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Eight Apps to Support Early Reading and Writing | Cool Tools

5 tuntia 2 min sitten

As we all know, it’s never too early to encourage reading. I regularly Skype with my two young nieces, who live 1,200 miles away. The four-year-old shares her current bedtime book with me, and shows me the words she can recognize in it. While reading in person with a child is best, these apps and sites also help very young students get excited about learning to read and write.

Building Language for Literacy (Scholastic) offers three nice little language activities, designed for preK and kindergarten students. Leo Loves to Spell! asks students to help a lobster named Leo identify the first letter of a series of spelling words arranged in 12 categories. Reggie Loves to Rhyme!  features a rhinoceros that needs help identifying the words that rhyme with objects, from places including a construction site, garden, and supermarket. Nina Loves to Name Things! presents a newt that needs a hand naming objects in places such as a farm, aquarium, and firehouse. All of these activities are suited to use on an individual basis or for projection onto an interactive whiteboard to use in group lessons.

Writing is more fun when you have an eager, friendly audience, and a nice way for young students to develop their writing skills these days is for them to send emails to grandparents, aunts, and uncles. Maily is a free iPad app that provides a safe, fun way to do so. After setting up the Maily account, parents select and add contacts, and children may send and receive emails only from those people. The user interface is kid-friendly, and children can choose to draw pictures, use templates to create emails, and/or upload pictures. To send their emails, users click the “send” button and select the image of the person they want to receive it.

The Collins Big Cat iPad apps (HarperCollins) are part short story and part story-creation tools. Each of these eight free tools contains a tale that kids can read or have someone narrate. Kids can manipulate interactive elements on each page. Then, after reading and or listening to a story, they can create their own tale by choosing settings and characters matching the theme of what they’ve just read.

Using the story creation aspect of these apps, students can select a background, drag design features into the background, drag characters into the story, add text, and record their own narrations. To get a sense of how the apps work, check out the It Was a Cold, Dark Night story creator, in which you’ll follow along with a hedgehog as he tries to find a warm place to sleep. There’s also a quiz designed to check for understanding.

Reading Bear is a free service with narrated lessons about recognizing and pronouncing letters and words, along with lessons on prefixes and suffixes. Students can control the pace of each lesson, and also take quizzes in which they match the correct word with a picture. Through a narrator, they receive instant feedback on each question. Reading Bear presents good independent activities as well as ones involving a parent or tutor.

None of these sites and apps are replacements for in-person reading and writing lessons. But they can make practicing these skills a lot more fun.



Maily for iPad from School Library Journal on Vimeo.

Librarians, Media React to Launch of Kindle Unlimited

Pe, 07/25/2014 - 18:15

In a long-expected move, Amazon on July 18 announced the launch of Kindle Unlimited, a new subscription service that will give users unlimited access to a selection of 600,000 ebooks and more than 2,000 audiobooks on Amazon Kindle devices and any device with a Kindle app for $9.99 per month. Amazon is not first to market with an “all you can read” commercial ebook subscription platform—it follows last year’s launch of Scribd and Oyster. But the online retailer’s financial resources, marketing clout, and massive base of Kindle users will doubtless raise consumer awareness of ebook subscription services while altering the competitive landscape for all providers of ebooks, including libraries.

“I’m enough of a realist to assume that consumers will gravitate to the cheapest, most convenient source of content, whether that’s Amazon or the public library,” said Jimmy Thomas, executive director of Colorado’s Marmot Library Network. “Amazon continues to set a high standard of convenience libraries should attend to. And every time this huge corporation does something on a massive scale, libraries should be reminded to approach services differently. Competing with Amazon on its own terms is not a good direction for libraries. But thinking about how to complement Amazon is worthwhile.”

Describing the service as a potentially “disruptive challenge to libraries,” Jamie LaRue, principal of LaRue and Associates Consulting, told LJ that “even in rural areas now, a lot of folks have ereaders, and find that they prefer ebooks. This kind of service, at that price point, will probably result in another market shift. $9.99 is a pretty good deal. And let’s remember that the average monthly payment per household for libraries is only $2.68.”

Amazon’s appetite for market share remains voracious as ever, noted Eric Hellman, president of Gluejar and its site, which helps make specific ebook titles free under a Creative Commons license. “It’s clear that Amazon sees ‘free’ as its competition in the ebook space. And yes, libraries occupy space in the ebook market that Amazon wants for itself.”

The reviews are in

At launch, there are chinks in the armor of this new 600,000 title behemoth. While Amazon has publicized the availability of popular series including “Harry Potter,” “The Lord of the Rings,” and “The Hunger Games,” as many as 500,000 of the titles currently available on Kindle Unlimited were self-published through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) Select program, according to publishing industry newsletter Publisher’s Lunch. At least for now, the “big five” publishers—Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Macmillan, and Hachette Book Group—are not part of the Kindle Unlimited offering. So, despite the size of this initial collection, many libraries still have access to plenty of popular ebooks that are unavailable through the service.

“From a library perspective, Kindle Unlimited seems unlikely to affect demand for library materials at all,” said Sarah Houghton, director of California’s San Rafael Public Library (SRPL) and blogger at “Six hundred thousand titles is not a lot.  Our library participates in Link+, a cooperative lending project that makes tens of millions of titles from libraries across California and Nevada available in print to our communities—at no charge to them.”

SRPL’s ebook catalog also offers about 50,000 ebook titles, Houghton added. In terms of raw numbers, that might seem insignificant by comparison, but Houghton contends that “our selection is also much better than what you’d find in Kindle Unlimited, including most bestselling titles from the Big Five publishers.”

Amazon’s announcement was initially greeted with mostly unvarnished praise on Twitter and other social media channels, but several major media outlets gave Kindle Unlimited somewhat tepid reviews once they had the opportunity to explore the service.

Washington Post consumer tech reporter Heather Tsukayama wrote, “if you want any of the top five current New York Times fiction bestsellers, for example, you’re not going to find them in the Unlimited catalog…. I recently did a rundown of other companies that are trying to be the ‘Netflix for books,’ before this announcement. What I found is that no book subscription service has everything you want to read.”

An Associated Press review also highlighted the lack of bestsellers, with technology editor Anick Jesdanun writing that “it turns out the library of 600,000 is bit like a small bookstore with a few current titles such as ‘The Hunger Games’ [series], attached to a block-sized bargain bin of obscure stuff mixed with Robinson Crusoe and other classics that are in the public domain and available for free online anyway.”

Jesdanun did go on to praise an audiobook feature that synchronizes ebooks with their corresponding audiobooks, so that users can stop reading an ebook, and then have the audiobook version pick up where they left off. However, the ultimate verdict was that users would need to read three or more books per month to get any value from the subscription, and “the limited selection makes it tougher to find those three books a month, especially for those who already get a book a month for free through [Amazon] Prime.”

Similarly, Victor Luckerson at Time magazine’s Techland blog estimated that users “would need to read more than 16 books per year to derive a greater value from Kindle Unlimited than buying the books individually.”

Publisher problems

On The Economist’s Babbage blog, columnist Glenn Fleishman expressed skepticism about the possibility of Amazon negotiating subscription deals with any of the Big Five publishers in the near term, writing, “what people want to read should provide a strong market force. Publishers already wary of Amazon during its brutal Hachette negotiations may be disinclined to grant more power to the firm by allowing their catalogues to increase the volume of volumes on offer.”

Heather Teysko, director of innovation and development for the Califa Library Group, also noted the lack of goodwill that Amazon has with these publishers.

“I can’t see the Big Five going to [Kindle Unlimited] any time soon because of the contract disputes, like with Hachette,” she said. Teysko noted that that Califa’s enki ebook platform doesn’t offer Big Five titles, either, but questioned how a commercial subscription service could work without them.

“I’m not the biggest fan of the Big Five, and we’ve taken the strategic decision not to ‘go after’ them for enki, but I’d imagine that if a patron is paying $9.99/month for something, they’d want at least some of them. I would.”

Meanwhile, several independent publishing advocates expressed their own doubts about the new service.

Mark Coker, founder and CEO of indie ebook publisher and distributor Smashwords, wrote on his company’s official blog that while he was “pleased to report” that Scribd and Oyster were the fastest growing retail channels at Smashwords, “Indies would do well to avoid Kindle Unlimited for one simple reason: it requires KDP Select exclusivity.”

Authors enrolled in KDP Select give Amazon the exclusive rights to publish their ebooks in exchange for free marketing via Amazon’s Kindle Countdown Deals and free book promotions. So, an independent author could not make their work available via Smashwords or any other ebook distributor.

While stating that Amazon deserves “massive kudos for catalyzing the rise of ebooks,” Coker argued that “exclusivity starves competing retailers of books readers want to read, which motivates readers to move their reading to the Kindle platform. This is why Amazon has made exclusivity central to their ebook strategy. They’re playing a long-term game of attrition.”

On his blog, Hugh Howey, author of the sci-fi hit Wool—which was originally published via Amazon KDP—noted that the Kindle Unlimited service relies on a two-tiered payment system. “Traditionally published authors get the full price, because their publisher gets the full sales commission,” Howey explains. “Self-published authors get a flat fee, probably something around $2 per read. There have been howls over this bifurcation, with people claiming that Amazon, for the first time, is treating indies worse than traditionally published authors. But that’s not true. Amazon has often treated indies worse than traditionally published authors.”

Don’t mention it

Regardless of how the service and its available selection are ultimately viewed, Amazon’s sheer size and influence over retail and publishing ensured significant media coverage during the past week. And while Slate did syndicate an Inside Higher Ed reaction column written by Gustavus Aldolphus College librarian Barbara Fister, some librarians found it vexing that the vast majority of reviewers and reporters failed to mention libraries as part of the modern ebook lending landscape when comparing Kindle Unlimited to competitors such as Oyster and Scribd. Or, less frequently, writers used the announcement as an opportunity to pen op-eds about the death of libraries.

“This massive amount of press attention is not only discussing a new service—and who knows how it will turn out—but more importantly, they rarely mention libraries and what they offer,” said Gary Price, editor of LJ infoDOCKET. “So, it’s as much [a point of concern] about mindshare and relevance as it is about a new Amazon service.”

