Friday, February 25, 2011

E-books in libraries

I have posted on some of my concerns about libraries, e-books, digital rights management (and its associated software), and the fact that libraries are now purchasing "access" or licenses, and not items protected by the copyright law and doctrine of "first sale rights." Some of those concerns were framed by the way some libraries are using Netflix.

Tom Peters did a great historical survey on ALA Techsource in a post called E-Book Lending Clubs. (It is very much an irony that it hit the web just a day or two before the HarperCollins thing blew up!)

Infodocket was first on my radar screen to pick up the latest. [It is a new blog from folks with good blogging/library pedigrees.] Their post (It's Always Something) makes some good points.

Eric Hellman gives a good overview of the e-book industry and some of the issues from the publishing perspective. He ends his post with an interesting observation:
Even if the lending models of today turn out to be transitional, they help everyone involved become comfortable with library ebooks. Once the library ebook experience becomes embedded in our everyday lives, readers, publishers, authors and librarians will be able to recognize the novel digital distribution models that benefit everyone.
Maybe the transition is already beginning. But let's hope that the publishers listen to the backlash and do something for libraries rather than to which is what it seems that they are starting to do.

It seems that this issue has now become a huge concern. Here is the story as reported in Library Journal: HarperCollins Puts 26 Loan Cap on Ebook Circulations. You should read the comments.

Joe Atzberger has a succinct post and summary.

Stephen Abram posted about an article on "The Subscription Economy" where he notes some of the positive aspects and draws the analogy to what libraries are doing with serials (which also worries me, even as I weed the collections here at work). What he does not mention are the negative aspects/problems with the subscription model. What do you do when the organization which sold you the subscription goes bankrupt, or in Internet tradition, just disappears leaving only a "404 Page not found" message?

Some of my concerns are also related to what Lorcan Dempsey talks about as the university's curatorial role. In some ways you can substitute "library" for "university." What is our curatorial role, and how can we fill that role when all we have paid for is a license, and not the property rights? I don't know the answer, but I do know that it is an important question to resolve.

David Lee King is asking for input/ideas on the topic. He summarizes things nicely in Let’s Play Rent-A-Book!

Finally, one of my Louisiana colleagues has posted her thoughts about the HarperCollins plan. (Nice post, Emilie!)

Well, it was finally, except that Sarah Houghton-Jan posted more extensively her thoughts. She is quoted in the LJ article cited above. She issues a call to action. For me the most quotable paragraph is this one:
I cannot over-emphasize that we are in trouble my friends. The lack of legislative leadership and advocacy in the last decade has created a situation where libraries have lost the rights to lending and preserving content that we have had for centuries. We have lost the right to buy a piece of content, lend it to as many people as we want consecutively, and then donate or sell that item when it has outlived its usefulness (if, indeed, that ever happens at all).

Links -- End of February

OK...first some fun. In New Orleans, food is always a good topic of conversation. Last summer Food TV did The Great Food Truck Race. Around the same time, I started noticing food trucks around Baton Rouge, particularly on North Street, and on Tuesdays, along Spanishtown Road. (I can see the latter from my office window.) I have eaten from a couple, and today, I found a great web site which lists all the BR food trucks along with their most recent tweet, twitter name, and web site (where applicable). Loads of fun, and the food is good, too!

Now on to the more serious stuff!

Iris Jastram is always thoughtful. Her job is so very different than mine that she gives me a valuable insight into the world of an academic reference librarian. (She works at Carleton College in Northfield MN. It is a highly regarded, small liberal arts college.)

Part of her official job includes instruction. Admittedly much of that is to what seems to a public librarian a fairly homogeneous audience. They are usually between 18 - 21 years old, and bound by the topic of the class which they are taking. More recently she blogged about learning goals.

It is an interesting post...there is a lot of content there. However, I'll note that what she talks about is what Boy Scout Leadership Training (both for youth and adults -- note: I have participated as an adult in both courses linked here) as well as my current work place call "learning objectives." When I do a presentation currently, one of the first slides is always. "By the end of this session you will know..."

The ALA Washington Office has a long (for them) post about what is going on in Congress over net neutrality. It is a good place to catch up on the latest.

Maybe this belongs in the post about e-books, but Jessamyn West posted before the current kerfuffle about e-books and libraries. She starts with "This is shaping up to be the year that people really start seeing ebooks and libraries as things that can go together." I hope she is correct.

Finally (for this post), the ever thoughtful Karen Schneider has a nice piece on advice for new librarians and mentoring. It is worth reading, and if you haven't read her other posts on the topic recently, follow her links.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Links - Mid-February

My Google Reader is getting clogged up with saved posts, so it must be time again.

digital infrastructure for the National Archives. She questions some of the basic assumptions and costs.

