EducationSuperHighway has announced it is launching a comprehensive national effort to upgrade broadband access in America’s schools, funded by Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s Startup:Education organization, the Gates Foundation, and several other groups. The nonprofits have pledged a multi-year investment to bring digital learning access to all of the nation’s K–12 students.
“Game changing technologies are transforming teaching and learning, but over 40 million students are being left behind without the Internet access and Wi-Fi they need to take full advantage of digital learning,” says Evan Marwell, CEO of EducationSuperHighway. “If we want our children to be competitive in the global knowledge economy, we must upgrade the Internet infrastructure in America’s public schools.”
Over the last 12 months, 600,000 students, teachers, and administrators have test their school’s Internet access as part of EducationSuperHighway’s National SchoolSpeedTest, the organization notes. The results to date show that 72 percent of America’s public schools lack the broadband they need for digital learning.
As the Federal Communications Commission plans reforms of E-rate—the program that provides discounted Internet access and telecommunications services to U.S. schools and libraries—EducationSuperhighway is hoping to offer better solutions to modernize and strengthen it, according to the organization’s leaders and its new nonprofit partners in this initiative. Above all, they say, the most urgent focus needs to be on expanding broadband capacity in schools.
“When schools and teachers have access to reliable Internet connections, students can discover new skills and ideas beyond the classroom,” says Zuckerberg. “The future of our economy and society depend largely on the next generation using and building new online tools and services, and I’m glad to support EducationSuperHighway’s work.”
Seventeen-year old Zarin Rahman (pictured) noticed that the time she spent staring at screens started affecting her mood and school work. Rather than lock away her iPhone and laptop — an act most teens would find as loathsome as sharing their Facebook page with their parents—she decided to conduct her own study.
“I did this based on personal experience of screen time and academic performance and how I felt after long term screen time,” says Rahman, a 12th grader at Brookings (SD) High School. “So I wanted to experiment with effective screen depravation with adolescents in my age group.”
Rahman launched a scientific research project, testing a random group 67 of students between the ages of 13 to 18, comparing their screen time use against sleep depravation and stress. She read through literature published on the topics and chose survey subjects who were Internet users, not on medication and with no history of mental disabilities or disorders, she says. Students in the study self reported their sleep time. The findings rang true to what she suspected — that increased recreational screen time had a correlating affect with lack of sleep and stress. Rahman then used the results to alter her own behavior.
“I now limit my own recreational screen time because I know it has a subsequent affect,” she says. “Where I maybe spent five to five and a half per day, is now dramatically down to two hours at most.”
Rahman presented her paper, “The At-Risk Maturing Brain: Effects of Stress Paradigms on Mood, Memory and Cognition in Adolescents and the Role of the Prefrontal Cortex,” at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in May 2013, netting first place and a $5,000 scholarship in her category, as well as the top spot in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Addiction Science Award, with an additional $2,500 scholarship and trip to Washington, DC. But the highlight of the experience for Rahman? Meeting the expert judges.
“Just talking with them and having someone who understood my passion and where I was coming from and my research, that was just a great experience,” she says.
Rahman’s deep love for science launched in elementary school, growing from a fascination in biology to an interest in behavioral science and the adolescent brain. She hopes to continue to work in the field in college, and has already had several offer her scholarships including Arizona State University, she says.
Before that, however, Rahman is already at work on her next behavioral science project for this year’s round of science fairs. Working alone, Rahman is nevertheless confident in her ability to complete her work — and believes other high school students should feel as similarly empowered, never believing they’re inferior to so-called professionals.
“I believe if you have the passion to find an answer to a question you want to answer you can do it,” she says. “You have to do research and never give up. You have to believe that perhaps you’re not as experienced but you’re just as intelligent. If you do the research you have the potential to complete this kind of science research at this caliber.”
Photo by Summer Skyes 11.
With the help of Operation Photo Rescue, a non-profit, volunteer network of photographers, image restoration artists, and graphic designers, Fondulac District Library (FDL), IL, recently launched “Saving Memories,” a program to help community members digitize and restore photographs that were damaged when 24 tornadoes touched down in Illinois on the night of November 17.
“The response to the disaster in the community was almost immediate. Everybody wants to do something,” said Geena M. Buhr, public services manager for FDL. Many local churches and other organizations were already processing donations of clothing and food, she explained, so FDL staff searched for other ways they could help.
They began by compiling an extensive storm information and assistance page on the library’s website, listing contact information for local emergency management agencies, shelters, places to obtain emergency supplies, and local insurance companies. FDL’s new building, which had just opened earlier in the month, was undamaged, so the assistance page also notes that the library has power, public computers, free Wi-Fi, copiers, scanners, faxes, and a video camcorder that patrons can check out if they need to document storm damage to homes or other property.
Volunteer Heather Evans of Germantown Hills, IL suggested that the library could also offer to help community members digitize damaged photos, and offered the use of her professional copy stand equipment for the project.
“[Evans] said, ‘I just want to help anyway I can,” Buhr explained. “We’re a library, we have space, we have the ability to get the word out and to organize this into something a little bigger.”
FDL began by reaching out for donations of USB flash drives for the project, and the response was overwhelming. In addition to individual donations, local marketing and communications firm Simantel alone donated about 2,000 drives. Tech Logic, a developer of automated material handling systems for libraries, donated hundreds more.
Buhr began looking for information about how the project could help restore cherished photographs once they were digitized, and ultimately connected with Operation Photo Rescue. Founded by Dave Ellis and Rebecca Sell in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the Gulf Coast in 2005, the El Dorado, Kansas-based charity has grown into a worldwide network of thousands of digital photo restoration experts, who volunteer their time to help victims of fires and natural disasters.
“The library is taking some of the first steps of digitization, and then we’re going to work with Operation Photo Rescue to have those pictures restored. They can digitally remove water damage, rips, tears,” Buhr said. “The biggest thing right now is to capture them digitally before further damage occurs” from mold, for example.
