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The True Cost of Free Internet Services | Next Big Thing

Ti, 10/21/2014 - 18:20

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.

All-or-nothing policies

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.

Adobe’s Lax Security Raises Concerns About Student Privacy

Ma, 10/20/2014 - 21:09


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, 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 API Usage Indicates Growth of Ebook Checkouts via OPAC

Ma, 10/20/2014 - 20:05

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 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.”

A Tale of Two Records

Pe, 10/17/2014 - 23:46

Image courtesy Wikipedia, public domain.

It was the best of times,
it was the worst of times,
it was the age of wisdom,
it was the age of foolishness,
it was the epoch of belief,
it was the epoch of incredulity,
it was the season of BIBFRAME,
it was the season of RDA,
it was the spring of hope,
it was the winter of despair,
we had everything before us,
we had nothing before us,
we were all going direct to metadata Heaven,
we were all going direct the other way–
in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of
its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for
evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

There were a MARC with a large set of tags and an RDA with a plain face, on the throne of library metadata; there were a with a large following and a JSON-LD with a fair serialization, on the throne of all else. In both camps it was clearer than crystal to the lords of the Library preserves of monographs and serials, that things in general were settled for ever.


But they weren’t. Oh were they not. It mayhaps would have been pleasant, back in 2014, to have settled everything for all time, but such things were not to be.

The library guilds united behind the RDA wall, where they frantically ran MARC records through the furnace to forge fresh new records of RDA, employed to make the wall ever thicker and higher.

The Parliamentary Library assaulted their ramparts with the BIBFRAME, but the stones flung by that apparatus were insufficient to breach the wall of RDA.

Meanwhile, the vast populace in neither camp employed, to garner the attention of the monster crawlers and therefore their many minions, ignoring the internecine squabbles over arcane formats.

Eventually warfare settled down to a desultory, almost emotionless flinging of insults and the previous years of struggle were rendered meaningless.

So now we, the occupants of mid-century modernism, are left to contemplate the apparent fact that formats never really mattered at all. No, dear reader, they never did. What mattered was the data, and the parsing of it, and its ability to be passed from hand to hand without losing meaning or value.

One wonders what those dead on the Plain of Standards would say if they could have lived to see this day.


My humble and abject apologies to Mr. Charles Dickens, for having been so bold as to damage his fine work with my petty scribblings.

Westport Maker Space Expands with Robots, SolidWorks Courses, and Volunteer Training

To, 10/16/2014 - 18:18

Connecticut’s Westport Library this month has drawn attention from media outlets around the globe, thanks to the acquisition of a pair of fully programmable NAO Evolution robots—named Vincent and Nancy—from Paris-based Aldebaran Robotics. A September 29 story in the Wall Street Journal led to coverage in dozens of newspapers and blogs including the Los Angeles Times, NPR, BBC America, several Fox affiliates, and news outlets in Russia, Spain, and Vietnam. The new robots, which can be programmed to walk, dance, and talk using the Python programming language, will be used in leveled coding classes that will become part of Westport’s growing Maker space program.

“This media frenzy has been hysterical! It’s been wonderful.” Maxine Bleiweis, executive director for Westport Library, told LJ.

Funding for the robots—which retail for $8,000 apiece—was provided by a family foundation that “wanted to fund really exciting projects,” Bleiweis said. The buzz indicates that the robots have already accomplished at least part of that goal, and these stories are certainly a welcome shift away from mainstream media narratives that often describe libraries as outdated institutions. But setting aside their cute, tiny humanoid appearance, Vincent and Nancy are much more than a PR stunt to show the world that libraries offer more than books. The robots represent the latest serious investment of time and funding that Westport has been devoting to hands-on learning efforts. Bleiweis made a direct comparison to subscription costs.

“When you think about $8,000, and then you think about all of the money that you might be spending on Dun & Bradstreet or Moody’s—all of the resources that libraries have used in the past—it’s very similar to thinking ‘we’re going to buy this expensive thing and we’re going to share it with lots and lots of people,’” she said.

Bleiweis later added that Maker spaces are in line with modern views on education. Bloom’s Taxonomy, a tiered set of learning objectives that has been the foundation of many teaching philosophies since it was first published in 1956, has been revised to include “creating” as the peak learning objective—once a student begins to truly understand a subject, he or she can begin creating unique content.

And if a library is hoping to get kids and teens interested in coding, it’s tough to imagine a better hook than a programmable talking robot that can dance. Westport is already planning to have programmers test their skills with robot dance contests and poetry competitions at their fourth annual Maker Faire next spring.

Some patrons may be disappointed that the new robots “can’t be available and live on the floor all the time,” said Bill Derry, Westport’s director of innovation. The robots are delicate, precision machines, and their joints could potentially lead to hand injuries if children were allowed to play with them unsupervised.

“They’ll lock on your fingers,” Bleiweis explained. “It’s not like an elevator door that senses you and opens back up. They’re not for people to touch.”

However, there will be regularly scheduled viewing times when people can see Vincent and Nancy in action, and the robots will be displayed in a “house” where they’ll be available for viewing at any time, with a nearby touchscreen monitor showing videos of the robots.

Community creation

Among public libraries, Westport was one of the earliest adopters of the Maker space movement, hosting its first Mini Maker Faire in April 2012, which drew 2,200 visitors. In July 2012, the library followed up by installing a large, open structure outfitted with workbenches and 3D printers in a prominent location of its great hall. A “Maker in Residence” program, featuring extended programs led by local experts, was launched shortly afterward, and the space has continued to grow and thrive ever since.

In September 2013, Westport was awarded a grant of almost $250,000 from the Institute of Museum and Library Services for its project “MakerSpace 2.0: Retinkering Libraries.” Reviewers of the project proposal were enthusiastic about Westport’s potential to explore questions regarding the changing nature of public library usage and how libraries can engage a community with participatory learning projects.

These Maker space true believers have already begun to see great results. Westport’s ongoing efforts to support the space, including the Maker in Residence programs, have helped establish a virtuous cycle in which residents have begun working on their own projects and helping one another independently, according to Derry.

“We have about 27 volunteers every week who both work in the Maker space and teach,” he explained. “And what has happened is that all levels of people have come in with new ideas and products.”

Derry estimates that in less than three years, at least 10 actual products have been prototyped using the Maker space’s five 3D printers, such as SafeRide, a small device that links up with an Android app via Bluetooth to lock smartphones and prevent texting while users are inside a running car.

Inventor Scott Rownin “did all of his prototyping here, and in return, he would teach a lot of groups,” Derry explained. Other Westport Maker space users “got to have a mentor who was an inventor and was producing and demonstrating how to design, prototype, and innovate.”

In another example that Derry cited, a psychiatry student from Yale University used the Maker space to design and fabricate customized containers for a research project.

And, in a sign of how Westport  is working to appeal to users with a broad range of skillsets, a local biomedical engineer recently encouraged Westport to purchase a $1,000 educational license for SolidWorks computer-aided design (CAD) software. Classes on the software have attracted a new contingent of trained engineers into the library and the Maker space.

“It really draws in people who are usually high level,” Derry said. “Mostly postgraduate members who want to get their skill sets toned up.”

Separately, the software is also being used to facilitate collaboration. Derry said that a former engineer with expertise in SolidWorks was introduced to a local inventor who had created a rough prototype of a tool to fix sockets on roof gutters. The engineer helped refine the prototype using SolidWorks, and then a 3D printer was used to fabricate the new tool.

“Things like that are beginning to happen,” Derry said. “Someone’s idea gets elevated in a very short time, and they create a relationship.”

The Great Plateau

Ke, 10/15/2014 - 18:37

I had what you might call an unusual early adulthood. Whereas most young adults march off to college and garner the degree that will define their life, I dropped out of high school at the 8th grade, attended an alternative high school (read dope-smoking, although I passed at the time) for two years, then dropped out entirely. The story is long, but I helped to build two dome homes in Indiana, built and slept in a treehouse through an Indiana winter, and returned to California where I had been mostly raised, two weeks after I turned 18, with not much more than bus fare and a duffle bag.

