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The Policy Gap

Pe, 09/19/2014 - 17:00

The following is an excerpt from Digital Literacy and Digital Inclusion: Information Policy and the Public Library (Rowman & Littlefield, Aug. All rights reserved.)

Federal policies in the United States rely on public libraries to promote digital literacy and digital inclusion. Yet, public libraries are predominantly excluded from the funding made available for digital literacy and digital inclusion, as well as from the decision-making processes.

Now in its fifth year, The Digital Shift: Libraries @ the Center virtual conference will focus the attention of library professionals on libraries’ central role in the transformation of our culture from analog experiences to digital ones. Free registration for this event is available at

Further exacerbating this disjunction, library budgets have been heavily reduced during the economic downturn, even though the use of libraries has skyrocketed. This situation places public libraries in the untenable situation of greater service demands, greater service expectations, and fewer resources by which to meet these demands and expectations.

There are no other cultural institutions prepared to serve the public in the digital literacy and digital inclusion capacities that public libraries do. As such, the change has to be in policy rather than practice, unless the federal government opts to abandon promoting digital literacy and digital inclusion.

Calling for change

There are several core changes that could help. The first is extremely straightforward: when demanding more of libraries to fulfill digital literacy and digital inclusion functions, do not reduce library funding. Libraries’ support from all levels of government needs to increase to a level that such services, training, and resources can be adequately provided.

Second, governments at all levels should consider geography, infrastructure, and history when making demands on libraries. A library system that has received specialized government grants (such as Broadband Technology Opportunities Program [BTOP] funding) is going to have a much greater chance of meeting the access needs of its patrons than one constrained by a less robust local telecommunication infrastructure and local and state policies that hinder better connections. A potential solution is improved coordination among local, state, and national governments on policy decisions relating to issues such as telecommunication support and equality of grant funding.

Third, policymaking related to the digital divide, digital literacy, and digital inclusion needs to bring public libraries into the discussions, designs, and decisions. Libraries will be best positioned to interject the needs of those with limited digital literacy and the goals that they need to achieve with technology into the policymaking process, a perspective that is often completely neglected.

Taking the lead

Engaging the politics related to digital inclusion is particularly important as there are still people, including some in positions of power, who do not believe digital literacy and digital inclusion are pressing issues. There are even some who believe digital inequality is not even a problem, arguing instead that people only do not participate online by choice. More commonly, many of the people who live in technological richness can easily forget that many people lack such richness.

Public libraries must make a stronger, more public case for the support they need to provide digital literacy and digital inclusion and their related services. A fear of direct engagement with the political process has long plagued public libraries, as a result of the belief held by many in the profession that librarians must be neutral and apolitical. While neutrality has many critics who have raised valid refutations of the notion, fear of political engagement continues to drive many of the actions of public libraries and public library organizations.

This neutrality stance, unfortunately, frequently places libraries in the position of having major political and policy decisions happen to them, their voice basically unheard and ignored. For example, the self-imposed voicelessness of libraries in the political process has made it much easier for governments to shift significant e-government and emergency response duties to public libraries in the past few years.

Without changes in policy in this area, public library roles in promoting digital literacy and digital inclusion will not be sustainable.

Library practice

While every library serves a unique community with individualized needs, some key ideas in approaching practices related to digital literacy and digital inclusion can help to frame the local approach developed in each library.

An important starting point is focusing on the reasons that members of the community seek help at the library for digital literacy. Lack of access is the primary reason for nonusage of the Internet across all age groups, while lack of skills is a greater barrier for adults than for youth. Such a lack of access and skills can be rooted in issues of geography, education, economics, culture, age, disability, and a number of other issues, each of which presents challenges. Programs and services to promote digital literacy and digital inclusion need to start from the basis of awareness of and sensitivity to the reasons for lack of digital literacy and the barriers to achieving it.

In promoting digital literacy and digital inclusion, it is also critical to create programs and services that are not one-size-fits-all. Family and personal attitudes and background heavily shape attitudes toward and interactions with technology. Literacies are social, diverse, numerous, and not necessarily related or overlapping, which means that achieving digital literacy will be a personal journey. Because digital literacy builds on other literacies, barriers and challenges with these other types of literacies may be present before digital literacy can even be considered.

The setting of the digital literacy instruction is also worth noting. Digital skills are most easily learned in informal settings. As initial interactions with the highest levels of technology usage are most likely outside of formal learning environments, creating environments that are welcoming rather than intimidating will promote learning and reduce anxiety.

Tying digital literacy to key skills that people need and goals they wish to fulfill will also help demonstrate the importance of achieving digital literacy. If digital literacy programs and services are linked to tasks that members of the community want and need to accomplish, such as submitting their taxes online or registering their children for school, digital literacy programs will have more context.

Building partnerships to support digital literacy and digital inclusion efforts will allow for more ambitious services and programs that have greater reach than the library might have on its own. Such partnerships also help to convey the message about library contributions to the community. Working in conjunction with other libraries in the system, state, or region will help to develop shared standards and practices that can link efforts in different places and create coherent larger-scale endeavors, as well as generate enhanced opportunities for teaching alliances, team teaching, and coplanning and development of services and programs, all of which are central to attempts to promote digital literacy in school settings.

Moving forward

A key step is for librarians to express more strongly the breadth and depth of their literacy and inclusion activities to politicians, policymakers, and the public. Libraries must advocate for themselves in a strong and coordinated voice with messages that use language and data that make sense to the people setting policy. Most people, even those who regularly use the library, do not know the full range of its services and local contributions. Public libraries will be more likely to make an impact by simultaneously communicating the value and contributions of the library through marketing (e.g., selling to the community) and advocating for policies that positively impact libraries (e.g., lobbying in the policy process).

These messages need to come from more voices than library directors and administrators. Empower all members of the staff to advocate and encourage coordinated advocacy by trustees, Friends of the library, patrons, library partners, community members and leaders, educators, and retired library personnel. These campaigns can include support for high-level residents, organized committees, speaker bureaus for community events, polling, public relations, focus on groups most likely to be supportive and engaged, guest editorials in local media, statements from local politicians, information tables in libraries, advertisements, and endorsements from colleges and universities, homeowner and condominium associations, celebrities, unions, and chambers of commerce. Social media and other new technologies will also be of great value.

Engaging policy and advocating for strength in these arenas may not be the most comfortable activity for librarians, but it is necessary. Public libraries are the de facto social guarantor of literacy and inclusion. With the public and government expecting libraries to fulfill these roles, libraries must in turn educate the public and government about the sponsorship libraries need in order to continue to guarantee access, literacy, and inclusion.

Kim M. Thompson is Lecturer, School of Information Studies, Charles Sturt University, Australia; Paul T. Jaeger is Associate Professor, Natalie Greene Taylor is Research Associate and Doctoral Candidate, Mega Subramaniam is Assistant Professor, and John Carlo Bertot is Professor, Information Policy and Access Center, College of Information Studies, University of Maryland, College Park


Library eBook Platform Provider Odilo Raises $2.8M in VC Funding

To, 09/18/2014 - 18:39

Note: We’ve mentioned Odilo (a company based in Spain) on infoDOCKET in the past. For example, in this post from Jan. 2014 we share details about the company being selected to power the Colorado’s Statewide eBook Pilot.

From Venture Beat:

Odilo, a startup aiming to modernize brick-and-mortar libraries with digital lending services and inventory tech, today announced a $2.8 million funding round (€2.2M) led by Active Venture Partners.

Augmented Library

Ke, 09/17/2014 - 22:40

VIRTUAL LANDMARKS Pointing a smartphone at LAPL’s lobby ceiling initiates an interview with Renee Petropoulos, the artist who designed its mural. Aiming at the clay torch statue (top) that sits off the Central Library rotunda triggers local news footage of the Central Library’s 1986 fire, along with interviews and a photo gallery

In early April 2013, digital journalism professor Robert Hernandez, of the University of Southern California (USC) Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, Los Angeles, was driving by L.A.’s Central Library downtown while thinking of ideas for his experimental augmented reality (AR) storytelling and journalism course when he had an aha moment: Why not focus a project on augmenting the Central Library?

As a result of this epiphany, the Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL) partnered with Annenberg to “augment” the historic Central Library building, bringing visual, video, and 3-D experiences to the art, architecture, and collections.

Hernandez’s students gathered content for and developed the AR experiences using the Metaio Creator AR platform, with the assistance of Neon Roots app developers and, of course, Central Library staff.

He sent an email to me and the director of the Central Library Giovanna Mannino to pitch his plan. Several emails, conference calls, and dozens of class sessions later, an AR app was born: the first ever known AR app collaboration between a university and a public library.

The results of this innovative experiment would answer the question: Could an app using augmented reality be created by nondevelopers? Hernandez’s eight students—a mix of graduate students and undergrads—ran the gamut from tech savvy to story savvy. “Profe,” as Hernandez is affectionately called, was ultimately concerned with telling stories. The technology used would be the conduit for relating those stories in a novel and exciting way.