This low level of awareness regarding ebooks and other online resources available for free through public libraries remains troubling, Price added. Even in a best-case scenario—in which these subscription services have no direct impact on library circulation or library ebook book borrowing—their marketing efforts, combined with media coverage that regularly ignores libraries, does shape public perception regarding the relevance of libraries.

“I found that the mainstream media made a big deal immediately about comparing it to the other subscription programs out there, like Oyster and Scribd, but only recently through pop culture media, such as The Awl and Jimmy Kimmel) to get out there and say ‘Hey, libraries already do this too?’” said Kristi Chadwick, advisor, small libraries, for the Massachusetts Library System (MLS), emphasizing that she was expressing a personal opinion and not speaking on behalf of MLS.

It’s not that librarians aren’t trying to get this message out, she added, “but where Amazon is concerned, I feel we are shouting into the void at times.”

Linda Braun, youth services manager at the Seattle Public Library, noted that “what’s problematic is that it shows that other media don’t understand what the role of the library is—that we do have these resources and we do play an important role in the community.”

Noting that Netflix had grown from startup to 36 million subscribers—30 million now streaming—in 15 years, Price added that libraries ignore the growth of these services at their peril. Amazon, he reminded infoDOCKET readers, already has three years of data on library titles that were borrowed via OverDrive using a Kindle device or app, giving them an edge should they choose to target library users with this service. And arguments that libraries will always be unique in their offer of free content may no longer be accurate if one of these services decides to pursue an optional ad-supported model, akin to Spotify. The entrance of a major new competitor into a market often drives such innovations.

“The apparent entrance of Amazon into subscription market is exciting for the industry as a whole,” Scribd co-founder and CEO, Trip Adler, said in a statement to the press. “It’s validation that we’ve built something great here at Scribd. Publishers, authors and readers alike have all seen the benefit, so it’s no surprise they’d want to test the waters. Successful companies don’t fear competition, but rather embrace it, learn from it and use it to continue to fuel their own innovation which is exactly what we intend to continue doing.”

Room for everyone

More competitors may soon follow. On July 22, the Book Industry Study Group (BISG) released the results of an extensive survey of 4,000 industry professionals including publishers, libraries, book sellers, and aggregators, and 80 percent of respondents said they believe that ebook publishing was inevitably moving toward subscription-based models. Libraries may want to start considering the possibility of a world in which a retailer—such as Amazon—has managed to get all of the Big Five on board with an affordable subscription service, and how they might respond.

“It seems like everyone is seeing these subscriptions as an inevitable way that the business is going, and I think that, for libraries, it just means that differentiating your collection and focusing on what makes the library collection unique is even more important,” said Teysko. “Offering the bestsellers through vendors won’t necessarily be as appealing if the Big 5 come on board, and patrons can borrow them for $10/month, but at the same time, highlighting local authors, encouraging local authors, showcasing local history; these are all things that the library can do to differentiate themselves.”

As surveys by LJ and others has shown, regular library users tend to read many more books each year than the average U.S. consumer. They borrow more, buy more, and use e-readers more frequently. For now, Chadwick said she thinks that these new subscription services will likely fold into many users’ reading habits without an adverse effect on libraries.

“Honestly, I think that it has its place in the whole ecosystem of ebooks and readers, from a holistic viewpoint,” she said. “It gives access—as do we—and people are going to choose what they want to have access to based on their needs. We just need to ensure that libraries stay part of that need as new programs and models appear.”

Braun pointed out that as these subscription services emerge and become more popular, libraries will need to be prepared to provide access to content to users who cannot afford subscriptions, and to help other patrons learn how to use these services, much as libraries continue to do with e-readers, tablets, and more recently, streaming devices.

“The public library is part of the local community, which is something Amazon—and Google, for that matter—can never be,” Thomas noted. “Working on services in and with the community seems like an advantage public libraries will long have.”

LaRue agreed, noting that “even if it’s multiplatform, and authors approve, and they have all the best sellers, there will still be a place for the libraries—children’s services, sanctuary, meeting space, study space, maker space. But for most public libraries, circulation is the driver—and this is clearly a shot across the bow.”

Generation Tablet | Next Big Thing

To, 07/24/2014 - 00:39

They are the rising tablet generation: the young children entering early-learning programs at public libraries or in preschools. Some of these kids, like my four-year-old daughter, have had their hands on tablets for their whole lives.

Launched in April 2010, the iPad ushered in a new era of computing. The tablet was introduced by Apple CEO Steve Jobs as a “lean back” device built for casual use in a relaxed environment. In other words, a toy, not a tool. These “toys” have come to dominate the market, taking a huge bite out of traditional computer sales and creating a new app-driven market.

Four years in, I’m starting to think that maybe tablets aren’t so good. They’re wonderful devices, don’t get me wrong—providing unbelievable computing power in a simple-to-use package. But they aren’t good for developing technology problem-solvers.

Back when I had to back up my first computer onto 92 floppy disks—and walk uphill to school both ways, as I recall—computer users had to be creative. My friends and I played around with OS/2, a series of operating systems created by Microsoft and IBM, because we were too cool for Windows 3.1. We opened the boxes and learned how to work with the hardware that powered our software. Kids today have it too easy.

Our challenge as librarians supporting early learning is finding ways to develop creative and curious children—kids who explore and hack in physical and virtual worlds. The safe, easy, and lovable tablet doesn’t help with this problem.

We must find ways to employ technology as a tool, thoughtfully engaging our children. How about a chore chart? Encourage parents to create one on a tablet so that the device shines as a tool meeting a need beyond entertainment. Our four-year-old has her own Google account with a calendar for her activities. She can look at her color and see when things are happening.

Helping parents find ways to model technology use with children is important. It’s even more critical that we empower kids to use technology and technical thinking themselves to solve problems. Traditional building toys like blocks and Lincoln Logs get kids to think about the logical process of construction. They learn about the importance of a strong foundation and the need to support roof structures. More importantly, they learn about trial and error, perseverance in problem-solving, and the need to think creatively in order to find a solution.

Our challenge is to replicate this in the digital tablet world. We need to find (or build) apps that support constructivist learning, creative thinking, and problem-solving for young learners. To find tools that young kids can use to track data and manage their lives. To create a stuffed animal inventory database—or a weekly calendar with pictures for scheduled activities.

I envision early childhood education as a makerspace and programming boot camp that prepares our kids to use the tools of our digital world, not just the toys. Oh, and if they could help shore up our economy (and our retirements) as high-tech enabled workers, that wouldn’t be so bad either.

The Long Game

Ti, 07/22/2014 - 22:42

It took me many years to figure out my favorite exercise routine. Bear with me, I will make this topic come around to libraries in the end.

I knew that the typical “spin class” that many have found to be their groove simply wasn’t for me. But finally, after trying ice skating, roller skating, and goodness knows what else, I found it. It was hiking the Sonoma Overlook Trail. It is a loop trail that winds up into the hills overlooking the town of Sonoma, gaining about 300 feet in elevation as it does. The shortest loop takes 35 minutes non-stop, the longest is 45 minutes.

So for the last several years that has been what I’ve done for exercise. I hike it whenever I can, which is anywhere from 3-5 days a week. Over time, I became a volunteer who maintains the trail, called the Sonoma Overlook Trail Stewards. It is our responsibility to keep the trail being the kind of experience we all wish to have — close to wildlife, true to the California landscape, and as free from as many human impacts — from trash to dogs — as we can.

As a part of this stewardship, we are trying to eradicate the invasive, non-native Yellow Star Thistle (see it above the California Kingsnake in the photo; believe me, I let the snake slither away before I pulled those). This is the second year that I’ve participated in pulling this weed from the Overlook Trail. It is also the first year that I’ve come to understand what we are up against. As someone I spoke to recently said, it can take at least four years of concerted effort to eradicate this weed from an area. After a season of deep commitment to eradicating it, I get it. I’ve spent a month, off-and-on, pulling it from the area, including pulling some today from areas that I’ve walked 3-4 times before. As a part of this, I’ve come to understand that we aren’t fighting a battle, but a war.

We are in a long game. And so are libraries.

So how do we best play the long game? Here are some ideas, based on both my experiences in libraries and in pulling Yellow Star Thistle:

  • Be relentless.I count myself lucky that my father grew up working Indiana farmland with his father as a little boy. There was no such thing as a day off. Neither could you simply take a break when you felt like it. He passed on that relentless nature of work to me, such that now I climb mountains with as much of an intense focus as he likely spent driving a tractor when he was six. We need to be just as relentless in fulfilling our goals as institutions that serve and empower our communities. Anything less would be shirking our duty.
  • Focus on the “now” as a brick in the wall of the future. If you are relentless, you understand that the long game is built one brick at a time.If you allow yourself to be discouraged by looking at the big picture, then you have already lost. But if you get that long journeys are accomplished one step at a time, you can push back the discouragement by focusing on the present. You will do this one task then you will do that one task again. Before you know it, you’ve accomplished something you had no idea you could.
  • Understand that it will take years to reach your goal. Since the long game is, well, long, you know that it won’t come soon. But to get you past this, check out the next point. Also, focus on taking one step at a time rather than looking at how far you have to go.
  • Understand that it is worth it. If you have set your goals appropriately, then the long game is totally worth it. In fact, some of the most important, game-changing events are only acquired through playing the long game.
  • Enlist others to your cause. Not only misery loves company, but also delight. The more the merrier. Many hands make light work. You get the point.

Many of you are likely already playing the long game whether you realize it or not. I would be interested to hear your reports from the field in a comment below. Let me know about the good and the bad about playing the long game and how we can help ourselves and other libraries play it better. I’m all ears.

Greenburgh PL Installs Audio Induction Loop for Hearing Impaired

Ti, 07/22/2014 - 19:58

Using funding provided by a local chapter of the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), the Greenburgh Public Library, NY (GPL) this spring installed an audio frequency induction loop (AFIL) in its multipurpose room. AFILs enable public address systems and other AV equipment to send audio transmissions directly to hearing aids, eliminating background noise for hearing impaired visitors.

“It’s a pretty significant increase in fidelity for the end-user, because it gets rid of all the ambient noise,” said Leo Garrison, president and senior integration specialist for Washingtonville, NY-based Metro Sound Pros, the commercial AV company that installed Greenburgh’s loop.

