21st Century Libraries- Innovation, Information and High School Diplomas!


[Dear Reader-While I have made the decision that I will only include details about my own library very sparingly on this blog- I prefer to rely on my experiences in broad strokes rather than specifics about my current library- I felt that yesterday marked a milestone I would be remiss if I did not share. I certainly would have blogged about it if I had seen it in the news at any other Library.  So here you have it:]

Beginning October 9, 2014, Trenton Free Public Library will offer Trenton residents the opportunity to earn an accredited high school diploma at the Library at no cost.

This program, an initiative brought to public libraries by Cengage Learning/Gale, is the world’s first accredited, private online school district. Career Online High School and is specifically designed to reengage adults into the education system and prepare them for entry into post-secondary career education or the workforce. This is NOT a GED program. Successful graduates will earn a high school diploma and a career certification through an accredited high school. Learning and literacy will be accessible to students in a non-traditional, online environment, allowing them to take classes remotely or at their local public library. Adult students will have the ability to select a career pathway and gain career skills in high-demand job disciplines. Upon completion of the program, these students will be able to combine literacy skills with occupational skills.

With Library budgets stretched as they are, you may be wondering, “How on Earth did they afford such a program?” As with so many wonderful things that come to libraries, it came in the form of an award (grant).

Select New Jersey Libraries will begin offering Online Certified High School Programs to their Patrons from the University Herald Oct 8, 2014:

New Jersey residents will have the opportunity to earn accredited high school diplomas and credentialed career certificates through six public libraries.

“Libraries are evolving beyond books into true educational institutions and Gale is delighted to be the partner to make that happen,” Frank Menchaca, senior vice president for global product management at Gale, said in a statement. “This is the first statewide implementation of Career Online High School and we can’t wait to see the impact it will have on communities and the students themselves.”

“This innovative project is the latest step in the transformation of public libraries in the digital age into full-fledged community resources,” said Mary Chute, New Jersey State Librarian. “New Jersey’s libraries are committed to supporting the development of a well-educated and well-trained workforce, which will enable New Jersey’s employers to compete in the global market.”

New Jersey residents interested in the Career Online High School program should visit www.njstatelib.org/yourdiploma.

 

Now, if you are like me, you are probably thinking “Wow. I always read these stories but how do libraries actually GET these awards/grants?!” Well this is how it happened for us:

In January of this year I read an article that literally made me pick up the phone and call Gale Cengage- not the next day but that very moment! This was that article:

LA Public Library to Offer High School Diplomas! CBS News Jan 9, 2014.

and this was the quote that really made me sit up and think:

“The exciting thing about public libraries is they are places people trust,” he [Howard A. Liebman of Gale] said. “So people, who may have felt ashamed about not having a high school diploma, will feel safe going there to get one.”

Public Libraries ARE a place of trust, acceptance, support, and openness that can create the perfect “judgement free” zone for this type of program. In addition, as a stong proponent of the Public LIbrary’s mission to support the existance of an ‘Informed Citizenry’ this was a no brainer! I HAD to have this program at my Library!!

So, like a crazed shop-a-holic watching the HSN at 2am, I picked up the phone and called Gale’s sales department. They politely informed me that they had no information on the product but someone would return my call. SIGH! Thwarted!! But wait- they said they would call and so they did! In the form of Brian Risse, Vice President – National Sales Manager, Public Libraries Cengage Learning- Gale. And by February I had him live and in person in my office making the sales pitch. Unfortunately, at the end of the day, despite my deepest desires, we were unable to acquire the program as the cost was simply outside our grasp.

But wait! Luckily for us, the NJ State Library had the same vision and was able to secure funding for the initiative from the NJ Department of Labor and this summer it was announced that they would begin accepting applications for Libraries wishing to participate.

So, after months of writing, meetings with community partners and the installation of a computer classroom funded by Community Development Block Grant monies, our application to be selected for the New Jersey pilot program to offer the Career Online High School was accepted and we rejoiced! From the first article on Jan 9th to the launch on October 6th- nearly 9 months elapsed and it does feel a bit like we have ‘given birth’ to something truly special.