I was designated as the class liaison and tasked with guiding the students toward people and material resources, as well as offering any other assistance required during the duration of the semester.

Learning the library

The class met in one of LAPL’s meeting rooms every Tuesday from 6:30–8:30 p.m. As an introduction, I set up an in-depth Central Library tour with one of our docents, Kenon Breazeale, who provided an incredible level of depth and detail about the art and architecture at Central Library. Many of the stops on the tour would later be featured in the app.

Hernandez decided to get a couple of Metaio licenses for the project, so that the students could gain experience developing on an AR platform. They used Metaio’s Creator, which can design channels for the company’s Junaio browser or output a stand-alone app.

After the tour, the questions started coming rapid-fire. I invited a few staff members to join in the next class session to speak about their experiences working at LAPL and give the students a “time machine” look into the past.

Our first guest was retired principal librarian Helene ­Mochedlover, who fascinated the students with her no-holds-barred stories of the fire of 1986, the pay equity struggle for female librarians, and library work in the analog age. She was formally interviewed for the app, as was Glen Creason, LAPL’s resident map librarian. At one point, ­Mochedlover was asked to name her favorite corner of Central Library (the students were eager to pinpoint possible visual markers). She pooh-poohed the question and said she actually disliked the building—drawing chuckles and gasps—and reminded the students that without incredible staff, no library ever comes to life.

Content collection

The next major class component was having students and library staff brainstorm and pitch possible AR experiences. The cofounders of Neon Roots were brought on board to provide more critical app development in exchange for user testing of their AR beta content management system (CMS). They provided the students with a crash course in agile scrum training in order to get time line, workflows, and data deliverables set, giving them an invaluable experience in managing project development and deadlines. In the end, students were able to illustrate great experiences though Creator, overcoming some significant limitations. The Neon Roots team could then launch the final, public, polished app.

Hernandez and the app developers gently led the brainstorming session, encouraging students and staff to float ideas without considering whether the AR aspect was doable. It was decided content would be collected under the following rubrics: history, art and architecture, children, and rare books/special collections.

Students began their content collection and research in earnest. Central Library staff were encouraged to drop in on class sessions to provide feedback and guidance. Students built relationships, interviewed staffers, visited subject departments, and even interviewed the artists whose work is featured at the Central Library.

Making their marks

The students also worked to identify possible visual markers—those permanent fixtures in the library that would serve as AR experience triggers when a smartphone is pointed at them and a photograph taken.

Choosing visual markers is not as simple as it sounds as some do not easily lend themselves to initiating an AR experience. For example, in the rotunda of Central Library there are four large murals by artist Dean Cornwell that the students initially chose as one of their “art and architecture” markers. However, the murals are situated high on the walls, making photographing them difficult. Lighting was a major reason that the murals were not used. Depending on the time of day, the sun’s rays would throw off the marker. Another challenge was the children’s section, where loitering by adults without accompanying children is discouraged, for obvious reasons. The students created small boxes decorated to look like children’s books as visual pointers, which were then placed near the children’s reference desk.

Students also chose to augment some items from the Rare Books Room, including a 1884 edition of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven, as well as a colorful book of insect illustrations. After photographing these titles and even doing some 3-D modeling, the students were confronted with the issue of what visual marker to use. The Rare Books Room is open by appointment only, and there is no easily accessible sign­age. An exhibit case next to the highly traveled rotunda area became the marker. Mock-ups of four of the books and a QR code in the display case would guide visitors to those experiences.

Testing, testing

In December 2013, the app was ready for beta testing. A large group of library staff—mostly librarians—were eager to test the app in real time. Beta testers loaded Junaio onto their smartphones and tablets and scanned a QR code to initiate the app. Hernandez gave an overview and then piloted the testers through each experience. Tech artist BC “Heavy” Biermann was on hand to film the process and interviewed testers at the end of the session.

For some, loading the app was very slow; it used up too much juice and bandwidth. Smartphone batteries were drained—a critical consideration. Suggestions were given and noted. The experiences, when initiated, played out beautifully. Staffers who had never seen AR in a library setting were thrilled. The students were happy to witness the fruits of their labor.

The class wrapped up in December 2013, but the development of the app by Neon Roots continued. The firm released a free and final version this year, which has been downloaded 500 times, and an Android version is coming soon.

It was a wonderful experience not only to be part of the AR app development but to share the stories that make up the fabric of our library. The creative collaboration was exhilarating for library staff, who had a chance to explore their own garden and revisit their rich history.

As we left the Rare Books Room after an intense weekend work session, one of the students turned to me and said, “I never knew how much amazing stuff you have at Central. I can tell you, this is an experience I will never, ever forget.”

Ani Boyadjian is Principal Librarian for Research and Special Collections, Los Angeles Public Library, and can be reached at

I’m So Very Sorry

Ti, 09/16/2014 - 00:56

Two different but very related things happened last week which brought my own fallibility into painful focus for me.

One is that I blogged in support of the work of the Ada Initiative. They do great work to advance women in open technology and culture. If you are not familiar with their work, then by all means go and find out.

The other is that I discovered I had acted badly in exactly the kind of situation where I should have known better. The wake-up call came in the form of a blog post where the writer was kind enough not to call me out by name. But I will. It was me. Go ahead, read it. I’ll wait.

This, from someone who had fancied himself a feminist. I mean, srlsy. To me this shows just how deeply these issues run.

I was wrong, for which I am now apologizing. But allow me to be more specific. What am I sorry about?

  • I’m sorry that I shoved my way into a conversation where I didn’t belong. 
  • I’m sorry that I was wrong in what I advocated.
  • I’m sorry that my privilege and reputation can be unwittingly used to silence someone else.
  • I’m sorry that ignorance of my innate privilege has tended to support ignorance of my bad behavior.

I can’t change the past, but I can change the future. My slowly growing awareness of the effects of my words and actions can only help reduce my harmful impacts, while hopefully enforcing my positive actions.

Among the things that the Ada Initiative lists as ways that they are making a difference is this:

Asking men and influential community members to take responsibility for culture change.

I hear you, and I’m trying, as best as I can, to do this. It isn’t always quick, it isn’t always pretty, but it’s something. Until men stand up and own their own behavior and change it, things aren’t going to get better. I know this. I’m sorry for what I’ve done to perpetuate the problem, and I’m taking responsibility for my own actions, both in the past and in the future. Here’s hoping that the future is much brighter than the past.


Photo by butupa, Creative Commons License Attribution 2.0 Generic.

Shannon Lichty on Collaborations, Flexible Access, New Pricing Models, and Other Changes Driven by the Digital Shift

La, 09/13/2014 - 00:13

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

OverDrive is a Platinum Sponsor of the conference, and LJ reached out to Shannon Lichty, Director of Partner Services, OverDrive, 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?

SL: OverDrive has been enabling digital collaborations between libraries, schools, and local institutions for several years. One that many of our partners have enjoyed success with is local content which provides users access to titles relevant to their community. Librarians and teachers can upload directly to their lending platform ebook, audio, and video format titles they source from local indie authors, university presses, even local historical societies and projects. A great example is MidContinent Public Library (MO), [which] worked with local researchers to create digital audio archives of a fascinating series of interviews with members of an African-American bowling league.

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?

As mobile use has increased, so too have expectations for the library to be everywhere with an integrated experience, regardless of the device. OverDrive has been at the forefront of providing libraries and schools with “responsive” apps optimized for mobile users. OverDrive leads the market with our award-winning apps and promotion of open industry standards via OverDrive Read, our browser-based HTML5 and EPUB3 reading software that requires no app to install and supports highly graphic content. Users can access titles (eBooks, audiobooks and streaming video) through any connected device and sync across devices.

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?

OverDrive’s large collection of professional development materials, training and career guides, and wellness and health catalogs are serving the workforce of the communities our libraries and schools serve. Where budgets are an issue, we have developed and operate fundraising programs that enable the school or library to solicit support for a “sponsored collection” and recognize that books and materials are provided due to the generous support of the sponsor. A great example is Portage County District Library (OH).

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

OverDrive serves nearly 10,000 schools to deliver digital curriculum, textbooks, and reading materials to students in the classroom. We’ve invested in modified metadata that includes grade level ratings, Lexile and Accelerated Reader scores, Common Core alignment, and Interest Level. Schools have also asked for more flexible ways to access materials. We’ve worked with publishers to increase simultaneous use options and to introduce “class sets,” a new program in which several of the largest trade publishers will begin to offer multiple copies of an eBook with simultaneous use rights for short-term periods, such as a semester or year.

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?

OverDrive Marketplace creates a single source of digital content from the widest range of categories, languages, and business or cost models. We expect the free enterprise forces of the marketplace to continue to provide competition for sales and market share, and lead to better pricing and purchasing options for our school and library partners. One successful outcome: An ever increasing number of publishers are providing more than one price model for their titles. In addition, we support individual simultaneous access plans as well as “class sets” with great discounts for titles that a school only needs for a limited period.