During regular use, hearing aids are designed to amplify a specific frequency range in which an individual is experiencing hearing loss, Garrison said. But when a user is attending a public event, background noise can cause the sound to become muddled. AFILs bypass the hearing aid’s microphone/amplifier system, instead generating an electromagnetic field with a wire “loop” that encircles a room, transmitting audio information directly to the telecoil receiver installed in most hearing aids and cochlear implants. Although patrons may have to manually switch their hearing aids to “T-coil” mode to benefit from an AFIL system, no additional equipment is needed for users.

Garrison said he often draws a simple comparison to describe the enhancement in audio fidelity that the loops offer—it’s the difference between attending a concert with a loud, cheering crowd and listening to a recording of a song in a quiet room.

The new system “has worked well to serve everyone’s needs,” and cut down on issues in which attendees at meetings, film screenings, and other events either could not hear, or complained that the PA volume was too loud, said GPL Director John Sexton.

“We knew we had a need, because we have a growing population of seniors—as do most communities—and they are definitely a target audience for our programs,” he said.

The local HLAA chapter, which also holds its board meetings in GPL’s multipurpose room, first approached the library about installing the system about two years ago. Since then, it has been a matter of securing financing for the loop, which cost about $5,000 to install, Sexton said. The HLAA chapter ultimately donated the money using a portion of the proceeds from their annual Walk4Hearing fundraiser.

AFIL technology is not new. In fact the first patent for an induction loop hearing assistance system was issued in Great Britain in 1937. AFILs became more common in the 1970s, Garrison said, but early mishaps caused their popularity as a solution to wane in the United States.

“The problem was, manufacturers really didn’t have the knowledge and/or the equipment to successfully integrate with facilities,” Garrison said. “There were a lot of systems installed incorrectly, and looping got a really bad rep in the 70s. It was kind of forgotten about, until recently, with advocates and manufacturers pushing for it.”

The technology has since become mainstream in Europe, particularly in the United Kingdom, which requires the installation of AFILs in public buildings as a provision of the Equality Act 2010. Although the United States has been slower to adopt AFILs, HLAA is working to raise awareness, and Garrison said that Metro Sound Pros had been seeing renewed interest in loops. The company has been working with New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) for a few years to install loops at 24 hour subway system station booths and was contracted to install systems in New York’s Intrepid Air & Space Museum, several educational institutions, banks, and retail establishments, as well as two Broadway theatres—the Gershwin Theatre and the Richard Rogers Theatre—during the past year alone.

And in addition to GPL, several other libraries have adopted the technology in recent years, primarily with limited installations at service desks, enhancing one-on-one conversations with hearing impaired patrons and library staff. This spring, for example, the Southwest Wisconsin Library System installed information desk loops at nine of its libraries using a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). And last month, Louisiana’s Lafayette Public Library System debuted a full meeting room loop installation similar to GPLs, in its South Region Library, using funding donated by the Lafayette Breakfast Sertoma Club, the Lafayette Sertoma Club and the Friends of the Lafayette Public Library.

Garrison said that Metro Sound has seen a lot of interest in the systems from libraries, particularly since 2011, when the New York Times ran a feature on the technology. But recession-impacted budgets have meant that few potential clients have been able to proceed immediately with an installation. He estimates that less than one percent of U.S. facilities are currently “looped.”

Outfitting a multi-purpose room such as GPLs typically costs between $5,000 to $8,000, Garrison said, and it’s easiest—and least expensive—to install an AFIL when a room or building is having its carpeting replaced or undergoing a broader remodeling effort.

Are Today’s Kids All Thumbs? Touch Matters. Researchers Bring Tactile Learning into Digital Realm.

To, 07/17/2014 - 01:12

Photo courtesy of

This July article is an expanded version of “Weaving Together Touch and Digital into Early Childhood Play” that ran on May 21, 2014.

Azadeh Jamalian has spent four years studying how three- and four-year-olds learn math—using adults as her lab rats. Videotaping adults as part of her PhD work at Columbia University, she found that as the subjects worked through problems, hand gestures were key. The harder the problems, the more they moved their hands. And the more they moved their hands, the more accurate their problem-solving.

Using our hands, Jamalian realized, is crucial to learning—and something slightly missing in the 2-D world of flatscreens, where kids primarily swipe and tap. So Jamalian, the co-founder and chief learning officer of interactive toy and app maker Tiggly, is working to incorporate more physical components into PreK apps.

“The whole premise of manipulating and playing with real objects is a big part of a child’s learning process,” says the New York–based Jamalian. “There is a lot of learning in this interaction that is missing from play on digital devices. At the same time, digital play can be beneficial by giving [kids] feedback and scaffolding. So we’re trying to combine them for the best possible experience.”

Touching is how many young children learn to count, and studies show that this touch interaction is mapped in the human brain. Although kids tend to grow out of counting on fingers, a part of the brain corresponding to finger movement fires when they count in their head later, according to a 2012 study, “You Can Count on the Motor Cortex,” by lead author Nadja Tschentscher, a researcher at the University of Cambridge, published in Neuroimage.

The rise of digital devices in the early childhood arena potentially limits children’s opportunities to learn about the world around them through touch. Members of the British Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) have found that three- and four-year-olds have trouble using toys and blocks because of their overuse of touch-screen devices, according to coverage of ATL’s annual conference in April 2014 published in The Telegraph.

Mindy Brooks, director of education and research at Sesame Workshop, has been assessing how digital screens used with blocks can educate while supporting more organic, physical play. The company already has games that children can play through Microsoft’s Kinect. A new research project, Grover’s Block Party, launched in fall 2013, asks parents to videotape kids playing with blocks while a digital Grover talks about the object, knowing which one the child has picked. Children aren’t directed—they choose how they want to play. The digital element, Grover, keeps up and interacts.

“It’s tricky designing for motor movement with an app on a screen,” says Brooks. “We don’t allow a child to shake or tilt a tablet. We don’t want them shattering. But children come with the expectation of play with an app on screen and off, and it’s challenging to do that right now.”

Tiggly recently launched Tiggly Shapes & Apps (pictured), where children ages eighteen months to four years play with a circle, square, star, and triangle along with an app. The goal is to have children manipulate and roll the shapes, things they can’t do as easily with shapes on a screen. This exercise would address some of the concerns reportedly expressed by ATL members about screen-savvy children who are all thumbs. Jamalian believes game and app developers should look more closely at weaving both online and offline elements into preschool products, as interactivity is core to the learning process.

“We think physical play is important for spatial learning,” she says. “Manipulation of objects plays a big role in how we imagine different things. Just dragging or tapping is not as effective as hand rotating or touching different textures—experiences you can’t have on a screen.” So “we’re trying to combine them for the best learning and growth experience possible.”

Anticipatory Discovery and One-Click Server Installs Among LITA Top Tech Trends | ALA 2014

Ma, 07/14/2014 - 20:47

Anticipatory and contextual discovery, open hardware, one-click server installs, mobile-first design, institutional digital assets management, and even biohackerspaces were some of the topics discussed this year at the Library and Information Technology Association’s (LITA) Top Tech Trends panel, held June 29 at the American Library Association (ALA) 2014 Annual Conference.

Moderated by Nadaleen F. Tempelman-Kluit, head of user experience at New York University’s Bobst Library, the panel included Jason Griffey, former associate professor and librarian at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga; Ranti Junus, systems librarian for electronic resources at Michigan State University Libraries; Bohyun Kim, associate director for library applications and knowledge systems at University of Maryland’s Health Sciences and Human Services Library in Baltimore; David Lee King, digital services director at Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library (TSCPL); Roger Schonfeld, program director for libraries, users, and scholarly practices at Ithaka S+R; Ken Varnum, web systems manager at the University of Michigan Library; and Mita Williams, user experience librarian at the Leddy Library at the University of Windsor in Ontario, Canada.

New Discovery

Varnum kicked off the program with a discussion on how discovery has evolved, and how librarians might adapt. Electronic resources and the Internet offer patrons access to an ever-vaster collection of content every year. But, the end result is “oceans of information” that many patrons don’t know how to navigate.

“From the naïve user perspective—and I think a lot of our users fall into that category—[discovery systems] all feel the same, they all look the same. And they don’t see the difference between using your wonderful special resource, library discovery system, or Google, or whatever they happen to find that day while looking around the Internet.”

Librarians can play a role in helping patrons create more focused subsets of these “oceans” of information, Varnum added, particularly as discovery solutions offer increasingly sophisticated ways to tailor searches.

“I think what’s going to be happening is that discovery systems are going to become much more locally tuned, that the interfaces that we use to say who can search what and how to find things in this ocean…. We as librarians will be able to twiddle the knobs and say ‘I want the [information] stream that’s right for undergraduate students in, say, psychology, a different one for undergraduates from [a different major], and one for well-experienced, knowledgeable researchers in another area’…. With a little work on the librarians’ side, we’ll be able to pool the resources and actually focus what we search on very specific subsets of the giant ocean.”

Right Context

On a related note, Schonfeld discussed the growth of anticipatory and contextual discovery tools, such as Google Now, an Android app which has the capacity to note that a user has an upcoming flight scheduled, automatically check current traffic and public transportation conditions, and suggest the best time to leave their current location using the optimal route to the airport. Once a user is at his or her destination, the app might suggest local restaurants or attractions, based on the user’s habits.

“It’s discovery that’s driven not by what I might search for, but what I might care about, which is a really, really different paradigm,” Schonfeld said. “And it’s also [information] delivered when it’s useful to me, and not just when it’s new.”

These types of tools work by collecting and retaining a lot of personal information on users, so there are privacy tradeoffs, Schonfeld acknowledged. But, librarians should be cognizant of this trend in the commercial sphere, and consider how libraries could better anticipate the needs of users.

“If we could think about what is already being developed in anticipatory and contextual search…and think about how that might be applied in terms of the kinds of current awareness services that library user want and need, I think we could come up with some really interesting service models,” he said.

For example, researchers want to keep up with new scholarship in their field, and one way of doing so is by subscribing to email alerts from journals, newsletters, and other relevant sources. Yet many oversubscribe to these alerts. Overwhelmed, they start tuning them out. Librarians might consider ways in which they could help filter this information and provide faculty with what they need, when they need it.

