Monthly Archives: October 2010

DO NOT Confuse 21st Century “Library” with “Library Services”

Some uninformed reactionaries are taking advantage of innovations in LIBRARY SERVICES to confuse the public with descriptions or concepts of “THE LIBRARY” in the 21st Century. The latest example is the Wall Street Journal. Monday (October 25, 2010) WSJ reporter Conor Dougherty posted an article entitled “New Library Technologies Dispense With Librarians”, a headline designed purposefully to catch readers.

HUGO, Minn.—In this suburb of St. Paul, the new library branch has no librarians, no card catalog and no comfortable chairs in which to curl up and read. Instead, the Library Express is a stack of metal lockers outside city hall. When patrons want a book or DVD, they order it online and pick it up from a digitally locked, glove-compartment- sized cubby a few days later. It’s a library as conceived by the generation.

This lead for the article SURROUNDED a picture of a “stack of metal lockers” with a sign that states “Washington County Library Express Pick-Up”. This is what Dougherty is calling a “new library branch” – a Library Express Pick-Up. SERIOUSLY?

(For those of you who have Library Express Pick-Up services OUTSIDE your brick-and-mortar library branch, now you can count another “branch” on next year’s PLS Survey that you send to IMLS. AWESOME! Thank you Conor!)

OK, I’ll admit a long-standing personal dislike of reporters in general. They more often than not miss-report the facts, either through ignorance or through efforts to sensationalize a story. (I’ll let you decide which case this article and reporter fall into.) This dislike is justified as the result of personal experience with reporters who have done that – in virtually every situation in which I have been personally involved. It also comes from accounts of other individuals whom I know personally and whose word I trust who have also experienced the same miss-reporting. It is RAMPANT and PERVASIVE.

(Sorry, I’ll step down from that soap box and get back to the “story” at issue.)

Obviously, the sensational headline contained an element of truth (“element of truth” is the hallmark of reporters), but then the article immediately distorts the facts. What could have been simply described as a “new library service that offers Library customers time saving convenience” has been distorted into the lead sentence “In this suburb of St. Paul, the new library branch has no librarians, no card catalog and no comfortable chairs in which to curl up and read.”

OMG! the reader exclaims as they envision the total demise of their “comfortable chairs in which to curl up and read”. So the reporter follows that sensationalized distortion with another. “Faced with layoffs and budget cuts, or simply looking for ways to expand their reach, libraries around the country are replacing traditional, full-service institutions with devices and approaches that may be redefining what it means to have a library.” OK, how many libraries around the country are doing it – 6? out of 16,000! Is this even newsworthy for the Wall Street Journal? Aren’t there a LOT of political candidates they could malign?

Another reason this article hit a sensitive spot with me today is that my previous Post “7 Imperatives for Library Leadership (in the 21st Century) contained imperative 3. Embrace the concept of continuous innovation. that offered the example of “there might be changes in format, including the opening of smaller library “outlets” in what is essentially a variation on a theme already being practiced by retailers like Lowe’s, Wal-Mart, and Tesco. Libraries should appropriate the many traffic-building enhancements that retailers are making to their stores.” This is NOT suggesting that 21st Century Library “branches” are a “stack of metal lockers outside city hall”.

This deliberate distortion of a 21st Century library service as a “library branch” creates a false public impression of what the 21st Century Library actually is. We in the profession are having enough difficulty redesigning our 20th Century library into the 21st Century library without having to also re-educate the public about who and what their local library is, or is not, because reporters who know nothing about libraries are miss-representing and miss-characterizing them, just to make a story.

The WSJ reporter goes on to elaborate on the numerous companies that are designing and marketing DVD and pBook vending machines, and how they are being employed in local libraries. I certainly applaud library directors and boards for their innovation and resourcefulness in the face of difficult budgetary constraints. What concerns me is a trend toward libraries allowing commercial vendors to shape their library services, and eventually their library. This situation reminds me of an exchange some months ago with a reader who advocated closing their local library and later re-opening it when they had figured out what they should be. My counter point was “nature abhors a vacuum”, and in light of the librarian profession’s reluctance to address the 21st Century Library issue, commercial vendors are stepping in to redesign our libraries for us.
Vendors selling these vending machines to libraries in desperate situations reminds me of the first undergraduate class I taught back in the mid-80s. As an adjunct university teacher, I was handed a text book by the department chair and told “Just develop a course syllabus based on this.” Being ignorant to any other alternative, and given the education model that existed at the time, it seemed reasonable. It wasn’t until a few years later that I realized how “rote” that made the learning, and how teacher-centered it was, and how the text book industry was shaping the content of higher education.