Operation Photo Rescue regularly organizes “copy runs” to disaster areas, where volunteers help with digitization efforts prior to performing restoration work. Recent copy runs include a spring run hosted by New York City’s School of Visual Arts for victims of Hurricane Sandy, for example. And, in October, the organization worked with Oklahoma’s Moore Public Library to help locals whose photos were damaged in the May 20 tornadoes.
Operation Photo Rescue President Margie Hayes described these copy runs as “heartwarming…. Some of these people don’t think their photos are going to be saved, and some of them, that’s the only picture they have of a relative. It’s really quite rewarding.”
In many cases, “libraries are by far our best bet,” for hosting these runs, said Hayes added. “For one, we’re a non-profit, and they have no problem, as long as they have a room available, letting us come in. And they’re really so helpful” with organizing the events.
However, these copy runs are funded by donations, and as a volunteer-based non-profit, they cannot respond immediately to every disaster. So FDL’s digitization efforts will be a significant help, said Hayes. In fact, this is the first time Operation Photo Rescue has had a partner organization conduct all of the digitization groundwork.
“We usually can’t do runs in the winter, plus, we were just coming off of four runs [in 2013]. So what worked out really well this time was that the library contacted us, and they already had a professional copy stand to do digital copies of the photos,” Hayes said. Copy stand digitization, which utilizes a high pixel count digital camera with a macro lens, is much better suited for digital photo restoration than scanning.
“When you have a damaged photo, scanning can make it look even worse” and more difficult to digitally restore, she explained.
FDL plans to offer the digitization service for a few months, as a series of scheduled events, Buhr said.
“I really want to make sure we get a lot of awareness out for people that can benefit from it,” Buhr said. “In the first days after a tornado, they’re not going to be hearing about it. They’re preoccupied with a lot of other things and may not even have power yet…. It might be two months before someone is reunited with a picture that they want to save. I foresee it going into the spring [of 2014] at least.”
Curriculet (previously Gobstopper), a digital reading platform designed for teachers and stocked with interactive educational and social media features, has teamed up with HarperCollins to offer a flexible book buying program for schools.
The pilot endeavor, now offered to 256 schools, allows institutions to buy a portion of the HarperCollins backlist catalog through Curriculet for periods of three months or a year, says Curriculet CEO Jason Singer. Teachers can then use Curriculet’s tools to embed the ebooks with quizzes, questions, and videos; add scaffolding material including Web links and annotations; and insert customized, Common-Core-based assessments. “We’ll see more big publishers” joining Curriculet’s program to in early 2014, Singer says, and Curriculet will be publicly available by the summer.
The buying model frees schools to purchase and teach titles they might not otherwise choose, Singer maintains. When educators spend money on physical books or alternately-priced ebooks, they often feel obliged to select titles that will can be re-used as curriculum staples or library borrows year after year, he believes. Curriculet’s short-term formula, he maintains, allows teachers to cast a wider net and buy more contemporary titles that appeal to a wider array of students.
Some popular HarperCollins books chosen by schools since the pilot started in August include Gone (2008) by Michael Grant, The Alchemist (1993) by Paolo Coelho, Walk two Moons (1994) by Sharon Creech, as well as Loser (2002) by Jerry Spinelli, Bridge to Terebithia (1977) by Katherine Paterson, The Poisonwood Bible (1998) by Barbara Kingsolver, Black Boy (1966) by Richard Wright, and many others, according to Singer and Alexandra Stephan, assistant account executive at Atomic PR.
Teachers add their own features to these books, including title-specific “curriculets” supplied by the company that teachers can personalize and that include questions tied to Common Core State Standards, says Singer.
“When a student engages with the book, as they turn pages, they answer questions and interact with videos and images,” he says. This means that students “know they’re going to get immediate feedback that printed books and the first generation of ebooks didn’t provide.” Before, he notes, “if you were struggling, there was nothing in the printed text that could help you. Now, a question pops out. [Students] will know right away if they understand the meaning of a novel.”
In addition, a “rich algorithm” created by Curriculet allows teachers to quickly scan student data: How long and when each student completed the reading; what percentage of questions relating to a specific Common Core standard a student got right; and other information.
“One of the first things people ask is, ‘Won’t it hurt the reading experience to be interrupted?’ What we’ve seen is the exact opposite,” according to Singer. “Most readers need to stop and check to see if they understand. This gives them the chance to stop and take a breath and engage more deeply.”
“Some public schools have gone a step further than we imagined,” Singer adds. “They created a period during the day when everyone reads on Curriculet,” either school-assigned reading or titles of their choice, often for silent reading sessions.
Singer points out that the Curriculet platform can accommodate articles and documents in addition to books. While the service is accessible on any browser or device with Internet access, “teachers will display Curriculet material on a projector in class if not all students have their own devices, with kids answering questions on a white board,” he says.
Once teachers have designer their curriculum, their “layers of questions and enriched media are fully sharable” via social media, Singer adds—providing support for his conviction that “the best curriculum published every day is published by teachers.”
Follett has announced that many of its online services—including Titlewave, Destiny, and Follett Shelf—will be unavailable from Thursday, November 28, though Saturday, November 30, as the company moves its data center to another location in Illinois.
“It’s a more secure site, and it allows us to grow,” Britten Follett, publicity director, tells School Library Journal. The company is making the announcement, she says, because “we don’t want a librarian to assign an ebook project over the weekend and have students not be able to access the services.”
The company anticipates that all of its services will be restored by 6pm CST on Sunday, and advises its customers to visit FollettUpdates.com for more information.
ProQuest subsidiary Serials Solutions launched Intota Assessment, a collection analytics service designed to give libraries a holistic view of their serial and monograph holdings in both print and electronic formats, facilitating a comprehensive, data-driven approach to collection management. Intota Assessment is the first launch of the Intota cloud-library services platform (LSP).
“Intota Assessment addresses a number of aspects of our collection. One of the things it lets us do, with respect to print and electronic books… [is] view our collection as an entirety,” said Kathryn Silberger, senior librarian, digital content services, for Marist College, one of six Intota Development partners that have been beta testing the service since June.
