Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Digital Books and Public Library Acquisitions

Taylor, L. (2008). Cutting edge books: The impact of digital books on public library acquisitions. Journal of Electronic Resources Librarianship, 20(1), 51-61. doi:10.1080/08963570802157412.

Reading the article above made me think about working with our Technical Services department and what we have done or at least tried to do in this area. The Hancock County Public Library certainly isn’t cutting edge but we do listen to what the patrons ask for and most of the staff is open to change and realize that there are things out there that they need to be aware of as librarians.

The first step into ebooks was a 2004 beta test with our automation vendor and a company they were working with to provide this service. At that point in time there were few readers on the market and the ebooks were in PDF format and could only be viewed on a computer. The ebooks we were working with could be transferred to a PDA or smartphone but the process was very cumbersome.

Our first shot at ebooks wasn’t a disaster but it was pretty close. The process was difficult for patrons to use. They were limited to viewing on their computers and in 2004 laptops were still rather expensive compared to desktops and it would be another 5 years before laptop or notebook computer sales would outpace desktop sales. PDAs and smartphones have also changed dramatically in that time as well.

The major issue we faced with ebooks was DRM (Digital Right Management). They want to make sure that the material is not copied and a checkout time needed to be imposed and that was all done with Adobe Reader and DRM. We ended up with a few hundred ebooks and even after a decent marketing campaign and the use of the ebooks in programs such as children’s storytime, they never really took off. We had a few users but after a while we started to have issues with the ebook vendor and versions of Adobe Reader. At first it was safe to tell patrons to make sure they have the newest version of Reader but then the vendor started to have issues with Adobe Reader as updates to the program were made. This made it tough for patrons to use the ebooks and difficult for us to support.

For our patrons it seemed to be a service that wasn’t quite where it needed to be. As we struggled with ebooks we looked into downloadable audiobook services but as the article says, it came down to some services were for iPods only and others for Windows media compatible players. We also purchased a subscription to Tumblebooks (http://www.tumblebooks.com/library/asp/home_tumblebooks.asp) for the children’s department. This product shows the book online but also reads to the child and they can follow along and many books contain animations. It is all web based and very easy to use. It has been a big hit with the kids.

We tried downloadable video (MyLibraryDV) but that ended up going under and we also tried the Playaways (http://www.playawaylibrary.com/index.cfm). This product was mentioned in the article and it sounded great at first. However, the units did not hold up well and after only a few checkouts many were damaged. We also had to keep batteries in the units and many patrons complained of the sound quality.

Over the last 12 months we have received more comments and requests for downloadable audiobooks and ebooks than ever before. As they article states, and I think is very true, advancements in mobile devices (think iPhone launch) as well as the connections, speeds and available content was a “perfect storm. At first it was downloadable audiobooks but with the release of the Kindle and apps to read ebooks on many phones iPods came more requests. Amazon, Apple and other vendors made it so easy for people to purchase material they wanted to know why they couldn’t do it at their library, of course that is another story.

From our standpoint how could we offer downloadable audiobooks and ebooks to patrons when there was no one stop shop that would work with iPods and Windows devices. It seemed to be an ever changing mess when it came to DRM, downloadable content, and device compatibility. The time between the story was published and today OverDrive announced that they could work with iPods, Windows Media players and they also offered ebooks. We had been looking at OverDrive and similar service providers for about 2 years and in the beginning there was always the compatibility issue but also a cost issue. The services were expensive and possibly difficult to justify in the current economic environment.

As with everything else technology related, service or products get better and prices come down. We would be able to go with OverDrive and have enough money to build a solid beginning collection. My main concern is ease of use and the amount of staff time needed to support this service. After talking to a few libraries that offer the same service, I found out that they had not had a lot of issues with users and their devices. What first came to mind was our original ebook disaster. I heard about the same thing from all of the libraries about the service. There user interface was easy to use and the patrons already had experience transferring material to their devices already and this was a very similar process. Another issue they did bring up was the catalog records and linking to the download site. It can be done, they provide help, and it just takes staff time to get it done.