In the 21st Century Library we are attempting to evolve into user-centered libraries that deliberately design services for their specific community of customers. We are interested in user interaction with the library, not preventing it. Director James Lund, Red Wing (MN) Public Library is quoted as saying in an interview; “The basis of the vending machine is to reduce the library to a public-book locker. Our real mission is public education and public education can’t be done from a vending machine. It takes educators, it takes people, it takes interaction.” Lund’s Library Journal article is very critical of the “vending library” that is “…devoid of human contact and only as dynamic as the nearest RedBox.”

Librarians who envision the 21st Century Library as a mechanized environment “devoid of human contact” are not librarians I want redesigning my local library. RedBox, Amazon and many others too numerous to mention are doing quite well in that area.


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7 Imperatives for Library Leadership (in the 21st Century)

On August 30, I Posted 21st Century Library – “Rebooted” Into Relevance that highlighted an exceptionally thought provoking article by Scott Corwin, Elisabeth Hartley & Harry Hawkes – “The Library Rebooted” published at Booz & Company website strategy+business.

Now seems like an excellent time to highlight and re-emphasize that article (because my bet is most of you did not bother with creating an account at the Booz & Company website, so you didn’t read the entire article),

Because the article contains the authors’ insightful
7 Imperatives for Library Leadership

    1. Rethink the operating model
    2. Understand and respond to user needs
    3. Embrace the concept of continuous innovation
    4. Forge a digital identity
    5. Connect with stakeholders in ways that pure internet companies cannot
    6. Expand the metrics
    7. Be courageous

And, because it contains many elements of change that are being discussed in the library community regarding becoming a 21st Century Library.

1. Rethink the operating model.
Many of the old assumptions about running a library — that the measure of a library’s quality is the size of its book collection, that there’s value in keeping even infrequently loaned books on the shelves, that library staffing decisions shouldn’t be questioned — are outmoded and need to be set aside. This is not to say that libraries will be able to re-create themselves as purely digital, service-oriented organizations; …. But many libraries today, operating in paper and film, haven’t changed some of their operating practices since World War II. Their role as the preservers of recorded history means they have to spend a lot of their resources just maintaining the assets they already have. … They should … explore new ways of serving users more conveniently, effectively, and efficiently. Perhaps they can create an online reservation system that patrons can use for a small fee if they want to have a book waiting for them at the front desk when they arrive. … Such analytically enabled improvements are necessary as libraries come under increasing budgetary pressure.” [Emphasis added.]

From my March 11 Post The 21st Century Library is More: Business-like: Efficient – “Even with an economic upswing on the horizon, the focus on doing more with less won’t fade away. In fact, some say the paradigm of productivity has changed. Smart companies are moving beyond the basics – empowering top talent to implement creative solutions and finding innovative ways to free up cash and lift operating performance.” Deloitte Development LLC

2. Understand and respond to user needs.
“Libraries have only the most general information about their users — how many of them there are, what they do when they are at the library, and what they borrow. … [Due to] some provisions of legislation enacted after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. … the solution most libraries have settled on — namely, to avoid gathering any detailed information about users’ needs and activities — is far too timid. Libraries should develop advanced capabilities to build aggregated profiles of users, or what retailers call customer segmentation analysis. Who is visiting the library and how often are they coming? What are they doing once they get there? Which books do they borrow most often? Which books never leave the shelves? Which services get used most often; which least? Merchandisers and retailers have tools to help them answer these kinds of questions. Libraries, too, should adapt or create these and similar tools.” [Emphasis added.]

From my March 11 Post The 21st Century Library is More: Business-like: Marketing Strategy – “The more difficult the economic climate, the greater the imperative to have systems which provide the firm with market focus, the ability to differentiate itself from the competition through innovation, and the processes to manage scarce resources.” United Kingdom Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, Supporting innovation services Executive Summary August, 2008.