Shannon Lichty is the Director of OverDrive’s Partner Services department which serves thousands of libraries and schools worldwide. She leads a team that works with library and school partners to implement OverDrive, including website development, user authentication, MARC record integration, staff training, and outreach support. Shannon also serves as the chairperson for OverDrive’s user group conference, Digipalooza, and has been with OverDrive for eight years. Shannon is a graduate of Heidelberg University.


The Playaway Digital Audio Device Sports New Features

Ke, 09/10/2014 - 18:47

Findaway World’s improved Playaway LIGHT digital audio device came out in March 2014. Image courtesy of Playaway

Playaways, prerecorded audio players produced by Findaway World, came onto the scene in 2005, and some public libraries purchased the devices as an easy, compact way for customers—of all ages—to have access to audiobooks. In March of this year, Findaway World, announced Playaway LIGHT, an improved version of their all-in-one digital audio device.

What is new and improved? There is a backlit screen that’s easy to read in a variety of lighting situations. The information on the Playaway screen is expanded. For example, when listening to a book, you can find out how much time is left in the chapter and the device’s battery life. And for multi-taskers, the buttons have been revamped to make it easier to manage basic functions through touch for those who don’t want to have to look at the Playaway during use.

However, I didn’t find that the restyling of the buttons made it any easier to use the device without looking at it. Perhaps someone who has a lot of experience with the Playaway and knows how things are set up might find touch controlling easy to do. But others, like me, will probably still have to study the device to push the right button for listening, turning on, turning off, and so forth.

The audio quality of the Playaway is good. I played it about a half-a-dozen times, and there was no sound loss during the plays. The test unit I had access to included a selection of “Clifford the Big Red Dog” stories, and both the narrator and music are entertaining.

Ultimately you’ll want to think about the value of Playaways for your customers. In this world of downloadable content, purchasing an all-in-one player like this might not be the best way to spend the dollars you have available. Before adding to your Playaway collection (or starting a Playaway collection), even with these aforementioned improvements in mind, ask yourself:

  • Is this device the best way to meet the needs of the children, teens, families, and others that I work with?
  • Do my customers want a single-use device like this that they can put in their pocket and walk around with? Or would they prefer to have access to more downloadable content for their own devices or access to audiobook content on multi-use devices that the library circulates?
  • Is the content that I would need for the audience I work with available on the Playaway?

In 2014, the features of this kind of all-in-one-device might no longer be right for your library. If you don’t already have a Playaway collection, I’d say the improvements don’t warrant starting one. Focus instead on how you can provide downloads to customers for devices the library provides—or for their own devices.

The Power of Powers of 2

Ke, 09/10/2014 - 02:43

Despite the fact that I consider myself a lifelong feminist, I am still surprised and dismayed at how easily I can overlook discriminatory behavior toward women. Or not even discriminatory behavior but things that are much more subtle, like situations that discourage women from speaking up or participating.

So when a colleague forwarded a notice about the Ada Initiative’s “Allies Workshop” (now called the “Ally Skills” workshop), I jumped at the chance to go. I had heard of the Ada Initiative and I was interested to hear what they had to tell me. The workshop I attended in San Francisco included mostly men from startup technology companies. I learned more about the subtle ways in which discrimination occurs and how to be a better ally to those experiencing such discrimination. I was also surprised and pleased to discover that I learned a lot from situations that others had experienced and described in our interactive sessions.

I left the workshop feeling more knowledgeable and empowered to help make a difference. But more importantly, I learned more about how my own behavior can be modified to provide space for voices that might otherwise go unheard. I also left being impressed with Valerie Aurora, who led the workshop. Little did I know at the time that we would cross paths again soon.

The 2014 Code4Lib Conference was able to sign on Valerie Aurora as a keynote speaker, and she requested to be interviewed rather than to give a speech. I was happy to offer to do the interview, which you can see here. It was one of the best sessions we’ve ever had at Cod4Lib, and not because of the interviewer.

Now the Ada Initiative is asking for our help and I’m happy to help publicize the library-specific campaign to raise money to support and expand their work. Suggested donation amounts use powers of 2, which is totally a geek thing. Andromeda Yelton, Bess Sadler, Chris Bourg, and Mark Matienzo joined forces to help raise $4,092 (2 to the 12th power) in matching funds. This means that any donation you make is automatically doubled. The campaign runs from now to September 15th, so donate now!

Feel the power of using powers of 2 to build a more equitable and just society.

In Memoriam: Anne Grodzins Lipow

Ti, 09/09/2014 - 23:23

I was reminded by her daughter on Facebook that Anne Grodzins Lipow passed away ten years ago today. In commemoration of that horrible event, I am posting the Foreword I wrote for Anne’s festschrift that was published in 2008.

On September 9, 2004 librarianship lost a true champion. Anne Grodzins Lipow was unique – of all the testimonials I’ve read about her that is one undeniable truth. We each knew a different set of Anne’s qualities, or engaged with her in a different way, but in the end it all came down to the fact that Anne was someone we could all say was “larger than life”.

The days after her passing were filled with personal testimonials that were mostly lodged as comments on the Infopeople blog. It was an odd experience for me to read these messages and realize that as much as I felt that I knew her, I barely knew her at all. I was like the proverbial blind man with his hands wrapped around one part of the elephant, while others had a firm grip on other body parts and would describe a very different animal. My reality, as deeply felt as it was, was only a pale shadow of the whole.

But for all that, it was a long, long shadow. As a newly-minted librarian at UC Berkeley in the second half of the 1980s, I knew Anne as the person who led the outreach and instructional efforts of the library. Before long, she saw in me the potential to be a good teacher, despite my fear of public speaking, so she pulled me into her program and began teaching me everything she knew about speaking, putting on workshops, making handouts, etc. Under her tutelage, I taught classes such as dialup access to the library catalog, when 300bps modems were still common.

As the Internet began making inroads into universities, Anne was there with newly developed workshops on how to use it. She was convinced very early on, as was I, that the Internet would be an essential technology for libraries. This led to her approaching my colleague John Ober (then on faculty at the library school at Berkeley) and I about doing a full-day Internet workshop scheduled to coincide with the 1992 ALA Annual Conference in San Francisco. Using a metaphor of John’s, we called it
“Crossing the Internet Threshold”.

In preparing for the workshop, we created so many handouts that we needed to put them into a binder that began to look increasingly like a book in the making. With typical Anne flair, she arranged for the gifted librarian cartoonist Gary Handman (also our colleague at Berkeley) to create a snazzy cover for the binder, that she also used to create T-shirts (which many of us have to this day).

Anne knew enough about workshops to do a “trial run” before the big day, so we did one for UC Berkeley library staff a couple weeks before, which gave us feedback essential to making an excellent workshop. In the end, the workshop was such a hit that Anne ran with it. She took the binder of handouts we had created and made a book out of it — the first book of her newly-created business called Library Solutions Institute and Press. Her decision to publish the book herself rather than seek out a publisher was so typical of Anne. And how she did it will tell you a lot about her.

Despite the higher cost, Anne insisted on using domestic union printing shops for printing. While other publishers were publishing books overseas for a fraction of the cost, publishing for Anne was a political and social activity, through which she could do good for those around her. It was very important to her to treat people with respect and kindness, and she did it so well. That was the kind of person Anne was.

While every publisher I have since worked with after Anne has insisted they are incapable of paying royalties any more frequently than twice a year, Anne paid her authors monthly. And whereas other publishers wait months to pay you for royalties earned long before, Anne would pay immediately. This meant that when books were returned, as they sometimes were, she took the loss for having paid the author royalties on books that had not been sold. That was the kind of person Anne was.

Anne continued to blaze new trails after libraries began climbing on the Internet bandwagon, due in no small measure to her books and workshops on the topic. Anne became a well-known and coveted consultant on a number of topics, but in particular on reference services.

Her “Rethinking Reference” institutes and book were widely acclaimed, and her book The Virtual Reference Librarian’s Handbook (2003) demonstrated that Anne was always at the cutting edge of librarianship. That was the kind of person Anne was.

I visited her after her cancer was diagnosed and after her treatment had failed. We all knew there was no hope, that she had only a matter of weeks to live. Despite the obvious ravages of the illness, Anne’s outlook remained bright and welcoming. She was happy to have her friends and family around her, and we talked of many things except the dark shadow that hung over us all. Even then, she was happy to see whoever came by, and to talk with them with a smile and good wishes. That was the kind of person Anne was.

A piece of all my major professional accomplishments I owe to Anne, and her great and good influence on me. She would deny this, despite it’s truth, wanting all the credit to accrue to me alone. That was the kind of person Anne was.


Each one of us who have contributed to this volume have been touched by Anne in our own, quite personal ways. Some of us have known of her work mostly by reputation and reading, while others were blessed with more direct and personal contact. But the fact remains that Anne cast a long professional shadow that will affect many librarians yet to come.