On her own blog, she talks about what she calls "lexicality." This is the ability to express a concept in words. Her evaluation is that it is easy to clearly express and define a concept in "the sciences," but much less easy in other fields. That is what makes it so hard to look for things in catalogs...and even on Google. The bottom line is that in scientific writing, the concepts are terms which will show up in the full text of a work. The same is not necessarily true in fields like philosophy -- or I would argue, even library science.

I picked this up from Jessamyn, but several other including Brian Herzog noted it. (How did his blog slip off my list???) Would you have recognized a USB keylogger? I guess it started in England, I have not seen one.

I am sometimes looking for a library specific image for a flyer. Stephen Abram has noted a location for free images for library use.

Kathy Dempsey has a great post about why it is important to read the articles/posts/reviews/comments that are not favorable to libraries.

Karen Schneider posted about some of the trends that she has observed. They include:
  1. the shift from DVD to streaming video (happening at a faster than expected rate)
  2. wi-fi saturation [you'll have to read her post for this...]
  3. laptops (at least on a college campus they are almost ubiquitous)
She ends by commenting on the need for power and tables. While I don't see that trend (and we are more like a public library than an academic), the February 1 issue of Library Journal did in an article called "The Quiet Plug Crisis."

Friday, February 11, 2011


Earlier this week, I posted a bunch of links. Included was a link to Karen Schneider's post "In Praise of Succeeding." The very next morning I heard a talk by Katrice Albert, whose topic was on cultural competence and diversity (her specialty).

Included in her presentation was a video of Dewitt Jones, a free lance photographer for the National Geographic , who talked about creativity. Listening to the points he made encouraged me to go back to Karen's post.

In my linking to Karen's post I had said: "Early in the essay she says (and I cleaned up the shorthand a little), 'Another blog post I don’t have time to write: how failure is overrated, and often confused with iterative design.' I like that last part....'confused with iterative design.' That is a great phrase, since I am generally a half full glass person. She draws very heavily from her experience in a MFA writing program. It is a great post."

She notes that the conversations about failure are mostly about our getting comfortable with the fact that we won't always succeed. She notes "But let’s be clear that succeeding is personally and professionally more rewarding than failing." [Oh, how true that is!]

She then goes on to talk about the importance of the iterative design process, and group processes. Karen drew on an experience from her MFA program where one student dropped out because, as she said, "This writer liked the idea of 'succeeding,' ... but was not able to handle what success actually required."

In the Dewitt Jones video he talked about the concept of "multiple right answers." This is most certainly true in his work, and he showed examples of how either changing lenses on his camera, changing his position, or changing what he (literally) focused on, would dramatically change what we, the viewers saw. He talked about positioning ourselves in the "place of most potential."

The handout for the presentation drew on these points and listed "nine concepts of everyday creativity." These belong to Katrice Alpert, and she should be credited with them:
  1. Creativity is the ability to look at the ordinary and see the ... extraordinary.
  2. Every act can be a creative one.
  3. Creativity is a matter of perspective.
  4. There's always more than one right answer.
  5. Reframe problems into opportunities.
  6. Don't be afraid to make mistakes.
  7. Break the pattern.
  8. Train your technique.
  9. You've got to really care.
It is a great list. It can be applied to most library situations. One of the electronic discussion lists I regularly read (and is co-moderated by Karen) is PUBLIB, an electronic discussion list for public librarians. There are (the last I heard) about 7,000 subscribers. The archives are on the web. The topics covered are wide ranging. What often fascinates me is the different ways that librarians solve the problems faced in public libraries. No one solution is always correct.

Karen's post contains some real gems towards the end. (I am glad that I went back and re-re-read it!) One of them is this one: "the failure may not be in the idea, but how it is introduced and managed." She notes that if an organization can only do ten things, the eleventh idea will either supplant one of the prior ten, or will have to wait.

In my life I have dealt with many impatient people. Another gem of a quote from Karen is: "Patience, grasshopper. “Not now” is not the same as “no.” Sometimes a great idea needs to wait its turn..." There is more after that, which you should read.

So, I am grateful to two women whose names start with K who touched me intellectually this week: Karen Schneider and Katrice Albert

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Google Reader, Revisited

A recent post on 3 Great Ways To Read Your Google Reader Feeds [via AL Direct] reminded me that I should revisit the topic of Google Reader.

Four years ago (almost exactly) I wrote about my first experiences with Google Reader. I was not a happy camper. I had some colloquy with colleagues about tips and techniques for using Google Reader. I tried a second time, and was still unhappy. I remained a Bloglines user for a long time. Well, Bloglines essentially went away.