“There’s clearly a way in which the system is fragmented, it’s not the right level of granularity,” he said, later adding that “the question that I want to raise is whether libraries—perhaps collaboratively, perhaps working with vendors, perhaps individually—should be engaging more deeply with helping users keep up with the literature in their fields.”

Managed assets

Junus also discussed ways in which librarians could offer direct assistance to faculty, describing the management of faculty research data and other faculty-produced content as her trend to watch. Intellectual output assumes a variety of formats, including datasets, filesets, and multimedia. Building the infrastructure for an institutional repository and establishing the collection development policies for digital assets generated by an institution’s faculty is a job for which academic libraries are well suited. And, tools such as figshare have been launched recently to help facilitate this type of work, Junus noted.

When building a repository, however, libraries should keep in mind that preserving these research outputs is not the only goal.

“This is…from my perspective, more about the collection, and providing it back to the universities,” she said. Too often, databases are created for individual projects, and the content becomes siloed and undiscoverable as part of a library’s larger digital assets collection.


Public librarians are well aware of the Maker space trend and the ways in which a growing number of libraries have begun facilitating do-it-yourself projects, crafts, 3D-printing, and hands-on technology experiments. They may be less familiar with the Bio Hackerspace movement, which Kim described as a growing trend to watch for public and academic libraries alike.

Biohacking has been around since as early as 2005, with networks such as nurturing the amateur biologist movement since 2008. And the bio hackerspaces are exactly what the terminology would imply—essentially, Maker spaces with a selection of lab equipment for biology experiments and tests. Biohackers have also developed inexpensive, DIY hardware and engineering blueprints for equipment that is significantly less expensive than commercially produced versions.

Specifically describing the founding of Genspace, a community biology lab and Biohackerspace launched in New York City in 2010 by the molecular biologist Ellen Jorgensen, Kim explained the goals of the movement.

“Everybody who wants to do science should be able to do it without having some sort of affiliation with a big institution,” Kim said. “Before we had Maker spaces, we weren’t able to manufacture things…unless we had access to certain hardware. Maker spaces made that possible. It democratized manufacturing, and the same thing is now happening in Biohackerspaces. Biology is being democratized.”

Open systems

LibraryBox developer Jason Griffey discussed democratization of a different sort. Most librarians are familiar with open-source software, and many institutions now use open-source software such as WordPress and Drupal in their daily workflows. Griffey encouraged attendees to begin considering electronics and computer hardware in the same light.

“It took us decades to realize that the benefit of open software was that we could control it,” compared with proprietary, commercial software he said. “I think that there is some degree to which, over the next several years, we are going to start deciding that—at least at some level—open hardware is going to give us the ability to control certain aspects of the computing experience we put in front of people.”

One problem open hardware could potentially help address is privacy concerns related to data leakage, Griffey said. In corporate terms, leakage involves sensitive data getting into the wrong hands through accidents, poor security, or outright theft. But for individuals, leakage might simply involve the unwitting transmission of personal information to a business or other person. With closed commercial hardware, average users often have no way to understand what type of information they are sharing.

“The more data we leak, and the more that hardware is closed to us, to understand what data we are leaking, the more [this] slightly creepy use of our data I think is going to rise to the surface.”

Current open hardware products include Ethernut embedded Ethernet devices, the Arduino open microcontroller board, and hacker Bunnie Huang’s recently launched Novena Open Laptop project. Griffey’s LibraryBoxen use commercial hardware, but during installation, the portable router’s firmware is overwritten and replaced with Linux-based OpenWrt.

Instant server

Setting up a personal server once required time, patience, and technical know-how. But lately, applications such as Minecraft Realms are enabling regular consumers to set up and get started with their own cloud-based servers in an instant, noted Mita Williams, describing one-click server installations as her trend to watch.

“I think it’s going to really lower the barriers of participation to all sorts of software, not just for individuals, but for libraries,” she said, pointing to the City University of New York’s (CUNY) DHbox project as an example. Founded by CUNY Hunter College reference librarian Stephen Zweibel, DHbox enables faculty or students within minutes to set up a cloud-based digital humanities lab with configurations of web-publishing platform Omeka, Natural Language Toolkit (NLTK), interactive computing command shell IPython, RStudio open-source enterprise software for the programming language R, and MALLET (MAchine Learning for LanguagE Toolkit).

With DHbox, “you don’t have to learn how to install all of that software,” Williams said. “They’re providing a service just to make it really easy for scholars…to just get their hands dirty and try the software itself.”

Configuration management tools like Chef and Puppet make it possible for projects like this to automate the server setup process on the back-end, she added.

What software like Chef and Puppet does is remember all of the little steps [required during conventional server setup] and when you want to make another server, you just press a button” and the software completes all of those steps for you, Williams explained. Many server “recipes” are available on open source software collaboration sites such as GitHub.

Mobile first

Globally, one in five people now own a smartphone, one in 17 have a tablet, and 99 percent of device owners use their tablet or smartphone every day, King said. At TSCPL, 32 percent of the library’s website traffic originates on smartphones or tablets, and a local news station has reported that 75 percent of its website visitors are using mobile devices to access their site. The rapid growth of mobile devices has become an established trend that libraries must address in a number of ways, King said.

“When you’re building a website, make sure it works on the mobile device first,” he said, even when a library also offers a mobile app for patrons. Using responsive design techniques or other means, a library should have its “whole website, all of your content, easily accessible on a smartphone, on a tablet, or on a desktop,” King said.

This mobile-first philosophy could also be applied to library interiors. For example, places where patrons regularly sit on the floor to charge their devices in nearby electrical outlets could be outfitted with charging stations, or at least a chair. Also, inform the local community about the availability of free WiFi in branch libraries as a simple marketing tactic.

Library (ARL, ALA, COSLA) and Higher Education Organizations Release Joint Set of Net Neutrality Principles

To, 07/10/2014 - 18:42

Note: The complete set of principles is embedded at the bottom of this post.

From a Joint Statement (via ARL)  (via ALA):

Today, higher education and library organizations representing thousands of colleges, universities, and libraries nationwide released a joint set of Net Neutrality Principles they recommend form the basis of an upcoming Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decision to protect the openness of the Internet. The groups believe network neutrality protections are essential to protecting freedom of speech, educational achievement, and economic growth.

The organizations endorsing these principles are:

American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU American Council on Education (ACE) American Library Association (ALA Association of American Universities (AAU) Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) Association of Research Libraries (ARL) Chief Officers of State Library Agencies (COSLA) EDUCAUSE Modern Language Association (MLA) National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU)

Libraries and institutions of higher education are leaders in creating, fostering, using, extending, and maximizing the potential of the Internet for research, education, and the public good.  These groups are extremely concerned that the recent court decision vacating two of the key “open Internet” rules creates an opportunity for Internet providers to block or degrade (e.g., arbitrarily slow) certain Internet traffic, or prioritize certain services, while relegating public interest services to the “slow lane.”

At its best, the Internet is a platform for learning, collaboration, and interaction among students, faculty, library patrons, local communities, and the world.  Libraries and institutions of higher education make an enormous amount of Internet content available to the general public—from basic distance learning classes to multimedia instruction, cloud computing, digitized historical databases, research around “big data,” and many other educational and civic resources—all of which require an open Internet.  Institutions of higher education and libraries do not object to paying for the high-capacity Internet connections that they need to support their students, faculty, administrators, and library patrons; but once connected, they should not have to pay additional fees to receive prioritized transmission of their content, services, or applications.

These groups support strong, enforceable rules to ensure that higher education and libraries can continue to deliver online educational and public interest content at a level of speed and quality on par with commercial providers.  The proposed principles call upon the FCC to ban blocking, degradation, and “paid prioritization”; ensure that the same rules apply to fixed and mobile broadband providers; promote greater transparency of broadband services; and prevent providers from treating similar customers in significantly different ways.


“America’s libraries collect, create, and disseminate essential information to the public over the Internet, and enable our users to create and distribute their own digital content and applications,” said American Library Association President Courtney Young. “Network neutrality is essential to ensuring open and nondiscriminatory access to Internet content and services for all.  The American Library Association is proud to stand with other education and learning organizations in outlining core principles for preserving the open Internet as a vital platform for free speech, innovation, and civic engagement.”

“The FCC should use the joint principles submitted by higher education and library groups as a framework for creating rules to protect an open Internet that has fostered equitable access to information and sparked new innovations, including distance learning such as MOOCs,” said Carol Pitts Diedrichs, President of the Association of Research Libraries (ARL). “Without rules governing net neutrality to ensure that blocking and discrimination do not occur, the Internet could be available only to those with the greatest financial resources to pay to have their content prioritized.”

Higher Ed Libraries Net Neutrality Principles

ISTE’s Digital Age Library Playground: A Dynamic Mix of Knowledge and Hands-On Tools | ISTE 2014

To, 07/10/2014 - 00:43

Elissa Malespina’s “Augmented Reality in Your Library” station during ISTE’s Digital Age Library Playrground.

Each year, teacher librarians who want to continue their professional learning throughout the summer, by attending a big, national conference, face a tough choice: ALA or ISTE? For the past several years, the dates of these two mega conferences have been so close together that many teacher librarians have had to embark on cross country, multi-city adventures in order to participate in both. This year, however, dual conferencing was not an option. The dates for ISTE (June 28 – July 1) and ALA (June 26 – July 1) overlapped, forcing those of us with competing loyalties to make a choice. For me the choice was ISTE. But even as I filled out the registration paperwork, I could not help by wonder if I’d be the only one of my colleagues to choose the ed tech conference over the one specifically for librarians.

As it turned out, I had nothing to worry about. Not only were there thousands of teacher librarians from around the world at ISTE, but I simply could not have been prouder of the network of school librarians whose participation at the conference shined as an example of how technology tools are only as effective as the instruction they accompany. Nowhere was this more evident than at the Digital Age Library Playground, an “unconference” event organized by Tiffany Whitehead and Donna MacDonald, that took place June 29.

At conferences as large as ISTE or ALA, it can be difficult to model participatory pedagogical practices. Let’s face it: engaging adult learners in exploratory, collaborative activities that also allow for questions and reflection can be a tall order in any given faculty meeting, never mind in a room full of several hundred people. Which is why, when it comes to the big show, lecture-style instruction often rules the day. The Digital Age Library Playground, however, broke this rule and those who were able to attend were better for it.