3. Embrace the concept of continuous innovation.
“This is not the time for libraries to shy away from new strategies. Library executives need to do more than innovate, however. They need to approach the innovation challenge with an entrepreneurial mind-set: test, measure, refine. And if something does not work, they must go through the process again: Test, measure, and refine using new ideas and concepts. The innovation doesn’t have to be of any one type; it can happen across the whole library value chain. For instance, changes might be operational — like the Toronto Library’s use of radio frequency identification (RFID) readers to bring a measure of self-service to the checkout function … Changes might be atmospheric, such as the background music the Seattle Library now pipes into its domed young-adult sections. Finally, there might be changes in format, including the opening of smaller library “outlets” in what is essentially a variation on a theme already being practiced by retailers like Lowe’s, Wal-Mart, and Tesco. Libraries should appropriate the many traffic-building enhancements that retailers are making to their stores.” [Emphasis added.]

(Read my March 11 Post The 21st Century Library is More: Business-like RE: Innovation.)

4. Forge a digital identity.
“Clearly, there is no way that libraries could transform themselves into leading-edge Internet organizations even if they wanted to. Nor should they aspire to that. A great many things are in flux, and a library that goes too far with a digitization initiative today runs the risk of creating data structures that will be incompatible with future standards. But some experimentation is in order. Should libraries let people reserve books remotely, from their home or office? Should they adopt a convenient delivery-to-home model, à la Netflix? Should they make their librarians available at all hours to respond to online inquiries? And to the extent that they do these things, should they (as part of rethinking their operating model) charge for some of these services, as the Toronto Library does with a fee-based custom research service? Finally, should libraries pursue these initiatives alone or in concert with one another?”

(Read my September 30 Post 21st Century Library Collaboration.)

5. Connect with stakeholders in ways pure Internet companies cannot.
“Libraries can’t provide faster online data retrieval than a search engine, and that’s not where they should try to compete. What they can do, on the community library side, is take advantage of their local strength…. Community library leaders who get out and make connections in the community will successfully transform their institution into a fulcrum for many of the issues and concerns that touch local residents. Their programs, services, and offerings will all be better off as a result of this outreach and connectedness.”

In June 2009 Librarians Matter Blogger Kathryn Greenhill of Australia posted some valuable and intriguing ideas about “Getting deeply local at our libraries”.
6. Expand the metrics.
“… Keeping track of the number of monthly and annual physical visitors … monitoring the number of books … in circulation” must give way to “online-specific metrics … especially as libraries invest more resources in digital initiatives and put bigger parts of their collections online. And it will be important … for the measurements to move beyond the strictly countable … into attitudinal areas like level of engagement and customer satisfaction. … [I]n the bigger context of changes, this resistance to [measure staff performance] should be easy to surmount. Institutions that proactively measure performance, embrace change, and look for ways to serve users will have an easier time getting financial support in an era of reduced public resources and private donations.” [Emphasis added.]

7. Be courageous.
The library “… world has changed — a lot. … the environment in which libraries operate has certainly shifted, and the challenge for those running them is to figure out the evolutionary path they should follow. There is no one answer, which may provide an advantage to those with an appetite for intelligent risk taking. After all, nothing nowadays — nothing at all — is written in stone.”
[Emphasis added.]

Odds are there are more “imperatives” that a 21st Century Library could/should adopt, so let’s hear yours!

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eBook Lending by UK Libraries Restricted

Late last week, at the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP), 2010 Public Library Authorities Conference in Leeds, UK, the Publishers Association announced an agreed position on eBook lending in library facilities only, not from off premises. Faber CEO Stephen Page announced the new guidelines October 21st by saying that;

… “all the major trade publishers have agreed to work with aggregators to make it possible for libraries to offer e-book lending” with the addition of certain “controls”. He said the guidelines had been developed because of concerns over free e-book lending offered by some libraries to lenders “wherever you are” in breach of publisher contracts.

The Overdrive library e-book lending system widely used by UK libraries currently allows members to download e-books onto their home devices remotely by employing a passcode supplied by the library.

Under the new scheme, library users would have to come onto the library’s physical premises to download an e-book at a computer terminal onto a mobile device, rather than downloading the book remotely. The scheme would also see the fee paid by a library to buy a book covering the right to loan one copy to one individual at any given time, and would require “robust and secure geographical-based membership” in place at the library service doing the lending.

The full article can be read at The Bookseller.Com, but it goes on to state;

So what about lending ebooks? For more than a century the author and publishing communities have been in accord with the library service in allowing books to be borrowed from libraries, forgoing any anxieties about lost sales and supporting the central, civilised notion of universal access to learning. This need not change in the digital world, but lending ebooks is a much more complex subject full of greater jeopardy than the lending of physical books. Authors and publishers are already contending with the new challenge of digital piracy and so embracing ebook lending has been slow as authors and publishers have been cautious. Why? Authors and publishers cannot allow a universe in which ebooks can be accessed remotely for no charge without the strictest controls. To do so could undo the entire market for ebook sales.