From there I built my own life, on my own terms, which meant (oddly enough, although there are reasons if you cared to ask) a job at the local community college library in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and a life in the outdoors, which had always beckoned.

This is all background for the point I want to make. In the end, I paused before seriously attending college for about seven years. I dabbled in courses, I learned to run rivers and many other things. And that made all of the difference.

In the end, what made the difference was the timing. Had I entered college when I should have (in 1975), that would have been too early for the computer revolution. As it was, I entered college exactly with the computer revolution. I remember writing my first software program just as I was getting serious about pursuing my college education in the early 1980s, on a Commodore PET computer. My fate was sealed, and I didn’t even realize it.

Later, at Humboldt State University where I majored in Geography and minored in Computer Science, I wrote programs in FORTRAN to process rainfall data for my Geography professor. From there, I jumped on every single computer and network opportunity there was to be had.

I was an early and enthusiastic adopter (and proselytizer in the various organizations where I found work) for the Macintosh computer. I still was, when I joined OCLC seven years ago and broke the Microsoft stranglehold that still existed.

I was an operator of an early automated circulation system (CLSI) at Humboldt State. And not long after that, I co-wrote the first book about the Internet aimed at librarians.

So I am here to tell you, that after a career of being on the cutting edge, the cutting edge doesn’t seem so cutting anymore. We seem to have reached, in libraries and I would argue in society more generally, a technical plateau. We might see innovation around the edges, but there is nothing I can point to that is truly transformative like the Internet was.

This is not necessarily a problem. In fact, systemic, major change can be downright painful. Believe me, I lived it in trying to make others understand how transformative it would be when few actually wanted to hear it. But for someone like me who counted his salad days as finding and pursuing the next truly transformative technology, this feels like a desert. Well, call it a plateau.

A long straight stretch without much struggle, or altitude gain, or major benefit. It is what it is. But you will have to forgive me if I regret the days when massive change was obvious, and surprising, and massively enabling.

Photo of the Tonto Plateau, Grand Canyon National Park, by Roy Tennant,

Ryann Uden and Shaun Kelly on “Active Learning in the Library” | TDS14

Ti, 10/14/2014 - 17:19

Young patrons play at the Barrington Area Library.

Creating an active learning space can be a great undertaking, but according to Ryann Uden and Shaun Kelly, who transformed Barrington Area Library in Chicago, it’s both a manageable and worthwhile one. In “Active Learning in the Library,” presented as part of LJ and SLJ’s virtual event The Digital Shift: Libraries @ the Center, held October 1, the two provided advice and suggestions for creating learning environments in libraries, based on Barrington’s successful model.

Uden, head of youth services librarian at Barrington, and Kelly, who works at architectural firm Engberg Anderson and is project manager and architect at Barrington, laid out the steps they took in preparation. Looking to the needs of their community was crucial. According to Uden, Barrington serves more than 44,000 patrons, many of whom are busy and overscheduled families. With a local children’s museum closing recently, Uden said, filling that gap by providing options for families was important. Kelly described how staff members visited museums, schools, and other libraries for inspiration: “We really tried to experience the different things that we [wanted] to incorporate.” Communication among the team was key, he added, and Pinterest was used to share ideas and present ideas.

Ryann Uden

The team then organized potential activities using two categories: individual vs. group and quiet vs. active, said Kelly, and ultimately came up with a plan that placed noisier activities in the middle, with more individual ones on the outside. They also created factsheets for activities—which included a Lite Brite, a playhouse, a dress-up area, a puppet show, a LEGO area, and a chalk wall, among others—listing size, age group, noise level, number of users, and skills involved.

Uden warned that transforming a library’s space can mean tough decisions. “If you want to do a lot of new things or add new services, you have to take things away,” she said, suggesting that libraries reevaluate collection size, reallocate funding, or reassign staff to other duties. Easing staff into the transition is also important, and Uden emphasized the value of making staff members as much a part of the process as possible.

In the case of Barrington, which involved construction and renovation, as well as a fairly big change in atmosphere, being sensitive to staffers was important. “The space was going to be louder than a traditional library,” said Uden, so “helping them understand what the new world was going to be like” was key.

Shaun Kelly

Uden also stressed the importance of balancing expectations. Because the potential for mess is high, she advised being realistic about tidiness, while describing her own attitude: “We make sure things are picked up off the floor. I have staff scheduled. They go through hourly or half-hourly” to sort through the spaces.

In examining the results, Kelly broke down activities by both up front cost and staffing requirements, noting that both are factors to consider. For instance, he said, the Lite Brite was initially expensive but required minimal staff members to maintain, while the chalkboard wall was an initially inexpensive purchase but generally needed more upkeep.

Kids play with a giant Lite Brite.

However, Udin acknowledged that it can be difficult to measure the success of learning spaces. “[In general], we rely on statistics, but in a space like this, how do you measure engagement? How do you measure learning?” Udin emphasized that there aren’t any easy answers, but she raised the point that librarians may need to reevaluate assessment.

Though creating a new space can be a challenge, Udin said, ultimately it’s a potentially very rewarding one. “If you give [kids] wings, you’ll let them fly.”

Librarians, IT Experts Respond to Adobe Spying Accusations

To, 10/09/2014 - 22:01

Adobe this week confirmed reports that it has been logging data on the reading activity of people who use the free Adobe Digital Editions service, and that the company has been transmitting those logs to its servers as unencrypted text files, raising privacy and security concerns. OverDrive, Baker & Taylor’s Axis 360 platform, and the 3M Cloud Library all use Adobe Digital Editions and Adobe digital rights management (DRM) to secure popular fiction and nonfiction ebook titles for downloadable lending.­­

Several bloggers and journalists, including Nate Hoffelder, who broke the story at, described Adobe’s activities as spying. However, to put the matter in perspective, many ebook conveniences that readers take for granted require servers to track and log basic information about a user’s reading activity.

“We need to be able to sync data across devices for the users. We also need to collect additional information on the [page] position of the book, the device, its ID, etc.” for syncing functions to work, explained Monique Sendze, associate director of information technology for Douglas County Libraries (DCL), CO, which pioneered the library-owned, library-managed ebook model by hosting ebooks on its own Adobe Content Server.

For example, in a common scenario, a patron might read an ebook on a tablet one evening and the next day continue reading that ebook on his or her smartphone. In order to sync content between those two devices, a remote server must have up-to-date records regarding which ebook is associated with a specific user ID, which device the patron most recently used for reading, and the location within the ebook where the reader stopped reading on that device the night before. Adobe Digital Editions, as well as any e-reader app with multi-device syncing capabilities turned on, will collect this type of information on any ebook that is opened within the app, including DRM-free ebooks.

Plain View

Regardless, Adobe’s transmission of these logs as unencrypted, plain text makes all of this information extremely vulnerable. As Ars Technica explained, this absence of security would allow “anyone who can monitor network traffic (such as the National Security Agency, Internet service providers and cable companies, or others sharing a public Wi-Fi network) to follow along over readers’ shoulders.”

“My biggest concern is that this is being transmitted all in clear text, and hopefully Adobe will address this quickly,” Sendze said, adding that she was planning to run tests to see what information DCL’s Adobe Content Server is sending to Adobe’s licensing servers when book orders are fulfilled.

“Sending this information in plain text undermines decades of efforts by libraries and bookstores to protect the privacy of their patrons and customers,” Electronic Frontier Foundation Corynne McSherry wrote in a blog post about the issue.

“Indeed, in 2011 EFF and a coalition of companies and public interest groups helped pass the Reader Privacy Act, which requires the government and civil litigants to demonstrate a compelling interest in obtaining reader records and show that the information contained in those records cannot be obtained by less intrusive means. But if readers are using Adobe’s software, it’s all too easy for folks to bypass those restrictions,” McSherry wrote.

On Tuesday, Adobe issued a statement to the public, describing Adobe Digital Editions as a tool for users “to view and manage ebooks and other digital publications across their preferred reading devices—whether they purchase or borrow them. All information collected from the user is collected solely for purposes such as license validation and to facilitate the implementation of different licensing models by publishers.”