Combining a library’s historical circulation data with qualitative information from sources such as Books in Print, Resources for College Libraries (RCL), Ulrich’s, and the Serials Solutions Knowledgebase, the service simplifies the process of calling up and viewing dozens of reports, such as cost per use, cost by subject, and peer analysis. Features also include evidence-based recommendation support, overlap and gap analysis tools for print and electronic resources to enable “smart weeding,” and automatic generation of reports for accreditation organizations. Silberger offered an example.
“We always get asked for accreditation reports at the busiest time of the year,” Silberger said. “We have to fill in [Association of College and Research Libraries] reports, and you’re just pulling all your data together at the end of the year, and you’ve got to come up with the answers. With Intota Assessment they have pre-filtered the counter report…. You can just click on a link, and you have your answers.”
Silberger also said that the service’s cost per use features had already given Marist’s library staff a fresh perspective on their serials subscriptions. The library was aware of how much it was spending on each journal subscription, and the circulation was regularly reviewed with standardized usage reports. But having cost information and usage information in two places still required a degree of guesswork.
“Now, in five minutes, we can run a report and see the cost per use—what each article, essentially, is costing us,” she told LJ.
Silberger was surprised to find that many relatively inexpensive journals had a very high cost per use.
“We figured we ought to check the really expensive journals, because if they weren’t getting used, that was a way of freeing up money,” she said. “But I was surprised when we would pick up the fact that a journal that might be in the $200 to $250 range was getting used once per year, year after year.”
In these situations, it’s better to cancel a subscription and switch to a document delivery service, for example, to reallocate the funds, she said.
“It makes acquiring electronic journals a much more dynamic process; you can use your resources as effectively as possible.”
In addition, the service’s ability to incorporate RCL data during collection analysis or weeding makes it easy to avoid weeding a low-circulation resource that may be important to keep, Silberger said.
“We can see books that have low circulation, but they’re in RCL. They have won an award, or something like that, [and contrast that with] books that just haven’t been circulating, they’re old, and we don’t see a good reason for keeping them. We can also see if a book is available as an ebook, and do we have it in ebook format? To get all of that on one screen is very useful.”
Intota Assessment is designed to be interoperable with a library’s existing ILS and other systems, and can be used as a standalone collection analytics solution. Assessment, however, is just the first component of the Intota LSP, which will ultimately become a new competitor in the emerging field of cloud-based Software as a Service (SaaS) suites designed to supplant the traditional ILS. The suite will be designed to pair seamlessly with the company’s Summon web-scale discovery service.
The development of Intota is a natural progression for the company, said Product Marketing Manager Mary Howell. Since the company’s founding in 2000, it has focused on developing individual services designed to help libraries address new needs that arose as electronic resources proliferated.
“We believe that the nature of library collections has fundamentally changed, and that old technology just doesn’t work anymore, because the underlying collection and its dynamics are so, so different than when ILSs were built 15 years ago, for example,” Howell said.
Although Serials Solutions did not have a background in the traditional ILS business when it first announced the development of Intota in June 2011, Howell said that the company’s deep expertise in the management of electronic resources and fresh perspective on collection management is an advantage that has enabled the company to bring a new approach. This begins with the way Assessement’s collection analytics tools will remain a central focus of the Intota LSP.
“The phased deployment is unique, and the approach that we’re taking with Assessment at the heart of everything we do is very unique,” Howell said. Collection analytics “is such a pain point. Libraries have to prove their value every single day. For the academic library, it’s really difficult. It used to be that the provost could come in and count the books, and feel that the library budget was being well spent. Today, they can’t come in and count the books. You need to be able to put, not only in front of library staff, but in front of administration, what’s going on. As a non-automated process with current tools, [that process] is very disconnected, and it’s not comprehensive.”
Currently, Serials Solutions has four development teams working in parallel on Intota. Howell said the company plans to launch the next component, an electronic resource management (ERM) and patron driven acquisition (PDA) suite called Intota E, in May 2014. By the end of next year, they hope to have a full beta of Intota LSP ready for testing, including print fulfillment and financial management tools needed to transition to Intota from a traditional ILS.
School librarians looking to launch a maker space in their schools, but who lack the funds to purchase high-tech gadgets like a 3-D printer, should consider the recent MakerBot and DonorsChoose.org partnership, says Andy Plemmons, media specialist at David C. Barrow Elementary in Athens, GA. Plemmons recently took advantage of MakerBot Academy’s initiative to put a 3-D desktop printer in every public school in the United States by December 31, 2013—and a 3-D printer is already on its way to his media center.
Earlier this month, MakerBot announced that it would provide a MakerBot Replicator 2 desktop printer, three spools of MakerBot PLA Filament, and a year’s worth of the MakerBot MakerCare Protection Plan for $2,000 (a discount of 25 percent off the retail price) to all schools who use the crowd-funding site DonorsChoose.org and are able to reach that funding goal.
Plemmons discovered the project on Twitter on November 12, the same day it was announced. Within a few hours, he had obtained his principal’s approval and submitted an application. “I wanted to get a 3-D printer for our maker group for a long time,” he tells School Library Journal. “Our principal has been very supportive. Our school district was going to buy one for us, but because of funding issues, couldn’t. That’s why we’re so thankful for this opportunity.”
The media specialist shared the project on several social media accounts, including Twitter, his personal Facebook account, and the school media center’s Facebook account. By the next day, he had received $400 in donations from current and former students’ families and fellow librarians from across the country. To his surprise, MakerBot and an anonymous company made the final donation needed to reach the school’s goal—all within a few days. “I think it’s because they saw how I was actively promoting the project,” Plemmons added.
Other schools in the Clarke Country School District did not have such an easy time, although they ultimately obtained the necessary funding. Shannon Thompson from Howard B. Stroud Elementary School and Leslie Gonzalez at Hilsman Middle School signed up with the project approximately a week after its initial launch, and spent several weeks requesting donations. It took a final push from MakerBot, earlier this week, to reach their goal.
Prior to the project’s launch, Plemmons had begun fundraising for a 3-D printer by raising awareness at parent events and allotting a portion of book fair monies to the machine’s future purchase. Many of the teachers and parents were intrigued by the project, but didn’t see how a 3-D printer could be educationally used by elementary students. “We’re teaching kids skills for jobs that haven’t even been created yet,” Plemmons says he told them. “If this is the latest technology, why not let them start exploring now? With it, they will be better equipped for the job market.”