For those of us who created a monument of words to someone we love and respect, Anne had one final gift to give. As anyone who has ever created a present for someone they love knows, in so doing you think about the person for whom you are making the gift. Therefore, the authors of this volume have all spent more time with Anne, and as always it was time well spent. We know our readers will count it so too.

31 January 2008, Sonoma, CA

New Frederick County PL Library Card Doubles as a Visa Debit Card

Ti, 09/09/2014 - 22:04

Following four months of discussions with SirsiDynix and a brief pilot test this summer, Maryland’s Frederick County Public Libraries (FCPL) on September 5 officially launched the “I Love My Library” prepaid Visa debit card. Developed by SirsiDynix in partnership with Visa and Card Limited, the new affinity cards double as a patron’s library card and aim to help libraries achieve three goals:

  1. Offer “unbanked” patrons access to a debit card with a transparent fee structure as a component of a library’s financial literacy programming.
  2. Develop deeper ties with local businesses through a Linkable Networks feature that will enable local and national merchants and restaurant owners to partner with libraries and offer discounts to card holders.
  3. Provide a new revenue stream to libraries, which will receive a small donation from Card Limited each time a card is activated—one dollar in FCPL’s case—as well as seven percent of each card’s monthly fee, a portion of transaction fees, and typically one percent to two percent of each affinity card transaction from merchants that partner with the library through the Linkable Networks feature. These fees cannot be waived by the library if a patron opts to register the card. However, if a patron chooses not to register the card, it will still work at the library.

Some librarians may find the concept of offering a prepaid card as a revenue stream unusual or possibly in opposition to the non-profit tradition of public libraries, acknowledged Eric Keith, VP of global marketing, communications, and strategic alliances for SirsiDynix. However, there is a real need for these services among many demographics that are heavy library users. Libraries, unlike convenience stores or other retail outlets that sell prepaid debit cards, have the opportunity to tie these cards into financial literacy programs, Keith noted. And, where many prepaid cards have an average lifespan of six months, according to a 2012 study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, users are much more likely to retain a dual-use card, thus avoiding a new cycle of activation and other fees when obtaining a new prepaid card.

Unbanked patrons

In its most recent National Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked Households, published in September 2012, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) found that 8.2 percent of U.S. households—or one in 12—are unbanked, meaning that no one in a given household had access to a traditional checking or savings account. An additional 20.1 percent of U.S. households are “underbanked,” meaning that they have access to a bank account, but have also had to rely on alternative financial services (AFS) such as money orders, check-cashing services, payday loans, rent-to-own services, pawn shops, or refund anticipation loans during the past twelve months.

AFS tend to have significantly higher fees and interest rates than traditional banking products. According to estimates from the Center for Financial Services Innovation, a nonprofit financial services consultancy, the unbanked and underbanked spent $89 billion in fees and interest using AFS in 2012.

“There’s a large cash-only population out there,” FCPL Director Darrell Batson told LJ. FCPL is participating in a local financial literacy council sponsored by the United Way, and has hosted financial literacy programs to help patrons sign up for savings accounts, for example. Batson said that he does view this prepaid card as having the potential to provide a bridge toward improved financial stability for some patrons, if libraries can successfully link it to broader educational efforts.

“If we can get [unbanked patrons] interacting with financial institutions, or establishing credit, or actually securing their finances in a more mainstream way, they’re not so liable to be prey to check cashing schemes and [payday loans],” Batson said. “If they’re out of that, then they really do have the resources to improve their lives.”

There is significant demand for financial services for people who do not want or cannot obtain a standard bank account. In its 2013 study “Prepaid Cards: How They RateConsumer Reports estimated that $167 billion would be loaded onto prepaid cards alone in 2014. Yet many of these services charge fees or interest rates that are significantly higher than those charged by banks. Consumer Reports, for example, singled out one prepaid card with an activation fee of $19.95, which also charges users up to $4.95 to load money on to their card, and $2.00 each time they call customer service.

This is an extreme example. In comparison with the cards analyzed by Consumer Reports, the I Love My Library card’s one-time activation fee of $5.95 and ongoing maintenance fees of $5.95 per month are in the middle of the pack. However, Justin Swain, end user services consultant for SirsiDynix, noted that SirsiDynix had specifically worked to avoid hidden fees and to make this card’s fees as transparent as possible.

For example, unlike many other prepaid options, users are not charged fees to load money onto their cards via direct deposit or electronic transfer (although many retailers will assess their own fees if users want to load cash onto a card). Customer service calls, online card account access, electronic bill and check payments, and text and email alert features are all free. There are no overdraft features, so there are no overdraft penalties or fees. If a card goes unused for 45 days, monthly maintenance charges will cease, and will resume only when the card is used again or reloaded with funds, without incurring a separate re-activation fee. And while there is a $2.50 charge for using ATMs and a $1.95 charge for each PIN-based transaction (including cash back at retailers), there are no fees for signature-based transactions. The cards also come preloaded with $2 courtesy of Visa.

In addition, financial information is never shared with the library, and the library never shares patron information with Visa. Lost or stolen cards are protected by Visa’s Zero Liability policy.

“We worked for a solid year to put together a program where the fees are at the lower end of the [prepaid card market] scale,” Keith said. “We’ve got low activation fees, low monthly fees, and low transactional fees.”

Beta Feedback Leads to Changes

SirsiDynix publically announced the new affinity card as the BLUEcloud Library Visa Prepaid Card at the annual COSUGI user group meeting in May, as a component of its Community Funded Services revenue stream platform. In addition to FCPL, Michigan’s Lansing Public Library was part of the earliest discussions with SirsiDynix about the new product, and two other systems in Florida and Mississippi began testing the new cards this summer. The cards will be available to all interested SirsiDynix libraries in Q4.

“When we heard about the concept, we thought it had some possibility…. But we were apprehensive,” said Batson. One issue was the BLUEcloud branding. While familiar to librarians who are current SirsiDynix customers, the BLUEcloud brand wouldn’t have any significance for patrons. And, while FCPL did its own research and found the proposed fee structure of the cards to be competitive and fair, Batson didn’t think that the library affinity program alone could compete against other prepaid cards in a crowded market.

“My point to them was, ‘what’s your hook?’” Batson said. “There are thousands of cards out there…. To their credit, they took a core of an idea, and polished it.”

Partnering with local business

Frederick’s Central Library is in the center of a vibrant downtown historic district and adjoins this lovely riverwalk

In addition to the new name and new look, Batson was enthusiastic about partnering with local businesses via Linkable Networks, another feature that was added after the initial discussions. A short walk outside of FCPL’s central C. Burr Artz Public Library quickly explains why. The library is located in a large and vibrant downtown historic district with hundreds of locally-owned businesses. On launch day, FCPL also kicked off its annual outdoor concert series, Music on the Terrace, with afro-pop band Elikeh jamming as locals dined at cafes, pubs, and sandwich shops lining the riverwalk behind the library. Restaurant staff handed out event-only coupons alongside an I Love My Library card display.

FCPL is already engaged with Frederick’s business community, and Batson hopes the card will help strengthen those relationships. He has already discussed potential partnerships with the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce, which has expressed enthusiasm about the possibilities as well. Batson and Swain separately noted that reaching a critical mass of such partnerships will help broaden the appeal of the card for patrons who do have bank accounts, but will view the card as a way to support their library and support local businesses.

“It’s not by happenstance that downtown [Frederick] is vibrant. The community as a whole works for that,” he said. “When we talked to SirsiDynix and we talked to the Chamber of Commerce, we said ‘we agree with this [Linkable Networks] product, but the first place we’re going to is our local businesses. We’re not going to Wal-Mart and we’re not going to Target. We’re doing family, we’re doing our companies downtown’… That’s how we’ll be [explaining] it to our patrons.”

The launch of the new prepaid card coincided with the beginning of FCPL’s annual Music on the Terrace outdoor concert series

Card Limited will be working to bring national retailers and chain restaurants on board with I Love My Library card discount partnerships. Based on the library system that their card is affiliated with, patrons will be able to view a list of “linkables” deals available to them on the site, whether that business is a local sandwich shop or a national pharmacy chain.

Asked whether the library’s tapping a new revenue stream dependent on commercial activity might set an unfortunate precedent, perhaps even threatening municipal funding down the road, Batson said, “well, you’d honestly have to show me libraries that have experienced massive increases in their municipal budgets during the last ten years.”

Later, he circled back to the card’s potential to enhance FCPL’s ties to local businesses and the local community.

“A lot of things are mandated by law—fire departments, police,” Batson said. “Libraries aren’t mandated by law. There’s no law we can point to that says ‘you have to fund us, you have to maintain us.’ Libraries are here because communities insist on us and believe in us. If we don’t continue to build that credibility and interaction, we won’t be here.”