The statement denied accusations that Adobe was collecting and transmitting data about every EPUB file on a user’s device, as initially reported by Hoffelder, who was then cited by numerous other outlets.

“This information is solely collected for the ebook currently being read by the user and not for any other ebook in the user’s library or read/available in any other reader,” Adobe wrote.

Data Collected

Eric Hellman, former OCLC executive and founder and developer of the ebook crowdfunding platform, acknowledged that some data logging is necessary for functions such as syncing, but told LJ he believes that those features “should be opt-in, even if [data logs are] encrypted.” He added, “Most ebook reading platforms leak privacy to some extent, mostly due to general ignorance about how to read a ‘privacy policy.’”

However, Hellman was dismissive of the notion that the logs were a necessary component of Adobe’s DRM system, stating in an email that “there is no need for Adobe to log this information to make the DRM work!”

Each time a user opens an EPUB file on a device with Adobe Digital Editions installed, the program logs the ebook’s title metadata, which is provided by publishers, along with the user ID, device ID, device IP address, certified app ID, distributor ID, and Adobe Content Server operator URL. It also logs the date that the ebook was purchased or downloaded, the duration for which the book has been read, and the percentage of the book that has been read.

Hellman pointed out that all of this information does not need to be collected and stored to make DRM work. A user ID, device ID, and location last read should be enough to facilitate syncing.

Adobe’s Tuesday mea culpa seemed to indicate that the company collects all of this information on all EPUB files opened with Adobe Digital Editions for the sake of expediency. This sweeping approach allows the company to check a file against every possible type of licensing arrangement that Adobe manages, from content that is region restricted, to titles that are limited to one device only, to ebooks that users or libraries pay for by percentage read. It doesn’t matter if the EPUB file is DRM-free, Creative Commons licensed, or public domain. Adobe will collect and store the information listed above. In an email to Ars Technica, an Adobe spokesperson said that the company was working on an update that would address the transmission of logs in plain text, but Adobe maintains that its collection of this data is covered under its user agreement.

Privacy Concerns

For context, at the other end of the privacy-for-functionality tradeoff continuum, commercial ebook vendors such as and Barnes & Noble maintain detailed records about a user’s reading and ebook search histories to make personalized recommendations, and share with publishers aggregated data regarding average reading speeds, common points of disengagement by title, and popular passages that readers highlight, among other information.

Posting in response to Hoffelder’s original report, LJ infoDOCKET’s Gary Price noted that whenever a user checks out a library ebook on a Kindle device, Amazon gets access to their reading data as well (per the Kindle terms of use). He added that “the dedication and vigilance to user privacy that the public (both library users and non-users) appreciate from libraries is not the same in the digital world (for many reasons) and we need to do more.”

In an October 9 blog post, Hellman followed up on the case after analyzing the system further.

“It’s looking more like an incompetently-designed, half-finished synchronization system than a spy tool,” he wrote.

But he added that Adobe’s total failure to protect user information during transmission may be a violation of privacy laws.

“The ADE4 privacy policy is NOT a magic incantation that makes everything it does legal. For example, all 50 states have privacy laws that cover library records. When ADE4 is used for library ebooks, the fact that it broadcasts a user’s reading behavior makes it legally suspect. Even if the stream were encrypted, it’s not clear that it would be legal.”

McSherry at EFF, comparing the issue to the public furor over Sony’s rootkit software, expressed hope that some good may yet come of Adobe’s snafu.

“There may be a silver lining to all of this,” she wrote. “Several years ago, music fans were shocked and dismayed to discover that copy-protection software on music from Sony artists was actually allowing Sony to monitor the fans’ listening habits, sending information home to Sony, and creating a massive security vulnerability. Sound familiar? That discovery led to a public relations meltdown for Sony, not to mention numerous lawsuits. When the dust had cleared, Sony’s DRM cost it millions in fees and settlements, and, of course, did nothing to inhibit infringement. For Sony, and many others in the music industry, the price of DRM finally became too high, and it has since been largely abandoned.”

SLJ Reviews zSpace, a 3-D Platform for the Classroom

Ke, 10/08/2014 - 20:10

Students at the French American International School (FAIS) in San Francisco, where I used to teach, recently had the opportunity to demozSpace. A three-dimensional platform, zSpace enables users to view and manipulate objects in a unique, immersive experience. Really, until you’ve actually handled a virtual 3-D object, it’s hard to convey the ensuing shock to the senses.

“I had watched some videos on YouTube about [zSpace], but, of course, you’re watching it on a flat screen,” says Julian Astruc, a physics teacher at FAIS. “But when you see an object in 3-D, it’s absolutely amazing. It’s very close to reality.”

“The technology almost never disappoints people,” says Dave Chavez, the chief technology officer at zSpace, who ran the demo with an 11th grade physics class. The system he set up consisted of a tablet about the size of an LCD monitor, a pen for interacting with the device, polarized glasses, and a special camera to display a flattened view from the user’s perspective.

Chavez invited me to wear the glasses first, and the hazy figures on the screen suddenly snapped into fully three-dimensional objects. I’ve been dreaming of this future since I first saw Princess Leia in hologram form. You know the scene, where she pleads, “Help me, Obi Wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope.”

A pen-shaped clicker allowed me to interact with various objects, clicking and dragging to rearrange them in space. Because each object is fully three-dimensional, it’s possible to hold a virtual tube up to your eye and look through it, as if it were a telescope. Chavez suggested that I drop a little scientist figure into a Stargate-like portal, which then transported me to a view of a working model of a human heart. Clicking on a chamber of the organ rendered that chamber transparent so that I was able to view it pumping from inside. Dragging a small camera inside an aorta, I was able to expose the inner workings of a diaphragm, opening and closing.

Next, I was curious to check out a 3-D model of an internal combustion engine in the zSpace library. Identifying various engine components was easy. Simply clicking on each one brought up a window listing the name and function of that particular part, and I could rapidly disassemble the engine to expose the various layers.

Our 11th graders each took a turn with the device. Edgar Smit, one of our students who tried out the model of the heart, says, “It was like holding an object in your hand and moving it; it felt that natural.” Delphine Veronese-Milin, another student, said, “It kind of felt like I was using a 3-D iPad.”

One advantage of this technology in an educational setting: it eliminates the time required for setup and cleanup.

Chavez described a group of students who visited the zSpace offices in Sunnyvale, California, after completing a 15-day project during which they had constructed physical models of Rube Goldberg contraptions. After viewing a three-minute video introducing Newton’s Park (, a physics playground currently in development at zSpace, the students reconstructed a virtual Rube Goldberg experiment in minutes. When they were asked about the difference between constructing their models in the real world as compared to zSpace, a student said, “We could do it in the real world—but it would take us a long time.”

“Their ease to iterate and try again, and the lack of things being lost or broken, is what stands out,” says Chavez. “It’s surprising that people can just sit down and do it. The experience mimics the real world enough that it’s not difficult.”

An individual zSpace unit consists of a 24-inch HD LCD monitor, a stylus for manipulating objects, and polarized 3-D glasses. Although the three-dimensional view is only visible to an individual seated in front of the device and wearing the polarized glasses, an optional system, zView, can be added to extend the display of what’s happening to an audience via a special camera, which is how our class was able to follow along. The whole package is sold in sets of 6 or 12 and costs between $25,000 and $50,000, with the actual cost depending on the application software installed and the extent of training provided.

The recommended configuration is one device per one or two students. Each system arrives with a set of applications preinstalled and a one-day training as part of the initial purchase. “We strongly believe that without the professional development and training piece, we wouldn’t be successful,” says Elizabeth Lytle, director of educational solutions at zSpace. “We need teachers to be comfortable with the technology.” Lytle says that zSpace is currently developing a community that will enable educators to share activities and spaces that they’ve created with one another.

Currently, the Los Altos (CA) School District is experimenting with zSpace as part of a pilot program. In an effort to identify a central space where more students will have access to the device, the district has considered placing zSpace stations in libraries next year. It will be fascinating to watch these schools—and other early adopters—explore the educational potential of this technology.

