Systems and Technologies

Maybe Digitization Isn't Always a Good Idea

Kate Marek writes about a story told by Paul Duguid, author of Social Life of Information, about his experience in a closed-stacks archive, where he was reviewing 250-year old primary documents for a research project. “Duguid, who suffers from asthma, was careful to cover his nose and mouth with a scarf while working with the dusty documents. One day, a fellow researcher in the study room (to Duguid’s horror, as he recalls it) spent his time with a box of letters not reading them, but instead holding each letter to his face, drawing deep breaths through his nose to capture its smell. Here is what Duguid writes about their conversation:

Choking behind my mask, I asked him what he was doing. He was, he told me, a medical              historian. (A profession to avoid if you have asthma.) He was documenting outbreaks of        cholera. When that disease occurred in a town in the eighteenth century, all letters from the        town were disinfected with vinegar to prevent the disease from spreading. By sniffing for the      faint traces of vinegar that survived 250 years and noting the date and source of the letter, he           was able to chart the progress of cholera outbreaks.”

As Marek notes, “I have used this story repeatedly when talking about digitization in libraries. It is a perfect illustration of the potential losses we face when we digitize—what information we lose when we move from physical to electronic and how we may be totally unaware and unsuspecting about those potential losses.” Duguid’s tale is just one of the many fascinating examples of how storytelling can be used in organizations to pass along important object lessons, history, and shared experiences in the library. For more about the value of storytelling, check out Kate’s new book, Organizational Storytelling for Librarians: Using Stories for Effective Leadership.

ALA TechSource Workshop: Integrating E-Books and E-Readers into Your Library

Cross-posted at the ALA TechSource blog.

We're happy to announce another ALA TechSource Workshop--Using E-Books and E-Readers in Your Library with Sue Polanka.

With the recent explosion in the popularity of eReading devices, many librarians are grappling with how to effectively integrate these devices into their services and collection. In  two 90-minute sessions on January 25th and February 1st, 2011 at 4:00pm Eastern, Sue Polanka will provide practical guidance on how to begin purchasing eBooks for your library to lend electronically and how to purchase eReader devices for patron use. The first session will provide a basic primer on acquiring eBooks, while the second will provide an overview of the issues surrounding library lending of eBook readers. 

Topics covered will include:

Session 1: Purchasing E-Books for Your Library

  • Selecting content
  • Evaluating vendor offerings and interfaces (publishers and aggregators)
  • Choosing the most cost effective business models
  • Monitoring the workflow

Session 2: Lending E-Book Readers in Your Library

  • Examining legal issues
  • Selecting devices
  • Purchasing content
  • Establishing policies and procedures

Sue Polanka is Head of Reference and Instruction at the Wright State University Libraries. She has provided reference and instruction services in public, state, and academic libraries for nearly 20 years. Her passion for reference and electronic resources spawned her eBook blog, No Shelf Required, a discussion of ebooks for librarians and publishers. She is also the author of the book No Shelf Required (ALA Editions 2010). She is Chair of Booklist's Reference Books Bulletin (RBB) Advisory Board and maintains her column, Off The Shelf, for RBB. Sue is a frequent contributor to Booklist and presents at many state and national conferences, usually on her favorite topic - eBooks.

Registration for this ALA TechSource Workshop on January 25th and February 1st, 2011, at 4:00-5:30 (ET) can be purchased at the ALA Store. To learn more, please refer to the ALA TechSource Workshops Frequently Asked Questions.

ALA TechSource Workshops are designed to give you and your staff the opportunity to participate in a hands‐on learning experience that will help you make the best technology decisions for your library.

LA Times Article Sparks Differing Views of Libraries’ Role

In an article entitled, “Libraries reinvent themselves as they struggle to remain relevant in the digital age,” one prominent librarian from a more traditionalist bent felt that libraries are not the place for game rooms and ping-pong tables. He and others worry that such changes will hurt rather than help libraries’ image and their service role in the community. We wanted to find out more so we informally polled some of our authors on their reaction to the traditional view of libraries and their feelings about how libraries are going about reinventing themselves. Here are some of their thoughts, quoted with permission:

All this talk about libraries not being real libraries anymore because there are more computers being used than books makes about as much sense as saying that paperback romances are edging out hardback classics on library shelves! Library services and collections are NOT mutually exclusive! Our value is growing! It's good news! The doom and gloomers are missing the point if they don't see that the advent of technology, the need for PC connection, the desire to learn how to live online makes public libraries even more relevant and important to their users than ever before - not less! I think a lot of what the article said is true; reference desks will become obsolete as we accept that our 21st-century customers want a different library experience, for example. But one point in this piece is, I think, completely off-base. We're not allowing gaming in order to trick a teen into checking out Dostoevsky but, since gaming and meeting other relevant new needs just may help keep the doors open, he'll at least have a chance to find a copy if he wants one - at his thriving public library!