Literacy for More Than Just a Day

Ma, 09/08/2014 - 22:52

It may not have escaped your notice that today is International Literacy Day. There are of course many aspects to this, as you might imagine when you discover that this year’s theme is “Literacy and Sustainable Development”. They go hand-in-hand. But of course there are also personal aspects to literacy. Being able to read makes a tremendous difference in the lives of individuals. As a librarian and as a father and as someone who has made a career on the written word, I know this.

After coming home from work I would read to my kids every night since they were six months old. My wife allowed me to do it as “Daddy bonding time.” In the early days it meant trying to control squirmy twins while reading a succession of board books. But it soon evolved into a beloved tradition for all of us, especially as they took control of picking the books. Eventually, and at an early age, they landed on a book of folk tales from around the world. This book was not intended for children. It is a thick book without a single illustration. The language used was clearly aimed at adults. And they loved it.

We read and re-read it until it was falling apart and I had to sew and tape it back together (see picture). Soon they were sneaking books to bed and reading when they should have been sleeping. And then, to my dismay, as I enjoyed this time with them so much, they told me they wanted to read on their own. This was before they entered kindergarten.

You may notice that I never said I taught them how to read. This is because I didn’t. All I ever did was read to them. I did not actively do anything to teach them, and to my chagrin, we leapfrogged right over Dr. Seuss. Green Eggs and Ham, which was my younger brother’s favorite book and the first book he could read, was simply not what they wanted to read. At 21 they continue to be voracious readers, and are usually in the middle of several books at once.

So finally, after many years, I am stepping up to make a difference in my own community for literacy. Thanks to my wife, who was active in this program last year but can’t this year due to schedule conflicts, I will be reading to children at a local school in their after school program. I went to the orientation last week and will be back for training next week. After that, the fun begins.

Because I know from experience that literacy isn’t something that happens in a day. But I also know that the commitment required is well worth it, and pays dividends for a lifetime. So I know exactly how I will be honoring International Literacy Day. It won’t be quite like having the twins back on my lap, but it will be close.


Jim Schmidt on Raising the Service Bar, Non-traditional Partnerships, and Other Changes Driven by the Digital Shift

Ma, 09/08/2014 - 21:55

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

RBdigital is a Gold Sponsor of the conference, and LJ reached out to Jim Schmidt, RBdigital’s Vice President of Sales & Marketing, 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?

JS: The digital shift has given librarians the ability to offer sophisticated educational and entertainment related services to their patrons and remotely reach a growing population of patrons who are looking to use these services in the context of their busy lifestyles. The service bar has been set higher by the open access of the Internet. Smart technology partnerships will help librarians meet that growing expectation of their patrons now and in the future.

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?

While is it easy to get swept up in reports of digital success stories, I think we all recognize that the library still serves an important role in distributing physical products, and sometimes equally importantly, in providing a safe environment for social interaction. The most successful libraries appear to be those who recognize the possibilities of a digital future while retaining the value of a traditional past (and monitoring that tradition for ongoing relevance). Products like our Zinio for Libraries (digital magazines) and OneClickdigital (ebooks/eAudio) have proven a great bridging platform to allow libraries to introduce a new format for an existing product along with the metrics to measure how the new format is received. The challenge now is for libraries to identify services that patrons may not even be asking for yet thereby proving the library’s value to the community.

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?

Some of our favorite success stories come from “non-traditional” partnerships that the library has forged with the local community to fund specific areas of interest. Universal Class, our online continuing education program, has found great success in smaller libraries, particularly in areas where a large corporate presence is closing its doors. In some cases, these companies actually help fund these kinds of career training/retraining services, and the library needs only the wherewithal to ask. It is not uncommon for libraries to find “sponsors” with local communities to fund specific needs within the library—how many times do you see stickers on magazines that list a business which helped fund it? Libraries can take those traditional sources of revenue and modify them to work within a digital environment.

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

As in many other areas, quality will always be more important than quantity. It has never been a practical requirement of the library community to control the amount of time any child does anything. Parental involvement and beliefs will always trump any institutional approach. But what a library can control is what a child has access to while within its area of influence. It is often easy to forget that we learn best when we are having fun. If children have a desire to interact with electronic media, the library is in a great position to provide a safe and structured environment for the “right” kind of learning.

When this event began, whether ebooks even had a future in libraries was far from clear. Now that all of the Big Five 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?

Acquisition and pricing models for ebooks will be influenced, as always, by the needs of publishers, library funding and by how patrons want to use the product. The challenge facing libraries today is how to maintain a print collection (a majority of patrons still want to hold paper) while growing a digital collection using roughly the same amount of money. As a consequence, we are seeing a wide variety of models being offered by both publishers and technology partners. Unlimited access for a flat fee, fixed limits on circulations, pay per checkout and pay per use are all models that are currently being used in libraries. All of these models are trying to strike a balance between publisher business needs, library budgetary constraints, growing patron demand and mobile lifestyles. Time and experience will tell if one model will rise to the top or if we will live in a world of many flavors.

SLJ Reviews LEGO StoryStarter: Using the classic brick, plus software, to foster narrative skills

Ma, 09/08/2014 - 20:00

Is there a student on Earth who doesn’t love LEGO? StoryStarter, from LEGO Education, taps into that enthusiasm with a language and literacy product that combines an inviting tub of LEGOs with thoughtful lessons and user-friendly writing and comics software.

LEGO Education describes its new Common Core-aligned kits, designed for group or classroom use in grades 2–5, as “Hands-on Literacy.” Teachers can also use it with first graders (given a little support) or older students who love LEGO. The engagement factor and repetition of key literacy elements make it a natural for English for Speakers of Other Languages programs and remediation.

Kits center on tableau-building, with targeted lessons on storyboarding, scriptwriting, or analyzing themes or elements before building and then writing, reflecting, and presenting after building. Kits come in several sizes and include sorting trays, story-element spinners, an enticing LEGO assortment, and StoryVisualizer software (think Comic Life, but easier and with a few extras). Each kit or software purchase includes a teacher lesson binder. Software purchases include a PDF download of the teacher binder content. Teachers also receive emails with free extra lessons and activities to download; examples include “A Memorable Character” and “Your Favorite Author.”

Students use LEGO pieces to demonstrate understanding of story elements, practice summarizing skills, enhance knowledge of genres, and create scenes to accompany creative and nonfiction writing assignments. The spinners have replaceable mood choice or category choice cards, and students can easily make their own spinner choice cards. Teachers will find it easy to devise new ways to integrate these activities with any literacy-focused lessons, from language arts to social studies to cross-curricular activities. The “Constructopedia” section of the teacher binder includes tips and tutorials, as well as colorful mini-posters of backdrops and visual prompts.

Students build scenes, take photos, and then upload the photos. The StoryVisualizer software features backdrops and clip art elements for drag-and-drop scene building. It also allows for import of images from cameras, smartphones, or webcams. There are effects choices for images as well as an eraser tool to allow for editing and masking images.

Editing and design choices are simple and clear. Teachers may find that, for younger students, saving images from the camera and replacing the memory card is more difficult than using the software. Most of the templates are comic panels, but students can also drag text boxes to write descriptive paragraphs and pages.

Projects are saved locally in either a proprietary format (.LSP) or as PDFs. It’s nice to see the distinction spelled out for students: “Save project file to work on later” vs. “Warning: You cannot reopen PDF files in the StoryVisualizer software.”

Where does StoryStarter fit into a typical elementary classroom? It aligns nicely with traditional elements of literacy: retelling, comprehension-building, understanding literary elements, and writing in all genres.

Building writing stamina is a major concern in schools, and the StoryStarter approach supports students who have a hard time getting started and offers advanced options for extending projects. Teachers and teams could share a five-student pack as a rotating station or go with a whole class pack.

Melissa Techman is a K–5 librarian at Broadus Wood Elementary School in Albemarle County, VA.


Boston College’s MediaKron Digital Humanities Platform Looks To Grow

To, 09/04/2014 - 21:31

Fresh off of its second year of partnerships with six northeastern colleges and universities, Boston College’s Instructional Design + eTeaching Services (IDeS) department is beginning to look at ways to expand access to its proprietary MediaKron digital humanities platform to other institutions, according to Tim Lindgren, senior instructional designer for IDeS.

“We’re trying to find a sustainable model for sharing it, and also trying to enhance its capabilities for the kind of work that people here [at Boston College] want to do,” Lindgren told LJ.

Developed to help university faculty and instructors “tell stories with digital content” this latest, 3.0 version of MediaKron is a freestanding HTML 5 application with a Drupal-based datastore and custom JavaScript written by IDeS. It is designed to make it easy for teachers to upload images, audio, video, and text to create dynamic, interactive learning sites on the web, with information displayed via timelines, maps, or slideshows, for example. MediaKron can also be used as a collaborative tool enabling students to work together on sites or create their own projects. In its latest iteration, IDeS is hoping that the tool catches on with digital archivists and other academic librarians.