Obviously, digital media is being viewed by those who create it as inherently different from print media. We in the US library community are taking advantage of the lack of clarity regarding this issue, as well as any copyright implications, to expand circulation in the name of equal access.

Steve Potash, CEO of OverDrive, was quick to respond the next day by posting to the OverDrive Digital Distribution Blog, and writing “A statement on the Publishers Association’s position on eBook lending”, in which he stated;

OverDrive’s mission has always been to protect publisher and author rights while providing libraries with premium digital content for their collection. Our secure “one-book, one-user” model has served this mission for years. The Publishers Association is responding to a single isolated incident that was acted on within 24 hours of discovery. In addition, our system has established checks to ensure that libraries are providing eBooks only to those customers in their service area. We have always enforced proper geographic restrictions on the eBooks in our catalog, and will continue to provide publishers with a safe and secure method for distributing eBooks to libraries and library customers online.

Public Libraries and OverDrive are trusted, responsible channels and outlets for publishers and authors to promote and provide access to premium copyrighted eBooks.

OverDrive licenses eBooks under a “one-book, one-user” lending model to UK public libraries. When a public library licenses one copy of an eBook title, only one library customer may access the title at any one time. There are no simultaneous checkouts or downloads for this model, and instead access is limited to the number of licenses of an eBook a library has in its collection. At the end of a customer’s limited lending period, the DRM-protected eBook file expires on a library customer’s computer and device. All eBooks are hosted and remain on OverDrive’s secure servers.

This model has successfully worked for years around the world, providing libraries with access to premium content while generating revenue for publishers.
When a new generation of students, children, young adults, and online readers are stimulated to try a legally licensed and purchased eBook from the public library, publishers and authors win.

The UK public libraries serve the most noble and trusted role of providing the opportunity to read, learn, and become part of the consumer market that authors and publishers both seek. As books and reading compete with every other form of media, video, game, and social network experience, the opportunities to place eBook titles in front of potential new readers and customers is an invaluable service.

Equally as obvious, vendors who provide digital media are trying to expand their market share and increase sales – the reason they are in business. We in the US library community are taking advantage of their capitalistic efforts and lack of clarity regarding print vs. digital materials “use” policies to (again) expand circulation in the name of equal access.

Is this opportunistic actions regardless of legal or ethical issues, or simply smart business on the part of libraries confronted with ambiguous “use” policies/licenses, or justified “civil disobedience” (as I recently read one librarian’s justification regarding the Netflix issue)?

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“21st Century Skills & Utah Libraries” Presentation Video

It has been awhile since the 2010 Utah Library Association Conference in St. George, UT, in May. I posted that a video of the presentation would be available, and it finally is. We tried to also broadcast it live and archive it on Wimba, courtesy of the J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah, staff, but it wasn’t possible due to several technical reasons at the conference center. (Our frienemy – technology.)

My USL colleague Craig Neilson and I presented to a session of mostly public library trustees on 21st Century Trends for Trustees and 21st Century Skills affecting libraries. My boss, Utah State Librarian Donna Jones Morris, and I presented a conference session entitled 21st Century Skills & Utah Libraries on Friday May 14th. Now that the video has been formatted to fit the Utah State Library website, it is available for viewing at the links below. (The video is in QuickTime format, and I recommend you wait until it fully downloads before beginning to view. Internet Explorer has been being difficult with these videos.)

21st Century Trusteeship
Craig Neilson: Trends for Trustees (22 min.)
Steve Matthews: 21st Century Trusteeship (38 min.)

21st Century Skills & Utah Libraries
Donna Jones Morris (19 min.)
Steve Matthews (42 min.)

21st Century Libraries Panel Discussion
Introduction: Donna Jones Morris – Utah State Librarian: (5 min.)
Public Libraries: Gina Milsap – Director, Topeka and Shawnee County (KS) Public Library (23 min.)
School Libraries: Janene Bowen – Manager, Media Specialist for Instructional Support Services, Jordan (UT) School District (11 min.)
Academic Libraries: Michael Freeman – Director, Utah Valley University Library, Orem, UT (20 min.)
Question & Answer Session (16 min.)

Your comments are welcome.