Catherine Hakala-Ausperk
Deputy Director, Cleveland Heights - University Heights (OH) Public Library, author of  Be a Great Boss: One Year to Success (ALA Editions, 2011)

Oh well, I remember when a few librarians were upset when we put jigsaw puzzles in the library, back in the 80s.  But everyone else loved them.   At my local public library (Brewster, MA) they let a user assemble a puzzle on a library table where passers-by can take a look or stop to help and socialize.  Many public libraries have started chess and scrabble clubs.        

Every community needs a community center and in my small town that is de facto the public library.  What better place?  It's accessible and open 6 days a week.  The meeting room is always busy.  Local artists display their work there.  A huge bulletin board is available to community groups to post notices. 

The display case features monthly exhibits by local hobbyists--from needlework to beautiful sailor's valentines.  The public computers are always in use; in fact people help each other at the terminals.  Mothers chat with each other while their children are at story hour.  Public libraries perform a social function as well as an educational one--and they always have.  I'm lucky to live in a community where the library fosters this. 

Janet Husband, author of Sequels (ALA, 2009) and eSequels.com.
         
I think he is right.  I know that isn't a popular opinion in libraries and I even included video games in my new book from LU, but that was because I knew they were in libraries. . .  not that I want them there.  I often think he is right. He just sometimes says things in a really controversial way.  You can quote that anonymously. 
Any program or service that brings people new to the library inside our doors presents an opportunity for us, the library staff, to show them everything else we have to offer them.  They can not know the breadth of information and materials we have if they never come through the doors to see it for themselves.

Becky Spratford, author of the forthcoming revision of The Horror Readers’ Advisory                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

The article muddles academic and public libraries, which have different missions. Anything we can do to get patrons into libraries is good.  In-person visits to public libraries in 2009 increased 10% compared with a 2006 ALA household survey. Seventy-six percent of Americans visited their local public library in the year preceding the survey, compared with 65.7% two years ago. Online visits to public libraries increased even more: 41% of library card holders visited their library websites in the year before the poll, compared with 23.6% in 2006.

Peggy Johnson, author of  Fundamentals of Collection Development and Management

Libraries, like most public entities, are in a time of retrenchment – doing less with less.  Times like this also offer an opportunity to try new things, keep those that working well, and let go of functions that don’t serve us as well as they did in the past. 

Valerie Horton, editor of Moving Materials: Physical Delivery in Libraries

From a business perspective, many libraries are looking for a new business model. In every business model, the organization needs to clearly understand its core processes or what it does best.  If  a library provides a coffee shop better than the top competitor in that area (Starbucks, etc.) then it should provide that service.  If a library is able to provide a competitive coffee service because its revenues are subsidized by taxpayers and consequently it does not face the same cost structure of a for-profit organization, this is not a real library core process.  Without a clear identification of core activities and a means to improve them (balanced scorecard, etc.), it would be expected to see the start of all sorts of flailing activities from game to slumber rooms.

Steve Smith, author of the forthcoming book , Cost Control for Nonprofits in Crisis

While this was just a small sample of opinion, clearly there is no consensus as to what the “library” should be.

ALA Editions on Kindle

Did you know that many of our titles are now available in Kindle editions? Over the past six months we’ve been hard at work converting and uploading many of our recent and most popular books so that you can read ALA Editions wherever you happen to be, whether it’s on the train during your commute or while you’re deep in the stacks. We’re adding more every month, but here’s our current inventory:

ALA TechSource Bloggers Discuss the Libraries at the Tipping Point eBook Summit

On Wednesday, September 29th, over 2000 people joined together for the (LJ/SLJ) “Libraries at the Tipping Point” eBook Summit.  This first-of-its-kind virtual discussion of eBooks offered a variety of conversations, programs, panels, and vendor information about the future of eBooks in libraries. 