Plemmons already has plans for how to use the 3-D printer. His school’s maker group—which meets weekly and has already completed projects such as Caine’s Arcade’s Cardboard Challenge and Sylvia’s Super Awesome Show—will continue to design and print their own creations, and present these to the school. Barrow Elementary’s third graders, who are currently studying rocks and minerals, will be using the printer to create and design jewelry, inspired by a recent Skype session with a local jeweler that does the same. The school’s first graders, meanwhile, will engineer their own inventions to complete their learning unit on the subject.
Though the printer will live at the library, it will be accessible to all students and classes. “As a media specialist, my role is to listen in on what classes are doing and seeing how the 3-D printer can fit,” Plemmons says. “The students and teachers can take projects even further than they ever thought they could. For me, it’s not about turning the library into a maker space, but giving kids access to as much technology and tools as possible to create. You don’t have to change your library into a maker space.”
For wary school librarians, Plemmons adds, “My philosophy is, if we don’t expect miraculous things to happen in our libraries, then we’re just limiting ourselves. Why totally shut a door when we don’t know where it leads to?”
Westport Library Unveils New Maker Space
To Remain Relevant, Libraries Should Help Patrons Create
Community Is Key to Successful Library Maker Spaces
Low Tech, High Gains: Starting a Maker Program Is Easier Than You Think
OverDrive announced a new streaming video lending service now available at the Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL) and rolling out at more pilot libraries this month. Over time, the service will be available to all libraries and schools that use OverDrive products.
Using the “Netflix-like” service, borrowers will be able to watch videos and movies on any tablet, computer, or device with an Internet connection, according to an OverDrive statement. Streaming content can be sent to any device via email, QR code, or text message.
Patrons have the option of browsing and sampling videos on the Overdrive Media Station, a user introduction to the service, and in-library ebook kiosks. The videos will be hosted on the same platform OverDrive supplies for ebook, audio, and music titles.
“OverDrive’s Streaming Video service allows us to expand the library’s e-media offerings while dramatically improving convenience and our users’ experience,” said LAPL city librarian John F. Szabo in the release. “For the user, it couldn’t be easier. There are no apps to install, no software to download—they can just click on a title and instantly enjoy it!”
Offerings at LAPL currently range from how-to videos to Hollywood features. According to the statement, the company’s “chief strategy officer Lee Milstein, general counsel Erica Lazzaro and team have been busy in California talking with major motion picture studios, and big announcements are coming soon.” Thousands of additional titles in all genres will be added on a continual basis.
Librarianship is undeniably a service profession. Given that, you would think that our literature would be filled with advice on how to provide astonishing customer service. Instead, it isn’t. Perhaps this is because it can be difficult and expensive to provide surprisingly excellent customer service. But I don’t think it necessarily should be if we approach it with imagination.
The tech support person can see your screen, draw blue and yellow arrows and circles on it to show you what to do, and even control it. These presumably very, very patient and cheerful folks are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and Amazon says that most calls will be answered within 15 seconds.
Frankly, I was astonished. Astonished that they would offer such an easily-requested service. Astonished that they had built in the capability of their technicians to draw on your screen. Astonished that no one had offered this before.
It should be acknowledged, however, that this feature is not without its critics. And despite the fact that the helping agent cannot see you (you can only see them), it still will give one an odd feeling when using the Mayday button in, say, less than fully clothed status.
Be that as it may, the Kindle team should get kudos for trying to astonish with customer service. From what I’ve seen so far (and I haven’t experienced it myself), it seems like they may have succeeded. Libraries would do well to consider how they can astonish their clientele with customer service.
Wouldn’t it be great for kids contemplating a visit to your library to take a video tour before walking in? It would start with a virtual walk-around, showing the different areas and collections and introducing staff. When your viewers are touring the soon-to-be-renovated children’s section, you could insert a poll asking them what new features they’d most like to see there. In the teen section of the video, you could overlay photos of teen library events to convey the exuberant energy of that group.
You’re probably saying to yourself: “I can’t do that—it’s way too technically demanding and time-consuming.” Not so. With the TouchCast video iPad app, you can produce this pretty easily.
To get started with TouchCast (now available only for the iPad; a desktop PC version is in the works), you select from a set of templates, similar to choosing a new document in a word processing program. I tend to opt for the blank template and add to it as I go along, instead of choosing one of the pre-formatted ones that come with the software.
Templates range from a TV-news-style format to a how-to setup. Each provides screen space for a headline or title text, a section for contextual images and/or video, and a main portion of the screen for video of the presenter. All these elements can be moved around. You can also delete text, images, and even the video from your production if you decide you don’t want them.
Once you have your template—which you can change at any time—you add what TouchCast calls “VApps.” These are linked elements that you insert into your video during recording, such as a Twitter feed, a Flickr photo, a Web page, a poll, and more. Tip: It’s best to set up these VApps before recording your video. Then, when you are ready to show those overlay images of teens, for instance, you just tap on the photo VApp you’ve set up. Voilà: The photos become part of the production.
TouchCast has lots of potential for children and teens. Think about a group of middle schoolers doing a science presentation on insects. Using this app, they could act as news anchors reporting on the latest findings about insect habitats. They might want to analyze and replicate a TV news show they like. During the production process, students would examine the information they’ve collected to determine the best images, video, web pages, questions, etc., to include. They’d enhance their presentation with these extras, along with polls, quotes, and other research material.
Another nice TouchCast feature: A teleprompter. Putting together a script to read on camera helps boost student writing—and using the teleprompter hones their presentation skills. No one, including the students reading aloud, wants to watch someone stumbling through a script.
When a TouchCast is complete, you can save it locally in the TouchCast app and view it there. Alternately, distribute it via the traditional social places—YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. If you already have a library account for any of those social tools, TouchCast is a perfect addition.
TouchCast can be a little daunting to use the first few times. There are so many features, that figuring out how to implement them all—and how to best integrate different tools—can be time-consuming. Consider asking some tech-minded tweens and teens to master TouchCast and train you. Maybe they’ll also produce a how-to video.
