intelligence team, consistently reported comparable data. Regular library users also purchase more books, ebooks, and audiobooks than library non-users. Essentially, the most voracious readers are more likely than average readers to consume content from multiple sources, and the more books they have access to, the more they read. These “power patrons” also rely on libraries as a discovery zone, where they can explore new genres and check out authors with whom they are unfamiliar. For example, in the fall 2012 edition of Patron Profiles, 72 percent of library ebook borrowers reported that they had purchased books by authors whose works they had previously borrowed from a library.
For Amazon and some publishers, ebook subscription services such as Kindle Unlimited, Scribd, and Oyster are being viewed as a comparable discovery solution that could generate revenue while introducing heavy readers to new content.
Although subscription service users currently account for only four to five percent of the ebook reading market, this small base of users “continue to maintain their purchase behaviors and patterns. They actually spend more than typical book buyers” after subscribing, Jonathan Stolper, senior VP of Nielsen Book Americas, said during the “Subscriptions for Ebooks: How is it Working Out?” session Wednesday afternoon. Stolper’s presentation was followed by a panel discussion with Matthew Shatz, head of strategy and partnerships at Oyster; Douglas Stambaugh, VP of Global Ebook Market Development and Strategy for Simon & Schuster (S. & S.); Andrew Weinstein, VP of content acquisition at Scribd; and Steven Zacharius, president and CEO of Kensington Publishing Corp.; with moderator Ted Hill, president of THA Consulting.
“We’ve been quite pleased so far” with subscription service partnerships, Stambaugh said, later explaining that S. & S. currently offers access only to backlist titles that are at least one year old via Oyster and Scribd. “The one factor that’s been really great for us is that there’s been a tremendous breadth of titles that have gotten both views and reads…. It’s even broader than we see on the ebook sales side. We definitely think it’s fulfilling the promise of being a discovery platform for titles. It’s not just our biggest titles. And we’re not seeing any [negative] impact, at this point, on our sales of those titles.”
Zacharius was also enthusiastic, describing subscription services as “one of the brighter spots” for Kensington’s ebook sales during 2014.
“I have only good things to say,” Zacharius said. “We are making money, I hope they’re making money. I think it’s good for the readers, and we have not seen cannibalization” of ebook sales of titles that are available via Oyster, Scribd, or Kindle Unlimited. Kensington’s frontlist and backlist titles are available via these subscription services.
Shatz and Weinstein each described the absence of a “purchasing barrier” as key to driving trial and exploration, and Weinstein described how data is helping these services offer targeted reader recommendations. Although libraries were never purported to be a topic of conversation on this panel, it was perhaps notable that libraries were never mentioned as potential competitors for those platforms, or as alternate reader recommendation and discovery zones for publishers.
“I think the one big difference that we also saw in our subscription service [Scribd] versus what publishers may see through their typical [online] retailer relationships is that retailers tend to push whatever is the most current, which may or may not be the best recommendation for an individual reader. Because all of Scribd is based on personalized recommendations, we are not tied to just recommending what is newest, but what we think is most relevant to each individual subscriber.”
Shatz said that during the year ahead, Oyster is “going to continue to add great content to the platform, and we’re really excited to focus on, as Doug [Stambaugh] said, the discovery issue, and to be the place that readers go when they don’t know what to read.”
For more recent news regarding Scribd and Oyster, follow Gary Price’s coverage at LJ infoDOCKET:Ebook Subscription Service Oyster Passes 1 Million Titles and Adds Books From Macmillan Scribd Raises $22 Million in Financing to Expand Ebook Subscription Service Scribd’s “All You Can Read” Ebook Subscription Service Adds More Than 1,000 Titles From Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Oyster “All You Can Read” Ebook Subscription Service Adds Titles From Bloomsbury Scribd Ups the Subscription Service Ante With the Addition of 30,000 Audiobooks Oyster Debuts Web Reader (No App Required) Oyster and Scribd Add 10,000+ Titles From Simon & Schuster Scribd Launches New Reading App for Kindle Fire
Public and school libraries that are part of OverDrive’s global network circulated 137 million ebooks, digital audiobooks, and other digital media in 2014—a 33 percent increase compared with 2013, according to statistics released by the company. Ebook circulation rose 32 percent, to 105 million, while digital audiobook circulation grew 38 percent, to 32 million. The OverDrive network also recorded 401 million visits to public library and school library websites powered by OverDrive, a 77 percent increase.
Mobile device ownership continued to mount steadily during 2014, leading to a broad-based boost in demand for e-content of all types. Reflecting this trend, desktop computers accounted for 36 percent of all visits to OverDrive sites (down from 48 percent in 2013) while tablets and smartphones accounted for 64 percent of visits—doubling compared with last year—and 52 percent of all e-content checkouts. OverDrive officials said that the record growth for library ebook circulation was due to factors such as improvements in app design and ease of use, enhanced compatibility with devices such as Google Chromebooks and Amazon Kindles, and the growth of OverDrive’s overall catalog, now that all of the “big five” publishers have agreed to license content to libraries.