Let me set the stage: In the gallery area adjacent to and overlooking several floors of concurrent sessions, eight interactive learning stations were set up. Each station setup had a different flavor ranging from tables that participants could gather around to mini-ampitheaters made up of movable white cubes that could be used for seating or a mobile workspace, depending on the need.

Regardless of the arrangement, however, there was one thing that each station had in common: a mission to provide participants with the opportunity to:

  • Network and connect with other school library professionals.
  • Explore new and innovative instructional strategies that incorporate the latest digital tools.
  • Vote with their feet. That is to say, spend as much or as little time at a session as they wanted.
  • Get their hands dirty by digging in, testing how things work, and learning by doing.

And that is exactly what went on. For three hours, teacher librarians excitedly milled from station to station, absorbing knowledge, connecting with colleagues, and exploring new strategies rather than just hearing about them.  At any given time, hundreds of people could be found in the playground, not only taking in the presenters’ shared knowledge, but more significantly, building new knowledge by using the resources being discussed. Rather than just espousing the benefits of experiential learning, the Digital Age Library Playground modeled this instructional practice in an incredibly effective way.

What’s more, this modeling of participatory learning strikes at the heart of how school librarians are evolving as instructional and pedagogical leaders within their schools. The playground was a buzzing hive of activity that, not unlike any good school library, must have looked, from the outside, like well organized chaos. It only took one step inside, however, for the magic happening within all that activity to come into clear focus.

Here’s what was happening at some of the playgrounds.

  • Elissa Malespina coached her colleagues in the use of the apps Layar, ColarAR, and Chromeville as resources for harnessing the power of “Augmented Reality in Your Library” as both an instructional and library marketing tool.
  • Nikki Robertson shared the story of how making her instruction “rewindable” by flipping (or reinventing) her library changed the learning lives of her students and also engaged her colleagues in activities that put the power of that technology in their hands during “Flipping Your Library: Making Learning ‘Rewindable’ for Teachers and Students Using Google Hangouts On Air.”
  • Tiffany Whitehead and participants explored the features of cloud-based photo editing software, like Pic Monkey, as part of a digital toolchest for engaging kids in maker-activities, wherein the library becomes a space for not just absorbing knowledge, but for creating it, too, in “Photo Editing with PicMonkey.”
  • Matthew Winner and Sherry Gick helped their colleagues view the library’s “collection” as more than just an assemblage of print and digital materials, but as the communities they serve and grow through the story of “GeniusCon“—an event in which students from around the world shared their big ideas to affect social change.

Each station was so different, and yet united by the important goal of pushing our profession forward and helping evolveschool libraries from passive places, defined by the stuff they house, to living, changeable spaces synonymous with the learning that takes place there.

Through this event, and others like it, ISTE’s school librarians experienced a true “playground:” a place to connect, create, and try something new in a safe environment.The Digital Age Library Playground helped move the theory of active, participatory library spaces into reality by really showing ISTE attendees what such a space looks like in action.

During the second hour, I stepped outside all of the action to refill my water bottle and take a breath. I overheard some teacher librarians from Switzerland chatting. “This,” one of them said casting a wide wave across the scene, “this is what I want my library to look like.” In truth, don’t know if this is what the organizers of the Digital Age Library Playground had in mind when they conceived the idea, but I can’t think of a better outcome.

Jennifer LaGarde is the Librarian on Loan for the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. She is a 2011 Library Journal Mover & Shaker and a 2011 winner of the ALA, NYT Carnegie Corporation’s “I Love My Librarian” Award. Jennifer is the co-host of the popular EdGeeks podcast and the author of the Adventures of Library Girl blog. On Twitter at @jenniferlagarde; also

ISTE Networking Breakfast: Fight the Zombie Librarians | ISTE 2014

To, 07/10/2014 - 00:02

LaGarde’s opening slide.

Despite innovative technology integration, impressive tech tools, and more augmented reality demonstrations than you can shake a stick at, there was one thing decidedly lacking in the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) annual conference held in Atlanta, Georgia  from date 24 to July 1: zombies. The Walking Dead, the hugely successful AMC television series based on the best-selling comic book by Robert Kirkman, takes place in the Atlanta airport, and it’s all this teacher librarian could think about as I walked the crowded halls of the Georgia World Congress Center. Thankfully, a fellow Library Journal Mover and Shaker, Jennifer LaGarde, also had zombies on the brain.

LaGarde, who blogs at “The Adventures of Library Girl,” was the keynote speaker at the ISTE Librarian Network annual breakfast. Her talk, entitled “How to Survive the Zombie Librarian Apocalypse!,” struck a chord among the teacher librarians who were fortunate enough to secure a ticket to the sold out breakfast.

Below is a video of LaGarde’s keynote speech:

Her keynote hinged on a quote captured from a colleague she spoke with at a previous library conference who’d told her, “There are only two types of librarians: zombies and zombie fighters.” This, LaGarde shared with us, was a pivotal moment for her for her over her profession and was the genesis of her presentation. It’s not that our profession is overcome with zombie librarians, but we all carry the zombie gene. Being able to spot and combat zombie librarian behavior is a critical skill in the survival of school librarianship and something none of us should be taking lightly.

At this point I’m sure you’re wondering: what exactly is a zombie librarian? LaGarde classifies these as librarians who perpetuate stereotypes, build barriers, and advocate for libraries rather than for students. Historically speaking, librarians are seldom portrayed in film or on television as anything beyond tight-laced, rigid, aged women who care little for nonsense and for whom order and structure is paramount. LaGarde argues that there’s a reason the stereotype pervades even today and challenged the audience to see these images not as cute or from a different time period, but rather to recognize that librarians preserving these stereotypes are the zombies we need to be fighting.

Can you picture that colleague in your district who appears almost giddy as she shushes patrons all day long? The one who boastfully points out that no buzzing smartphone, bleeping video game, or single noise-uttering device, be it electronic or organic, dare utter a peep in these hallowed library halls?


That’s not a word to take lightly. Picture the emaciated skin, loosely clinging to the bones. The mouth hungry for sustenance, yet dry from lack of nourishment. She moves as if each step is a struggle and a necessity. The children are in danger. The library is under threat. The library program has been compromised. Her zombie-like behaviors must be addressed immediately or else endanger the greater good.

Matthew Winner, Jennifer LaGarde, and librarian Sherry Gick.

LaGarde reminded us that, when given the choice between right and wrong, people do the wrong thing out of ignorance, apathy, and fear. Attendees were challenged to take up arms as zombie fighters in the battle for our libraries. This requires answering the call to defy expectations, to ask essential questions, and to embrace change.

LaGarde herself defies expectations by helping her students achieve in math through the use of video games. She also keeps a keen eye out, on Twitter and other social media, for fellow librarians who are innovating and inspiring. Then, she considers how this new knowledge could change her own library program.

This willingness to take on new challenges, to be comfortable with the uncomfortable, makes LaGarde a powerhouse zombie fighter.

She shared a comment she has heard numerous times over her two-year tenure as Librarian on Loan for the state of North Carolina. Teacher librarians, when asked about how much their administration supports their program, have responded, “My principal doesn’t even know what I do.” LaGarde counters with the deceptively simple question, “Why not?”

“Who or what is your library program serving?” She later asked. “Because if it’s not serving the kids, then we’ve got a problem.” And by the end of the 60-minute presentation, there was a room full of teacher librarian zombie fighters ready to take up the cause.

Jennifer LaGarde’s How to Survive the Zombie Librarian Apocalypse presentation can be viewed on Slideshare.

Matthew Winner is an elementary school teacher librarian in Elkridge, Md. He is a 2013 Library Journal Mover & Shaker and was also named a White House Champion of Change. Matthew is the host of the popular children’s literature podcast “Let’s Get Busy” and the author of the “Busy Librarian” blog. Find Matthew online at @MatthewWinner or by visiting

Tennant’s Simple Guide to Programming Languages

Ke, 07/09/2014 - 02:51

A colleague recently pointed out that IEEE Spectrum had an interactive tool by which you could explore the top programming languages in various areas (e.g., mobile, web, enterprise, and embedded). Besides noting that my favorite web programming language barely made it into the top ten for the Web (Perl, which they mistakenly called PERL), I was astonished by something.

They included HTML and called it “A specialized language for describing the appearance and content of Web pages.” Say what? If they had called their tool “The Top Languages” (leaving out “Programming”), then fine, but they didn’t.

This nonsense, especially coming from IEEE of all places, set me off. I decided I would have to instruct them about what makes a programming language. I fired up OmniGraffle and got to work. Soon I had the chart you see here, which defines what makes a programming language a programming language for IEEE or anyone else who needs help figuring it out.

Then a different colleague pointed out the XSLT edge case. It’s an edge case because although you can use it to write loops, you can’t run it independently — you need a separate XSLT processing engine like Sax or XSLTproc to execute it. So it is really the combination of XSLT plus a processing engine that can be considered a programming language, given my definition above.

But one thing is perfectly clear — HTML does not make the cut. Also, oddly enough, when you look at only the “Web” programming languages HTML comes in 8th in the list — that’s right, 8th! — below my favorite language Perl. Go figure that one out.

Library Simplified Works on Three-Click Access for Library Ebooks | ALA 2014

Ti, 07/08/2014 - 21:32

Library ebook transactions remain too lengthy and complicated for patrons, especially in comparison with consumer ebook transactions, James English, product manager for the Library Simplified project at the New York Public Library (NYPL) said during his “EPUB: Walled Gardens and the Readium Foundation” presentation at the National Information Standards Organization (NISO) Book Industry Study Group (BISG) Eighth Annual Forum, held June 27 in conjunction with the American Library Association (ALA) 2014 Annual Conference.

“Believe it or not, but to get an ebook from NYPL takes about 19 steps,” English said. “When you think about a Kindle book…it’s probably two clicks at the most.”

Launched in December 2013 with a $500,000 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), Library Simplified is a two-year project by a coalition of ten libraries led by NYPL that aims to make ebooks and other digital content easier for patrons to access.

One specific goal of Library Simplified, English explained, is to reduce the number of clicks needed to access a library ebook to three or fewer. One click to discover, one click to check out or download, and one click to read an ebook, he said. In order to do this, the group has aligned its efforts with Readium, an independent non-profit focused on accelerating the publishing industry’s adoption of the International Digital Publishing Forum’s (IDPF) open EPUB 3 standard.