Even with a bit of a learning curve, TouchCast is worth the time. For making projects from library tours to student presentations to how-to videos by library staff or youth, it’s a versatile app that produces highly engaging presentations.
Dear Mr. Bezos:
I’m writing you in the hope that you can solve a problem. As an avid consumer of ebooks, I’ve always had great respect for the Kindle. Your vision—and your hardware—has made a tremendous cultural impact in promoting reading. However, I’m unable to purchase Kindles for my school library.
It’s a serious dilemma. To the general public—including most teachers and school administrators—“ebook” means “bestseller fiction from authors I love,” and “ebook reader” refers to a Kindle product. I’ve spent some time explaining to users that there are alternative ebook readers—and most worked better for schools and libraries. Then, you released the holy grail of ebook features for education: Whispersync for Voice and Immersion Reading.
Synchronized highlighting and audio have been available via other technology for readers with special needs. I’ve been buying ebooks with synced highlighting and voice-actor narration for years. Yet those books are built with Flash and tend to be titles issued by smaller independent publishers.
Enter Immersion Reading. Bestseller fiction? Check. Big name authors? Check. Portable technology? Check. Usable in schools? Nope.
Worse, the contracts state that Amazon reserves the right to terminate, without warning, a school’s account, delete its content, and render hardware unusable.
I’ve called the Kindle for Education support team. They tell me not to worry—Amazon supports our use of the content in schools and libraries. Yet there’s a remarkable reluctance to put those reassurances in writing. Then again, this same support team says that you can buy one copy of a book and deploy it on multiple Kindle devices simultaneously to multiple students.
Mr. Bezos, does Amazon fully and legally support the use of Kindle hardware and content in schools? Is a school granted legal license to loan out Kindle hardware and Kindle content (including Audible content for Immersion Reading) to students through Whispercast? Will you provide a clear answer in writing so we can move forward with the holy grail of ebook technology?
Thank you for your time,
Certainly I’ve written about this issue before, and I will keep writing about it until there are no more reasons to do so. But the reason why I’m writing about the issue of gender imbalance in library tech is because I was recently at the Internet Librarian Conference in Monterey, CA, where my esteemed professional colleague and completely famous Sarah Houghton, “Librarian in Black” had organized a panel on this very topic.
The panelists all gave a brief statement from their own experience and perspective (a mix of both women and men), then a microphone was carried around the room for the attendees to provide their own perspectives and stories. And the stories of harassment, put-downs, insults, marginalization, and worse, just rolled right in.
Unfortunately, I was surprised. Surprised because these were not the kind of subtle kinds of discrimination that I knew went on and that I try to prevent or alleviate. For example, packing a speaking panel with men, which happens all to often and a reason for which I have refused to participate at times. No, these stories were much more obvious, egregious, and, in some cases, breathtaking — and not in a good way.
At the end of the program I left depressed. Depressed that such things were happening on a regular basis — not yesterday, not a long time ago, but today. Depressed because since I’d never witnessed anything near what many of the stories related, I was mystified about how I could help prevent them.
But at least getting this out in the open is a start. The unfortunate thing is that those who really needed to be there most likely weren’t, nor will they ever be. So it’s up to us who were in the room, or would have been had they had the chance, to work harder to make all of our workplaces welcoming to all. Until that day arrives, we will soldier on.
At this conference we had the opportunity to have the necessary information sharing. Perhaps at the next one (and ongoing throughout the year in virtual form) we could share some strategies for making things better. That’s a program I could get behind.
Valerie Aurora is the founder of the Ada Initiative, a non-profit
organization that seeks to increase women’s participation in the free
culture movement, open source technology, and open source culture. Aurora
is also known within the Linux community for advocating new developments in
filesystems in Linux, including ChunkFS and the Union file system. In 2012,
Aurora, and Ada Initiative co-founder Mary Gardiner, were named two of the
most influential people in computer security by SC Magazine. In 2013, she
won the O’Reilly Open Source Award…
Sumana Harihareswara works as the Engineering Community Manager at the
Wikimedia Foundation. She has worked at Collabora, GNOME,
QuestionCopyright.org, Fog Creek Software, Behavior, and Salon.com, and
contributed to the MediaWiki, AltLaw, Empathy, Miro, and Zeitgeist open
source projects. She has been editor and release organizer for GNOME
Journal and is a blogger at Geek Feminism…
Being able to attract two such qualified candidates from outside the library community is no small thing. It’s a good thing to hear from the broader tech community on issues of importance to us all. But then, when I look back at past keynotes I’d have to say that the conference has been blessed with a great line-up:
- 2013 – Leslie Johnston and Gordon Dunsire
- 2012 – Dan Chudnov and Bethany Nowviskie
- 2011 – Diane Hillmann
- 2010 – Cathy Marshall and Paul Jones
- 2009 – Stefano Mazzocchi, Sebastian Hammer, and Ian Davis
- 2008 – Brewster Kahle, Karen Coyle and Jon Udell
- 2007 – Karen Schneider and Erik Hatcher
- 2006 – Evergreen Development Team and Thom Hickey
Congratulations to the volunteers to make Code4Lib as awesome as it is every year. See you in Raleigh, North Carolina?
OverDrive has announced upgrades to its digital service for school libraries, with a choice of thematic visual screen settings, more deft searching tools, a new book recommendation system, and social media options, among other features.
OverDrive’s upgraded metadata now allows students and teachers to cross-search their libraries’ collections of ebooks, audio, music, and video according to genre, Lexile and ATOS reading levels, and other categories. The site also allows educators to create thematic book lists and students to adjust their checkout time, search OverDrive’s complete holdings with a new enhancement, Recommend to Library, and suggest titles they would like their libraries to acquire.
Launched in August, the rollout of the free upgrades is nearing completion for all of the 6,500 school libraries currently using OverDrive’s digital services, says David Burleigh, director of marketing for the company. Librarians may also sample the enhancements at OverDrive’s booth during the AASL (American Association of School Librarians) National Conference in Hartford, CT from November 14 to 16.