As with many urban communities the educational situation in Trenton is a near constant topic of concern and conversation. This year the State “report card” lists us dead last in NJ- again- with a drop out rate of 48%.  The situation is dire!  But while there are many committed, smart people working on solutions for today and tomorrow’s students…what about yesterday’s?  There are an estimated 13,000 Trentonians in their 20s&30s without a High School diploma.  ANY educational solutions for our Schools will be too late for them.  THIS program is a real solution with the potential to start having a REAL impact with real High School graduates as soon this Spring! 

Earning a high school diploma is a life-changing achievement. By offering this opportunity through public libraries rather than ONLY in a ‘for-profit’ model by institutions of higher learning (as it has been previously) , we are empowering our library patrons to seek new opportunities and transform their lives. We are helping to solidify our core mission “to provide the open and equal access to information that is necessary for the existence of an informed citizenry able to participate in their government.” in a fundamental way. A High School Diploma!

Is it ideal that anyone does or must leave school before graduation? Of course NOT! Do we want our young people to stay in school and graduate in the natural course? Of Course!! And wouldn’t it be wonderful if we lived in a world where no one ever stumbled, life was easy, and we all chose wisely the first time around? It would! But how many decisions in life do you regret? How many times do you wish you could call a do-over? Unfortunately that opportunity is rare. But imagine if that regretted decision concerned something as fundamental to your existence and participation in our society as your high school diploma? Now imagine if you were offered a second chance? This program is that concept in practice and goes directly to the heart of our Mission.

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21st Century Library Blog goes to Denmark!


It is with much pleasure that I announce that I will be the closing keynote speaker at the Danish Union of Librarians’ annual conference “Snapshot! – The Librarian in 2014″ on Sunday October 26, 2014 in Nyborg Strand, Denmark. The Conference announcement is at this link.

The Danish Union of Librarians (“Bibliotekarforbundet”) conference will focus on “the professional dna” of the librarian – focus on the profession, on the skills and the identity of the librarian.  The blog posts that caught their interest and generated the invitation were written by my father, Dr. Stephen Matthews, and include:   “Five Challenges Every Librarian Must Face” , “A Sixth Challenge Every Librarian Must Face”, and You May Be A 21st Century Librarian If You”.  They are exceptional blogs and remain some of the top visited on this site.  Based on each of our schedules, it was determined that I would attend and make the presentation.

In addition to the conference, my time with the librarians of Denmark will include visits to various libraries, a lunch at the Librarian House, an interview with “Perspektiv” (Perspective), the magazine of the Danish Union of Librarians, and last but certainly not least a 2 hour presentation on the past, present and future of American Libraries at the University of Copenhagen’s Royal School of Library and Information Science.

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Stay tuned to hear more about the upcoming trip, my experiences with the Danish Librarians, and more!!
For additional fascinating information about the Danish Librarians Union visit this link.

 

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Public Libraries Must Agree Upon a Mission If We Are to Survive


As Librarians we are repeatedly told that the average person doesn’t really know what the Library does. We worry about this. We recognize that this lack of understanding leads to reduced funding, marginalization, and potentially worse fates. We discuss at length how to address the problem. We market. We advocate. We promote. And still we hear from surveys and studies that people “love the Library” but they aren’t really sure what we do or offer. The more frighting notion is that by not understanding what we do they cannot truly understand why we exist.

I consider the folks at Forbes to be a fairly intelligent group (ok-there might be a few non-MENSAs in the group but lets not fight the hypo..); but look at this article by David Vinjamuri

” …public libraries in America: they are dynamic, versatile community centers. They welcomed more than 1.59 billion visitors in 2009 and lent books 2.4 billion times – more than 8 times for each citizen. More than half of young adults and seniors living in poverty in the United States used public libraries to access the Internet. They used this access, among other purposes to “find work, apply to college, secure government benefits, and learn about critical medical treatments” For all this, public libraries cost just $42 per citizen each year to maintain.”
“Public libraries for their part have been slow to react to the dramatic changes in publishing and reading that threaten their ability to fulfill their core mission of promoting reading. By focusing too heavily on giving patrons access to bestsellers and popular movies, libraries risk missing the significant opportunity afforded by the explosion in the number of new books published each year.”

So Mr. Vinamuri is pretty clear that we are community centers whose core Mission is reading. Really? Hmm…I thought we were about Information.

As a professional who has spent considerable time on the topic of Strategic Planning, Mission Statements are a go-to for me when I want to know why an organization exists. So I began pondering the correlation between this apparently massive disconnect between our efforts to advocate ourselves and the public lack of understanding of Libraries. I found something startling: We have created this confusion!!