The Toronto Public Library and the King County Library System (WA) each surpassed two million digital checkouts, leading all North American public libraries in digital circulation via OverDrive.
Several libraries also logged more than one million OverDrive e-content circs for the first time in 2014, including the Los Angeles Public Library, which saw its OverDrive circulation expand by 56 percent. The New York Public Library and the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County each saw 42 percent growth to top the one million loan mark. And the Seattle Public Library, Hennepin County Library (MN), Cleveland Public Library, Calgary Public Library (AB), and Cuyahoga County Public Library (OH) each increased OverDrive checkouts between 25 and 35 percent to exceed one million loans.
These libraries were already some of the highest circulation systems in North America, but OverDrive outlined several additional characteristics that the libraries shared, including the provision of new releases in multiple digital formats (including audiobooks and ebooks) on a single website to streamline the user experience, marketing efforts that target children and teens, and multilingual website interfaces.
OverDrive Read Adoption Rising
OverDrive Read, the company’s browser-based ebook reader, also demonstrated substantial growth in 2014, accounting for 15 million checkouts—a 124 percent increase over 2013. The company has placed a significant focus on the HTML 5–based, platform agnostic ereader during the past year. HTML 5, the most recent revision of the World Wide Web Consortium’s markup language for the Internet, includes features for incorporating audio and video within other content without requiring third-party browser plug-ins or software such as Adobe Flash. This has enabled the production of a new line of fixed-layout ebooks, which display digital pages as they were intended in the print version of the book, along with features such as embedded audio, which allows professional narration to accompany a text without the use of an app. These features have been particularly important to publishers of children’s books, where art and text must align.
“There were many publishers that didn’t want to go into ebooks at all, because EPUB was the prevailing format, and EPUB would re-flow everything,” OverDrive Director of Marketing David Burleigh told LJ. “The publishers that wanted to retain the original design and layout, this now works for them, and the result is that it adds a lot of new ebooks to the catalog.”
Last month, OverDrive added forty Dr. Seuss titles from Random House Children’s Books to its ebook catalog. The company has announced plans to enable use of audiobooks in OverDrive Read this year as well.
Odilo, a New Provider of Ebooks to Libraries in U.S. Launches With 60,000 Titles From Major Publishers
Editors Note: We’ve mentioned Odilo multiple times on infoDOCKET in the past year (links at the bottom of this post). Today’s announcement formally launches their services to all libraries in the United States. However, Odilo has already been active in the U.S. working with Colorado’s statewide ebook project for a year and in October announcing a deal with The Library Network in Michigan. The company is based in Spain (with offices in the U.S.) and has a number of partners in Europe and Latin America.
From Today’s Announcement:
Odilo announces the launch of OdiloPlace, their digital content marketplace featuring titles from publishers such as ABDO, Atlantic Publishing, Book View Café, Diversion Books, Encyclopedia Britannica, Enslow Publishers, HarperCollins Publishers, Little Pickle Press, Macmillan, Open Road Media, Prologue, Simon & Schuster, Rowman & Littlefield, Untreed Reads Publishing, Xist Publishing, and many others.
OdiloPlace will debut with over 60,000 titles. Titles from HarperCollins Publishers are available for 26 lends, and can be renewed afterwards. Titles from Macmillan are available to libraries for two years or 52 lends (whichever comes first). Titles from Simon & Schuster are available for one year. All other titles are available on a perpetual one-user, one-copy license.
North American customers will be able to read Spanish bestsellers at the same time as Spanish customers. Through a partnership with Prologue, OdiloPlace customers also have access to eBooks in French, with German, Portuguese, and Italian coming soon.
ODILO is dedicated to providing an open ecosystem where libraries can buy books from the marketplace, along with publishers and digital content providers of their choice (with no technical restrictions).
More in the Complete Announcement
Direct to Odilo Homepage and Marketplace
Previous infoDOCKET Posts re: OdiloOdiloConsortia to Power the eBook Pilot Project for the State Library of New South Wales in Australia (November 3, 2014) Odilo Signs Three Year eBook Management/Lending Deal With The Library Network in SE Michigan (October 23, 2014) Library eBook Platform Provider Odilo Raises $2.8M in VC Funding Technology from OdiloTID Will Power Colorado’s Statewide Ebook Pilot Project (January 21, 2014)
Promo Video From Odilo
The Vermont Telecommunications Authority (VTA) and Sovernet Communications last month announced the completion of the Vermont FiberConnect Project, bringing gigabit Internet service to 43 of the state’s libraries in the mostly rural counties of Bennington, Caledonia, Orange, Rutland, Washington, Windham, and Windsor via a 900-mile network of fiber optic cable. Previously, most of these libraries relied on residential cable broadband service, provided to the libraries for free as part of an agreement between Comcast and the state. Although this type of service was adequate for some of the smallest libraries, many others had been facing growing strains on bandwidth, Vermont State Librarian Martha Reid told LJ.