“We’re more and more seeing libraries as one of our exciting potential partnerships,” Lindgren said. “Many of the projects we’ve done have had a library component, but we’re going to be deepening that connection. There are many librarians that work closely with faculty and students and often want to have a way for people to wire up projects quickly, but also get them engaged with other parts of the library collection. We’re hoping that this collaboration will solve some problems for them [in ways that] benefit the MediaKron project as a whole, and that we can get a lot of input—especially as we are thinking of import, export functionality and integrating with external content. So, there’s a real effort to be part of a more open data sharing framework as we go along to figure out how we can both import from databases but also make MediaKron available with its own API, or some way that it can share data with other sources.”

Lindgren described MediaKron as a suite of interfaces that lower the barrier for people to get educational sites up and running with little hassle. There are, he acknowledged, many tools that overlap with the platform’s capabilities—learning management systems to distribute content to students, mapping and timeline software, open source content management systems (CMSs) like WordPress or Drupal for running blogs or websites, and even digital humanities suites such as Omeka. With MediaKron, however, IDeS has worked to create a platform that offers a robust set of features but requires minimal technical skills.

“We’re really thinking about the average user who may not be technical and who may not have much in terms of resources and has 15 weeks to get a project going,” Lindgren explained. “This is designed to hit the sweet spot of ease of use, with enough capabilities that people can do really meaningful projects.”

Judging by MediaKron’s documentation site, the learning curve should be minimal for users who are familiar with uploading content into a CMS such as WordPress.

The idea for MediaKron originated almost a decade ago, when IDeS was working with faculty to create customized sites for individual courses, such as the Roma: Caput Mundi site that enabled art history students to view Renaissance and Baroque monuments in Rome, benefiting from additional context provided by maps and timelines. While these sites were useful for the purposes of those specific courses, the investment of time and resources required to build customized sites was not scalable.

“We looked at these as really exciting projects, but we wanted to figure out ways to make what they had done available to other people,” Lindgren said.

The IDeS team began building the platform in 2006 using Drupal, but MediaKron really began to take off in 2012, when a $500,000 grant from the Davis Educational Foundation helped fund additional development and the expansion of the project to six partner institutions: Boston University, Bucknell University, Clark University, Dartmouth College, Providence College and Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

The grant was extended in 2013, enabling Boston College and its partners to continue producing and showcasing new projects, such as Digital Dubliners, developed by an undergraduate student at Boston College. The project, which has since been converted into an iBook, is a virtual guide to James Joyce’s Dubliners offering visual context for sights and locations mentioned in the book, as well as audio for songs mentioned in the book. Other projects included the Great Problems Seminar: Heal the World, in which Worcester Polytechnic Institute biotechnology professor Jill Rulfs had students use MediaKron collaboratively to study the London cholera epidemic of mid-19th century.

MediaKron is currently a proprietary solution that is only available to faculty, staff, and students at Boston College and its partners, but Lindgren reiterated that IDeS was ultimately aiming to make the platform more broadly available.

“We’re working mostly with our partners, but we’re open to hearing from people who are interested in MediaKron and would like to be in conversation about it,” Lindgren said. “Maybe out of that some kind of partnership or ideas for sustainability might emerge.”

What You Should Know About Banned Websites Awareness Day, September 24

To, 09/04/2014 - 16:33

As part of the American Library Association’s (ALA) Banned Books Week campaign to raise awareness about the impact of censorship on intellectual freedom, the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) is designating Wednesday September 24th, 2014 as the fourth Annual Banned Websites Awareness Day (BWAD).

AASL is to be commended for taking the lead on this intellectual freedom issue. It is increasingly evident that access to participatory media is essential to teaching the frameworks set forth by the Partnership for 21st Century Learning, dedicated to fostering 21st-century readiness among students and, more specifically for school librarians, AASL’s Learning for Life (L4L) standards. Yet these resources—those that create opportunities for students to contribute and publish online—are often blocked in K–12 schools.

Internet censorship is most often fueled by fear. Federal legislation, costly litigation, online predators, network security, and privacy breeches are commonly cited as justification for aggressive filtering practices. While these concerns are legitimate, denying teachers and students a chance to experience online participatory learning together verges on professional negligence. When schools fail to teach students how to learn and publish on the World Wide Web, they deny students fundamental instruction that is necessary for success in today’s world and even more so in tomorrow’s.

Students are entitled to guidance and supervision by vetted, certified professionals when learning to navigate the participatory Web. This is how they learn responsible use. School should be the training ground for online interaction, the place where digital citizenship instruction is embedded across disciplines – not the place where students are sequestered from the real world. In most cases, students have access to what is blocked in school once they leave the school building, and students in censored schools have to learn how to negotiate this unregulated landscape unsupervised and on their own. Educators have an obligation to correct that, even if it seems frightening to do so.



The AASL first launched BWAD in 2011 at the suggestion of then-AASL president, Nancy Everhart, in response to concerns from AASL members about the impact of filtering on K–12 learning. “Approving it shortly before it was to ‘launch’ allowed us to implement it right away”, said Everhart. During her 2010–11 AASL presidency, Everhart visited more than 30 school libraries across the country that had been identified as outstanding by their affiliate organization. Over and over, she heard school librarians report that what seemed like arbitrary filtering practices impeded their ability to fulfill their responsibilities as instructional partners and information specialists—from connecting students with the instruction and resources they needed for 21st-century learning. In a few instances, she witnessed how open Internet access enhanced learning and digital citizenship instruction.

Vocal intellectual freedom enthusiasts within the school librarian community have written compelling endorsements of BWAD since its inception. Educator Doug Johnson, in his Blue Skunk Blog, wrote, “While other educators might promote books, help integrate technology skills and assist in information literacy projects, who else in the school fights for student (and teacher) access to uncensored digital information and ideas?” In his blog Stephen’s Lighthouse, librarian and consultant Stephen Abram said, “Blocking access to social media leaves most students susceptible to dangerous behaviors as they can’t easily be taught digital safety in a vacuum.” In a 2010 AASL blog post, former AASL president Helen Adams wrote, “many administrators exhibited apprehension of students’ on campus use of Web 2.0 interactive tools despite the fact that the skills developed when using social media are necessary for success in a global society.”

In the national Speak Up survey from the nonprofit educational organization Project Tomorrow, students’ responses in 2012 included a complaint about school filters and firewalls as well. The other top responses centered on how administrations limited students’ access to the digital tools and resources they use regularly outside of school:

  • School filters and firewalls block website I need
  • I cannot access my social media sites
  • I cannot use my own mobile device
  • There are too many rules about using technology at school
  • I cannot use text messaging

In the 2013 version of the survey, 62 percent of nearly 5,000 middle school respondents said, “Websites that I need are blocked (through school filters or firewalls).”

As with Banned Books Week, schools celebrate Banned Websites Awareness Day in variety of ways. The New York Times reported in 2011 that students at Silver Creek High School in Longmont, Colorado, held a “graffiti debate” on censorship. New Trier High School in the Chicago suburbs surveyed students about blocked Web sites after loosening its own Internet filters this year. In New York City, students and teachers at Middle School 127 in the Bronx sent more than 60 emails to the Department of Education protesting a block on personal blogs and social media sites. In New Canaan, Connecticut, the high school blocked Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube for six hours to show solidarity with students in schools where those sites are consistently blocked.


Resources for Banned Websites Awareness Day

AASL provides a number of resources to help educators advocate for intellectual freedom in K–12 learning, including an online advocacy portal to inform the public about BWAD and a comprehensive list of resources in its Essential Links portal. In 2012, AASL published a white paper on the use of technology in schools and sponsored an archived webinar hosted by Daring Librarian blogger Gwyneth Jones, “How to Be a Ninja Warrior Filter Fighter!

Unfortunately, a number of school librarians opt out of acknowledging BWAD to avoid backlash or even retribution from their school and network administrators. While this concern is real, there is growing momentum behind the movement to rethink filtering practices.

In the summer of 2013, the ALA Washington Office of Information Policy and Technology Policy (OITP) partnered with the ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom (OIF) and Google to host a symposium on the impact of Children’s’ Internet Protection Act (CIPA) on education. This event informed much of the 2014 report, Fencing Out Knowledge: Impacts of the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) 10 Years Later, that was widely disseminated at the 2014 ALA National Conference. The report recommends that libraries play a role in increasing digital inclusion by doing the following:

  • Increase awareness of the spectrum of filtering choices
  • Develop a toolkit for school leaders
  • Establish a digital repository of internet filtering studies
  • Conduct research to explore the educational uses of social media platforms and assess the impact of filtering in schools

During the 2014 ALA Annual Conference, the AASL Board voted to revise its mission statement, which now reads, “The American Association of School Librarians empowers leaders to transform teaching and learning.” This refocused vision aligns with the Fencing Out Knowledge report and empowers AASL to play a role in supporting school librarians carrying out the OITP/OIF report’s recommendations. Banned Websites Awareness Day provides a vehicle to channel that effort. The board also voted to establish a BWAD committee, which is likely to be charged with raising awareness about the impact of overly restrictive blocking of Internet sites in K–12 learning. The committee’s establishment underscores AASL’s commitment to transform learning.