If you spend 15 minutes searching every Library that pops to mind and you read their mission statements you will discover, as I did, that they are ALL over the map. In addition, so many of them are filled with the latest trending buzzwords/phrases such as: life-long learning, community gathering place, advance knowledge, community anchor, bringing people together, foster creativity and so on. What I did not see was a cohesive presentation of the mission/purpose of the Public Library. Next I turned to ALA documents and other professional sources and while I could find bits and pieces…I never found a clear, concise statement of WHY we (the Free Public LIbrary) exist. Even Wikipedia failed me! What I did repeatedly find was that the main task of a Public LIbrary is to lend books and other materials. Great! BUT WHY??!!

So, if you cannot find- you create. To that end, I submit (knowing some will inevitably disagree) that :

The Mission of the Free Public Library is to provide the open and equal access to information that is necessary for the existence of an informed citizenry able to participate in their government.

Because I believe this is the reason Free Public Libraries exist, I have NEVER had difficulty answering the ever-present questions of “Will Libraries become obsolete?” “Will Google replace Libraries?” “Will eBooks make Libraries irrelevant?” Of course not! As long as our political system finds its foundation in an Informed Citizenry there will always be a need for the Public LIbrary. That is- as long as WE remember why we exist. If we continue to make our Mission the latest trend then we will be our own demise.

A basic principal taught in business school comes from the 1960’s writings of Theodore Levitt, a Harvard Business School professor. Mr. Levitt forwarded the notion that, to be successful, businesses must focus on customer needs not on a specific product. He used the example of buggy whip manufacturers. If they had focused on accessory products for modes of transportation rather than JUST buggy whips- they might not have become obsolete when the automobile rolled around. Utilizing this same thinking, Public Libraries should focus on the primary customer need- information- and recognize that these trending buzzwords/phrases are great marketing tools that add to our Mission but do not replace it.

Why is it that we seem so determined to ‘jazz’ up our Mission with the latest trend? In a recent discussion I had with a group of Librarians I jotted down some of these buzz-words and phrases: Life-long learning, Community gathering place, Advance Knowledge, Community Anchor, Foster Creativity. It is my contention that these are METHODS to, RESULTS from, or REQUIREMENTS of fulfilling our mission…not the mission itself. For example: Literacy is a basic skill required to effectively seek and utilize information resources. Thus literacy is something in which Libraries have a vested interest but in and of itself it is not our Mission. A Library may become a community anchor as a result of fulfilling their Mission. Life-long learning is a method to the creation of an informed citizenry. The Mission of all Public Libraries in America is exactly the same – though the application is and should be radically different as dictated by the community the Library serves. This application is where the method, result, and requirements become unique; but we have allowed them to pervade our essential Mission.

During my search of various Library Mission Statements, I discovered that even the library’s that kept their Mission Statement fairly straight forward couldn’t quite resist the lure of including verbiage such as “Entertain”. For example:
“The Everywhere Public Library provides materials, information, technology and cultural opportunities to enrich, empower, educate and entertain people of all ages and backgrounds.”
Perhaps they felt these inclusions gave them an easy-to-point-to rational to encompass those less ‘educational’ portions of our offerings (such as DVDs and Romance novels). I would argue that we need no such rationals. Allowing all citizens access to those materials, such as film and television- from which we derive so much of our common vernacular and shared ideas, is as vital to participating in a water-cooler conversation as reading Plato will ever be (if not more). Who hasn’t referenced a popular film or television program in conversation to illustrate a point? (“I made him an offer he couldn’t refuse!”) If you cannot afford the DVD or Television- you may not have access to view the films [if you wish to] and therefore will never fully understand those references and thus the sublties of such conversations. Thus these offerings become essential to the fulfillment of our Mission.

We play a vital role in the provision of our Constitutional Republic. We should embrace and reinforce that role, not only as the privilege and honor it is, but also as the assurance of our continued relevance and essential nature. Why is this not enough? Do we feel our Mission must be ‘jazzed’ up to draw in patrons? Or are these divergent and mixed messages of our Mission a result of our own internal crisis about who we are as a profession? Did we feel that the public trust would be improved by disassociating ourselves with the image of a government entity?