Gigabit networks, offering Internet speeds up to 50 times faster than typical residential broadband service, are still relatively uncommon in the United States, although Google is currently rolling out fiber networks in Austin, TX, Provo, UT, and Kansas City (MO and KS). And municipalities including Chattanooga, TN, and LaFayette, LA have rolled out their own gigabit networks with community utilities companies.
“It’s a tremendous project, and it was a great opportunity for these communities,” she said. “We had a meeting recently, a couple of meetings, where we brought all of these librarians together…to see how they were using it, how things are going. They all commented on the speed. Folks that are bringing in laptops and using the wireless service were noticing that streaming video, uploading content, it’s much faster and easier to do those kinds of things. Larger libraries that have many computer terminals and simultaneous users are noticing that after school, when all of the kids get out, the capacity of this broadband allows them to handle those multiple users.”
The service will also enable libraries with community videoconferencing equipment to facilitate new types of public programming, such as Skype visits from authors, Reid added. In addition, 42 of the 43 libraries are on a new state-run network, which will enable the Vermont Department of Libraries (VDL) to host network-wide programs as well. Those options are still being explored, Reid said, offering a potential example. “We could have things like ‘a program from the Smithsonian, Tuesday at 2 p.m.’ Your option, tune it in, put it in your newsletter, and people can come watch the program. What else can we do with this network? That’s the question that we’re asking ourselves now.”
VDL is also encouraging these libraries to engage with their communities regarding the service.
“They can reach out to their community and say ‘we’ve got this great resource in our local library. What are we going to do with this?’ We’ve talked about creating content, uploading content. What does that mean for a local community?… Each of these libraries is going to have to go out and hunt and find the right people to [partner with]. We’re trying to see if there are ways that [VDL] can facilitate those conversations.”
Very few public library systems have had the opportunity to explore the potential of gigabit access, but at the Chattanooga Public Library, the technology was a key component behind the launch of their innovative “4th Floor” community space. In November, with the support of the Mozilla fund and the National Science Foundation, CPL launched GigLab, outfitting part of the 4th Floor with enterprise-level gigabit connected hardware, and offering hands-on courses regarding the next-gen technology. In a November blog post, GigLab co-founder Sean Brewer described it as “a place where people can experiment, build prototypes, or just learn how to use hardware that they wouldn’t have access to.”
Unlike the Comcast service, FiberConnect access is not free for the libraries, which has led to some minor discord from a few of the smallest libraries involved with the program. The Vermont Department of Libraries worked with Sovernet early in its grant writing process to negotiate a rate of $200 per month, per branch for commercial-level use. When combined with E-Rate Discounts of 50% to 70%, none of the libraries pay more than $100 per month, and many are only paying $50 to $60 per month, making the service relatively inexpensive, Reid said. As a point of comparison, residential Google Fiber Gigabit Internet subscriptions currently cost $70 per month, and small business subscriptions cost $100 per month.
However, leaders at some of the smallest libraries—which weren’t facing bandwidth issues before, and now have a new monthly bill for next generation technology that may be underutilized by their community—have expressed concerns about the necessity of the program and the cost of participating.
“The smallest libraries in some ways are seeing the smallest impact,” Reid said, citing a branch that is only open three hours per week as one example. However, VDL believes the high-capacity FiberConnect infrastructure will help prepare the state’s libraries for future applications and ever-growing demand for bandwidth. Libraries play a key role in the state’s digital literacy efforts, making it crucial for the system to keep pace with significant advancements in technology, Reid said. She cited a recently concluded partnership between VDL and the Community College of Vermont that placed paid college students in 24 libraries to offer one-on-one training sessions to seniors, unemployed residents, and other Vermonters looking to enhance their computer skills.
“They helped citizens with whatever they came in with. It ranged from people who didn’t know how to use email or a mouse…to ‘I need help marketing my business’ or ‘I need to take an online class’…. It was a terrific program, and we recognize a huge need.”
Vermont FiberConnect is described as a “middle mile” project in telecommunications industry parlance. Initially funded in 2010 by a $33.4 million federal National Telecommunications and Information Administration Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) grant to VTA and Sovernet Communications, the grant enabled Sovernet to build the large fiber network offering wholesale data transport to regional service providers such as ISPs and cellular networks, while connecting community “anchor institutions” such as universities, K-12 schools, hospitals, and government buildings. The 43 libraries were included thanks, in large part, to a separate $550,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Reid said. With this groundwork laid, it now becomes economically feasible for Sovernet to build out “last mile” connections at rates affordable to homes and local businesses.