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21st Century Library Technology & Connectivity

Every year since 1994, ALA has conducted a study of Public Library Funding & Technology Access. The 2009-2010 Study findings are being published as a “digital supplement to American Libraries” (the magazine of the American Library Association).


Funding Tightens

More libraries reported declines [in funding] in fiscal years 2009 and 2010, and anticipate continued reductions in FY2011:
• A majority (56.4 percent) of public libraries report flat or decreased operating budgets in FY2010, up from just over 40 percent in FY2009.
• Nearly 27 percent overall anticipated requests for further reductions in the current operating budget (FY2010), with more urban libraries (54.6 percent) anticipating operating budget decreases than suburban (41.6 percent) and rural libraries (26.5 percent).
• Staff salary/benefits expenditures dropped 43.3 percent in FY2010 from FY2009, and collection expenditures fell 47.5 percent.
• More urban libraries (54.6 percent) anticipate operating budget decreases during the current fiscal year, followed by suburban (41.6 percent) and rural libraries (26.5 percent).


New data this year indicates that the use of library technology resources was up significantly from just one year ago:
• Most libraries (75.7 percent) report increased use of public access workstations.
• Most libraries (71.1 percent) report an increased use of Wi-Fi.
• Less than half (45.6 percent) report an increased use of electronic resources.
• Some libraries (26.3 percent) report an increased use of training services.

At the same time, however, the percentage of libraries reporting decreased operating hours has tripled. Nearly one-quarter of urban libraries and 14.5 percent of all libraries (up from 7.4 percent and 4.5 percent, respectively) report reducing hours since the prior fiscal year.

Figures representing the current technology landscape in public libraries.


Data from the 2009-2010 Study describe a mixed landscape and paradoxical environment. Libraries have expanded technology resources, particularly around workforce development and e-government, to meet rising demand, but many are hampered by outmoded buildings and funding reductions that threaten every aspect of service, including available staff and hours open. Public libraries need sustained support for their services to ensure that the safety net they provide to millions in the United States remains in place.

Libraries continue to do more with less!

What’s the conclusion in your community?

[NOTE: The complete set of data tables, as well as findings from previous surveys, is available at This year’s survey, which had an 82.4 percent response rate, was completed by respondents between September 7 and November 13, 2009.]

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Special Libraries & 21st Century Competencies

A recent subscriber to this Blog is a military librarian, which brought to me “front and center” a reminder of the special library and librarian. I feel really bad, being career uniformed military in my former life, that I have essentially overlooked special libraries and librarians in this discussion of 21st Century Libraries. It was totally unintentional and not intended to be a slight in any sense. Special libraries have a special place in the library community and deserve as much inclusion as any library, or librarian.

Stephen Abram stated that; “Special librarians are more about communicating the value of the individual professional and the profession than the actual physical library (although that can be part of it). It can be all about the personal and professional relationship of trust and respect with your management, end-users and colleagues and that isn’t always measurable while it can still be very powerful!” THIS is a skill that every librarian needs in the 21st Century Library.

The Special Library Association has published Competencies for Information Professionals of the 21st Century, Revised edition, June 2003 that provides an extensive list of librarian competencies that can easily be adopted by ANY librarian in ANY type library.

Professional Competencies relate to the practitioner’s knowledge of information resources, access, technology and management, and the ability to use this knowledge as a basis for providing the highest quality information services. There are four major competencies, each augmented with specific skills:
A. Managing Information Organizations
B. Managing Information Resources
C. Managing Information Services
D. Applying Information Tools and Technologies
Applied scenarios illustrate many of the myriad roles and responsibilities that IPs perform in organizations of all types.

Among the list of competencies and scenarios for application by IPs (information professionals) is –

D. Applying Information Tools & Technologies
Information professionals harness the current and appropriate technology tools to deliver the best services, provide the most relevant and accessible resources, develop and deliver teaching tools to maximize clients’ use of information, and capitalize on the library and information environment of the 21st century.
D.1 Assesses, selects and applies current and emerging information tools and creates information access and delivery solutions
D.2 Applies expertise in databases, indexing, metadata, and information analysis and synthesis to improve information retrieval and use in the organization
D.3 Protects the information privacy of clients and maintains awareness of, and responses to, new challenges to privacy
D.4 Maintains current awareness of emerging technologies that may not be currently relevant but may become relevant tools of future information resources, services or applications