After a soft launch and weeks of staff training and testing both the audiobooks and ebooks are really working out. The patrons that have used the service are happy and we have had very few reported issues. This allows patrons to check out downloadable material and we don’t have to worry about overdues, lost, stolen or damaged material. The selectors are happy and things are going well. The only problem now is dividing money between different formats.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Reading List Project

I approached the Reference staff at the Library where I work and they were very surprised when I talked to them about the possibility of doing a reading list. The department head said it would be alright to work with one of her staff members and I was told that I could do anything I wanted. I asked if they had any recommendations and they still said I could do anything. This left me with a lot of choices but also very unsure of what to do.

I struggled at first to get more information to make a list that I thought would actually be used. After I talked to the Librarian that teaches most of the computer classes I thought about a computer book list for the first time. We talked again and we both felt that it would be a useful and we could use a list or partial list a few different ways.

I started with the most frequently asked technology questions and I also ran some reports to get some numbers. After some more discussion I felt I could focus on five categories from this section and cover topics that are frequently requested but sometimes difficult to point the patron in the right direction. I would concentrate on books for beginners in Office products (Word, PowerPoint, Excel), home computer networking, and web page creation/design.

I was told it could be difficult to find a book in these categories, especially networking and web design for beginners that would not be over their head. Someone suggested a shelf topper but after some thought I felt a tri-fold would be best. I also thought we might be able to reuse the content on the Reference section of the web page.

The next part was to explore Microsoft Office and similar products. Some books are for specific applications such as Word, PowerPoint and Excel where some other are an overview of the Office Suite. To determine the applications to concentrate on I went from patron requests as well as the most frequently checked out material. The books what were overviews were used in the tri-fold and the books on specific applications would be included in the handouts for the classes the Library offers on Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel.

To create this list I first checked the Library catalog to see what we had on the shelf. I sorted through the books and determined which would fit the categories that I select and then I sorted out the books that were not geared for beginners. I also used web resources such as amazon.com, Baker and Taylor and some publishers’ websites to research what other items were available. During the process I found a few items that were not available at the Library and I noted that they would be good to have in the collection. The Librarian I worked with was also the selector for this section and we were able to purchase a few items.

After looking at the list it may seem strange that I would include older versions of Microsoft Office products but after going through this process I found it was necessary. Just because there is a new version doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone or even some people will upgrade. In a lot of cases the new features in the most current version will not help the users already do or want to do.

In classes and at the Reference desk it was very common to have a patron request a book on an older version of Office. In many cases someone gave a computer to a patron and it had an older version of Office or they do not want to pay for the newest version. Most of the time the patron’s needs do not require the latest greatest version of Office or even Microsoft Office it at all. We have a number of patrons that use OpenOffice because it is free.

Overall, I learned a lot by doing this and realized how helpful this type of project can be. I ended up with a list of about 25 books in 6 different categories. The Microsoft Office and Open Office titles should be incorporated in the handouts for the computer classes offered at the Library starting in May and a brochure with Office, networking, and web page and site building titles for beginners will be available at the Information desk. The tri-fold also includes information about web based tutorials (customguide.com) and computer classes the Library offers.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

My First Week Using an iPad

The Library where I work has been exploring mobile devices for staff use for years now. Most recently have used the iPod Touch in our Reference department and some of the administrative assistants have been using the iPod Touch primarily as a PDA in place of Palm T|X. When Apple announced the iPad we had an opportunity to reserve two and we did. I had read good and bad reviews. Some people said it was groundbreaking while others said that it was a device without a place.

While I was waiting in line (only about 45 minutes) the day of the release I was looking forward to see how a device like this would fit into a mid to large size Library like the one where I work. There are two versions of the iPad. One is a WiFi only model and one has WiFi and ATT 3G access built in (Paid service). We have the WiFi only model. The 3G model comes out at the end of April. Both versions come in three different capacities (16GB, 32GB and 64GB). My last thought while standing in line…….What’s up with the name? Poor effort Steve Jobs.