Whatever the cause, this inconsistent message of the Mission of the Free Public LIbrary must stop! We should revel and stand tall in the knowledge that we are the sole entity (government or otherwise) tasked with providing equal and open access to information so that our citizens are able to become informed and thereby participate in their own governance. Fulfill that mission in whatever manner (literacy, life-long learning, entertainment, community gathering place) best suits your unique community- But let us stop mixing Mission and method. If we, the champions of this amazing service called the Public Library, can all agree on ONE Mission that is unique, essential, and timeless then perhaps our united voice would be enough to eradicate the public’s misconceptions about the Public Library. If we know who we are- so will they.

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21st Century Librarians are the original Growth Hackers


Just the other day I came across one of the biggest buzzwords of 2014: Growth Hacker. I was unfamiliar so I started digging.

Lauren Hockenson in her article on Mashup defines Growth Hackers as:

“The growth hacker is essentially a scrappy, resourceful and creative marketer with a knack for attracting users. It’s a must-have role in most startups because it helps put the product in the hands of the masses and expand word-of-mouth reach. And it won’t be going away anytime soon — even if the name fizzles out in the next few years.”

So essentially- a Growth Hacker is someone who grows your business with marketing tactics using inventive ideas due to limited resources.

Well! This sounds like every user-centered Librarian I know! “But Kimberly,” you say, “Every sources says that Gowth Hackers are for ‘startups’! Libraries have been around forever. We aren’t start-ups!”

While the definition of a start up by wikipedia shows no relation to Liibraries :

temporary organization designed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model.

No, we are not startups. But we have an aweful lot in common when it comes to challenges and keys to success! While all the different business sources seem to have a different “Top 10″ of pitfalls, challenges, and keys to success, these 5 items consistently appear:
1. Inadequate Funding – for libraries that is an old song of slashed budgets and lost funding.
2. Poor Planning – how many years, meetings, or conference sessions have we endured to increase our planning acumen?
3. Staffing Problems – ranging from too few to disproportion in the grade levels (top/bottom heavy organizations) to needing new blood to our organizational memory retiring to “that’s not my job”. Where there are organizations there will always be staff problems just as there will always be sunburns with sunshine!
4. Competitors – Say it with me now: “Why do we still need libraries when we have Google?”
5. Poor or Inadequate Marketing – If we all just had a dime for every time we have heard “I didn’t know the library has/does that!!??” Marketing is something libraries are learning to do better everyday…but it still isn’t ingrained in us!

Libraries can lay claim to facing all of these challenges. In fact, these may be our be the “Top 5 Organizational Challenges For Public Libraries”.

Fast Company in their article on the current secrets of business marketing :

“Sean Ellis, a startup advisor who coined the term, put it like this: “The #1 requirement for effective, sustainable growth hacking is to start with a ‘must have’ product experience.”

But we can also stand proud knowing that we definitively have the MUST HAVE product of the ages…Access to Information.

So do you have a Growth Hacker on your staff to grow your patron base using innovative tactics?! YES? Then you, Dear Reader, are a true 21st Century Librarian!!

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Doing More with Less in 21st Century Libraries


… why are we still saying this?!!! It isn’t true and it isn’t possible. Its delusional and, worse, its harmful! Harmful not just to one organization; but to libraries everywhere. Libraries around the world fight every day for increased budget. Continuing to proudly promote the notion that we can do more with less if we try hard enough undermines every library budget effort.
Think of it like this:
If you have a staff member who says “I’m completely swamped! I don’t have a minute to spare!!” You give them a project anyway and they somehow find time to accomplish it without dropping anything else. Do you think that they were miraculously able to do more with less or are you more inclined to think that they were actually not using their time effectively to begin with and indeed really did have the time to take on a new project? The same theory holds true for the library and our budget decision-makers. If we say we are doing as much as possible with the money that we have and we need more, then our budgets are reduced, and we miraculously find a way to do more with less why WOULDN’T the budget makers assume that we were actually not using our money effectively in the first place!?

Where does this leave our credibility? What should anyone take us seriously the next time we approach with an outstretched hand asking for more funds? Isn’t it reasonable to assume that they will take a more critical view of what we are doing with what we currently receive every time we ‘do more with less’?!