I now use Google Reader, pretty exclusively, to follow the 164 blogs that I care about.

I think Google Reader has changed some. What else has changed is that I now use Gmail for most of my personal email. It has the handy little link which will automatically open Google Reader. That makes it incredibly easy to read the blogs. As a result, I am very caught up, and don't mind (as much) the assumption that you want to read the latest posting first. I have set several up (manually) to post with the oldest first, and - for now - I am content.

I ran across my posts, and realized that I should "fess up" to having been converted, later rather than sooner.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Links: Late January - Early February

Stephen Abram provided a link and summary of the Pew report on Americans living with disability and their technology profile. And as often as I have thought and talked about the digital divide, my focus was more on the socio-economic factors. I have not thought as much as I should about the digital divide between those of us who are people without significant life disabilities, and people who have some important life disability.

My friend Jessamyn and I have shared many conversations about the other digital divides. Her perspective focuses on the rural issues (like in her home state of Vermont). She talks about some of the issues here. Many of my thoughts are centered around the urban poor who are often equally disadvantaged.

David Lee King did a great series of posts on how to do better presentations.

I know that there are some libraries which have been doing this for years. The Ferguson Library in Stamford CT was doing it about 10 years ago. American Libraries has a post with some simple "how-to" instructions on running a passport acceptance facility (it can be a revenue stream!).

I always worry when Library 2.0 is brought up and the topic turns to 'discovery.' What exactly is meant by that. I probably should spend some time thinking about it, but Lorcan Dempsey talks about a recent report out of the University of Minnesota on discovery in the library. It is well worth reading. (And by putting it here, I won't lose it.)

Eric Hellman has thought a lot about a "national digital library." He has written a post with a proposal on how such a library could be funded, in the US at least, through tax deductions. It is very thoughtful.

Leo Lo (a recent find for me) has started a series on screenwriting for a librarians by starting with a promotional video. I expect that this will be a very useful series.

Finally, my friend Karen Schneider has written about success. She was reacting to a question about stories of failure. Early in the essay she says (and I cleaned up the shorthand a little), "Another blog post I don’t have time to write: how failure is overrated, and often confused with iterative design." I like that last part...."confused with iterative design." That is a great phrase, since I am generally a half full glass person. She draws very heavily from her experience in a MFA writing program. It is a great post.

IKEA lies - IKEA service sucks

It is strong language...but it is my truth.

I previously believed it wrong. but today it was proved true.

Story to prove the truth:
We have owned a lamp for several years. (It is not an expensive lamp.)

The lamp broke at the base. It is a fundamental design flaw because it is the single week point since it is the single piece which joins the base to the pole for the lamp. The lamp you don't want to buy is the NOT.

Mine snapped off right where the base goes to the upright pole.

Clearly a weak point.

I tried to get a replacement part from the local hardware store, but since two sides are machined, it is not available from anyone but IKEA.

So, I called the national number.

They said to visit "my local store." Yeah, right. The light was purchased in Minnesota, the "nearest" store is in Houston which is almost 500 miles away.
Previously, with another piece of furniture, the customer service folks had been wonderfully accommodating. This time? Not so much. After a series of emails, here is the response I received:
Unfortunately, IKEA simply does not have the availability of an
option to purchase separate components for our NOT lamps, either in
store or online.

We appreciate your inquiry and apologize for the inconvenience, but
the only possible way a replacement component might be obtained would
be at an IKEA store that happened to have availability in its
recovery department.
Which means (to me) that, if you cannot come to our store, you are SOL (Simply Out of Luck).

Well, that is so not 21st Century. It is so not Internet friendly, and most importantly, it is not green. IKEA says on its web site:
The Never Ending list consists of all the improvements we have made for people and the environment. Here’s where we are so far.

[A long list ... not really environmental. ]
And you know what? They lie!!

I have in my car trunk, a light base, and the pole, but NO way to connect them, and I have to toss them because the manufacturer WILL NOT provide the parts. I have to toss these otherwise useful parts because of the lack of a $2 piece of shaped metal.

So, I say: IKEA lies. IKEA sucks!!!!!

Monday, February 07, 2011

Libraries and Branding

This is a consciously short post.

I am reading the February 2011 issue of Cites and Insights by Walt Crawford. If you don't read it regularly you should. Walt is a good writer and has a good grasp of many of the issues facing libraries, especially related to technology.

On page 15, as part of a discussion about "Libraries: Not About Books," he expresses a very important concept which I am going to slightly paraphrase:

Libraries need to build their brand from books not by running away from them.
That is a very, very powerful statement.