The new settings page allows users to choose from three visual themes for their OverDrive experience: “Fun,” “Standard,” and “Modern.” School libraries can personalize these “skins” with their own colors, says Burleigh. The settings page also allows students to select their own checkout time for eBooks, Audiobooks, and Disney Online Books—for seven days, 14 days, or 21 days.
This same page features three pull-down menus—for Subjects, Collections, and Levels—that students can use to cross-search books. On a prototype of the updated system, categories in the “Subjects” menu include historical fiction, romance, test prep, teacher resources, and more. The Collections menu includes “recent additions,” “popular titles,” “don’t miss these,” along with Project Gutenberg titles. The Levels tab offers searches according to interest level, ATOS and reading levels, along with Lexile measure.
Though Common Core State Standards search options aren’t featured in OverDrive’s updated template, OverDrive will customize the Collections drop-down menu offerings according to teachers’ needs, with up to eight categories, says Burleigh. “We can provide lists of books when teachers are looking to teach” in a focused area, he says. “We have a number of collection development specialists available to assist teachers with Common Core.”
This flexibility means that “We can include ‘Mr. Smith’s Sixth Grade Reading Class,’ and it would comes up with a handful of titles and be as specific as they need,” Burleigh adds. “We can go in and customize the experience.”
The Recommend to Library option allows students to search OverDrive’s main catalog and recommend books they’d like their school libraries to acquire, with their tracked recommendations visible in OverDrive Marketplace for librarians to review. However, only titles appropriate for K-12 will be viewable by students. They won’t find Fifty Shades of Grey there, says OverDrive K-12 collection development specialist Bailey Hotujac.
Once a student chooses a book, he or she can immediately borrow it, place a hold, add it to his or her wish list, or browse the first 10 percent of the book before deciding what to do. Each featured book page lists that title’s ATOS and Lexile rating, along with recommended age of readership, similar titles, and available borrowing platforms, including Kindle, Adobe EPUB, OverDrive READ, the company’s browser-based reader, and more, viewable online or offline. Twitter, Facebook, and messaging buttons on the book title pages allow students to communicate about them via social media.
Other features include highlighting, bookmarking, and a table of contents that includes percentage figures telling readers how far along each chapter falls in the book. A FAQ feature and step-by-step videos offer assistance to students using the service.
“It’s really about the metadata,” Burleigh says, highlighting that “we’ve made the searching so much more robust.” The upgrades allow the library experience to be “customized per student.”
Ask anyone to share a favorite school memory, and it will likely involve making something from scratch. One of my standout experiences from elementary school was learning Logo, a graphic programming language. Logo’s still around—along with many new, excellent tools that teach kids basic programming skills. Other applications enable kids to build 3-D models, which they can print, too.
Daisy the Dinosaur is a free iPad app designed to introduce K–2 students to programming basics. The app asks students to create commands for the Daisy the Dinosaur character to execute. To get started, I’d advise having students work through the “beginner challenges” mode. In the “free play” setting, kids can make Daisy do whatever they want.
Code Monster, by Mozilla, contains 58 short lessons, taking students from basic actions like resizing objects to complex animation. They can work through the lessons in sequence or jump to any one. Because the code that kids write is displayed next to the outcome of that code, users get instant feedback on their work.
Blockly is a free Google program designed to teach students about if-then logic through a visual interface. Blockly features jigsaw-shaped pieces containing commands that you snap together to create an application. The pieces can be dragged, dropped, and rearranged as many times as you’d like. Blockly offers three working challenges for students, and kids can also create their own activities.
If your phone-toting students want to create their own smartphone apps, have them try the MIT App Inventor. The tool functions with a drag-and-drop interface that emphasizes sequencing. Drag your pieces of information into the proper order and you can make a functioning Android app. Detailed step-by-step directions are also available.
The program has a built-in emulator program that tests your app before pushing it out to your phone. Users don’t need an Android device to use the MIT App Inventor, but they do need a Google account. If your school is using Google Apps for Education, you may need to talk to your network administrator about granting access to students.
123D Design from Autodesk allows you to create 3-D models by dragging pieces together online and sending them to 123D Make for printing. The paper printouts have directions for folding and constructing models. Both 123D Design and 123D Make can be used on iPads, Mac and Windows desktops, and online.
123D Catch is a free iPad app from producers of 123D Design and 123D Make. The app lets you turn pictures into a 3-D model that can be manipulated on an iPad or in a Web browser. To create a model, you take a series of pictures of a physical object, either by walking around or rotating it, using the iPad camera. Then, select 20 or more of the best images, and Autodesk processes these to create a 3-D model that can be further adjusted on the device or in a browser. Finished models can be shared to the Autodesk community online, where others can view and use them.
A Web-based program, 3DTin provides templates for re-creating existing 3-D models or you can build one from scratch. 3DTin is free, provided you allow your models to be labeled with a Creative Commons license for reuse via the 3DTin gallery. Your 3DTin creations can be exported for use in other modeling software.
Using 3DTin requires a Web browser that supports WebGL. These include the latest versions of Chrome and Firefox, as well as a Chrome Web app, but older editions of Firefox or Internet Explorer aren’t compatible.
Midwest Tape’s pay-per-circ streaming media service hoopla has announced the addition of thousands of popular movies and television shows to its lineup, through new agreements with Universal Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, National Geographic, and BBC America. New content available to patrons at public libraries includes popular movies such as Scarface and Pride and Prejudice, television series such as House of Cards, and educational shows such as Great Migrations, Secret Yellowstone and The Planets.
“We have tons of content that was never available to libraries digitally before,” Jeff Jankowski, vice president of Midwest Tape and founder of hoopla digital, told LJ.
In addition, hoopla this week unveiled its enhanced 2.0 interface for Android, Apple iOS, and the web, featuring a new design and compatibility with Apple TV streaming devices, which will facilitate the viewing of hoopla content on large screen televisions. The upgrade also features browsing by title suggestion, and enables users to view or listen to content while browsing. Almost all content can be either streamed or downloaded for a specific checkout period.