In March 2011, the Boise Public Library (BPL), ID, used $3,300 in Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant funding to purchase four iPad 2 tablets and all of the trimmings, such as wireless keyboard docks, barcode scanners, and cases with hand grips. According to “Roving Reference, iPad-Style,” published in the Idaho Librarian in November 2011, “the goal of the grant was to increase staff interaction with customers by giving librarians tools to move out from behind the desk.”
As with BPL, many libraries had been looking for ways to showcase librarian and staff expertise and enhance customer service. Having staff stroll the stacks and proactively offer assistance is one way to ensure that even the most reference desk–averse patrons are finding what they need, and Apple’s new tablets—the original iPad had been introduced less than a year earlier—seemed like the perfect accessory for roving reference.
As it turned out, BPL may have been a couple of years ahead of its time. Staff soon found that it took too long to sign in to their Horizon Information Portal using the iPads and that it was difficult to place holds or complete other basic tasks. Most staff also felt the early iPads were “a little too heavy to carry for long periods of time” and were too big to balance comfortably with one hand while typing with the other, Heidi Lewis, BPL information services librarian, explains.
“It turned out that interacting with customers in the stacks and then walking back to [a] PC to look something up continued to be at least as effective, if not more than, as trying to use the iPads within the stacks,” Lewis says.
The iPads did prove helpful when BPL was hosting classes or large groups and “four or more staff members were trying to look things up or place holds,” she says. “An iPad or two at times like this allowed us to help more students, even if the interactions weren’t as easy as when using a PC.”
Ultimately, Lewis says, the tablets weren’t used in the way that was originally planned. Usage did improve once three of the four iPads were assigned to individual staff members “who were most invested in experimentation and technology in the department,” rather than kept for general use. These staff members personalized the tablets with apps to facilitate story times and youth services events and used them to stay in touch with the library via email while hosting off-site programs.
And while the iPads were never worked with much in the stacks, the program “brought with it the need for a series of important conversations about reference work without the reference desk…. [Staff] became more aware of the idea of finding and helping customers where the customers are at (rather than expecting customers to always come to the desk) than before the program,” Lewis says. “At the very least, the iPads succeeded as a disruptive technology—in a great way—because of the discussions surrounding their intended benefits to the customers.”
This conversation is now coming full circle. Technological advances continue to make tablets lighter, faster, and more affordable. Vendors including SirsiDynix, Innovative Interfaces Inc. (III), and The Library Corporation (TLC) have recently launched interfaces that make it possible to use a staff tablet to perform tasks ranging from weeding books to signing up new cardholders. Also, applying lessons learned about these devices during the past five years, many libraries are rebooting or enhancing the way tablets are integrated into roving reference, off-site programs, and other workflows.
“When people first started realizing that tablets existed and that they could be useful in libraries, they were mainly just trying to experiment. Now what we’re seeing is a more strategic integration,” says Rebecca K. Miller, assistant director, learning services for Virginia Tech Libraries, Blacksburg, and coeditor of Tablet Computers in the Academic Library with Heather Moorefield-Lang and Carolyn Meier. “People are actually assessing whether or not using tablets as tools [increases] effectiveness or enhances the way we work with patrons.”
The trend is manifesting in a variety of ways, Miller notes. For many public libraries, providing access to new technologies is an important part of their mission, and even with tablet ownership on the rise, programs that lend tablets or enable patrons to use library-owned units on-site have become more commonplace. Libraries are mounting tablets on shelves or stands to serve as ready-reference help points for patrons. Instructors are integrating tablets into library programs and courses. And as with BPL, many libraries are looking for ways to enable staff to spend more time engaging with patrons. Tablets may still be part of the answer.
“I think librarians have always wanted to be as engaged and interactive as possible, but we always felt tied to our reference desk or, if we were in a classroom, tied to the podium in order to advance slides or demonstrate a database,” Miller says. “But now that there’s mobile technology that allows us to go where users are…. I think it’s just that the technology is enabling us to do what we’ve always wanted to do.”
In addition, many patrons are using tablets to access a growing number of library resources. Employing a staff tablet to demonstrate how to check out an ebook, for example, makes more sense than walking a patron through the process on a different interface, notes Michele McGraw, information services manager for Hennepin County Library (HCL), MN.
“If we talk with patrons and show them what we have using a desktop, they’re going to go home and try to use those [resources] on their iPad or phone,” McGraw says. “We should be using the tools that our patrons will [have] at home.” HCL was recognized by the Urban Libraries Council as a Top Innovator in 2013 for two 2012 test projects with staff-operated iPads and HP Elitebook tablets. The project later expanded to all 41 HCL branches.
HCL staff did experience some of the same limitations and issues that Lewis describes at BPL.