The iPad at first sight seems big since I've used an iPod Touch for so long. It has a 9.7 inch diagonal screen and weighs about 1.5 pounds. I’ve used the iPod Touch as a PDA for about a year and I really like it and I can just slip it in my pocket and go. That isn’t going to happen with the iPad. It has an aluminum back that is much better than the iPod Touch metal back that shows every fingerprint and scratch. The screen is beautiful and the touch is very responsive. As for the “Fingerprint-resistant coating……Not so much. Accelerometer that changes the orientation of the screen works very well and the speaker sounds pretty good for a relatively small device. This seems like a gigantic iPod Touch. The buttons are almost exactly the same and uses the same cable to sync. My initial impression is it looks really good if nothing else.

After using the iPad for a few days the bigger screen is nice. The iPad is running a version of the iPhone Operating System specifically for the device. Using Safari on the iPad to browse the web is much better with the bigger screen. The touchscreen browsing is the same but the larger screen allows you to see full pages and is much easier to use. There is still the issue with the browser not supporting Adobe flash. This is a drawback for me but not a deal breaker. Existing iPod and iPhone Apps will work but they display in a window the size of the iPhone/Touch. There is a button in the lower right hand corner of the screen in these Apps that allow you to double the size of the window which almost fills the screen but this can make some things blurry. The Apps Store works exactly the same and there are many Apps designed for the iPad.

How can I see this used in my Library? Well, I can see this device used in a few different ways and I will concentrate on the Reference department since we have used the Touch and the iPad (in a very limited way) in that department. First, the web browsing is much better as mentioned before and the Library website and catalog display well on the screen and are easy to read. The size of the device makes it easy to carry into the stacks or while helping a patron on the floor away from a desk. You also have access to other reference related resources that are web based. Our staff has used our online databases and other online resources. This can be handy when you need access to information quickly and you are working with a patron away from a desk.

Many tools that the Reference Librarians use have Apps available and a lot have been free. Those include Wikipedia, IMDb, dictionary, thesaurus, Google, and Maps and Atlas Apps. The local newspaper is also available online and works wells in the iPad browser. The mail Apps can be set up for their individual staff e-mail accounts or if it is a shared device the general Reference e-mail account can be configured. We have a Microsoft Exchange E-mail environment and the Apple devices all support this type of system. It also includes Calendar and Contacts. This is all done over the WiFi connection and no syncing with a computer is necessary to update Mail, Calendar or Contact items. This could allow the Reference staff to keep all important contact information that is located on a rolodex (I know it’s old school but I’m working on them to change it) in Outlook and access it with the iPad or Touch.

One item that is new on the iPad is iBooks and the iBookstore. This is Apple’s online bookstore and the App is free. It is similar to the Kindle Apps but I think has a little more visual appeal. Also iBook is in color and you can read the books easily in a dimly lit environment. This is only a plus if your Reader doesn’t have a backlight. I have both the Kindle Apps and the iBooks installed and I have purchased books from both vendors (Classics and some other books are free). I prefer iBooks but right now the Kindle store has a much better selection. Most books are $9.99 to $14.99.

We are currently going live with OverDrive and we have been testing both audiobooks and ebooks. The audio books from OverDrive are iPad compatible and the process is very easy. I recommend trying it out if your local Library offers this service. I know IMCPL does. The ebooks are not compatible with any Apple mobile device so we have a Sony reader that is used for training and to let the staff try out the service. I have used other devices on display in stores but it had been awhile since I have looked at anything other than the iPad/Touch. As a comparison I downloaded a book to the Sony Reader and it was ok but I was disappointed after using the iPad. I would rather read on the iPad any day but I can’t use the Library’s OverDrive service to get eBooks.

I have an iPad set up with my Mail, Calendar and Contacts via WiFi and you can also set iTunes to sync your Internet favorites and Notes from Outlook. I purchased the iWorks products for the iPad, Pages (Word), Numbers (Excel), and Keynote (PowerPoint). I have used Pages and Numbers but I haven’t used Keynote yet. You don’t get a fully functioning word processor or spreadsheet program but they are both very capable programs and I haven’t had too many issues with either App. In pages you can change the format to PDF or Word when sending the document.