As someone who has written and blogged extensively about eBooks, I was thrilled to take part in the virtual eBook summit, both as a participant, and as a moderator.  An event of this magnitude made me realize that we’re finally here!  After 11 long years (the introduction of NetLibrary), eBooks have finally hit the tipping point in libraries.  Several ALA TechSource bloggers, including Kate Sheehan, Jason Griffey, and Cindi Trainor, also took part in the summit.  I had a chance to ask them some questions about the value of the summit and common themes and issues.  Here’s what they had to say:

Sue Polanka: Which aspects of the eBook Summit were of value to you?

Kate Sheehan:  I was really impressed with the whole thing - I still haven't gotten to go back through the archive to catch up on the panels I missed, but I'd recommend the How eBooks Impact Libraries, Publishers & Readers panel, Ebook What-Ifs: Issues that Impact Scenario Planning, and the keynote presentations. I'm looking forward to going back to catch up on the K-12 track and the academic library track, though. I heard great things about the RA panel as well. The content was consistently great and the interface was very good as well. 

Jason Griffey:   There was an enormous amount of great info and thought provoking ideas here, but the two that really grabbed me were Eli Neiburger's section of the conference-wide panel, and Kevin Kelly's keynote. If you only listen to two things, those will give you enough to think about for a great while.

Cindi Trainor: I tend to gravitate toward visionary speakers who postulate about the future based on our past, so the talk given by Eli Neiburger resonated the most with me.  He later posted to twitter, "It was my intent to show we have a bright future if we can just stop living in the past,"
and he hit that nail right on the head.  The business models of the print world are not translating well into the electronic world, as far as libraries are concerned, and if libraries don't make herculean efforts to bring significant change, we are, as Eli said, screwed.

SP: During your panel discussion, what were the common themes and issues discussed?

JG:  I was a panelist on Reality Check: Putting Ebook Reading Devices into Kids’ Hands, and the focus seemed to be, like many of the panels of the day, on the problems with the current ebook situation; incompatible formats, DRM, and pricing structures. There was also a lot of talk about use-cases for K-12 education, and what ebooks might bring to the educational structures of public education.

SP: What are the biggest challenges for libraries in regard to eBooks? 

KS:  I think fear is a huge factor for libraries and ebooks. Libraries are facing budget crises; they're cutting back on staff, collections, and services and it seems that everywhere we turn, someone's predicting the end of libraries. Librarians who began their careers before the advent of the Internet are probably having major deja vu. It's tempting to just hunker down to wait for the publishers and big book retailers to duke it out, but I think David Lankes was right on the money when he urged librarians to get involved in the future of ebooks. I hope that all libraries can work together to find models and solutions that make sense for our members, but I do think different types of libraries will have different needs, though it may take a while for those differences to become obvious. 

I've only recently begun to spend time in school libraries, but I think a lot of them have done an excellent job positioning themselves as the place for students to learn research skills as well as develop a love of reading. That seems to have held them in good stead through the "everything is online" years and seems like a really good way to weather the "everything is on my kindle" years. It has the added benefit of being genuinely helpful and necessary to a good education. Both academics and school libraries may suffer from a broad assumption that young people will automatically prefer ebooks (though I'm sure young backs prefer etextbooks to heavy packs). Public libraries are just constantly under fire. As every public librarian knows, it seems like every other person wants to tell you that the library is dead. There's a pervasive sense of fear and powerlessness in public libraries when it comes to ebooks, but I think we're getting past that and starting to look at what our options are. 

JG:  I think that the biggest challenge is that libraries are being challenged at their most basic level: the ability to act as a collector and distributor of media under the First Sale doctrine. eBooks and other natively digital media types aren't bound by the same sorts of First Sale doctrine that physical media is, and the limitations brought about by restrictive licenses are a huge problem for libraries.

 CT:  For me, limitations to sharing and reusing ebook content constitute the largest roadblocks to wide adoption of ebooks in academic libraries, either for textbooks or in research.  At my library, we try to buy an electronic copy wherever we can, as these work best to serve our students and faculty who participate at a distance or online.

It's simply not as easy to print or share parts of an ebook (depending on the platform) as it is to print or share a single journal article or most information on the web.  Industry-wide, I am disappointed by the lack of business models that enable libraries to provide ebook content on popular ereaders.  The traditional role of libraries as provider to those who can't afford their own access is being ignored in this arena.  It's forced libraries to walk a fine line with digital content vendors like Amazon, providing readers and content to patrons in spite of Terms of Service that do not allow for it.