“You couldn’t do everything on them that you can do on a desktop or laptop. We could get in to use the public catalog or the staff catalog but couldn’t access all of the features of our ILS,” McGraw says. “At that point, I think you couldn’t print from them. You could check out something for somebody, but you couldn’t give them the receipt they were used to having.”
Vendors have begun addressing many of these issues with portable clients designed specifically for tablets. SirsiDynix debuted MobileCirc in 2013. Available to Symphony and Horizon users as an iOS, Android, or browser-based web app, MobileCirc is designed to work with portable Bluetooth scanners and includes features that enable libraries to check out, renew, and place holds on items remotely. MobileCirc can also be used to sign up new patrons and issue library cards by scanning a driver’s license barcode. And for staff doing work in the stacks, the app offers reports and real-time lists of books and other items for weeding, inventory, and other tasks.
MobileCirc does include an offline mode for off-site events or other instances when a network connection is unavailable, but otherwise “whatever is done with the tablet is reflected immediately in the ILS system,” says Ranny Lacanienta, director of product strategy for SirsiDynix.
It’s evident that the mobile client is filling a need. “It’s the best-selling, most robustly adopted product in our history,” surpassing even the company’s eResource Central integrated content management tool, says Eric Keith, VP of global marketing, communications, and strategic alliances for SirsiDynix.
In October, III completed the general release launch of the Leap web client for the Polaris ILS. Last spring, when Innovative made waves with its back-to-back April 2014 acquisition of Polaris and May 2014 acquisition of VTLS, the company outlined a plan to develop a next-generation, cloud-based library services platform (LSP) that would work with Polaris, Innovative’s Sierra, or VTLS’s Virtua on the back end. Leap will ultimately become part of a suite of tools available for users of that LSP.
For now, Polaris libraries can purchase the responsive web client, which was designed with tablets and mobile devices in mind but can be used on any device with a browser, including laptops, notebooks, or desktops. Leap enables librarians to use tablets to check out and check in books and other materials; register patrons and edit patron accounts; accept payments for fines; print receipts, hold pickups, and in-transit slips; create pick lists; and more.
“It’s basically a reimagining of a number of the workflows within Polaris to make for a more intuitive and better experience for staff, [enabling them to] work without being confined to the desk, to engage with patrons, and to work in the stacks [or] outside the confines of the library,” says Mark Eskandar, III’s director of research and development.
Sarah Hickman Auger, director of product strategy for Innovative, adds that “libraries are no longer just about the collection they provide. They’re also about the service experience they provide.”
Patrons will judge the service they receive in a library against comparable retail experiences, whether it’s a bookstore or Apple store, she contends, and “there’s an expectation in terms of how patrons interact with technology [and staff]…that they bring with them when they enter the library. For the library to remain relevant and continue to engage their users, they have to step up their game.”
In August, TLC launched CARL•Connect Circulation, the first product in a planned line of web-based staff clients for its CARL•X ILS. Like Leap, the client is web-based, so while it is optimized for use with tablets and mobile devices, it will also work on any device with a browser. CARL•Connect Circulation includes tools to facilitate weeding and collection analysis, materials checkout and check in, patron lookup, and wireless patron registration—including a feature that will email to patrons a scannable digital barcode that can be used immediately to check out materials.
Lorrie Ann Butler, director of product strategy for CARL•Connect at TLC, agrees that retailers such as Apple and Nordstrom have raised many people’s expectations for proactive customer service, even in settings such as a public library.
Also, she adds, “as libraries have become the ‘third space’ for their communities—offering a place away from home and the office with comfortable seating, computers, wireless Internet—library [patrons] are now using library services away from the circulation and reference desk…. And once someone gets comfortable at a PC or table, it’s difficult for them to decide to leave their valuables to seek help. So they’ll struggle with a problem longer than they need to.”
Mobile-optimized staff clients do make a difference, according to Cathleen Wortman, customer resource manager, Baltimore County Office of Information Technology. Baltimore County Public Library (BCPL) has worked closely with Polaris during the testing phase of several projects, including Leap. BCPL staff had been using iPads for roving reference and other tasks for about two years, but before Leap, Wortman says that these librarians had the same problems cited by Lewis at BPL and McGraw at HCL. With Leap, she says that staff are now able to complete tasks such as registering new patrons at off-site events and resolving issues with patron accounts using their tablets.
Leap “is pretty basic right now, but when the development includes RFID capabilities and e-commerce capabilities, we’ll probably be using it more, even at our service desks,” Wortman says.
In Boise, where BPL uses SirsiDynix’s Horizon ILS as a member of the LYNX! Consortium, Lewis says that the library had recently begun testing a new tablet program that doesn’t involve a new mobile staff client. Two staffers have been given Microsoft Surface tablets as replacements for their regular work computers. Docking stations for the tablets are set up at each staff member’s desk and at the reference desk, so these employees can use their tablets for work or for roving. With Windows 8, the tablets have full access to Outlook and other MS Office programs, as well as access to network drives and the ILS.