The keyboard is just ok in my opinion. I wouldn’t want to try to type long notes or write any papers. You can connect a Bluetooth keyboard to it and this makes the iWork Apps much better to use. Unlike the Touch you can’t really hold it in your hands and type with your thumbs even when the screen is in a portrait orientation. Landscape makes the keyboard wider but not really wide enough to fit two hands on and type like a real keyboard. I found myself hunting and pecking with two hands. Manageable but not fast or easy but the ability to connect a keyboard is a nice feature. I’m typing this on the iPad right now with a keyboard attached.

Other Apps that I thought were cool but not necessarily work related were Pandora, USA Today, Netflix, and WinAdmin. Pandora works just like on a computer or iPhone/Touch. Streams music allows you to create custom channels. An operating system update was just announced yesterday (April 8th) that will allow multitasking. This will make Apps like Pandora much better on these devices because you can leave it running in the background and do other things on the device. Right now, you either run Pandora or you are doing something else. This update is supposed to be available for the iPhone/Touch in the summer and for the iPad in the fall.

USA Today has an App specifically for the iPad that is laid out just like the USA Today paper edition. Very cool and easy to use. There are many news Apps out there but I thought the design of this was very nice. Librarians can stay up to date on current events with a number of Apps available through the App Store. Netflix was by far the coolest App in my opinion. If you have a Netflix account (around $9 a month for the cheapest subscription) you can stream any of the Movies or TV shows available instantly through Netflix (over 17,000 titles).

The most important App to me was the remote desktop App WinAdmin. This App allows you to connect to your Windows desktop PC and use it like you were sitting in front of it. This is how we manage most of our servers and is a handy App for System Admins or other users that would like to connect to their desktop remotely. You have to enable Remote Desktop on your Windows PC.

Overall, I think this is a great device. Where does it fit in? I think that depends on what you do. It can change the way you do things and give you access to information on the go. It is not going to replace anything but when used as a companion device it can be very useful. I took this and my notebook computer to a number of meetings that I usually only bring the notebook computer and I didn’t even get the notebook out. I was able to easily access the information I needed for all of the meetings and class on Thursday night without needing to get the notebook out. I would rather take this to any meeting or class in place of a computer or paper notepad and I have been able to get 8+ hours of battery life with fairly heavy use.

The downsides are no file server connections, printing is difficult, and getting files on and off of the device can be a pain. After I started using the iPad I found a few things that I could do with it or it helped me with that I didn’t initially think about. That is what we found with the iPod touch in the Reference department and I think that is what we will find with other devices such as this as well.

An advantage (and there are just as many drawbacks) to using mobile devices at a service desk at a public Library is the patrons are going bring in and use the same devices for Internet access and other Library services. This gives the staff hands on use and knowledge of new devices and makes them more comfortable working with patrons with similar devices. Can you get every new device that comes out? Absolutely not, but you can pick and explore devices without rolling out the device for every department or staff member in a department. For example, after using the Palm devices jumping to the iPod Touch was not difficult and now moving to an iPad or similar tablet device has a shorter learning curve.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Secret Shopper

On my way back from a conference in Chicago I stopped at a small public library in northwest Indiana. The reference desk was towards the front of the building across from the circulation desk and seemed to get a lot of traffic. The librarian was seated behind the desk and appeared to be in her mid to late 50's and reminded me of what people usually think of when they think librarian. She was helping a patron and another waited in line for her assistance.

I looked around the library and waited a few minutes until she was free. I approached the desk and she made eye contact with me and asked if she could help me. I explained to her that I was looking for a good book to read and that I was a little intimidated by the amount of authors and books and I needed a little guidance to find something that I might enjoy.