Building on the groundwork laid by Readium made sense. In March 2013, Readium announced the Readium SDK (software development kit) project. Seeded with a substantial donation of code from the Kobo e-reader, the Readium SDK project’s goal is to develop an open-source EPUB 3 rendering engine optimized for use with apps on tablets, smartphones, and other mobile devices.

With Readium SDK, Library Simplified is building a commercial-grade, open ebook reading platform for libraries, and “wrangling the different back-end systems and content repositories—OverDrive, 3M [Cloud Library], Axis 360 from Baker & Taylor—as our acquisitions modules,” English said. Once developed, the open-source platform will enable library patrons to borrow ebooks seamlessly from multiple distributors using a single app or interface.

It is important for libraries to embrace open standards such as EPUB 3, and more generally, for the field to be active in discussions regarding international technology standards, English said. Specialized ereader platforms—most notably the Amazon Kindle—facilitate commercial “lock in,” with customers continuing to use the platform, in part, because it would be difficult or impossible to transfer prior purchases to a competitor’s product. By contrast, open standards such as EPUB 3 facilitate competition, lower barriers to entry for device manufacturers, software developers, and content providers, and lower the costs that consumers pay for switching devices or providers.

“Strategically, I think there is an opportunity to engage the publishing industry at a different level,” he said. “We talk about platform providers and we ask them to deliver services to us. But these guys also build all of these technology standards that are out there. These standards organizations need this industry to overcome some of those technological barriers that are really just there by necessity, evolution, or commercial interest.”

Finding ways to make ebook access as simple as possible is vital for libraries, English contended. Frustrating experiences can push patrons away and can have a lasting impact on their perception of library ebooks.

“We want to increase readership by removing these barriers,” he said. “Many times, when I talk to people about this project, I ask them ‘do you borrow ebooks from the library?’ And they say ‘no, but I tried, and then I went to Amazon and just bought it.’”

And libraries are facing new competitors in the form of ebook subscription services, such as Scribd and Oyster. English said he doesn’t believe that the threat from these services is as dire as some believe, since their business models currently depend on subscribers reading 12 or fewer ebooks per year—a slow pace for most regular library users. But, with yet another commercial service offering a sleek and easy-to-use ebook interface, libraries must enhance how their patrons access ebooks.

“For Internet users who read ebooks, online bookstores are the first stop,” English told LJ in December, citing Pew Internet and American Life Project research. “Asked where they start their search for an ebook that they wanted, 75 percent of ebook readers start at an online bookstore or website. Only 12 percent start at the library…. That stuck with me and that’s something I’d like to see that turned on its head—I’d like to see 75 percent of ebook readers start at their local library.”

Slide Presentation: Book Industry Study Group (BISG) Executive Director Shares Ebook Adoption Statistics

Su, 06/29/2014 - 22:53

On Friday afternoon, Len Vlahos, Executive Director of the Book Industry Study Group (BISG), spoke about and shared ebook adoption statistics during the NISO/BISG 8th Annual Forum at the ALA Annual Conference in Las Vegas.

NISO is the National Information Standards Organization.

Here’s how the presentation was described on the agenda webpage:

What can sales data tell us about e-book adoption and digital reading habits? This presentation will take a close look at book industry statistics from the publisher’s perspective, identifying trends related to global e-book adoption, and answering questions about where digital reading is going, to help publishers and libraries prepare for the future.

The slide deck from the presentation, “Where Digital is Going? E-book adoption by the numbers” is now available online and includes a number of useful charts.

Note: The 2014 NISO/BISG Annual Forum featured five more interesting presentations each deserving of a post.  We’re planning to share the embed the slides in separate posts over the next few days. If you want to take a look now, here are links to each slide deck: “New Forms of Discovery and Purchasing in Libraries: Demand Driven Acquisitions”
Michael Levine-Clark, Professor / Associate Dean for Scholarly Communication and Collections Services, University of Denver Libraries “Assessing Digital Output in New Ways”
Mike Taylor, Research Specialist, Elsevier Labs “Linked Content Coalition”
Todd Carpenter, Executive Director of NISO “The EPUB Platform and the Readium Foundation”
James English, Director of the Library Simplified Project, New York Public Library; member of the Readium Foundation Board “THEMA, the New Global Classification System”
Julie Morris, BISG

Vendor News Roundup | ALA 2014

La, 06/28/2014 - 18:30

Trying to keep up with all the vendor, publisher, and product news coming out of the year’s biggest gathering of librarians? So are we. This is a selection of announcements that vendors have sent LJ staff this week prior to the ALA 2014 annual convention. If we missed your announcement, please feel free to post an excerpt in our comments section.

ALA Applauds Simon & Schuster Expansion of Ebook Licensing to Libraries

ALA on June 26 applauded Simon & Schuster’s plans to expand its library ebook lending pilot nationwide, making its collection of titles available to all U.S. libraries. From ALA: Simon & Schuster now sells ebook titles to libraries for one year from the date of purchase and includes a “Buy It Now” capability for patron purchase through the ebook. “Today represents an important milestone for improving the ability of libraries to serve the public in the digital age,” ALA President Barbara Stripling said in a statement to the press. “America’s libraries are the quintessential institution in connecting authors and readers. We have always known that library lending encourages patrons to experiment by sampling new authors, topics and genres. This experimentation stimulates the market for books—with the library serving as a critical de facto discovery, promotion and awareness service for authors and publishers.”

ProQuest Debuts Intota Library Services Platform

ProQuest on June 25 announced the debut of their new Intota next-generation Library Services Platform (LSP). The cloud-based, software as a service (SaaS) suite integrates collection management, assessement, discovery, and automated demand driven acquisition capabilities into a single solution, designed to replace a traditional integrated library system. Its individual modules, such as the collection analytics service Intota Assessment, are interoperable with a library’s existing ILS. The system was designed for enhanced management of electronic and print resources in unified workflows. “Intota represents transformation for library workflows,” Jane Burke, ProQuest’s vice president, market development, said in an announcement. “The seamless integration of management, discovery and assessment fueled by our Knowledgebase, delivers more value and compelling capabilities – which truly enable library transformation. As library collections have become increasingly electronic, requirements to manage and provide access to those collections have fundamentally changed.”

EBSCO Announces Support for Open Discovery

EBSCO on June 26 announced full support for the final recommendations of the National Information Standards Oranization’s (NISO) Open Discovery Innitiative (ODI) working group. From EBSCO: ODI sets forth several objectives which cover: metadata sharing, fair or unbiased linking from discovery services to publishers’ content, and the provision of usage statistics – all of which EBSCO supports. As it pertains to metadata sharing, ODI calls for content providers to make core metadata available to discovery vendors, including underlying full-text/original content for complete offerings, for the purposes of indexing. Within the ODI report, A&I resources are noted separately, acknowledging that there is a complex set of issues surrounding the inclusion of A&I service data within discovery services. The report states that “A&I resources must be treated with special consideration.” Additionally, ODI recommendations include reference to the National Federation of Abstracting and Information Services document on Recommended Practices: Discovery Services, which considers A&I resources in a similar manner by underscoring the risks associated with the incorrect use of subject indexes in ranking algorithms, issues surrounding the merging of records, etc.

Auto-Graphics Releases VERSO 4

Library automation provider Auto-Graphics on June 25 announced the release of VERSO 4, the latest iteration of its integrated library system (ILS). Key features of the new web-based, NCIP-compliant ILS include full functionality on tablet devices, enabling staff to perform all circulation, OPAC, inventory, and configuration functions on tablet computers. The latest release also features a UX design module that will allow staff members to customize all aspects of the site, including widget creation; full integration with third party vendors including OverDrive, NoveList, Comprise, and ChiliFresh; enhancements and updates to text messaging and telephone delivery notifications; system created collection development reports, including purchase alert ratios and library turnover rate reports; FRBR-like aggregation of clustered and merged results for both patron and staff display; and gallery, list, and coverflow grid results and view options.

TLC Launches CARL•Connect, a Web-based, Tablet-friendly Staff Client

The Library Corporation (TLC) on June 19 announced CARL•Connect, a web-based staff client that enables librarians to perform materials searches, library card registration, checkouts, patron lookup, and other functions using tablets and other mobile devices. The new product line is part of TLC’s effort to reinvent its full suite of CARL products, ultimately offering “web-scale interfaces for circulation, cataloging and reports, as well as planning for other staff interfaces, to further meet the changing needs of a modern library’s flexible and expansive service models,” according to a company announcement.

Ingram Adds New Tools for Academic Libraries on ipage

Ingram Content Group on June 26 announced enhancements to its ipage search and order platform. New features and enhancements include multiple search, filtering and content sorting options in addition to functionality to review and manage new title notifications and print and e-book approval plans. In addition to fast search results and intuitive navigation, other tools developed exclusively for Ingram academic library customers, include batch title processing choices and options to stay connected with colleagues anywhere with forwarding and email options and quick access to a view of actions taken on titles. “I’m confident that our enhanced ipage platform will improve the experience of our users, and give them tools to more easily find and purchase content to meet the complex needs of their patrons,” said Shawn Everson, chief commercial officer, Ingram Content Group, said in an announcement.

SirsiDynix Announces BLUEcloud Campus, an LSP Built for Education

SirsiDynix on June 27 announced BLUEcloud Campus, a next-generation library services platform (LSP) designed for the needs of academic and research libraries. “We’ve spent the last year building a collaborative partnership with EBSCO that will help us deliver enhanced functionality to the academic and school marketplace,” Bill Davison, CEO of SirsiDynix, said in an announcement. “This LSP will give academic and school libraries electronic and physical content management tools designed for researchers and students, as well as integration with education-specific programs like learning management systems. Working with a world-class organization such as EBSCO allows us to leverage the valuable metadata from EBSCO Discovery Service and bring this unique product that includes resources from both Sirsidynix and EBSCO to our industry. We believe BLUEcoud Campus will change the way we think about content and the ways it can integrate with a library services platform.”