For complete information, visit

Jason Sellers, a Bay Area educator and web developer, is pursuing a PhD in Language, Literacy, and Culture at Berkeley.

Queens Library Develops Innovative New Tablet Platform Using Superstorm Sandy Donation | TDS14

Ti, 10/07/2014 - 18:00

When superstorm Sandy hit the east coast in October 2012, the Queens Library (QL) in New York was among many northeastern library systems affected. QL persevered, continuing to offer crucial services in storm-ravaged communities while rebuilding damaged branches. The system also managed to turn a generous corporate donation into an innovative new platform for tablet computers, enabling a tech lending program that has since continued to grow.

Kelvin Watson, VP of digital strategy and services for QL, described the program during his “Implementing New Digital Strategies in Response to a Community Emergency: The Queens Library Post Superstorm Sandy” session at “The Digital Shift: Libraries @ the Center,” a virtual event from Library Journal and School Library Journal that took place on October 1.

In October 2013, QL received 5,000 Nexus 7 tablets from Google, as part of a larger donation of 17,000 tablets to the New York State Community Action Association intended to help communities that were still on the mend. QL viewed the tablets as a means to bring mobile technology opportunities to under-served audiences and bridge the digital divide, Watson noted. The seven branches in communities most heavily affected by the storm—Howard Beach, Broad Channel, Arverne, Far Rockaway, Queens Library for Teens in Far Rockaway, Rockaway Beach, and Rockaway Park—were selected to launch the program, beginning November 20, 2013.

But first, QL had to decide what to include on these tablets. When people purchase tablets for personal or family use, they tend to build their own custom collection of content and apps, Watson said. However, for this program, “we made an assumption that the borrowers of these library tablets would often be using this mobile technology for the first time,” he said. “We also recognized that, in the Rockaways, there would be limited Wi-fi access, and that would frustrate the user if they received a device and couldn’t use it.”

So, rather than lending out “blank slate” tablets, the library opted to provide a guided experience, featuring pre-loaded content with a simple, customized “Discovery and Delivery” interface that would be easy for beginners to navigate, Watson said.

The tablets were preloaded with a variety of content, focusing on educational information, health and literacy resources, job readiness, citizenship and immigration, as well as book lists and information about library programs. The tablets are also preloaded with the OverDrive, Blio, and Acoustik Apps, enabling patrons to check out OverDrive and Axis 360 ebooks, as well as digital audiobooks. Similarly, Zinio and Freegal apps enable users to download magazines and popular music.

“We’ve also pre-installed all of the authentication and handshake processes that have been preconfigured on the device,” Watson added. “So even users who are familiar with downloadable media will find that this mobile discovery and delivery platform is a simpler experience with fewer clicks” required to discover and check out content. “We continue to add more applications to the device as we move forward with different versions,” he said.

If QL’s IT department updates or adds content to the Discovery and Delivery platform during a device’s three month checkout period (with an option for a one-month renewal) these additions or updates are applied anytime a device comes in range of QL wifi. A simple resetting procedure enables staff to apply those updates and clear a borrower’s personal information and checked out content from the device within about 90 seconds, Watson said.

The tablets are locked so that borrowers cannot purchase or download new apps. The operating systems and settings are locked on the tablets to prevent tampering or alteration, and if a device is stolen from a borrower or not returned for an extended period, the tablets can be remotely shut down—rendering them useless—and located via GPS. Watson added that restricting patron access to the settings also meant that QL has fielded few customer service calls or complaints about the devices from borrowers.

So far, the program has been a success. In June, QL announced that the program would be expanded to all of its branches, beginning with the Central Branch in Jamaica, Queens. The new tablets were honored with the American Library Association’s Library of the Future award, the New York Library Association Public Library Sections 2014 Best Practices award, and the 2014 New York State Broadband Champion: Most Innovative Broadband Project award.

The tablets ensure that “all Queens and New York City residents have multiple channels to interact with librarians and staff, materials, services and programs,” Watson said.

Nicole Mirra and Antero Garcia on Connected Learning, Civic Engagement | TDS14

Ma, 10/06/2014 - 20:06

In a tag-team presentation about connected learning during LJ and SLJ’s virtual event, The Digital Shift: Libraries @ the Center, held October 1, academics Nicole Mirra and Antero Garcia described civic engagement, social responsibility, citizenship, and shared purpose as key components to this approach to education.

During their talk, entitled “Creating a Collective Culture of Education: Classroom/Library Partnerships that Support Students’ Academic and Civic Learning,” Mirra and Garcia said that relationships among people, not the “shiny digital devices” that enhance their communication, are at the heart of this concept.

Mirra, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) Graduate School of Education (GSEIS), said that connected learning is “taking knowledge and expertise you care about, going out and doing something with a shared purpose.” It is “the “idea of connecting with students to give them the best educational experience possible.” She cited the National Writing Project as an example.

Garcia, a professor at Colorado State University who works with the Colorado State University Writing Project and the National Writing Project, said that connected learning is “relational.” For it to succeed, “there needs to be trust, and also a willingness to engage and put yourself out.”

“Citizenship is not something we assume when we are 18,” Mirra added. “We live in a democracy—we are connected to each other by laws we choose to obey and a system of self-governance.”

Garcia said that the fan-based Harry Potter Alliance and YA author John Green’s Nerdfighters, along with online knitting communities, are “examples of what connected learning can look like.”

Another instance of collective civic engagement among educators, Garcia said, is the Twitter hashtag #FergusonSyllabus, used by educators and others to share opinions and information relating to the fatal shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, MO.

Garcia also cited the “timely example” of teachers and student in Colorado’s Jefferson County school district protesting the school board’s wish to take references of civil disobedience out of an AP history curriculum.

Mirra believes that librarians are well positioned to initiate connected learning. “The atmosphere around education is so urgent and sometimes ominous,” she said. “Librarians are in a powerful place to add this fun and imagination to learning….Kids can tap into areas of interest in the library in a way that is not high stakes.”

She went on to describe a UCLA-initiated collaboration with students in the city that involves “Youth Participatory Action Research.” UCLA faculty and students guide teenagers through the process of researching issues they feel passionate about, such as student leadership, and support them in bringing their thoughts and research to the public. Mirra and students often “partner with librarians and use the library as a community hub.”

Mirra (@Nicole_Mirra) and Garcia (@anterobot) encouraged listeners to reach out to them about connected learning with the Twitter hashtag #TDSConnected, in addition to the event hashtag, #TDS14.

Appvisory for Educational Children’s Apps | TDS14

Pe, 10/03/2014 - 21:34

Presenters: Jennifer Driscoll (top) and Ann Marie Hurtado (bottom)

Two Pasadena (CA) Public Library (PPL) youth services librarians, Jennifer Driscoll and Ann Marie Hurtado, supplied an abundance of programming directions and tips during their exhibit “Appvisory: Curating and Providing Access to Educational Apps in the Children’s Library” during The Digital Shift: Libraries @ the Center virtual conference presented by sister publications Library Journal and School Library Journal. The exhibit covered the uses of iPads and tablets in early literacy and early learning—and how librarians can be “media mentors” to both children and parents. Hurtado remarked that kids spend a lot of time on tablets and smart phones but not necessarily for educational use.

Four Pillars of Appvisory Service

Driscoll forged on to discuss the four components of PPL’s “Appvisory Service”: eStorytime for preschool children and their caregivers; Appy Hour for school-age kids and their caregivers; iPad stations in the Children’s Room; and online presence parents can consult at home. Setting up Appvisory Service requires some investment in hardware and equipment, said Hurtado, including: 15 iPads (two to be used to plan programs), four iPad stations in the Children’s Room, nine iPads for Appy Hour, Apple TVs, and wireless networks. (Hurtado also acknowledged the importance of enlisting the library’s IT people about Apple volume purchasing and getting the necessary apps.)