The Fencing Out Knowledge study identified “an overreach in the implementation of CIPA—far beyond the requirements and intent of the law.” This is one of the chief misunderstandings policy makers use to justify overblocking Internet sites in K–12 schools. The information provided in the report, along with new opportunities for involvement on the forthcoming AASL BWAD committee, may inspire more school librarians to promote Banned Websites Awareness Day this year.


Michelle Luhtala ( is the department chair of the New Canaan (CT) High School Library and is a professional learning community facilitator at She blogs at


Michigan State Launches SearchPlus for Ease of Use, Interdisciplinary Research

To, 08/28/2014 - 21:51

This is the first of an LJ “Rollout” series on webscale discovery solution implementations.

In an effort to cater to the growth of interdisciplinary research while also simplifying the search experience for undergraduates, the Michigan State University Libraries (MSU) this month debuted Summon from ProQuest as its first web scale discovery service. Branded as SearchPlus by MSU, the discovery layer will offer students and researchers a single entry point for searching the majority of the library’s resources.

“We were seeing confusion among library users, who found it very difficult to choose well among literally hundreds of ‘silos’ devoted to specific kinds of information (OPAC for books, MLA index for literature studies, SciFinder for chemistry articles, etc.),” Steven Sowards, MSU libraries associate director for collections, told LJ regarding MSU’s decision to implement a discovery solution. “This was especially a problem for first-year students, who might have no experience with searching except through a Google-like platform.”

In addition to making searching a more intuitive experience, implementing a discovery solution gives students and researchers a better view of the range of resources available at MSU libraries, and helps “support searching across publications in multiple disciplines,” Sowards explained.

“Scholars are trained in their disciplines to know what are the primary and most important resources,” added Michael Rodriguez, collections coordinator for the humanities, noting that there used to be semester-long classes on these resources at the graduate student level in many disciplines. “But now so much scholarship, especially at a land-grant [university] like MSU, is interdisciplinary, and a resource overlay like Summon introduces scholars to many of the main resources they probably wouldn’t know about outside of their main field of study.”

A search for the term “Postmodernism,” for example, will return results for resources in music, philosophy, art, architecture, education, and other fields, Rodriguez said. “In addition researchers are pointed to ‘Related Topics’ and a choice of specific ‘Discipline’ under ‘Refine Your Search’—something library catalogs don’t do very well in organizing information.”

Recent Summon training for library staff has taken interdisciplinary research into account, Sowards said.

“For example, while we realize that CINAHL [Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health] continues to be the preferred discipline-specific indexing tool for nursing topics, there are cross-disciplinary tie-ins that Summon can help uncover: think about national public health policy, or gender issues in the professions, or environmental impacts on wellness,” Sowards said. “We want our subject librarians to be prepared to talk with campus faculty about instances when Summon might offer complementary searching capacities. And there are many hot research topics for which there is no single ‘best’ indexing and abstracting tool: water resources, or alternative fuels, or biometrics, to name a few. Summon can serve those emerging areas.”

MSU libraries evaluated several discovery solutions, ultimately opting for Summon, in part, because of the university’s substantial existing investments in other ProQuest products. MSU was using Serials Solutions as a knowledge base to manage electronic collections and offers resources such as ProQuest Dissertations in full text, U.S. government publications, and ProQuest Historical Newspaper backfiles. Said Sowards, “Summon was able to provide full discovery for those resources, including article-level newspaper coverage.”

In addition, the library believed that Summon’s proprietary master index would best enable non-students to search library holdings and view citations, even though access to licensed full-text content will still be limited to authenticated MSU students and faculty.

“As the library serving the pioneer land grant university, we take seriously our capacity to make all residents of Michigan (and others globally, in these times) aware of our holdings, and Summon could do that,” Sowards said.

Same Look, Enhanced Functionality

MSU uses the Sierra Services Platform from Innovative Interfaces (III) as its integrated library system (ILS), and had used Innovative’s Encore discovery interface. Previously, the MSU libraries homepage featured a centrally-located search box which defaulted to the catalog, according to notes compiled by Ruth Ann Jones, MSU marketing and public relations coordinator with assistance from Kelly Sattler, head of web services, and Ranti Junus, electronic resources interface librarian. An “articles” tab above the search box enabled users to search the ProQuest Research Library instead of the catalog. Visitors to the homepage could also select a drop-down list of indexes and databases by subject, or a drop-down “resources” menu which included links to the catalog, an “articles” landing page with links to databases such as Gale PowerSearch and the ProQuest Research Library, and an e-resources link leading to a page that continues to offer comprehensive access to all types of electronic resources in all disciplines individually by title.

This fall, returning students who visit the MSU libraries homepage may notice a few visual tweaks, but the page layout remains familiar. The difference is that the central search box now defaults to SearchPlus, with tabs to switch to a Sierra catalog search, a database search, or a research guides search. For now, the library is using two link resolver systems—ProQuest 360 Link for SearchPlus/Summon, and III WebBridge for other licensed databases—to ensure that a list of search results will easily lead students and researchers to the full-text resources that they want to access. (Within the next few months, MSU libraries plans to migrate fully to 360 Link, noted Junus).

“From a public services perspective, the most appealing part of using Summon (or really any discovery tool) is that it requires no explanation for novice users,” said Rachel Minkin, head of Main Library Reference for MSU libraries. “Our novice users understand that a search box in the middle of a page implies they should be typing in it… and they do! The results they receive—and again, I’m talking about novice users here—have clickable title links. Again, novice users don’t need to be told to start clicking on links, they just do.”

Getting the Word Out

While officials at MSU libraries view SearchPlus as an intuitive interface, they aren’t taking the launch for granted. The library is promoting the new tool at orientations, fairs, and other campus events this fall, and is highlighting it during Library Boot Camp Classes held in August and early September, said Ben Oberdick, head of the Information Literacy team for MSU Libraries. A campus-wide marketing campaign includes a series of five posters that students will see at the main library and all branches, all of MSU’s 40+ computer labs, and on bulletin boards on every floor of every residence hall on campus. Ten seven-foot banners are deployed at the main library and its branches, as well as the MSU student union building and MSU International Center. And, a one-minute video introduction posted on YouTube and embedded on the library’s website is also running on the residence halls’ cable channel, Jones noted. In addition to ongoing promotion of the tool via social media channels and library newsletters to faculty, the library plans to run an ad in MSU’s student-run newspaper, the State News later in the semester when students are beginning to work on term papers.

“Along with the marketing campaign (posters, video, etc.) we are hoping that these efforts will help raise awareness of SearchPlus around campus, and help patrons to understand what the benefits and ‘pluses’ of using SearchPlus will be for them and their research efforts,” Oberdick said. “SearchPlus will be the central instrument we use when teaching information literacy classes for students taking a class in the First Year Writing program and it will be very helpful in breaking down the siloed library resources and tools that students were confronted with in the past.”

Although the rollout began less than a month ago, Ebony Magnus, user experience and assessment librarian, said that early feedback from staff and librarians has been positive, and analytics indicate that about one-quarter of users are already using facets to refine their search results, presumably without any assistance.

“Our long-term assessment plan for SearchPlus involves continued usability testing, gathering feedback from students and faculty via web forms and focus groups, comparing the precision and recall of SearchPlus against our OPAC, major databases, and non-academic search tools, and assessing the pre- and post-launch usage of resources to determine whether or not SearchPlus impacts the discovery and access of certain indexes, databases, and products,” Magnus said.

The Ignorance of What it Will Take

Ti, 08/26/2014 - 19:49

I noted in July’s issue of Current Cites, that we had ended our 24th year of continuous monthly publication and were entering our 25th. Of course the real celebrations will happen a year from now, but I thought that it was worth noting.

As I thought more about it, I remembered (again) that I had started the publication at UC Berkeley a little less than three years before my twins were born. Now they are in college. That got me to thinking that had I known I would still be doing this, month in and month out, over 20 years later, I’m not sure what I would have done.

Would I have been proud? Ready to jump in and put my shoulder to the wheel for the next 20-something years, every month? I don’t know. I really don’t. In some ways, it’s like parenthood. Although having children is the best thing I’ve ever done in my life, I can’t help thinking if I knew all of the impacts that were about to occur for the rest of my life it would at least give me pause.

Some of my favorite statements of parenthood include these chestnuts (but nonetheless true): “having children is like deciding to let your heart live outside of your body” and “parenthood is the hardest job you will ever love”. Because, in the end, we don’t really know what we are getting in for until it’s too late. And that is a good thing. 

Because if we truly understood all of the many impacts on our lives without also truly understanding the benefits, we probably would never do anything. And that’s not good.

So although it might sound strange, color me happy for ignorance. It definitely has its place.