SP: What were some important "takeaways" or "a-ha moments" you had during the summit? 

KS: One of my favorite themes was the idea that the library can become the nexus of community-generated content. We've seen that idea floated around library circles for a long time, but if everyone, including the library, is publishing electronically, the bar for entry gets a little lower. Publishing a paper chapbook of teen poetry can be a huge amount of work for an understaffed, underfunded library. But making teen poetry available to everyone's ereaders electronically seems more feasible. I was struck by Eli Neiberger's thoughts about "dead" technologies that still exist today and how things like candles have changed from daily necessities to an almost luxury item with special uses. I kept thinking about apps like Hipstamatic that imitate old and damaged photographs. Technology isn't as linear as we tend to think - outmoded technologies like horses and sepia-tones photographs have new lives. Riding a horse isn't so much a method of transportation as a sport and it's impossible to find a digital camera that doesn't have a "sepia" mode. Libraries have to keep carving out their niche, but that's better than waiting to see what publishers and Amazon decide for us. 

JG:  All of Eli's examples of technological advances and cultural reimagining lit up all the right parts of my brain. Just a great set of examples that show why libraries need to be paying a lot of attention to these issues.

Chrystie Hill on Libraries and Community

In October 2009, Chrystie Hill spoke at TEDx - Columbus expressing in a personal way her vision for libraries. As she notes, in researching for her book Inside, Outside, and Online, she spoke with library staff, thinking about their practice through a community-building lens. Across the board, she heard that librarianship is about people and connections, not the books or the services that we think people need.

Tim O’Reilly, in presenting his ideas of Government 2.0 in an Inc. article, said, “We've come to think about government as a kind of vending machine -- we put in our taxes and we get out services." He suggested that we look at government as a platform, like Apple’s iPhone, upon which 150,000 apps have been created, harnessing the entrepreneurial energy of others. What then would be the role of public libraries? Digitized music, movies, and ebooks challenge libraries’ function as a “vending machine” of physical items. Perhaps libraries’ platform is the human connection that Chrystie describes in this 20-minute video.


Chrystie Hill said that she was mad that she didn’t bring a copy of her  book to the Tedx talk.. “They didn’t tell me I could.” We’ll do better. Below is an excerpt. 
 

As a library professional, I value traditional library services and am as interested as most of my colleagues in whether library visits and overall circulation have increased. Yet, increased circulation and visits to the library, even an increase in library program or classroom attendance (especially for children’s programs), feels less of a feat against the fact that we’re not doing a good job online or outside the library. We’re absent (not entirely, but mostly) as active community builders even in our own spaces, but certainly outside the library. We’ve neglected to recognize our role as organizers and keepers of information access as primarily a social role. In fact, the scholars engaged in early discussions about the role of the library in developing and facilitating the participatory and social nature of the Web weren’t librarians, and the year was 1996.

In their seminal work “The Social Life of Documents,” John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid explained that documents—digital or otherwise—are much more than carriers of information. Although documents are powerful for helping us structure and organize information space, they also help us create and negotiate social space. In other words, groups form and conversations emerge around them. Brown and Duguid argued that we should expand our notion of the document to include all the social interaction that happens around it. Here they are in the late 1990s, well before Web 2.0 or prevalent Internet use, telling us that if we pay attention to how people form groups and create community around documents, it will help us move technology (and by extension, other ser¬vices) in the direction of what humans actually do with a document (Brown and Duguid 1996, 2000). In my version of the story of where we went wrong, my first point is this: we’ve neglected to consider, in general, the social life of documents, as outlined in the article. This is true for all documents, regardless of format.

A few anecdotes from some target users are instructive:

Trudee is a young professional, presently in her early twenties. She won’t ask a librarian any question, at any time, for any reason. I can ask my friends or find it myself, she says on the suggestion that she ask a reference librarian to help her solve a problem or locate information; they’re faster.

Matt is a middle manager, presently in his early thirties, who also trained as a librarian. Upon discussing whether his local library is relevant to him, he says (quite emphatically), the most important information need that I have is “what are my friends doing?” concluding then that the public library is not relevant to him as an individual user.

In the words of one OCLC survey respondent, presently in her early forties: Books, books, books, rows and rows of books, stacks of books, tables filled with books, people holding books, people checking out books. Libraries are all about books. That is what I think and that is what I will always think.