Delving into the programming, Driscoll explained PPL’s all-app eStorytime—with a separate regular storytime for those parents who don’t want their kids to have screen time. She demonstrated the “eStorytime Formula” in a slide—a general step-by-step guide that contained instructions such as: “Welcome song projected in Keynote”; “Interactive app that introduces the theme”; “Book app”; and the last step: “Show what apps we used and give handout to parents.” She also emphasized the technological difficulties that will inevitably occur during eStorytime and recommends librarians have “plenty of books on hand” and plan additional activities. Other tips? Have a variety of themes, practice apps (and mirroring), and look for book apps to pull into your theme. Lastly, she offered resources to find apps and ebooks, including and

Appy Hour

Moving on to Appy Hour, a program for school-age kids and parents to learn about educational apps, one of the librarians related how she could demonstrate quality educational app use by mirroring an iPad on a projector and walking through apps with the families attending the training, who each get 10 minutes of uninterrupted play on individual iPads at some point during the program. As with eStorytime, the librarians offered a tipsheet for an “Appy Hour Formula,” providing structure such as: “As families enter, give each family a ticket”; “Spend the first 15 minutes giving brief introductions for 8-10 quality school-age apps”; “Pass out handouts with the apps listed, along with websites for finding more.” Hurtado offered additional tips for planning Appy Hour. “You want to have an elevator speech for each app you are recommending,” she said and stressed the importance of taking the time to familiarize yourself with the apps. She pointed out trusted app review sites—including SLJ’s and

Also, she said, don’t let parents/caretakers leave the programs empty-handed. Hurtado showed a slide illustrating two handouts, one containing apps reviewed during Appy Hour and another handout of “App Selection Tips.” Plus, she encouraged, take advantage of “Free App Friday,” a day when many app developers drop their prices. To find out what apps are free during these promotions, subscribe to and

ipad stations and online presence

Driscoll touched upon creating iPad stations in the library as a cheaper alternative to early literacy stations—and talked about some of the nuts and bolts that go into creating secure iPad stations, such as tethering the iPads to tables, as well as disabling app stores, YouTube, and Safari.

Lastly, the two women spoke of marketing and outreach: PPL has Pinterest boards containing app recommendations for both preschool (2-5) and ages 6 and up, plus one for research on digital media. More marketing and outreach tips? Create flyers and target appropriate interest groups among churches, homeschooling families, afterschool programs, and teachers and families on back-to-school nights; and integrate catchy marketing over social media, including your library’s Facebook page.

“Librarians are the perfect people to offer advice and support [for apps],” said Driscoll, who pointed out that librarians already possess the expertise for app selection and curation.

To view the slides to this exhibit, log in (or register) at The Digital Shift: Libraries @ the Center.

Email Jennifer Driscoll at and Ann Marie Hurtado at

Anil Dash Keynote Rallies Librarians to Demand a Web for the People | TDS14

Pe, 10/03/2014 - 19:53

A stream of #TDS14 tweets from revved-up librarians accompanied the closing keynote speech by Anil Dash, a blogger, entrepreneur, and cofounder and CEO of ThinkUp, during The Digital Shift: Libraries @ the Center, a virtual event from Library Journal and School Library Journal. School Library Journal executive editor Kathy Ishizuka introduced and hosted Dash.

In an intellectually provocative presentation focusing on the privatization of the Internet, Dash called upon librarians, stewards of public service and intellectual freedom, to raise their voices and demand a more transparent, public Web.

Slides from Anil Dash’s keynote presentation.

“And the crowd goes wild!! Energized librarians from ‪@anildash keynote at ‪#tds14 to (re)build a true public web,” tweeted Abbie M. Anderson (@librabbie).

“Social networks are not public. They’re privately owned,” Dash emphasized during his 45-minute keynote. “It matters. For public discourse; for the common good.”

As an analogy for the vast corporate dominance on the Web, Dash referenced the corporate ownership of much public space in New York City, conceived decades ago as a way to create a private-sector revenue stream that would bring the city out of financial doldrums. New commercial properties were allowed benefits if they created adjacent open areas for public use.

Private control of public discourse

Dash cited the example of Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan, a privately owned open space where the Occupy Wall Street demonstration took place in 2011. He said that such gathering spots are, in practice, often unappealing concrete swaths that do not truly serve the public and are subject to many rules of use set by the corporations that own them.

Similarly, Dash said, large Internet venues where people congregate, such as Facebook, are subject to terms of service with which users must comply in order to participate. These rules are often updated with little knowledge on users’ part.

To demonstrate how extensively social networking is steered by corporations, Dash noted that information about disaster relief, including post-hurricane Sandy material, has often been made available through Facebook.

It was not always thus, he reminded listeners. Looking back, Dash noted that the Internet was first developed by academics as a “culture of sharing, creating, and connecting.” He added, “It was like a creative community, like a scene with lots of bands of a collection of artists influenced by others’ works.”

Retrieving the civic-minded spirit of the early Internet

“There were a few principles: one, if you created something, you could own your data,” He said. “You could take it with you to another site, control how it was presented to the world. It wouldn’t be deleted without your being notified.” For example, with Flickr, “you could assign a Creative Commons license and create your own remix.”

He called on librarians to revive that spirit of openness and fight for more unregulated online spaces today. There is a “disconnect between values and technology—what we believe and what we are actually able to do. Librarians can do the most about it,” he said.

A self-described former Silicon Valley heavyweight who had “front row” access to hot, nascent apps, Dash included himself among those tech developers who propelled social networking technology with little foresight or conscience about its long-term impact on privacy and open discourse.

“Note to technologists: We have to reckon with our own arrogance,” Dash said. “From the tech [world] that I come from, social Web creators, we were shortsighted…. We let the Web and the people who created it forget the public.”

When now-dominant social media apps were in their infancy, developers never imagined that billions would be using them.

Back then, users’ page views and “likes” did not determine advertising streams and Google rankings the way they do now, he reminded listeners. Today, people still don’t always know that when they “like” something, their “vote” carries value. “Once you’ve put an economic value [on it, you’ve] corrupted meaning,” he said.

A call to arms

A self-described optimist, Dash believes the Web can still be reclaimed to align with the values and culture of the public. “Now that we have terms of service [guiding] our discourse, we must raise our voices” and say, “’this law does not reflect my values,’” he urged.

When Instagram announced it would update its terms so that it could license users’ photos for advertising, “the community was up in arms and stopped that change from happening,” he noted.

Dash cited positive examples of civic-minded “corners of the Web that are very influence by curatorial culture,” including the community Web blog Metafilter and the Q&A forum Stack Exchange.

“There is some way that the law mismatches cultural practice,” he said. “We must support institutions that protect our values,” including libraries.

People defy terms of service all the time, Dash pointed out, by “knowingly putting up stuff that will be taken down” from Internet sites. He sees this as a positive form of social activism. “We have the ability to [make an impact] which through any other context would be called civil disobedience.”

While convinced that a single person can make a difference, Dash called on the audience to participate in a “Million Mixer March” to protest service terms such as control over a user’s posted imagery.

“There are “no better stewards of that than librarians,” he said. “We need to hear your voice.”

At the conclusion of Dash’s presentation, Ishizuka noted that these issues point to the essential role of digital literacy in education. Ishizuka also wondered why librarians have not rallied more adamantly to preserve net neutrality, whose erosion also threatens to privilege private content on the Web.

Often used as another term for the Open Internet, net neutrality refers to the concept of non-hierarchical Web content. Net neutrality is compromised when carriers are allowed to accept payment from entities seeking enhanced access to their networks. In practice, this means that moneyed enterprises can deliver material more quickly than small businesses or nonprofit agencies, such as libraries.

Net neutrality, Dash responded, is “complicated and hard to understand,” and that may be why it is daunting for people to champion. It is compromised in subtle ways so that users do not grasp the larger consequences, in his view.

“It’s analogous to climate change,” he noted. “I can’t see it in front of me. If the climate’s changing, why is it snowing? If net neutrality is [under] threat, why is there this great movie on Netflix?”