Midwest Tape does not charge setup, maintenance, or subscription fees for hoopla. Instead, the service offers streaming movies, TV shows, audiobooks, and music for library patrons on a per-circ basis. Content varies in price, but almost all titles currently range from $0.99 to $2.99 per circ, and Jankowski said that libraries offering the service are currently averaging $1.80 per circ for all content across all formats. All content is available via an unlimited simultaneous use model. Jankowski contends that the per-circ pricing model benefits patrons, who do not have to place content on hold, as well as libraries. For example, a library that pays $90 for a popular audiobook under a one-user, one-audiobook model with a three week lending period may only be able to circulate that title a maximum of 17 times during the first year after purchase. This results in a price per-circ of $5.29 during the year that a new release would be at peak popularity.
To help budget for usage of the service, hoopla offers tools that enable libraries to set patron loan limits, establish spending limits for the entire library, or opt out of certain content by format and price point.
“Our model is so different, and our approach is so different that the only scary part of it is ‘how do I budget for it?’” said Jankowski. “I think we’ve addressed that really well with our partners. We give them all kinds of tools to manage usage.”
The service has proven very popular since its official launch in July. More than 40 North American library systems currently offer the service, including the Seattle Public Library, Los Angeles Public Library, Salt Lake Public Library, Edmonton Public Library, and Hamilton Public Library. The company notes that dozens more have signed agreements to offer hoopla prior to the end of the year.
Some libraries have also used the service to help generate buzz among young adults. Recently, hoopla worked with the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library and the University of Toledo, as well as the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County and the University of Cincinnati, on events at their respective local universities. The goal was to sign up students for library cards and to introduce them to services available at these library systems.
“Our libraries have told us if we set up a booth at the student union, we normally sign up a maximum of 20 to 30 cardholders per day,” Jankowski said. With hoopla offering demos at its booth during this year’s event, “we signed up more than 150 cardholders per day.”
Hoopla’s music streaming collection was a key draw for these college students, Jankowski said. Both library systems currently allow patrons to borrow and stream entire music albums from hoopla for up to seven days.
“Our [hoopla] video offering is really kind of in its infancy compared to where we’re at with music and audiobooks,” Jankowski said. “In music, typically during any given week, we have 70 to 80 percent of what’s on Billboard’s Top 40 list, and we have them on street date.”
As a business grounded in the sale of more traditional media to libraries, Midwest Tape has a stake in the future of DVDs, CDs, and regular audiobooks. But Jankowski notes that this market is undergoing rapid changes with the advent of streaming and DVR recording technology.
“The expectation of the consumer, especially the younger consumer, is ‘why do I need a schedule? I want to watch whatever I want to watch, on whatever device I want to watch it on,’” he said.
In advance of a public meeting scheduled for December 12 in Washington D.C., the U.S. Department of Commerce is seeking public comment from all interested stakeholders on the issue of first sale doctrine and digital files, including ebooks.
The agency, along with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, will be considering “the legal framework for the creation of remixes; the relevance and scope of the first sale doctrine in the digital environment; the appropriate calibration of statutory damages in the contexts of individual file sharers and of secondary liability for large-scale infringement; whether and how the government can facilitate the further development of a robust online licensing environment; and establishing a multi-stakeholder dialogue on improving the operation of the notice and takedown system for removing infringing content from the Internet under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA),” according to the notice published in the Federal Register.
Mary Minow, Follett Chair of the Graduate School of Library and Information Science, Dominican University, and executive editor of Stanford University’s Copyright & Fair Use website, encouraged librarians to contribute their voices to this important issue. Although the case did not involve digital content, the Supreme Court’s Kirtsaeng v. Wiley decision in March, “has reawakened interest, on the content owners’ side, to revise first sale,” Minow told LJ. “Perhaps that’s even part of the impetus behind this call for public comment. The energy is there to revise copyright law in its entirety, including first sale. If libraries aren’t speaking up about what it is that we need, we’re just going to be bulldozed over.”
First sale is a relatively straightforward legal doctrine when applied to print materials or physical media such as CDs or DVDs. U.S. copyright law gives rights holders exclusive permissions to distribute copies of their work. First sale makes a distinction between the work and the material object containing that work, and states that nothing in the law should be interpreted as forbidding or restricting the transfer of a lawfully obtained, copyrighted object. So, once a person buys a print book or DVD boxed set, the book or DVDs are theirs to do with as they see fit. In theory, without this exception, people would have to ask for a publisher’s permission to resell a college textbook or even to give a book as a gift. In order to lend books, U.S. libraries would potentially have to compensate copyright holders each time a print book circulated, such as under a public lending rights system, which is the norm in more than two dozen countries outside the United States.
Yet first sale doctrine does not give permission for someone to copy a work in its entirety and transfer it to another party. Neither does fair use doctrine. And many types of digital files—including ebooks, MP3 files, and software—can’t be transferred, loaned, or otherwise used without making copies of files. With first sale poorly equipped to help interpret the transfer of digital content, digital first sale has emerged as a legal battleground between publishers and resellers, with publishers generally arguing that the ease of copying and transferring digital files makes rights holders especially vulnerable to piracy. In one prominent case this spring, U.S. District Judge Richard Sullivan ruled that online startup ReDigi was not authorized to host a platform that allowed users to buy and sell used MP3 files originally purchased from the Apple iTunes store, even if the seller’s copy of the file was deleted during the transaction.
Meanwhile, the lack of first sale protection is one of the primary reasons that publishers now make most software and other digital content available only through licensing arrangements, including licensing arrangements that permit Amazon to delete ebooks from users’ Kindles, or arrangements that restrict libraries to a lending cap for many ebook titles.
The Department of Commerce encourages librarians and other interested parties to file comments electronically by email to: CopyrightComments2013@uspto.gov before the November 13 deadline.
Lerner Digital, a division of Lerner Publishing Group, has announced the launch of its Lerner Digital eReader App for Android devices, featuring more than 3,000 available K–12 ebook titles across many interest areas and genres. The app, which is available free in the Google Play Store, is the Android equivalent of the iOS Lerner Digital eReader App that the publisher originally debuted for the iPad in October 2011.