“Although there has not been an update to provide smooth touch screen functionality with the ILS at this time, the cover/keyboard for the Surface will allow staff to interact more easily with the ILS than the iPads [did],” Lewis explains.
This new test program applies two key lessons that BPL learned during its previous experiments with tablets four years ago. First, tablets should be assigned to an individual staff member, who can then customize and personalize the device with whatever apps, bookmarks, and programs are best suited to his or her work with patrons, Lewis says. The one-tablet-fits-all approach initially tested in 2011 led to low usage among employees.
Second, while using the tablet, staff must work to wean themselves from desktop PCs.
“The use of a tablet for all aspects of one’s work requires breaking some of the habits formed by years of working with PCs and laptops,” Lewis says. If a staff member tries using a tablet, and only that tablet, for an extended period of time, he or she will find creative ways to solve problems without jumping back and forth to desktop workstations. “Instead, staff members have the chance to experience different ways of interacting with customers, coworkers, and the world of information,” Lewis says.
As one BPL staffer stated, “It’s the habits that are harder to break than even getting used to new things,” Lewis recalls.
On July 19, 1978 I was approved to run commercial whitewater trips on the Stanislaus River by O.A.R.S. I also turned 21. I spent the next several summers rafting the Stanislaus, as well as other rivers in the west. But the Stanislaus was the first river I ever loved, and I wasn’t alone.
The Camp Nine stretch of the Stanislaus was the premier family-friendly rafting river in California, if not the nation. It offered a near-perfect stretch that could be rafted in either two days or one, depending on where you stopped. Towering limestone cliffs framed a canyon vibrant with a diverse ecology of plants and animals. There was a year-round creek that offered swimming, sliding, and sunbathing on smooth rock. There were caves that could be explored. It was, in other words, one of the best outdoor experiences you could have, and it was close to Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area.
It was also threatened by a dam.
Many people worked for years to save the river. An organization, Friends of the River, was founded for this very purpose. The woman who would become my wife co-founded the Santa Barbara chapter and moved up to the Stanislaus in the summer of 1980 to run a riverside operation to help river passengers write letters to their congressperson.
In short, we lost. The river was flooded by the dam and commercial rafting of it was no longer an option. Even in years when the stretch I rafted was exposed I could not bring myself to boat it. I wanted my memory of it to remain intact.
I also wanted the memory of it, and the fight to save it, to remain intact on the Internet. Thus was born the Stanislaus River Digital Archive.
Over the last several years I have chipped away slowly at building this virtual library. First I went through my own slides and digitized what little I had. Apparently I was too busy guiding to do much photography, unfortunately. Then I reached out to others who had been involved in the fight with whom I still communicated and added some of their material. I was also in communication with a friend who has been seeking to make a movie of this fight and was negotiating to gain access to one of the largest photographic collections of the Stanislaus that we knew about.
Finally, after years of work, that collection fell into our lap. But by an amazing coincidence another collection about which we were ignorant also became available around the same time. So I have spent much of my free time over the last three months digitizing slides and negatives. One of the collections, which consists of nearly 250 images, has already been added. I am still working on the other collection, which is up to nearly 400 images, and that will be added when I am finished. It’s possible it will eventually number close to 500 images.
This will bring this virtual library up to about 1,000 items all related to this one stretch of river and the fight to save it. What makes it virtual is that there is no “real” collection — the physical items are dispersed all over. I only had short opportunities to digitize the materials and give them back to their owners. But that’s all I needed to create an online memory of a special place and time.
We will never forget.
Electronic Resources & Libraries (ER&L) has announced “Designing for Digital,” a two-day user experience (UX) conference on February 25 and 26, immediately following the 2015 annual ER&L conference at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center in Austin, TX, held February 22–25. The new event builds on the success of the full UX Day launched last year at ER&L 2014, according to conference officials.
ER&L will celebrate its tenth anniversary in February, ER&L founder Bonnie Tijerina told LJ, and this is one example of how the annual conference continues to grow and adapt to trends in e-resources and digital services. “ER&L has always been a place to experiment and build ideas,” she said. “I think the changes to incorporate user experience, then a UX Day, and now a [two-day] conference reflect how we experiment and incubate new ideas at ER&L.”
When Tijerina launched ER&L a decade ago, e-resources-specific jobs were still relatively new to the field. “Those first couple of years involved feeling out ‘who is my community, who is part of my tribe, what do we have in common, how can we help each other solve common problems?’ ” she said.