New From Dublin: OCLC Releases WorldCat Discovery API (Beta)

To, 10/02/2014 - 00:07

From OCLC:

OCLC is introducing beta availability of the new WorldCat Discovery API, which provides access for libraries to search and find resources in both WorldCat and a central index of article and e-book metadata that represent the wide range of resources libraries provide to their users.

The WorldCat Discovery API exposes library collection data for items in WorldCat, including materials held by individual member libraries, consortia and libraries worldwide. Benefits include:

Access to an ever growing collection of central index metadata for which OCLC has been granted rights. Linked Data response formats, so that library collections can speak the language preferred by the Web. Facet functionality, so that libraries can deliver a modern search experience with the ability to quickly drill down into search results. Access to the latest data models, including entities.

“Providing data layer access to bibliographic information for entities like people, places, works and events fulfills a key piece of OCLC’s data strategy to help libraries evolve with the larger Web,” said Ted Fons, Executive Director of OCLC Data Services and WorldCat Quality Management. “Making this data available as an API means libraries can connect bibliographic information to data sources not traditionally even catalogued or curated by libraries—such as the Wikipedia data infrastructure. Through the API, libraries will be able to deliver content from their collections and context from across the Web to support their users’ research needs.”

The WorldCat Discovery API is now available as a beta to a select number of libraries that subscribe to FirstSearch, WorldCat Local or WorldCat Discovery Services.

Full availability to all eligible libraries and partners is expected in early 2015. Developers will find documentation and sample code libraries on the OCLC Developer Network site, as well as instructions for how to request access to the API.

Shannon Miller: Integrating Technology into Curriculum through Banding Together

Ti, 09/30/2014 - 18:06

“Putting a 3-D printer into the library gives the kids a voice in their own education,” says Shannon Miller, a 2014 Library Journal Mover & Shaker and former district-teacher librarian and technology specialist for the Van Meter (IA) Community School District for the past seven years. Miller writes about her work integrating technology into school libraries on the award-winning blog the Van Meter “Library Voice.” In March 2014, she wrote an entry about her project Banding Together (BT) where her students from Van Meter Elementary (K-5) joined forces with students from around the world to send colorful Rainbow Loom handmade bracelets—with red, heart-shaped charms created by 3-D printers—to students in Mangalore, India, according to “Library Voice.”

Watch a YouTube video of two Van Meter third graders as they print out a heart charm using the 3-D printer:

BT began as a simple research project with her third grade students. Miller saw how much the kids loved “creating and sharing” through using the Rainbow Loom, and she turned their enthusiasm into a research project. The activity included having them research information about the loom and create presentations while using EasyBib, an online citation too.

According to her online flyer (on the website Smore), she’d blogged about her students’ work on “Library Voice,” and it caught the attention of two women: Saira Rao, head of marketing, and Carey Albertine, head of concept and creative development, from the children’s book publisher In This Together Media (ITTM). Eventually, Miller used Google Hangouts to connect the two women and her students.

Miller’s students connect with the women of In This Together through Google Hangouts. Photos courtesy of The Van Meter “Library Voice” blog.

It was during the Google Hangouts, that Rao informed Miller and her students about her aunt “Baj” Viegas who ‘“lives and teaches in a convent in Mangalore, India,”’ according to the story on the flyer. After learning about the students’ project around the Rainbow Loom bracelets, Viegas had informed Rao, ‘“There are so many very poor children here. However many bracelets you send… I will get them to the kids, and they will love it.”’

The project “Banding Together” was born, and soon other grades joined in. “We were going to send these bracelets where kids needed some hope and love and a message,” says Miller. The bracelets became an opportunity for the children at Van Meter Elementary to become pen pals with youths in Mangalore. In addition, Miller’s friend and SLJ School Librarian of the Year finalist, Andy Plemmons, who teaches in Athens, GA, created a heart-shaped charm with his students using a 3-D modeling program, Tinkercad, and shared the file.

Miller set up a Banding Together Facebook page, an online flyer, a Tumblr blog, and an Edmodo page—outlets which got the word out, and as a result, Miller related that “tens of thousands of bracelets [and printed heart charms arrived] from all over the world.” The project may have begun with the third graders, she says, but it expanded to include all grades. They sent the bracelets to Mangalore this past summer.

Miller, who has a background in art, had acquired the 3-D printer for the elementary school library back in January 2014 through a MakerBot 3-D printer grant and the education crowdfunding platform, DonorsChoose. The printer yielded rich opportunities for kids of various ages to have a voice, says Miller. Her second graders printed their own game pieces from fairy tale characters they researched online.

And the BT project was a huge learning opportunity for the entire Van Meter school district. Even though she is no longer working full-time in the school district and began as an independent library and technology integration specialist full-time this fall, she’s still part of the Banding Together team. “We’re doing [Banding Together] again this year… and now [we are]  going to start sending them [to] other places too in India, Africa…”

In spite of changes, Miller’s mission still remains constant: To make a difference in education by “using technology and social media, project based learning… and to [help kids] think for themselves.”

Jim Petersen on Meeting Consumer Expectations, Acquisition Models, and more Impacts of the Digital Shift

Ti, 09/30/2014 - 17:00

On October 1, Library Journal and School Library Journal will host their fifth annual virtual conference, “The Digital Shift: Libraries @ The Center.”

Library Ideas is a Gold Sponsor of the conference, and LJ reached out to Jim Petersen, Chief Revenue Officer of Library Ideas, to participate in this series of interviews addressing libraries’ central role in the transformation of our culture from analog experiences to digital experiences.

LJ: How do you see the digital shift enabling collaborations and how are these new kinds of partnerships changing the library user experience?

JP: The ongoing digital shift has allowed libraries to radically enhance the most important collaboration they have, the relationship they have with their patrons. Digital content offers patrons a much closer experience to content. Digital content has the ability to allow patrons to access the library 24/7. The greatest challenge for libraries with digital content is to offer it in a manner that meets or exceeds patrons’ expectations just the same as any other business competing for those same “eyeballs.”

Now that the digital shift and mobile and tablet use are converging to create an expectation of accessing library materials everywhere, how is the library world rising to that challenge, how must we modify user experience to cross screens successfully, and how do we best serve those still struggling with the digital divide?

In this era of perhaps the largest transformation of formats in libraries it is critical for libraries to change their methodologies of reaching patrons. Given high consumer expectations libraries need to tailor their services and content to tech savvy and demanding consumers. We need to focus on creating experiences to draw those consumers in rather than ask them to ignore their current positive experiences in the “consumer world” in favor of a clunkier user experience in libraries because of “limitations.”

How are you and your library partners assessing the impact of the content they provide on their patrons?

Libraries have a growing array of tools to be able to measure the success of their digital services. We provide robust, detailed, live real-time reporting based upon factors such as genre usage, quantity of use per unique user, overall use, [and] number of unique users so that libraries can assess not only the success of our products, but, also to assist in identifying areas in their physical collections to address.

In view of concerns about too much screen time for children, what role can and should digital play in early learning?

Libraries historically have been one of the pillars of childhood learning providing quality content to younger patrons. Parents have long trusted the carefully built collections at libraries to assist in developing a child’s lifelong love of learning. The digital age in many ways heightens the need for a carefully curated collection of content for young patrons. If anything there is a higher value proposition in the high quality reviewed content available from the library. The library can be one of the greatest resources of content for parents.

When this event began, whether ebooks even had a future in libraries was far from clear. Now that all of the Big 5 offer ebooks to public libraries, what is the next step? Will acquisition models diversify for public libraries as they have in the academic market? How will rising ebook prices in academia change collection development? How will the school market evolve?

Ebooks have provided libraries with perhaps the greatest opportunity in several generations for drawing in new patrons, as we have seen in the explosion of usage. The current model of ebook acquisition for libraries has also created the greatest challenge for libraries. With books costing up to $100 per copy the current models put a burden on library budgets. We created a radically different model with our ebook service, Freading. With Freading we utilize a database model providing libraries with a collection of over 50,000 titles from 1,000+ publishers for no upfront cost. The library receives the entire collection and even more uniquely all titles are unlimited simultaneous use. The library pays us for usage, that is it. We believe this is the most affordable and convenient model available for libraries.