Tamir Borensztajn on APIs, Responsive Design, and Other Tools Enabling the Digital Shift

Pe, 08/22/2014 - 21:28

Tamir Borensztajn

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

EBSCO is a Platinum Sponsor of the conference, and LJ reached out to Tamir Borensztajn, Vice President, Discovery Strategy, EBSCO, 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?

TB: It is increasingly clear that technology providers are moving towards interoperable cloud technologies, more collaboration, and system openness. These trends provide opportunity for expanding the ecosystem of tools and resources that libraries offer, and as such deliver richer user experiences. A good example is integrating article discovery with an institution’s Learning Management System (LMS). Another example is the use of APIs to integrate web-scale discovery with a library’s existing discovery system or OPAC and ILS. This type of integration, which relies on system openness and interoperability, delivers more choice for libraries and patrons.

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?

User experiences are increasingly shifting to mobile, as we see with the widespread adoption of operating systems such Android and iOS. The challenge is to deliver a consistently good mobile experience on the myriad of mobile devices. As technology providers, we must assess our products to meet mobile best practices whether through native apps or web-based interfaces. For libraries, a good approach is the deployment of responsive websites that dynamically adapt themselves to different devices (smartphone or tablet). To serve all constituents, we must be all inclusive and deliver the right experiences on any device—mobile or desktop alike.

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?

It goes without saying that libraries provide access to trustworthy information around different topics such as health and education. Through discovery services, users can readily explore these topics, yet the key to better outcomes lies in understanding user needs, habits, and practices. The online user experience must be intuitive and meet expectations of users accustomed to Google and Wikipedia.  User research is imperative to understand user habits and expectations, and to align services and products with user needs. Partnerships between libraries and technology providers help drive user research and inform product development to address needs and drive better outcomes.

As Altmetrics mature, how are they impacting materials acquisition, retention, and licensing and/or the tenure process for authors? Where do you see the field going in the next decade?

As altmetrics mature all of these areas will be impacted. Collections managers will have new metrics beside their own COUNTER statistics and 2-year-old JIF [Journal Impact Factor]-based measures that include metrics for specific articles published by their own researchers as well as more timely and global metrics for journals and packages. Tenure and promotion will naturally evolve as new metrics are introduced that are seen as valuable, and more importantly seen as providing an edge. Grant makers, who are underserved using citations as measures of ROI for the funds they are providing, will be a market driver for these metrics.

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?

We recognize the value of the library for all publishers, and we are pleased to have Random House and Hachette in EBSCO eBooks. We are working toward achieving the necessary requirements to offer the other publishers. As far as public libraries are concerned, there are a variety of acquisition models available today. Note that rising ebook prices are no different than rising prices of other content.  Libraries will continue to work to define the collection development goals of their institution and achieve them with the budget they have to work with.

Tamir Borensztajn (MLS) is a graduate of Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Simmons College, and former Executive Director, Public Sector Innovation EMEA at Infor (Library Division). In his current role as Vice President Discovery Strategy, Borensztajn helps inform product development through interactions with the library community, and oversees discovery and SaaS go-to-market strategy. He is based in Ipswich, MA.

How to Communicate With Software Developers

Pe, 08/22/2014 - 19:28

My OCLC colleagues at the Developer Network have begun a series of posts that already are beginning to feel like a classic set of posts. The first has tackled the issue of how to communicate your needs to software developers. And although it is written from the perspective of the person asking, I think you will find that the author does a good job of representing the developer’s side of the equation.

But it does more than that. It also sets up questions regarding motives and ways of working. Shelley Hostetler exposes our tendency to jump straight to the assumed “solution” without stepping back a bit and starting with a complete understanding of the problem. This is just human nature. But it isn’t helpful.

In the end, it’s apparent that those who need software to be developed shouldn’t be telling developers what they want. They should engage the developers in a discussion of the problem that needs to be solved, and let the solution emerge from a thorough and shared understanding of the problem. Only then can solutions that will truly solve the problem be found.

Streamline Your Workflow: Some Tips to Save You Precious Time This Fall | Cool Tools

To, 08/21/2014 - 19:05

Nothing like having a little down time over the summer to realize how little we have during the school year. If you had more time, how would you spend it? Developing better lessons, talking with students, or collaborating with colleagues? Maybe you’d just relax and recharge for the next school day. The following tools and tactics will help make your workflow more efficient and free up some time this fall.

Despite digital advances, textbooks are often prevalent in the classroom—and the first week of school is when we need to keep track of which students have gotten which books. Rather than trying to keep track of index cards with book information or making a list, try having your students use a Google Form, in which they enter required information—book number and title—about their borrows. I did this by posting a Google Form in my classroom blog. My students completed it on their laptops. I then imported their entries into an easy-to-manage spreadsheet.

Another good option for streamlining this process is to use the iOS app Who Has What? This tool allows you to create an electronic inventory of what you lend out. The app works by taking pictures of books or scanning their barcodes in order to add them to your inventory. Then, when you loan out a book, just select the title on your iPad and enter the name and/or email address of the person borrowing, plus a due date. You can then send due-date reminders from your iPad. Who Has What? 2 doesn’t have an efficient way to upload a large inventory list, so it’s not a replacement for a library catalog system. But it’s still very handy for keeping track of classroom loans.

Managing email can also be a huge time sink. To make the task of emailing students and parents more efficient, try doing so from a spreadsheet. Excel and Google spreadsheets support sending customized emails. Create one with a column for names, another for email addresses, and a third for messages. When you’re ready to send a batch of emails, complete the message cells. Then you can run a script to email everyone in one fell swoop.

This also means that all students get their feedback simultaneously, and it saves time by not requiring you to open and create messages individually. Setting up these scripts is fairly straightforward: consult Microsoft’s tutorial for Excel instructions, and view Google’s excellent video tutorial for emailing from Google Spreadsheets.

If This Then That is also a tremendous resource for improving workflow. It’s a service people use to share “recipes” for making two or more common Web services work together. You can find recipes for tasks such as adding events to Google Calendars through email, with IFTTT automatically sending email reminders and posting items to your Blogger or WordPress blog.

Finally, instead of playing email tag to schedule meetings, try using Doodle, a free tool that arranges meetings with the input of group members. It’s essentially a polling platform. You start by creating a meeting title, a series of possible dates and times, then invite people to choose the ones that work best. As the administrator, you can set the final meeting time based on the most commonly selected choice.

This fall, free up your time—and your mind. You might be surprised at how easy that is.

For 1:1, Content Is Key | Next Big Thing

Ma, 08/18/2014 - 17:00

Back in January, I wrote that 2014 would be the year of 1:1. Little did I know the extent to which this would become true in my rural region. Seven of the districts that I serve are implementing some level of 1:1 for 2014-15. The districts are all quite small—from just under 500 students to about 1,500—which can both help and hinder deployment.

The variety of models and hardware purchased will provide a real-world lab for exploring what works for school tech. Most of the districts are using Chromebooks, but two are going with Android tablets (LearnPads and Kenna tablets from TeacherTube), and one is considering either Microsoft Surface tablets or Windows netbooks. The smallest district is going full 1:1, while some others are looking to implement for grades 3–12.

My role is to facilitate a successful adoption throughout the region. One might think that as a former tech coordinator, I’d focus on professional development (PD). That will be a critical part of deployment, but the most important element is content.

Teaching teachers how to use technology works…but only for a while. If they don’t have material or killer apps that keep them using the technology, even the best PD won’t matter. Curricular content and related apps that meet instructional needs will make new technology stick.

The great news is that our libraries are well placed to deliver content. As I noted in an earlier column, we’ve been buying digital content and ebooks for classroom use for quite a while. For some, buying content without 1:1 devices seemed like putting the cart before the horse. But waiting around for a horse doesn’t get anything started. Build a cart, and you’re all set for a horse, a person, or a device to start pulling. The content and apps are the cart. Even if we can’t pull the cart quite yet, at least we’re making progress while getting up to speed on 1:1.

In our region, we’re also looking for more instructional resources that we can deliver through the library and library learning portals. Enough with the journal articles: we need real content designed for classroom teaching. I mean material such as Rosen’s PowerKnowledge and Core Concepts packages for science, ABC-CLIO resources for high school social studies, and Capstone’s expanding PebbleGo products for younger learners. Teachers can understand and implement these tools on new 1:1 hardware. These are sticky products that will ideally encourage daily use of Chromebooks and tablets.

The other key is to acquire quality apps. These tools have to both solve a problem and feel easy enough to use in order to allow for a smooth transition. For English teachers, that might mean a research support tool like NoodleTools or EasyBib. Or the new editing tool, Poetica, which integrates with Google Docs and makes beautiful use of standard correcting marks.

This is the time to share and build together. If 1:1 is coming to a third of my small, rural districts, it’s only a matter of time until it arrives in yours. Whether through BYOD or another hybrid adoption, we need to be ready to support the new hardware. Yes, we must be the source for PD as well, but the classroom content is what will make 1:1 truly work as the next big thing. What other apps would you recommend?