After explaining to her I needed help finding a good book, she said "Let's see what we can do" and asked what types of books I had enjoyed in the past. I told her that I had been mostly a non-fiction reader but I had just started reading fiction and I would like another fiction book to read. She asked what types of books I had enjoyed in the past again and I told her that I had just finished Marine One by James Huston and I really liked it but I wasn't sure about his other books.

After telling her I enjoyed Marine One she said she wasn't really familiar with that author and started looking in their catalog for him. She asked what I liked about the book and I told her it was a political thriller and I liked the political aspects of the book. She told me the other books the library had by the Huston and I said that I would like to try a different author.

Once I told her that I wanted to try a different author she continued to work in their catalog and did not find the information that she wanted. She then pulled a book out from behind the desk and started looking through a book. I couldn't tell what book it was so I asked what she was looking at and she said a book of genres and authors. She didn't find what she was looking for in the book so we went out to the stacks and she started to point out some authors that she knew of that she thought I might enjoy.

We walked into the stacks and she said that she thought of two authors that might work for political thrillers. As we were walking she said that her favorite genre was fantasy and she wasn't very familiar with the type of book that I was looking for but she said a lot of the books she had seen were military or military/political but we would probably be able to look at the titles and covers and get a good idea of the book.

She took me to books by Vince Flynn and we looked at a few of the books. She then took me to books by Tom Clancy and Stephen Coonts. She said that would give me a good start and to come and see her at the desk if I needed anything else. I told her I would start looking and I thanked her for her help.

Overall, I was pleased with the session. I had read and heard of a few other secret shopper experiences that were pretty bad. She spent about 10 minutes of her time helping me. She also seemed more than happy to help me and she didn't just sit behind the desk. She got up and took me into the stacks and pointed out some authors that might fit what I was looking for. She also told me to let her know if I had other questions or needed additional help and that made me feel more comfortable approaching her again if I had other questions.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Kirkus Review

Title: From a Buick 8
Author: Stephen King
Publisher: Scribner (September 24th, 2002)
Pages: 356
ISBN: 0743228472
Genre: Horror
In his second book about an “evil” car (Christine), Steven King tells the story of a Pennsylvania State Police Troop and their experience with an abandoned old Buick.

The Pennsylvania State Police of Troop D in rural Pennsylvania have kept a secret from the rest of the world since 1979. Troopers Ennis Rafferty and Curtis Wilcox respond to a call from a gas station not far from their barracks about an abandoned Buick Roadmaster. After arriving on the scene both troopers realize something isn’t right about this car. The driver has disappeared and the car is towed to the barracks. Just a few hours later Trooper Ennis Rafferty disappears.

The troop hides the car back in shed B for over 20 years. Through that time the troop experiences the power of the car but over the years the strange activity is less frequent. That is, until Trooper Curtis Wilcox is killed in a gruesome auto accident during a routine traffic stop and his son begins to hang around the barracks. He discovers what is hiding in shed B and stirs up the old Buick.

The 356 pages of this book seemed to be mostly filler. The book, good in parts, is a mediocre story of gloom and despair with an unsatisfying ending.

Annotation #6 - W.A.R.

Title: W.A.R. - The unauthorized biography of William Axl Rose
Author: Mick Wall
Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1st Edition (February 5th, 2008)
Pages: 368
ISBN: 0312377673
Genre: Non-Fiction/Biography

I love Guns N Roses and I don't care who knows! As soon as I saw this book I had to have it and I actually buy very few books. William Bailey aka Axl Rose is from Lafayette, Indiana as is another original member of GNR, Jeff Isabel aka Izzy Stradlin. I grew up listening to their music and I have always followed the band. A band that was at one time labeled "The Most Dangerous Band in the World". Fights, arrests, death, drugs, and sex are all covered in this book. It is the story of a young boy in Indiana that becomes the biggest rock star in the world.

The author is Mick Wall, he has been a rock journalist since 1977 and did have unprecedented access to the band at the peak of their fame. He has written other books about Guns and Roses and other bands of the same era. There was a falling out between Axl Rose and Wall was mentioned in the song "Get in the ring".