When I hear someone say they are doing more with less I can’t help wonder if, in actuality, they were actually wasting money previously. While I’m sure this is not always true, sometimes it is and certainly there will be those around us that will think the same. The reality is the times are tight. The reality is the times have been tight before. The reality is that times will be tight again. We cannot do more with less; what we can do is less with less and we need people to understand that. We have to be honest, stop painting rosy pictures and start educating our communities on what these budget reductions truly mean to them. We are the experts on library service. Our communities don’t always know what is possible with adequate funding. It’s great to inform our patrons of our services and what we DO have to offer. However, it is also important to inform and educate about the services we COULD offer with adequate funding. People cannot lobby for or fund what they do not know exists.

We must stop being out own worst enemy and with our mantra of “we can do more with less” confirming for those who would reduce our funding that they did exactly the right thing! “Look! See. We reduced their budget and they are still fine!! We knew they had more money than they needed, this proves it!

If every time our budgets are cut we pat ourselves on the back because we took extreme measures to ensure that the public didn’t feel any reduction, where will the motivation come from for the community or politicos to EVER reinstate the monies that have been lost?? Instead of compulsively covering and self-consciously acting as if everything is fine for fear that someone might not think we are providing effective service, we need to stand up and say NO we can’t do more with less! We can’t even do the same with less and we most absolutely cannot provide the service our communities deserve and need with less!!

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Innovation is all a matter of Perspective


We spend so very much time talking about innovation and 21st century librarianship! We attempt to define what it is and what it looks like. We try to pin it down like a butterfly on a board so that we can study it. Why? Because we are either looking for a template (What should I be doing?) or validation (Ah Ha! I am innovative!) People ask me on a regular basis: “So what is the next big Library Innovation?” My answer remains always the same. “For which Library?”

What is innovative to one community is yesterday’s news to another and the work of a science-fiction whacko to yet another. In defining innovation, it is absolutely critical to know your audience (aka-your community).

All we need do is review that last week or so of headlines to see this play out:

Irving Public Library Unveils New Catalog!!

 Irving Public Library announces the launch of a new, state-of-the-art online catalog system, Polaris, which keeps track of library materials and customer records. The system goes live Aug. 28.

Customers also will be able to place holds and check out eBooks, as well as monitor account activity directly from the library’s catalog. Other new account features include an option to keep one’s reading history, create alphanumeric usernames and receive text notifications.

New Public Library Opens in Elk Mound

After years of work, Elk Mound finally has a library to call its own.

A grand opening for the new Elk mound Public Library was held Monday.

It’s a satellite library based out of Menomonie.

Ted Stark, the Director of the Menomonie Public Library, says the new building has all the resources as any other library, wireless internet, computers, books, magazines and much more.

He says the library is linked to several other libraries, and has access to around one and a half million books.

Ted stark, director of menomonie public library “I think it’s a lot better looking then I ever imagined it could be, because if you saw it before, my first thought was to tear it down, because it was bad but they have really done an amazing job, it’s like a brand new building,” says Stark.

The library will have regular hours Monday through Thursday

What’s all the Hoopla in Muncie??

Muncie Public Library is now offering Hoopla, a digital streaming service similar to Netflix.

The addition of Hoopla to MPL’s offerings is just another step in the library’s stated mission of keeping up all the growing and changing forms of media its patrons can use, according to Gentis. “We just want to offer what people want,” she said.

MPL Director Virginia Nilles called the addition of the streaming service “a natural progression” in the library’s embrace of technology. “We were interested in it before the technology was there,” she said.

MPL began offering Hoopla in July, and a little more than a month in had more than 200 users who were using it through the Hoopla app or website, Gentis said.

Though the article by Ms. Erickson is flawed in its logic nearly to the point of uselessness…it does highlight a fabulous innovation and utilize some wonderful quotes.  Is your idea of the innovative 21st Century Library one with more Technology and Less Books?  The James B. Hunt Jr. Library at North Carolina State University agrees!!

What Does a Library without Books Look Like?

What makes a library a library, anyway?

The James B. Hunt Jr. Library, at North Carolina State University, thinks it has an answer. University officials in Raleigh just spent $115 million building what some people call the most advanced library in the world.

“We started asking people, ‘What do you need?’” Hiscoe says. “We wanted to create a space that would serve the people who used it, not our high-minded idea of what a library should be.” The students, he says, had two main requests — they wanted spaces to work together and opportunities to visualize data on some kind of grand scale.