Comic Book Legal Defense Fund Releases Banned Books Week Handbook

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund on June 27 released its first-ever Banned Books Week Handbook. The free resource gives librarians information about what comics are banned, how to report and fight censorship, and how to make a celebration of Banned Books Week in your community. Featuring a cover by Jeff Smith, whose “Bone” series is one of America’s most frequently challenged books, the CBLDF Banned Books Week Handbook debuts at the ALA Annual Conference in Las Vegas. This year’s Banned Books Week, which runs September 21 – 27, will have a national focus on comics and graphic novels. The handbook is currently available as a free download<> on Bundles of the printed handbook are also available from<>, and in the July issue of Diamond Previews (JUL141050).

EBSCO Debuts “Discovery Pulse” Blog

EBSCO has launched the EBSCO Discovery Pulse blog as a place to discuss industry trends and perspectives, technology news and product updates. Examples of topics include user expectations and behaviors; content accessibility, best practices, prediction and relevance in search and e-resource administration. Visit the blog to learn more:

ProQuest Debuts Beta of New Ebook Reader for ebrary and EBL

ProQuest on June 26 announced the beta launch of the ebrary Reader, developed for the integrated platform that will unite ProQuest’s businesses ebrary and Ebook Library, EBL. From ProQuest: The new ebrary Reader is designed to meet the continually evolving expectations of researchers. Extensive user testing with library patrons, particularly university students in the midst of research projects, steered its development. Copying, printing, downloading and searching within books is streamlined and intuitive navigation gets users to popular features faster. Improved text and page quality boost readability, while new viewing options (including vertical scrolling) give users more control of their reading experience. Further accessibility features for those who are blind or visually impaired will be rolled out later in 2014. ProQuest expects to conclude beta and go live with the new Reader in August. Learn more at

Boopsie Integrates Access to OverDrive Read, Offering Seamless Ebook Checkout

Mobile app provider Boopsie on June 23 announced that it has integrated access to OverDrive embedded mobile ebook reader, OverDrive Read, into its library-branded apps for Android and Apple iOS devices. The integration will enable patrons to check out and read OverDrive ebooks and eAudiobooks without downloading additional apps or fulfilling Adobe ID login requirements. From Boopsie: Readers can adjust the settings, including changing the font type and size, or changing the display so it’s easier on their eyes in a dimmer setting. The embedded reader provides a bookmark and a full-text search feature, to help readers keep track of how much they’ve read.

Evanced Solutions Announces Wandoo Reader

Evanced Solutions has announced the Wandoo Reader, a reading tracker and game that tracks a child’s progress as they advance through reading difficulty levels geared toward their own reading abilities. In 2014, kids will play a virtual robot-building game, in which they unlock different robot-part combinations and build their own unique robot as their reading progresses. Separately, at ALA this year, Evanced will also showcase the integration of SignUp, the company’s event management software, with Spaces, its new room-booking solution. According to Evanced, the combined solution “publicizes staff-scheduled and patron-sponsored events. Using the two systems together, library staff can eliminate booking conflicts, increase access to library services and make it simple to track stats, such as registration and attendance numbers.”

3M Cloud Library Launches Next-Gen eLending App

3M Library Systems on June 23 announced several enhancements to its 3M Cloud Library eBook and eAudiobook lending app. The new app features an updated, enhanced interface that will allow users to personalize how they browse for content, enabling them to sort titles into personalized categories and flag favorite types of content. From 3M: Terminology and feature descriptions have also been updated for ease of use, all of which will be available when new app begins rolling out in early August 2014. Along with an improved app experience, patrons continue to enjoy 3M Cloud Library’s expanded content with the addition of eight new publishing partners, bringing the platform’s total titles to more than 300,000 high-quality offerings.

3M SelfCheck Integrates with Comprise Smart Terminal

3M Library Systems on June 25 announced the integration of Comprise Technologies’ Smart Terminal Payment System with the 3M SelfCheck System, providing an additional option to libraries for self-checkout services and fines and fees collection. Smart Terminal secure card readers provide libraries with a PCI-compliant payment system that offers patrons another level of privacy when paying fines and fees by credit card. By processing the transaction through the SmartPAY Internet Gateway, the transaction is processed outside of the library network. The system integrates with the library ILS and provides library staff with 24/7 access to audit level reporting. 3M SelfCheck Systems offer libraries and library patrons a wide variety of options to provide a reliable, streamlined process for checking out library materials, viewing account information and paying fines and fees.

Yuyi Morales, Meg Medina to Receive Prestigious Belpré Medal for Excellence in Latino Children’s Literature

Yuyi Morales, illustrator of Niño Wrestles the World, and Meg Medina, author of Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, will receive the prestigious Belpré Medal during the annual meeting of the American Library Association to be held on Sunday, June 29, 2014 – 1:00pm to 3:00pm at the Caesars Palace – Octavius 01-04, 3570 S Las Vegas Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89109. The Pura Belpré Medal, established in 1996, honors Latino authors and illustrators whose work best portrays, affirms and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in works for children. The award is jointly co-sponsored by REFORMA, the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-Speaking, an affiliate of the American Library Association (ALA), and the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of ALA.

Credo Updates Platform for Online Reference Service  

From Credo: Credo on June 25 unveiled a new look to their award-winning Credo Online Reference Service, updating several features with a focus on user experience. The enhancements are based on input from subscribers matched with cutting edge technology to create a cleaner, more modernized layout and increased searchability. This intuitive interface makes it easier for learners to focus on discovering information while an improved mobile experience for smartphones and tablets demonstrates Credo’s commitment to providing high-quality content anytime, anywhere. A new “Listen” feature increases accessibility by reading content aloud. A translation tool will also be available, allowing Topic Pages and entries to be viewed in dozens of different languages.

Copyright Clearance Center Signs SAGE to Get It Now Service

Global licensing and content solutions provider Copyright Clearance Center (CCC) on June 24 announced that SAGE had become the 100th publisher to participate in its Get It Now article delivery service. From CCC: Other publishers recently added include Journal of Neurosurgery Publishing Group, Nova Science Publishers, Inc., Thieme, and Wageningen Academic Publishers. CCC has also announced a new, customizable dashboard for Get It Now. Developed based on customer requests and feedback, the Get It Now Dashboard allows librarians and staff to easily manage and track spending for article purchases, generate real-time usage reports, and quickly configure the service for their specific needs…. Get It Now is offered in two versions. The unmediated model makes use of an OpenURL link resolver, enabling patrons to independently search, find and receive full-text articles in minutes. The OCLC ILLiad-based mediated model shifts the responsibility of ordering articles to the librarians, providing them greater oversight of article orders and budget.

67 Library Systems Gain Access to Contextual Book Recommendations Through BiblioCommons, Zola Books Partnership

BiblioCommons and Zola Books on June 23 announced that they have partnered to make Zola’s Bookish Recommends contextual recommendation algorithm available to 67 libraries across the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand through the BiblioCommons online library catalog service. From the announcement: The Bookish Recommends algorithm works by using the unique identifier of a book on a catalog page to search 500,000 unique books with over 1.7 billion relationships in a graph database. The recommendations are weighted based on a number of factors, including unique micro book genres and availability in the library’s catalog…. Bookish Recommends shows library patrons high quality book recommendations related to a book on any library website powered by BiblioCommons. If there’s a wait time for a popular book, Bookish Recommends can help patrons find other good reads in the meantime. Or, if patrons love a particular book, they can pick from a list of books with similar characteristics, including not only current bestsellers but also lesser-known, high-quality books they might not otherwise hear about.


Google Announces Google Cloud Dataflow

La, 06/28/2014 - 02:00

I have a colleague who has been attending the Google I/O event ever since it began in 2008. This year was no exception, and in his trip report he highlighted what Google calls “Google Cloud Dataflow”. From what I can gather, it is sort of like Google’s version of Hadoop, but presumably better (at least from their perspective and use cases). “Cloud Dataflow is based on a highly efficient and popular model used internally at Google,” they write in a blog post introducing it, “which evolved from MapReduce and successor technologies like Flume and MillWheel.”

From what I can gather with so little information with limited specificity, this platform might be best for dealing with massive information flows (think of a very large Twitter stream, web visits at a very popular website, or large volumes of search strings with associated data such as location) that really never stop. This doesn’t mean it wouldn’t also be able to deal with data that updates on a less regular basis (think library catalog data), but it probably isn’t the use case that receives Google’s most rapt development attention.

Also, it isn’t yet clear how this new technology will be made available. Certainly it will be available to users of Google existing Cloud Platform services (see the product/pricing page), but will it be available to install locally, as is Apache Hadoop? Only time will tell.

Meanwhile, I’m intrigued enough to have signed up for the Google Group where announcements about this new technology will be made. If you have big data processing needs you may want to as well.


Capira Integrates StackMap into Mobile App

Pe, 06/27/2014 - 20:04

Library software and mobile app developer Capira Technologies this week announced an integration with StackMap, a bookshelf visualization platform that helps guide patrons directly to the location of books and other materials in the library. Using the app, patrons will be able to search for and discover items in a library’s catalog, and with one click, view a detailed map of their library’s floor plan that highlights the shelf location of their selected item. The integration is currently being tested by Hampton Library in Bridgehampton, NY, and is expected to be widely available as a Capira service option for Apple iOS devices by July 1, and for Android devices by July 30.

Hampton Library Director Kelly Harris told LJ that she views the mapping function as a way to help patrons who prefer self service, and would rather not ask library staff for assistance.

“I’m always looking for ways to reach out to people who want to use the library, who would use the library, but want to do it themselves,” Harris explained. “For a student, or a busy younger mom, or a college-age kid, yes, they want to use the library and grab what they need, but they don’t necessarily want to ask ‘where is this book?’ There’s a feeling that ‘I should be able to do this myself.’”

People like busy moms, she said, “just want to come in, grab their item, check themselves out, and leave. You see it in supermarkets. They don’t want to stand in line.”

The self-service capability enabled by StackMap also ensures privacy, Harris added. Even patrons who are otherwise comfortable with library staff may not want to ask for help finding materials on sensitive subjects, such as coping with depression, or helping a loved one who has a serious illness or a drug use problem, for example.

“That might not be a resource that they want to ask a librarian about or take up to the circulation desk to check out, especially in a small library,” she explained.

StackMap is integrated into the catalogs of several universities and large public libraries, including Florida’s Orange County Public Library system, enabling patrons to access the maps via the library’s OPAC. Lex Cooke, CEO and and co-founder of StackMap noted in an announcement that integrating with Capira will further simplify the mapping experience for users by offering one-click access to the maps on a handheld device.