Jim Petersen is Chief Revenue Officer of Library Ideas, a role he has had since the inception of the company 5 years ago. During that time, Library Ideas has grown from a start up to providing digital content solutions to over 5,000 library systems in 20 countries. Prior to Library ideas, he began working in the library market 18 years ago.

John A. Williams on Connecting Library Resources to Student Learning, Connecting to the Common Core, and other factors impacted by the Digital Shift

Ma, 09/29/2014 - 17:00

On October 1, Library Journal and School Library Journal will host their fifth annual virtual conference, “The Digital Shift: Libraries @ The Center.

Follett is a Gold Sponsor of the conference, and LJ reached out to John A. Williams, Director of Digital Products for Follett School Solutions, to participate in this series of interviews addressing libraries’ central role in the transformation of our culture from analog experiences to digital experiences.

LJ: How do you see the digital shift enabling collaborations and how are these new kinds of partnerships changing the library user experience?

JW: The goal for schools to deliver digital content at the point of learning has created opportunities for partners across all areas of “digital.” Today, ebook distributors, publishers, library management systems, learning management systems, and student information systems must define and deliver a consistent user experience that focus on key areas like discoverability, single sign-on access, reporting, and ease of use for library patrons. New partnerships are forming and data standards are being defined to help schools make informed decisions.

Now that the digital shift and mobile and tablet use are converging to create an expectation of accessing library materials everywhere, how is the library world rising to that challenge, how must we modify user experience to cross screens successfully, and how do we best serve those still struggling with the digital divide?

Libraries across the world are shifting more of their budgets toward the purchase of digital content.  As content standards evolve from PDF, to EPUB and beyond, the challenge facing libraries is how to ensure content availability across devices of yesterday as well as the latest devices today. Successful library programs provide patrons with clear information in the discovery experience that helps them select the appropriate content for their device. Many schools have adopted one-to-one programs to help support those students without access to devices for digital consumption.

How are you and your library partners assessing the impact of the content they provide on their patrons?

School libraries are being asked more and more to connect library resources to student learning. In the past, circulation data was the key indicator for effective materials in the library. Today schools are requiring vendors to connect circulation data to assessments and standards to help measure the impact of digital content purchases. Lately there have been more and more requests to provide additional teacher specific features and measure the usage of these specific features. Teacher usage of digital content tends to be one of the key indicators of the impact of digital content on student learning.

In communities that are implementing the Common Core, what changes in content focus and curriculum support have your customers been asking for?

Customers have really been looking for more focused lessons that meet the skills requirements of CCSS. Teachers want to dig deep into content with students and give them opportunities to think, evaluate and synthesize and apply what they are learning. The content itself becomes a bit secondary, but if it supports the teacher in building the types of skills necessary to perform on Common Core Assessments they are all ears. Performance tasks that require students to demonstrate skills learned as well as parent engagement activities are in high demand.

As Director of Digital Products for Follett School Solutions, John A. Williams helps school districts, media library specialists, and teachers navigate through various digital options to determine the right solution aligned to local school needs. He also provides strategic direction ensuring product features and functionality match customer needs and expectations.  Williams has worked for K-12 leading companies like IBM, Lightspan, ETS, and now Follett holding various senior positions in marketing, product management, business development, and training services. He frequently presents at state and national conferences focused on K-12 technologies.

JukePop Opens Kickstarter to Get Indie Ebooks into Libraries

La, 09/27/2014 - 15:50

Expanding ebook access at public libraries has been, well, an ongoing process. But one site is aiming to have an impact, giving libraries a chance to offer their patrons digital titles by independent authors.

JukePop—a Palo Alto, CA-based start-up that crowdsources independently published books—is teaming up with public libraries to let readers check out titles, one chapter at a time. A trial service began at the Santa Clara (CA) County Library (SCCLD) in April 2014. This week, JukePop launched a Kickstarter campaign, hoping to raise $15,000 to expand its library service to 60 additional branches in states including California, Utah, and Arizona.

“The key is to make the platform really useable for libraries,” says Jerry Fan, JukePop’s founder and CEO. “We want to eliminate a lot of the manual work, so they can manage the indie catalogue through our site.”

Pledges of $25 or more will earn donors the right to nominate a library branch of their choosing—with each nomination pushing branches higher on the priority list. If JukePop’s Kickstarter is fully funded—the campaign closes October 15—the site will spend $10,000 to streamline its software, with the remaining $5,000 used to launch the service to libraries—for free.

SCCLD and JukePop’s initial co-launch earned them a 2014 Innovation Leader award through the Urban Libraries Council, and since April, more than 1,060 people have used the service through SCCLD’s website. Megan Wong, virtual library manager, is encouraged by those numbers.

“It’s pretty fantastic,” she says.

JukePop’s core service works by allowing independent writers to submit stories to run on its platform one chapter at a time. The site gives readers a chance to offer feedback on the stories by voting on them and submitting comments. The best pieces rise to the top.

Wong says SCCLD had been looking for ways to bring self-published books to their community, but hadn’t found a good avenue until she met JukePop’s CEO Jerry Fan, who created a single line of code, which allowed the library to serve selected JukePop titles to patrons. Titles that have gone through JukePop’s analytics and have some resonance with readers are sent to Wong and SCCLD librarians, who select those books they think their readers will connect with the most. To Fan it’s a win not only for libraries—but for its own users as well.

“Libraries are untapped resources for authors,” he says. “The minute a book gets into libraries you’re instantly in front of millions of avid readers who, if they like a book, will talk about it and tell their friends. Indie authors need to tap into this.”




George F. Coe on Collaboration Between School and Public Libraries, Training for Job Seekers, Big Data, and other Impacts of the Digital Shift

Pe, 09/26/2014 - 17:00

On October 1, Library Journal and School Library Journal will host their fifth annual virtual conference, “The Digital Shift: Libraries @ The Center.

Baker & Taylor is a Gold Sponsor of the conference, and LJ reached out to George F. Coe, President and CEO of Baker & Taylor Inc., to participate in this series of interviews addressing libraries’ central role in the transformation of our culture from analog experiences to digital experiences.

LJ: How do you see the digital shift enabling collaborations and how are these new kinds of partnerships changing the library user experience?

GC: Baker & Taylor is excited about the collaborations forming between public libraries and schools using digital content. KnowledgePoint, Baker & Taylor’s suite of solutions for schools, includes powerful tools for increasing student literacy. Having access to their school, classroom, and [...] public library digital materials can maximize resources to benefit both the public libraries and schools. This approach creates a powerful link and holistic experience for young learners, helping these students stay engaged throughout their school years and into adulthood. As a result, libraries will build lifelong patrons who will grow up to become supporters of their local libraries.

Now that the digital shift and mobile and tablet use are converging to create an expectation of accessing library materials everywhere, how is the library world rising to that challenge, how must we modify user experience to cross screens successfully, and how do we best serve those still struggling with the digital divide?

The rapid adoption of devices and the expansion of network availability make us all expect to be able to instantly access information and entertainment via our phones and tablets. Libraries have done an incredible job making their services and materials accessible via the Web. Online catalogs, digital collections, and mobile apps provide communities with on-the-go, anytime access to the full range of library resources and programs on the devices we carry with us. Libraries have done an incredible job of re-tooling for mobile access, putting the local library within the reach of nearly everyone.

How do libraries best support key community needs such as workforce development, enabling better healthcare and education outcomes, and how can they work with corporate or institutional partners to advocate for these roles more effectively?  

I mentioned earlier the great collaborations that are taking shape between schools and their community libraries. And for years now, libraries have taken a very active role in providing training and resources for job seekers to the direct benefit of corporations and local business institutions. Libraries have incredible reach into their neighborhoods, and they form and tailor programs to address local needs. Institutional partners should easily recognize the value in working together with libraries on efforts that benefit these targeted groups and ultimately bring value to the community at large.

How are you and your library partners assessing the impact of the content they provide on their patrons? 