Somewhere along the way we chose (deliberately or otherwise) to value our traditional roles as much as we valued the traditional definition of the documents we cared for. If documents helped humans structure and organize information space, librarians helped humans structure, organize, and access documents. In neglecting the social nature of documents and our users, we neglected to nurture, or at least to articulate, the very social nature of our own roles.

“For what Hill (director of community services, WebJunction) offers is nothing less than a holistic vision for public libraries in the United States, centered on the library's ability to create community. She adroitly draws on scholarship and research, examples and interviews, to create a plan for libraries that is as sharply focused as it is quietly urgent.” Library Journal, starred review.

See the Google books excerpt.

Welcome to alaeditions.org!

I would like to welcome you to Editions.org and our open-forum blog. It is my privilege to be the Publisher of both TechSource (subscriptions, e-learning, webinars, and workshops) and Editions (professional and reference books, both print and electronic). My team is part of a larger unit at the American Library Association called Publishing.

The dirty little secret is that I am not a librarian, but I know a great deal about what librarians do, what they think about, and what they are concerned about.  But I never know enough; I will never be close enough to the action because I do not work in a library. So my colleagues and I depend on you tell us what is going on and what you need for your professional development. And here is a chance for you to do just that.

Something that we in publishing share with librarians of all kinds is high anxiety about how quickly our work world is changing. I am old enough (the proverbial 39, thank you Mr. Benny) to remember when the art and science of putting a book together meant having a hand-written manuscript typed by two different people (in order to ensure that the material was correct), comparing the documents, creating a master with hand edits, and sending it off to the compositor—who made galleys. (And why did we call them galleys, anyway. A galley is a long metal tray that holds type ready for printing.)

The galleys would be edited, read by the author, edited and corrected again, and sent back to the author. Changes would be made again until we finally had page proofs, which were sent back to the author and then to a proof reader. Cover art had to be hand drawn; even charts, graphs, and other display elements were hand drawn—we had an art department with lighted tables, for goodness sake.  And permission letters were a horrible bore—they took forever to do and get back. Did I forget the index……done manually? Once the art was in place and the index readied the second set of page proofs were sent off to the author. Corrections always came back, no matter how often you explained that an author could not rewrite anything! Finally, everything was sent to the printer, who put the book under the camera to make film, to make plates....and on and on.

Well, the back and forth still goes on, and we still go to the printer (for how long, one wonders). But it is all so wonderfully different now; still a lot of work for both author and publisher, but our output is more than just a physical book. It can be a PDF of the book you can print yourself; but it also can be an e-bundle that allows you to read one of our books on your Kindle or iPad or whatever your favorite device happens to be.

And of course, this is part of our shared high anxiety: Will an actual book disappear? Some may remember a quaint little movie “84 Charing Cross Road” with Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins from 1986—a movie that glorified and revered not only books, but old books. In it are great scenes from the proverbial musty book shop in the basement of a London building. The staff was totally devoted to and knowledgeable about books, great ones and little volumes of seemingly no consequence other than the fact that someone wanted to own them and read them. To have them. Librarians and publishers alike are anxiously asking if patrons will continue to want and to own books. And no one knows for sure.

Now I have to confess my second dirty little secret: I have owned a Kindle for over two years, and I love it. Not only do I love it, I take it everywhere. My non-publishing friends are scandalized. But you are a book publisher. No, I respond, I am a publisher and my world has changed greatly. I want librarians to own our books, courses, and newsletters, but I don’t care if they buy an actual book or something they load on their Sony Reader. Just tell us by your buying decisions that we are publishing correctly for you. What I really want to know is if our content is helping librarians be better librarians, which is what ALA Publishing in general and TechSource and Editions in particular are all about.

So, welcome again to our blog. We want to talk about anything that has to do with books, with publishing, with libraries, with technology…..come join the party.

Michael


P.S. Many of you may have heard that Barnes & Noble is for sale. Leonard Riggio, the founder, will probably lead a group of investors and take the chain private (again). It was not long ago that the entire industry was in fear and trepidation about the power and control that the super store chains would have on the book world.  Everyone fretted that one company, with over 700 stores, would so dominate the market. They indeed did change the landscape. There are very few independent stores around. In 2001, B & N’s total market capitalization was $2.2 billion while Amazon’s capitalization was $3.6 billion.

Now the shoe is on the other foot. B & N today is capitalized at $950 million while Amazon is currently at $55 billion. Who’s the monster now…….?
 

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