In the ensuing years, the show has expanded to include topics such as ebooks, e-content preservation, vendor negotiations, management and leadership, print and electronic resource workflows, and discovery. During the upcoming three-day meeting, more than 120 presentations and workshops will be held within eight thematic tracks: managing e-resources and licensing; collection development and assessment; organizational strategies; external relationships (with vendors, consortia, partner libraries, etc.); user experience; scholarly communications; library as publisher; and emerging technologies and trends.
With the conversation around student and patron use of e-resources continuing to grow—and the number of UX-related presentation submissions to ER&L growing in tandem—the launch of Designing for Digital as an adjacent conference happened organically, Tijerina said. The introduction of UX Day in 2014 and now this new forum have attracted submissions “from people who, I think, may not have submitted to ER&L in the past,” she added. “For instance, we have some pretty extensive research [that will be presented] on mobile users in academic libraries and how students use mobile devices to do research. We haven’t had anything quite like that before.”
ER&L 2015 will also introduce “Short Talks,” a ten-minute presentation format with five minutes for Q&A. For example, on Tuesday, February 24, attendees will have the option to sit in on “Short Talks: Budgets and Collections,” “Short Talks: PDA,” “Short Talks: Staffing and Organization,” among other sessions, each featuring three brief presentations related to a topic.
“What would happen in the past was that we would get a lot of great proposals—many more proposals than we had room for in our program—but a lot of them were really good,” Tijerina said. “So for the first time this year…when people submitted during our call for proposals they could submit a formal, 45-minute talk, or a short talk.” Not only did the format enable ER&L to accept more proposals in general, it enabled the inclusion of presentations that might otherwise have been considered slightly outside the conference’s scope, she added.
“They’re a little bit longer than a lightning talk, but they offer a quick burst of something interesting, or something a little new, or something that someone is starting to experiment with,” Tijerina said. “We’re going to have them across all of our session rooms in one time slot, and we’re trying to make it as easy as possible for people to move among rooms” if they want to sample short talks on multiple topics.
ER&L sessions range from “how-to” walkthroughs regarding specific resources, to case studies and white papers, to broader conversations about emerging trends. “There are a lot of sessions that are very hands-on, very much ‘this is how we made this better, or this is how we made this work,’ ” she said. “We also have panels and sessions…that aren’t so deeply in the weeds but help us take a step back…. People can go home with a skill, but we also want to ask ‘where are we, and are we going in the right direction?’ ” as a field. Judging by ER&L’s community voting process—which allows potential attendees to help choose which sessions will run at the show—the buzz is particularly high around sessions related to discovery.
The registration deadline for the upcoming conference is January 15, 2015. Interested parties who can’t make the trip to Austin will be able to check out a significant portion of the presentations by registering for a live online webcast version, featuring keynotes and multiple topic tracks each day.
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.
Library app developers Capira Technologies and BluuBeam have separately announced the launch of micro-location information services that will enable libraries to send highly targeted, location-relevant messages to Bluetooth-enabled Android and iOS smartphones. Fans of Apple may be familiar with the technology as “iBeacons,” which have been deployed throughout the company’s network of retail stores since December 2013, and started popping up in Major League Baseball stadiums prior to the 2014 season.
Beacons are small, coin cell battery-powered transmitters that use Bluetooth Low Energy/Bluetooth Smart technology to send information to Bluetooth devices within an adjustable range of one foot to about 250 feet. In a library environment, a beacon could send a notification about upcoming events for kids as a parent walks into a branch’s children’s area, for example. Messages about upcoming computer courses could be sent via a separate beacon to patrons who enter a library’s computer area. An array of beacons in a library could do things like generate anonymized foot traffic maps that illustrate how patrons and their devices tend to move through a building, and where they tend to linger.
The Fayetteville Free Library (FFL) in New York recently began experimenting with five BluuBeam devices, four of which will be used to duplicate event notifications and other news on area-specific digital signage. The fifth unit will be positioned to send notifications to people outside the library.
“For instance, in the café, daily specials; in the children’s area, what’s happening there that day; in the Fab Lab, things that have been made,” said FFL Executive Director Sue Considine. “We felt like every flyer that we produce, every message that we put up on digital signage, should also be available without a mediator necessary, through BluuBeam, to people who come through the door.”
Patrons can then easily save information that they are interested in, or forward a message to a friend.
“What we experience frequently here at FFL—and why this is such a great fit for us—is that we have high volume, high quality programming all the time, yet we get constant feedback from patrons saying, ‘I didn’t know about that.’ Or, ‘I didn’t hear about that,’” despite the library’s outreach efforts via newsletters, social media, its website, and other means, Considine said.
BluuBeam founder Chris Zabaleta added that giving library users an easy way to forward this info to their friends can also help a library expand its marketing effort to non-library users within the community.