“We are particularly excited to be working with Capira on mobile because it will enable StackMap to provide that much more value to a library patron, by giving that patron the ability to carry the digital map with them while they attempt to navigate the physical space of the library,” Cooke said.

NMC Horizon Report: The Library Edition

Pe, 06/27/2014 - 01:59

I’ve long been an interested reader of the New Media Consortiums series of Horizon Reports. So when I heard that they were doing a “Library Edition” I just about fell off my chair. The way I heard was that they are seeking examples of projects that illustrate the trends that their panel of experts have identified:

I. Key Trends Accelerating Ed Tech Adoption in Academic and Research Libraries
Fast Trends: Driving Ed Tech adoption over the next one to two years
* Increasing Focus on Research Data for Publications
* Increasing Prioritization of Mobile Content and Delivery

Mid-Range Trends: Driving Ed Tech adoption within three to five years
* Evolving Nature of the Scholarly Record
* Increasing Accessibility of Research Content

Long-Range Trends: Driving Ed Tech adoption in five or more years
* Continual Progress in Technology, Standards, and Infrastructure
* Rise of New Forms of Multidisciplinary Research

II. Significant Challenges Impeding Ed Tech Adoption in Academic and Research Libraries
Solvable Challenges: Those that we understand and know how to solve
* Embedding Academic and Research Libraries in the Curriculum
* Rethinking the Roles and Skills of Librarians

Difficult Challenges: Those that we understand but for which solutions are elusive
* Adapting to the Fact that Discovery Happens Elsewhere
* Capturing and Archiving the Digital Outputs of Research as Collection Material

Wicked Challenges: Those that are complex to even define, much less address
* Embracing the Need for Radical Change
* Maintaining Ongoing Integration, Interoperability, and Collaborative Projects

III. Important Developments in Technology for Academic and Research Libraries

Time-to-Adoption Horizon: One Year or Less
* Electronic Publishing
* Mobile Apps

Time-to-Adoption Horizon: Two to Three Years
* Bibliometrics and Citation Technology
* Open Content

Time-to-Adoption Horizon: Four to Five Years
* The Internet of Things
* Semantic Web and Applications

If you have any projects that illustrate these trends, trot on over to their submission form and let them know. But don’t dawdle, submissions are due by the end of the month (Monday!).

News Headlines: Items From BiblioCommons, ProQuest, and Others

To, 06/26/2014 - 20:50

1. Two Items From BiblioCommons

BiblioCommons Adds New Functionality: Option to Feature Local Library Staff Recommendations and Reviews Expanded Ebook Integration To Include Overdrive, 3M Cloud Library, And Axis 360

2. ebrary /Ebook Library Integration Continues With Beta Launch of New ebrary Reader

3. Alice Schreyer Will Serve as Interim Library Director at  University of Chicago

4. News From IMLS: Libraries and Adult Education Program Team Up on Digital Literacy
Learn More: Adults Gain Skills at the Library

Simon & Schuster eBook Pilot Concludes, All S&S Ebook Titles Now Available to All U.S. Public Libraries

To, 06/26/2014 - 17:58

Simon and Schuster announced today that they’ve ended their ebook pilot with more than 20 public library systems in the U.S. and effective immediately all of Simon & Schuster’s frontlist and backlist titles that are available as ebooks are eligible for the program, with new titles being made available simultaneous with their publication.

Titles are acquired via OverDrive, 3M, and Baker & Taylor. Note:

We’re asking S&S about the situation in Canada.

Pilot Timeline

January 2014:  Simon & Schuster Expanding Library Ebook Pilot, Full Catalog of S&S eBook Titles Now Available to Select Libraries Through OverDrive

November/December 2013: Pilot Expands to Canadian Libraries (Edmonton Public Library)

September 2013: S&S Launches Ebook Pilot for K-12 Libraries

April 2013: Simon & Schuster Library Pilot Begins

From Today’s S&S Announcement

As in the Simon & Schuster pilot program, each title acquired by a library for lending is usable for one year from the date of purchase. The library can offer an unlimited number of checkouts during the one-year term for which it has purchased a copy, although each copy may only be checked out by one user at a time. All of Simon & Schuster’s frontlist and backlist titles that are available as ebooks are eligible for the program, with new titles being made available simultaneous with their publication.

In order to help support libraries, and for the convenience of patrons who might not want to wait until a popular new title is available, Simon & Schuster’s ebook program includes a “Buy It Now” capability,which gives the patron the option to purchase a copy of Simon & Schuster eBooks through a library’s online portal, with a portion of the proceeds from each sale going to the library.

ALA President Barbara Stripling has also commented on today’s announcement:

“Today represents an important milestone for improving the ability of libraries to serve the public in the digital age. America’s libraries are the quintessential institution in connecting authors and readers. We have always known that library lending encourages patrons to experiment by sampling new authors, topics and genres. This experimentation stimulates the market for books—with the library serving as a critical de facto discovery, promotion and awareness service for authors and publishers.

“In early 2012, ALA began conversations with Simon & Schuster CEO Carolyn Reidy and her leadership team. In our initial meeting in New York, it was clear that we had rather different perspectives on the merits of library ebook lending. Of course, much has changed in the past two years, and we’re so pleased that Simon & Schuster has moved library ebook lending from a pilot to a mainstream business for the company.

“The Simon & Schuster development is a welcome acknowledgment of our advocacy, the importance of the library market, and the key role of libraries in the nation’s communities. ALA looks forward to continuing discussions with authors, authors’ representatives, publishers, distributors, and retailers to create new opportunities to support a healthy reading ecosystem for the digital age. Let’s celebrate today’s progress, but also be mindful that a long and winding road remains ahead of us.”

Coverage S&S Opens E-Book Lending to All Libraries (Andrew Albanese, PW) Comments from infoDOCKET Editor, Gary Price: While it’s wonderful to have actual access to ebook titles, the cost of access (e.g. the price of a library providing access to a title) must be addressed by ALA, publishers, distributors, and the entire library community. What is the long term impact of high ebook prices and payment options (like one year ownership) to library budgets? It also needs to be asked if libraries could even afford increased usage of library ebook programs without jeopardizing other programs and services. As we point out on an almost a weekly basis there is not enough (any?) discussion about the potential impact of ebook subscription services to library usage. Fast Fact: Both Oyster and Scribd  recently announced that the entire S&S backlist will be available to their subscribers.  Privacy/Transparency. It was one year ago when we wrote and posted this item about library/ebook privacy and the need for more transparency with users. Sadly, but not unexpectedly, almost zero has been done to help solve some of the issues we raise.

ALA Report Confirms Negative Impact of Filtering on Student Learning

Ke, 06/25/2014 - 22:08

Internet filtering in schools and libraries is excessive and limits student learning, hurting low-income kids the most, according to a new report from the American Library Association (ALA). “Fencing out Knowledge: Impacts of the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) 10 Years Later” concluded that institutions that have installed filtering software on their Internet-accessible computers in order to receive certain federal funds routinely block more content than required, depriving students of access to information and collaborative tools. Poor students who may not otherwise have unfiltered Internet access are the most affected.

“Over-blocking in schools hampers students from developing their online presence and fully understanding the extent and permanence of their digital footprint,” reads the report, which was released by the ALA’s Office for Informational Technology Policy (OITP) and Office of Intellectual Freedom (OIF) and written by OITP consultant Kristin R. Batch.

Factors contributing to the over-implementation of CIPA included misinterpretation of the law; different perceptions of filtering; and various limitations of filtering software.

CIPA was passed in 2000 in order to “block adults and minors from accessing online images deemed ‘obscene,’ ‘child pornography,’ or ‘harmful to minors’ for minors less than 17 years old.” the report states. “Yet the use of the Internet is vastly different today than when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of this law in 2003. Indeed, decision makers could not have predicted the ways in which the Internet and devices used to access online content would revolutionize learning opportunities in and out of school.”

The study looked at the challenges that filtering poses for both schools and public libraries. Addressing the lack of transparency in filtering software, the report identified several cases of overreaching filtering. Throughout Rhode Island schools, for instance, students are prevented from accessing 89 categories of content, which bans them from websites such as those of the American Civil Liberties Union, People for Ethical Treatment of Animals, Planned Parenthood, and the National Organization for Marriage.

“While the librarian side of me is pushing for open access and user privacy, the school administrator in me is worried,” Christopher Harris, chair of the OITP Advisory Committee, wrote in an accompanying article posted on the District Dispatch, the official ALA Washington Office Blog, that provides perspective on the report. “As an administrator, I am charged by New York State law to act in loco parentis—in the place of a parent—protecting students from harm.” Public libraries do not have such mandates for their child patrons.

In an earlier panel discussion focusing on the report’s findings during the 2014 ALA Midwinter Meeting, Harris elaborated on why schools need filters, despite their faulty implementation. “I say it’s probably good we have filters in schools,” he said, referring to schools’ in loco parentis responsibility. “There’s bad stuff we don’t want even accidentally to come up.” While a youth downloading porn from a public library computer would likely just be told to leave, such an incident in a school setting could result in tabloid headlines, he noted.

Regarding filtering in public libraries, “Fencing Out Knowledge” looked at the issue as it related to the library mission and in the context of a growing demand for public library services and reliance on the Internet for information. “Given increased demand and the mission to provide free and open access to information for all, libraries find that Internet filtering poses fundamental challenges to intellectual freedom,” the report states. “Filtering also conflicts directly with core professional values of librarians as articulated in ALA’s Library Bill of Rights. As Internet filters, by design, block access to content, not only are they incompatible with library values, but for many librarians they also constitute censorship.”  The Library Bill of Rights celebrates its 75th birthday this month.

The report concludes with several suggested plans of action to address the filtering issue. Batch noted that librarians are in a position to improve school Internet acceptable use policies and raise colleagues’ awareness of over-filtering’s consequences. ALA will work with educational groups and create a toolkit for revamping Internet policies.

While there won’t be a specific conference program focused on the CIPA report during the ALA Annual Conference from June 26–July 1, according to an ALA spokesperson, the OIF leaders will discuss its consequences at the Joint Children’s Divisions Committee meeting.