This book is as much about the band as it was about Axl but it does have sections devoted to the infamous front man. The book mostly covers the formation of the original lineup to the breakup of Axl and Slash which for all purposes ended Guns and Roses. Rose actually owns the Guns and Roses name and has continued on after a reclusive six years after the initial split of Slash from the band. He has continues to play with others under the name Guns and Roses. This book was published just before Axl's much hyped and overdue album "Chinese Democracy" was released and includes some information about the album. An album that took over 15 years and 13 million dollars to make!

This is a good book if you do not already know much about the band. There is not a lot of new information in this book and almost all of the information is pulled from the sources listed at the back of the book. What is new is the biased opinions and comments of the author throughout the book that become old very quickly. If you followed the band or Axl you would probably know most of this information from previous stories, articles or books.

Once upon a time, Axl Rose was the biggest rock star in the world. Now he is a seen as a reclusive figure that shut himself out from the world in his mansion and rarely comes out or is seen in public for long periods of time. It is said that he is bi-polar and he has been prescribed medicine for his mental disorders. Axl Rose is a person that hast turned into more of a myth than a person. A lot of people close to Axl have said "Axl likes to do what he likes to do no matter what time of the day or night it is". When the author asked one person during the band's peak how that made him different from any other rock star, they said "You'll find out". That is what this book attempts to explain.

Annotation #5 - Hondo

Title: Hondo
Author: Louis L’Amour
Publisher: Bantam (1953)
Pages: 178
ISBN: 1582880638
Genre: Western

It’s the 1870’s and Hondo Lane is a scout for the US Army. He is scouting the Apaches led by Chief Vittoro in southeastern Arizona. Hondo is a mystery man and a loner, traveling alone except for his mangy wild dog, Sam. While out on a scouting mission he comes across a ranch in a small valley. It is here Hondo meets Angie Lowe and her six year old son, Johnny. Hondo can tell that the man of the ranch has been gone for long time even though Angie tries to conceal the fact. Hondo stays the night and does a few small jobs around the ranch before heading back to the fort for his duties.

During Hondo’s stay Angie is drawn to his strength and Johnny looks up to him because his father has been missing in his life. When Hondo returns to the fort he has a run in with Ed Lowe. Not long after the run in Hondo discovers that Ed is Angie’s husband and he is a no good gambler that has all but deserted his family at the ranch. With an Indian war on the horizon Hondo decides to ride back to the ranch to check on Angie and Johnny.

On his journey back to the ranch Hondo comes across Ed Lowe. At first Hondo saves Ed’s life during an Indian attack and then Ed turns on Hondo and Hondo is forced to kill him. He is then captured by the Apache, tortured, and then through an odd twist of fate is reunited with Angie and Johnny after Vittoro learns of the time Hondo has spent living with other Apaches. Hondo learns when he was gone that Chief Vittoro has made Johnny his blood brother and how Hondo must help raise the boy in the ways of the Apache. Hondo and the Apache know a war is imminent forcing Hondo to decide what to do.

To me this is a classic western. The unsettled western frontier, good guys, bad guys and lots of gun play. We have Hondo who is a tough and honest man, Angie who is a good hardworking woman, a no good gambling husband and as always, there are dangerous Indians. There is no gray area for the characters in the book. They are clearly good or bad. Of course, the good guys win and the bad guys die.

I have read a lot of comments about Louis L’Amour’s writing talent or lack of talent. From what I have read about him this is his first full length novel. This book was made into a movie by the same name starring John Wayne. The plot was very straightforward and he wasted no words telling the story.

The story was full of action and fast paced. There was a lot of gun play and death but no graphic details. The romance between Angie and Hondo could appeal to fans of that genre but women may find this story offensive because it is implied a woman needs a man to survive. Native Americans may find also be offended because they are portrayed as savages, however, the story also shows the Apache as very noble and brave.

This book was a quick read and kept my attention. It had everything I think a western fan would want in this genre. When I think westerns, I think of John Wayne. The cover of the book had a quote from him and he says “Best western novel I have ever read” and when it comes to westerns I don't want to argue with the Duke.