The new app “enables children, parents, teachers, and librarians to experience our books in new ways leveraging Android devices,” says Terri Soutor, executive vice president of marketing and digital products, Lerner Universal Corporation. “We wanted to make our complete ebook collection accessible on Android devices, which was in direct response to the evolving needs of our school and library customers.”
Both versions of the app allow users to select, download, and read from among Lerner’s ebook collection, including award-winning nonfiction, picture books, graphic novels, chapter books, and young adult novels. Selections can be searched for filtered by category, age, or other common attributes.
“Given the importance of digital literacy in the Common Core State Standards and in our daily lives, it’s important that children have access to exceptional digital content that makes use of the best that technology can offer to enrich teaching and learning,” adds Adam Lerner, president and publisher, Lerner Publishing Group. “’m encouraged by the promise of enabling digital literacy in schools, and I’m thrilled that our books are now more mobile and more accessible than ever before.”
I recently spoke at the Information Today “Library Leaders Digital Strategy Summit”, a mini-conference held in conjunction with the Internet Librarian Conference in Monterey, California. I was signed up to be on a library technology panel, and to focus on what library managers needed to know about technology. In the execution it was less formal, since the panelists were parceled out among the tables where the participants were sitting while Rebecca Jones and Mike Ridley plied us with questions.
In typical style, I didn’t like the first question, so I answered the question I wish I had been asked. I did this because whenever I address an audience I try to think about the most important thing they should hear and I focus on that. That’s what I told them, and then I said:
“I decided that the single most important thing I can tell you about technology in libraries is this: You don’t have enough tech. You don’t have enough technical staff and the staff you have don’t have enough technical knowledge.”
Heads nodded all over the room. Apparently, as I often do, I had stated the obvious. But it opened up a rich vein of discussion that stretched into the buffet lunch that we brought back to our tables. While chatting with one library leader, we agreed that the best way to hire new staff wasn’t by specific experience, but personality characteristics. I even wrote a Library Journal column about it way back in 1998 (see the archived version).
The other part of this is that the day is long past when we should be hiring staff without any sort of technical capabilities. I mean, done. Fully baked. To help illustrate this, I related the fact that I had decided to go to library school to get my masters in the early 1980s. Even then, I knew that computers were going to be important to librarianship. I mean, srsly. However, since I couldn’t stomach the idea of spending years in a basement somewhere (where most computer science students were relegated back in the day), I majored in Geography and minored in Computer Science. I then went to library school to get my Masters, where I had already far surpassed the computer science requirements at the time.
This means that even 30 years ago the handwriting was on the wall. Tech was our future. It still is, only more so. If you are a children’s librarian your charges shouldn’t know more about how to use an iPad than you do. If you fancy yourself a public service librarian you had better know how to troubleshoot public computers and printers. If you are an archivist you are (or should be) at Ground Zero of your institution’s digitization plans. There are, in other words, no professional positions in a modern library that lack a technical component.
Also, the more technical abilities you bring to your position — any position — the more valuable you will be to your organization. So you decide: how valuable do you want to be?
Meanwhile, as the sun rose higher in the Monterey sky and we looked out from our perch at the top of the Monterey Marriott overlooking the bay, we perhaps could be forgiven for thinking we could see farther than we really could. Today’s world was at least 30 years in the making. We had a warning. We knew this was coming. We have no one to blame but ourselves. You don’t have enough tech.
Photo courtesy of igb06, CC BY-NC 2.0 License
In partnership with Minnesota’s Metropolitan Library Service Agency (MELSA), 3M has developed CloudLink, a new feature for its ebook lending system for consortia. Many consortial arrangements involve member libraries contributing ebooks to a common pool that patrons from all libraries can use. In addition to this functionality, CloudLink also enables any patron from any MELSA library to check out ebooks from the private collections of any other MELSA library, provided there is no holds list for the title.
“The Twin Cities Metro Area has a long history of resource sharing,” said Susan Nemitz, director of the Ramsey County Library. At the suggestion of Nemitz, MELSA approached 3M with the CloudLink concept. “We share our collections and we serve each other’s patrons. Prior to 3M’s innovation, our ebook contract with vendors would not allow either type of resource sharing. The inability to offer all of our users a full spectrum of our services was really at odds with our customer service model.”
Currently, unless a publisher has a policy that prohibits consortial lending, the CloudLink system will allow ebooks to be checked out by patrons from any library. It automatically tracks which titles and publishers have consortial lending restrictions in place and prevents those titles from circulating outside of a library’s private ebook collection. And, using the holds list function, it ensures that the patrons of a particular library have the first opportunity to read new ebooks. Patrons of other member libraries cannot place holds on these titles. These functions are managed in the background; patrons simply see what is available when perusing their library’s 3M Cloud selection.
For example, “if [MELSA member] Washington County Library buys a Hachette ebook, only people from Washington County can check that out,” explained 3M Cloud Library Marketing Manager Tom Mercer. If they purchase a title from a publisher that permits consortial lending, “only people from Washington County can place a hold on that ebook, but once it’s sitting there underutilized, anybody across the consortium could check that book out…. Users are only presented with titles that they can check out or place holds on.”
Ramsey County had seen 105 percent growth in ebook circulation during the past year, but prior to the CloudLink beta test, patron choice was limited, and users faced long waits, Nemitz said.
“After years of significant cuts to our collections budget, we were intimidated by the financial resources it takes to create an ebook collection large enough to entice our patrons into long-term use of an ebook lending program,” she said. “To be honest, over the last year, the user experience has not been great. Our ebook collection is the only collection where we have more registered users than materials.”
CloudLink now enables Ramsey County’s patrons to access 60,000 other ebooks available via their MELSA partners, in addition to the 6,000 ebooks that the library had already purchased, Nemitz said. “We have seen our holds list diminish greatly.”
3M and MELSA recently concluded their test of the system, Mercer said, and 3M is now planning to offer the feature to other interested consortia for an additional fee.
“This idea that you can still service your community first, and then share across your consortium, is something that’s really resonating with a lot of people,” he said. “The feedback we’re getting from the MELSA people is that, from their users’ standpoint, it seems that there is more [content] available. And from the libraries’ standpoint, they really like the collaborative nature of it.”