“If [libraries are] putting this information on their Facebook page, or they’re Tweeting about it or posting it on their website, if I’m not [regularly] using the library, I’m never going to see it,” Zabaleta explains. “But if a friend of mine is using the library, and they send me a beam about a class or event that might interest me, that could compel me to go to the library and start using it.”
Separately, Capira Technologies is currently working with two libraries to beta test a new beacon feature for the company’s own customized CapiraMobile app for libraries. Capira’s beacons will offer general notifications, and since CapiraMobile is already designed to communicate with a library’s ILS in order to support functions such as self checkout and patron record notifications, its beacons will also be able to send personalized messages to individual patrons when they are in range.
“If someone walks in to the library, it will check whether [he or she has] the app on [his or her] phone, then it will go out and check the patron record for certain things and say, ‘Hello, you have two items due today. Visit the circ desk to renew them.’ Or, ‘You have two items ready for pickup,'” explained Michael Berse, managing member and lead software engineer for Capira.
CapiraMobile also integrates with many event calendar platforms, which will enable automated beacon updating whenever these calendars are changed, Berse said.
Richard W. Loomis Jr., digital services manager for New Jersey’s Somerset County Library System (SCLS), had been experimenting with ways in which an iBeacon might work with a Raspberry Pi when Berse approached him about working on an iBeacon beta test with Capira. Initially, SCLS plans to use individual beacons near branch entrances to test patron record notifications. But Loomis was enthusiastic about other potential uses as well. In addition to event notifications, the beacons could be used to send patrons information regarding nearby historic photographs or artifacts within a library, for example. And, if SCLS partners with a local business or transit agency willing to host a beacon at shops or train stations, library event notifications and marketing messages could be broadcast farther afield, Loomis said.
“Our marketing department has a million ideas,” he said.
Patrons must actively choose to receive messages from either service. In BluuBeam’s case, patrons will need to download the free app from the iTunes or Google Play store. With CapiraMobile, patrons may already have their library’s app installed on their phones, but after applying an update they will be prompted to opt in or opt out of the beacon service. Unlike Apple iBeacon, or Samsung’s new “Proximity” branded Bluetooth beacons and apps for Android devices, users will not receive messages in retail environments once they have installed or enabled these apps.
Loomis said he was conscious of spamming concerns.
“It needs to be an opt-in service,” Loomis said. “It can’t be something where [the beacon notifications are] more spam, more garbage coming at someone. If they want to know about it, we’re going to do it.”
Both the CapiraMobile and the BluuBeam systems can be set up to send each new notification to a unique device only once, so patrons won’t be bombarded with multiple, redundant notifications while browsing their library. Still, Ellen Druda, digital projects coordinator, Internet services, for Capira’s other beta tester, the Half Hollow Hills Community Library (HHHCL) in Long Island, NY, said that she conscious of the spam factor as well.
“We don’t want to spend time getting this done and then have people opt out immediately,” because the messaging is too frequent or isn’t fulfilling a patron’s needs, she explained.
Loomis noted that SCLS may even consider subdividing their beacons into different classifications, to make messages even more targeted. In this scenario, parents could opt in to notifications about events for children exclusively, while a young adult might choose only to receive messages about computer training events, for example.
Patron privacy may be another point of concern for librarians and some patrons. Currently, BluuBeam works with a simple online portal that enables libraries to update messages for each of their beacons and set other protocols when needed. The BluuBeam system does not communicate with a library’s ILS, event calendar, or other software. A beacon does capture the Unique Device Identifier of each Bluetooth device that it interacts with, enabling it to track how many devices have been “pinged” with each message and whether that device then shared the message via text or email, and to prevent it from sending duplicate messages to the same device multiple times. However, Zabaleta said that BluuBeam does not retain Unique Device Identifier numbers. Neither his company, as an app developer, nor the library using the system, will have access to any personally identifiable information regarding patrons that have downloaded the app—such as a log of times that a patron visited a library, or where they browsed or sat.
The beacon “only knows whether it’s a different phone, or if it’s a phone that it has already seen,” he said. “It’s a feature that Apple and Android both have built into them…. They scramble that information.”
“Even if tracking is anonymous, there are people who don’t want to be involved,” Berse noted. “We want them to be able to opt out.”
Regardless, Druda said that HHHCL is excited about the outreach potential of the beacons, and said that staff will be encouraging patrons to download the app and opt into the service. Unlike predecessors such as QR codes and near-field communication (NFC) apps, once patrons opt in, they won’t need to do anything else to receive these messages.
“The only thing it will require on the patrons’ part is to have our app and to have their device on them,” Druda said. “We’re hopeful that this is going to be a good experience for [patrons] and give them some good information without being too in-your-face.”
BluuBeam devices are available for $150 each, and come with a one-year license to use the company’s online portal/admin panel to update the messages for each beam. CapiraMobile’s iBeacons will be available as an add-on feature for CapiraMobile libraries beginning early in Q1 2015.
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.