With these ideas in mind, the team set out to create a new kind of space. But they wanted to do more than drop in a couple of extra computer terminals and couches. It’s not an exaggeration to say that they set out to reinvent the library.

That meant hiring Oslo firm Snohetta to design the building, a sleek modernist structure that looks like rows and rows of shiny silver dominos, lined up on a ramp. It also meant playing down the books, and playing up the many other amenities, like the hang-out spaces.

Then there’s the technology, all 241,000 pieces. Students can rent out everything from iPads to microtiles to Google glasses. A hive of robots retrieves and reshelves the books. (Patrons can no longer wander through the stacks themselves, but they can “browse” digitally — a computer will pull up a photo of a particular shelf; patrons can request whatever they like). Screens are everywhere.

There are rooms where students can build simulations of entire spaces. Hunt Library wanted to have a spot, say, for students to digitally recreate a 17th-century cathedral. With that, they could study how sound travels, to better understand how sermons stirred people. “All we had is text,” Hiscoe says. “We didn’t know what it sounded like, whether the preacher is up there screaming, whether the echo would do particular things to his voices.”

A team of students and professors also digitally “re-created” a speech delivered by Martin Luther King Jr. at White Rock Baptist Church in 1960. Floor-to-ceiling screens displayed what King would actually have seen as he looked out into the crowd; audio technology modulated the volume of his talk so that students could get a feel for what it would actually have been like to hear the speech.

At first, people didn’t even think the space should be called a library, Hiscoe says. But once people actually get inside, they understand it as a focal point of the community, a place that brings people together to think, create and learn, a place that gives them the tools they need for these central missions. And isn’t that the point?

“No matter where people are, they have to look at their community and ask, ‘If it’s no longer books, what is it?’” Hiscoe says. “Every community will answer that question differently. But it’s a question that is answerable … Maybe you don’t buy a lot of Wallace Stevens … Maybe you buy a 3D printer instead.”

But on the other extreme of the “To Book or Not to Book” debate…you have Boston:
Why is Boston Public Library Discarding Books?

It’s housecleaning time at the Boston Public Library, with tens of thousands of books being pulled from branch shelves all around the city. And it’s a beast of a task. The only library in America with more volumes in its collection than the BPL’s 19 million-plus is the Library of Congress. Take that New York!

“The number of volumes in a library is not a good reflection of the quality of the collection or how well it’s being used,” said Larry Neal, head of the Public Library division of the American Library Association, and probable Yankees fan.

“The intention is not just to hoard everything that you can possibly stash away,” he said. “Your job is to provide things that the community wants that have an interest in and make it easy for them to find.”

And that means, sometimes, books have to go — something that Amy Ryan, head of the Boston Public Library, says is standard, daily practice for all libraries.

But many of the books being weeded are perfectly accurate and in good shape. They just aren’t being checked out. The BPL is targeting books that haven’t circulated for four to six years. And this has some concerned, like Dave Vieira, a longtime patron and former President of the City-Wide Friends of the Boston Public Library.

But what Ryan calls an evolution, feels like a revolution to Vieira — one that he worries could leave loyal, older patrons behind. At the opening of the East Boston library, he says he couldn’t help but think, “Where are all the books?”

“While the library of the future may look like that, we are moving too fast, we are rushing from point A to point C,” he said.

But whatever the speed, libraries, like the rest of us, have no choice but to trudge into the future. And for Neal, that future, looks remarkably like the past.

And it is also important to remember that not every experiment with innovation works! Failure is an important factor to consider in the risk of innovation. Only invest what you can survive losing and don’t be afraid to say your attempt failed…at least you tried!

Brooklyn Public Library Yanks iPads from Tots!!

Perverts at a Brooklyn public library have lost their iPad privileges.

Officials have permanently yanked two iPads out of the children’s reading section of the Kensington branch after kids and some parents kept sneaking off with the devices to shop, play violent video games and view porn sites, sources said.

“It’s a shame,” a library staffer said. “This was a pilot program. I guess you can say it failed.”

The iPads on the top floor of the 18th Ave. branch were installed with reading and other educational apps for youngsters between the ages of 2 and 5, when the branch opened two years ago.

But there have been “unfortunate issues” with older kids hijacking the electronics to change passwords and install their own apps, said library spokeswoman Emma Woods.