Baker & Taylor has identified data analytics as the next great frontier for libraries. We recently purchased collectionHQ and have made considerable investments in technology and human resources to bring the benefits of big data to our library customers. Being able to gather, collate, and assess circulation information across print and digital formats, and to provide purchase guidance based on the evidence of like-material demand at the branch level, is an enormous benefit for libraries looking to get the most out of their limited materials budgets. Data services help ensure that patrons will have access to the materials they want.

When this event began, whether ebooks even had a future in libraries was far from clear. Now that all of the Big 5 offer ebooks to public libraries, what is the next step? Will acquisition models diversify for public libraries as they have in the academic market? How will rising ebook prices in academia change collection development? How will the school market evolve?

2014 has been a breakthrough year for library access to digital content. All the top publishers are in now, each experimenting with access and pricing models to suit their businesses. Baker & Taylor is in the unique position of supplying books in print and digital formats. And, for the foreseeable future, libraries will be managing materials for both print and digital audiences. By providing data analytics along with the tools to effectively allocate materials budgets—balancing the mix of materials demand and access needs—Baker & Taylor provides the most complete service solution in the library market.

George F. Coe is President and CEO of Baker & Taylor, Inc. George joined Baker & Taylor in 2000 as President of the Library & Education division. Previously, he served as Vice President and General Manager of Brodart’s books, library, and school automation divisions. He serves on the Board of Visitors for the University of North Carolina’s School of Information and Library Science and the Association of Library Trustees, Advocates, Friends and Foundations, which is a division of the American Library Association. He has also served on development committees for ALA, Public Library Association, and Urban Library Council.

MA State Ebook Pilot Offers Insights

To, 09/25/2014 - 23:24

The Massachusetts State Ebook Project (MA EBook Project), conceived by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioner’s (MBLC) Statewide Resource Sharing Committee and the Massachusetts Library System (MLS), with funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), this summer concluded a pilot program, offering many insights into the challenges and promises that statewide consortial ebook lending programs may offer.

The pilot involved a comprehensive approach to ebook lending. Beginning in November 2013, Baker & Taylor’s Axis 360 platform offered about 3,000 popular fiction and general interest ebooks under a standard one-ebook, one-user, two-week lending model, and BiblioLabs offered more than 25,000 public domain ebooks, library special collections, and other content with an unlimited simultaneous use model. EBL, a division of ProQuest, joined the pilot in February 2014, offering a short term loan model, with patrons able to access 135,500 academic and professional ebook titles for seven-day checkout periods. Content from all three platforms was maintained by MLS and hosted by Bywater Solutions at a single site:

“We were trying to look at three different models,” explained MLS advisor Deb Hoadley. “We intentionally decided at the very beginning that we weren’t going to have our own server and try to worry about our own technology. Biblioboard had the platform that we needed for uploading our own content as well as the visually appealing way that they were displaying mostly public domain [ebooks]…. Baker & Taylor met that content need of bestsellers and popular fiction for all ages, and then EBL [provided] the short term loan model.”

Forty-nine libraries participated, including 10 academic, 28 public, eight school, and three special libraries.

New Promos, Old Challenges

To prepare participating libraries for the pilot, MLS put together a public relations, promotion, and training taskforce that generated a launch kit with a step-by-step manual, postcards and other promotional materials, instructional webinars for library staff, on-site training sessions with vendors, and an internal blog and listserv to post project updates and answer questions.

The results of a post-pilot survey of participating libraries seemed to illustrate different levels of engagement with these training efforts. While more than 97 percent of respondents said that they were aware of the pilot and were aware that their library was a participant, only 65 percent said that their library had used the launch kit and training materials that MLS provided. More than 9 percent responded definitively that their library had not used these materials, and more than 25 percent said that they weren’t sure whether the materials had been used. Almost 18 percent of respondents said that they did not feel sufficiently trained to discuss the ebook project with patrons.

“If the librarians didn’t choose to look at that stuff and become engaged, they weren’t trained,” said Hoadley.

Librarian respondents who were, at some point, unable to help a patron find and download something they wanted wrote in several comments. One wrote that problems included “a combination of technical issues, [patrons’] own unfamiliarity with their device, and then the book just not being available.” Another noted that Kindles continue to be popular with patrons, and “even knowing workarounds, it was very difficult to articulate to patrons with limited technological skills how to utilize these platforms with a Kindle.”

Another librarian commenter noted that “patrons get very frustrated by having to access ebooks…across different platforms,” and that their patrons regularly make unfavorable comparisons between library ebook borrowing and the ease of buying and downloading ebooks from

Patron Feedback

The separate patron survey confirmed these views, and included written complaints about difficulties logging on to different platforms, complaints that too many books were unavailable for checkout, and complaints about problems with Kindles (the preferred platform for 20 percent of respondents, compared with 35 percent iPad users, 17 percent  Nook users, 13 percent computer/laptop users, about 9 percent  “other” tablet users, and 6.5 percent smartphone users).

However, almost 90 percent of those respondents still said that they were ultimately able to find and download an ebook that they were interested in or that met their needs, and almost 72 percent said that the overall experience had met their expectations. Several written comments indicated that satisfaction likely increased once users received help at the library or figured out how to use the platforms on their own.

This is an encouraging sign as the project moves forward. Although circulation spiked in December 2013 and January 2014 and then fell sharply in February—presumably due to patrons trying out new tablets and e-readers that were received as Christmas gifts—usage of all three platforms then grew steadily through May.

Platform Performance

Each platform presents inherent strengths and weaknesses, the pilot found. Axis 360 is the only platform of the three that offers content from Big Five publishers. This is important, since when asked what type of content they would like to see more of in a statewide ebook collection, “bestselling, popular fiction” was the top choice of both staff and patrons by significant margins, followed by “mysteries” in both surveys.

“We have been successful on behalf of the Mass project in talking with our publisher partners and gaining participation,” Michael Bills, Baker & Taylor’s director of sales, digital products, told LJ. “There [was a] limited budget during the pilot period, as you would expect. But as the program rolls forward, I know that the direction that the collection is going to take is to attempt to match content availability with those survey results.”

However, in the patron survey, several respondents complained that the two-week lending period was too short, that the ebook they wanted was unavailable, or that they had difficulty with the Adobe ID signup and authorizing process—in other words, unavoidable issues with popular fiction ebooks, which will require ongoing educational efforts to resolve.

Biblioboard does not offer Big Five titles, but its tablet-friendly, seamless app interface and unlimited simultaneous use model drew praise from patron respondents. It also consistently posted the highest circulation of the three platforms, peaking at almost 1,500 downloads during December 2013. Biblioboard has partnered with a growing list of small presses and independent publishers, offers an attractive interface for presenting classics and public domain works, and, as Hoadley noted, the platform will enable libraries to upload and showcase their own content, such as ebooks by local authors, or curated special collections.

“The idea of a ‘checkout’ is a bit of an anathema for us,” said Mitchell Davis, chief business officer of BiblioLabs. With Biblioboard, patrons “are in an app, and you are looking at [content] in that app for as long as you want. You can download content to your offline bookshelf if you’re hopping on a plane or whatever, but other than that, it’s always there. It’s just part of the app experience.”

Biblioboard and Library Journal have partnered on SELF-e, a new project that aims to help libraries review and curate self-published ebook titles.

EBL offered the best selection of titles for academic libraries, although some patrons complained that they had trouble finding downloaded ebooks on their devices.

Forging Ahead

While MLS, MBLC, and IMLS absorbed the cost of the pilot and plan to continue subsidizing platform fees, libraries interested in participating in any ebook sharing partnership that emerges from this project will eventually have to pay for access. These costs would be affordable but not insignificant, ranging from $250 annually for the smallest public libraries, up to $40,000 for major urban systems, according to a funding model proposed after the pilot evaluation. Sliding scales for pricing are based on materials budgets for academic libraries, population served for public libraries, and student FTE for school libraries.

Hoadley predicts that participants will become more invested in the project’s collective success once it becomes a paid resource.

“Those libraries going forward, that are paying to participate, are going to make sure that whatever they’re paying for is going to have value, or they’re not going to continue it,” she said.