One even took a selfie and set it as the background photo, a library insider said.

So what do all these wide and varied examples of “innovation” mean. How do we reconcile the fact that they run the spectrum and sometime conflict with another library’s innovative methods? The take away is that Innovation (like beauty) is really in the eye of the beholder. To one community a nearly all-digital library with a maker’s space cathedral is innovative… To another it is having a library at all.

At the end of the day, the relevancy you create for your library within your community is the only true judge of your innovation.

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Authors now join Public Libraries as targets of Publisher and Bookseller censorship and greed – But who is the real victim?


It appears that it is not just Libraries any longer that are at the whim of publishers and booksellers. Authors now find themselves pawns in the game of market share and bottom-line. And some are NOT taking it lying down. Rather they are banding together, passing petitions and now a full-page spread in the New York Times Sunday addition at a cost of $104,000!

From ArsTechnica.com Report on the Dispute:

“Authors affected by Amazon’s contract dispute with publisher Hachette have started to band together against the online retailer, reported The New York Times on Thursday. More than 900 authors have signed a letter condemning Amazon for “using writers as hostages in its negotiations,” referring to Amazon’s choices to keep low stock of certain Hachette titles and taking weeks to ship them as the two companies battle over e-book prices.”

The Guardian Reports Best selling Authors take out Full Page New York Times Ad against Amazon:

“As writers – most of us not published by Hachette – we feel strongly that no bookseller should block the sale of books or otherwise prevent or discourage customers from ordering or receiving the books they want. It is not right for Amazon to single out a group of authors, who are not involved in the dispute, for selective retaliation. Moreover, by inconveniencing and misleading its own customers with unfair pricing and delayed delivery, Amazon is contradicting its own written promise to be ‘Earth’s most customer-centric company’,” write the authors, who include Stephen King, Donna Tartt, Paul Auster, Barbara Kingsolver and a host of other well-known names.

Read The Authors’ Letter

But Wait! What is this?? Amazon has not taken the attack in stride but has come out swinging!! They have written their own letter!! (Note it says it is a Letter to Readers – However, I first saw the exact text from an Amazon Author who forwarded an email he received from Amazon billed as a letter to its authors- Thanks Dr. Steve Matthews!)

Read The Amazon Letter to Readers
(OH! and they have they have a bibliography! Nicely played Amazon! Too bad so many facts were wrong- especially that Orwell reference. Pesky Details!)

But now the letters are flying! We did not have to wait long for Hachette’s Response!!
Read the Hachette Letter of Response

And what is to be made of all this back and forth? Well the New York Times made a little fun!
The New York Times Reports on Amazon’s Letter, Its Misquotes, and the Fall out!

At the end of the Times report it appears as if Amazon maybe pondering a go at the giant Disney!

“In a related development, it became widely known over the weekend that Amazon was in a dispute with yet another supplier, this time Disney. Amazon was doing the same thing with the movie studio that it did with Hachette: preventing customers from preordering physical copies of yet-to-be-released content.”

Wow…Disney may be about bringing joy to Children and Adults all over the world; but they are also notorious for aggressively protecting themselves successfully from just about any form of infringement. Amazon may find THEY are the Mouse…to a much larger Cat in that game!

So now, after reading all the press and the letters from the various players, What do we think? What side did you come down on? Who is fighting for what? Who is the Good/Bad guy? Do the details of the actual argument seem….muddled and confusing. I’m sure there are some pros and cons on all sides of the financial and philosophical argument (and a whole passel of lawyers); but to form a truly educated position might require a review of the actual contract in dispute. However, what cannot be disputed…is that in all this pointing and sharpening of the pen the only REAL victim is the CONSUMER. The person who simply wants access to the movie, book or eBook of their choice but is shut out. And when one of the worlds largest booksellers unapologetically employs tactics that covertly limit public access to material in a democratic society it should be a serious warning sign to us all!!

Booksellers and Publishers have been shutting America’s Public Libraries out of the eBook market for years. They have only recently opened the back door and ONLY if we are willing to buy our way in through ridiculous pricing or public-trust threatening “collaborations”. I wonder: Will these authors’ efforts have any greater impact on the covert stymieing of access by these booksellers and publishers than the nearly ineffectual attempts of America’s public libraries?

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