Applied Scenarios
• IPs are active partners with technology vendors, providing feedback, suggesting improvements, and keeping the needs of the clients in the forefront
• IPs maintain awareness of emerging technologies through reading professional and popular documents, participating in peer dialogs, and attending courses, workshops, and conferences.
• IPs are prepared to advise all levels of the organization on how technology trends will affect the organization and the clients.
• IPs lead technology initiatives in their organizations by forming partnerships, obtaining buy-in of upper management, overseeing the project management life-cycle, and communicating to all critical levels of the organization.
• IPs test, select and use new technology tools as they are developed.
• IPs maintain awareness of the latest policy and legislative initiatives that will impact privacy, accessibility, and openness of information use and transfer, and of technology deployment.
• IPs educate others in the use of information tools and technologies in a variety of ways, from training people in finding the information they want on the Internet or in proprietary databases to integrating information tools into their clients’ workflow or curriculum.

In the Conclusion, the report states;

These are the competencies of Information Professionals for the 21st century. They have their roots in the past and reach far into the future. These competencies form the basis for growth in the information age. IPs recognize and embrace the expanding nature of the field and the challenges facing them.

Although the core of the profession remains the same, the methods and tools for information delivery and the scope of the enterprise continue to grow and change dramatically. While maintaining their client and content-centered approach, practitioners increasingly require advanced knowledge of information technology to realize their full potential. Continually emerging opportunities will propel the prepared professional into as yet unseen realms of advanced information retrieval, interpretation, synthesis, product development and virtual services on a global scale.

[Emphasis added.]

SLA has also developed Personal Competencies with Applied Scenarios as defined by the Competencies Development Committee in January 2004. These are well worth reviewing for the serious professional interested in improving their personal competencies.

So, the library and librarianship communities have much to gain from each segment, and in the 21st Century, COLLABORATION is one of the major tenets. We hear A LOT about the need for “communicating the value of the individual professional and the profession” in 21st Century Library conversation, but not a lot about how librarians accomplish that. Let’s collaborate!

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eBook Feasibility for Public Libraries

For those not familiar with the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies or COSLA, it “is an independent organization of the chief officers of state and territorial agencies designated as the state library administrative agency and responsible for statewide library development.”

In June, 2010, COSLA published eBook Feasibility Study for Public Libraries – Final Report, containing timely and critical information for libraries attempting to remain relevant in a digital world..


In the fall of 2009, the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies (COSLA) began an internal conversation about eBooks. What will they mean to the future of libraries, especially public libraries? Will these institutions be able to turn another digital format to its advantage, as they have with audiobooks? Or is it different this time? …

In this report, you’ll read concerns and ideas about access and ease of use for library eBooks, library purchasing models, shifting relationships with vendors and publishers, cost and selection, copyright and fair use, and how to make the public library’s voice heard as eBooks change how people read for leisure and learning. We found new roles for public libraries and ways that COSLA could help provide leadership.


Finding and using eBooks from the library is too difficult
Despite the rising demand for eBooks, all agreed that getting eBooks from libraries is not convenient or easy to do. We heard just as many concerns about this as assurances that eBooks will bring patrons to libraries. “One copy, one user” eBook licensing is hard to explain: the title is listed, digital, but not “checked out.” Plus, users must navigate through multiple layers and interfaces to find eBooks on a library site. To get one, they must load proprietary software on a personal computer, download the title there, then transfer it onto a reading device. Improving the eBook browsing and downloading experience for library patrons is critical for competing more effectively with commercial alternatives. When someone values convenience, as you might expect from eBook lovers, ease of use matters greatly.

The local view
While most respondents had no ideological problem with the idea of joining a larger buying pool at the national level, they nearly all expressed a few, similar reservations about it. Some doubted that libraries would be able to work together at that level in a timely, sensible way because they had all seen examples of long, drawn-out attempts to reach consensus about shared purchasing or other cooperative efforts at much lower levels within much smaller groups.

Letting go
Some respondents said they think the writing is on the wall for libraries. The smart thing to do may be to prepare for a new future and begin to let go of functions where public library’s
[sic] are no longer able to provide the most value or keep the public’s interest. eBooks may herald the beginning of this transition and should be considered in that light.

Reference services felt a similar upheaval as Google and Wikipedia began to reveal that people prefer self-service tools and will often take convenience over quality. For many lines of inquiry, good enough is good enough. Libraries no longer need to see themselves as the main place people would go for quick reference or looking up simple facts. That leaves time and money for something deeper and richer.

The public library’s main role as a democratic institution that procures and organizes content for the public good may also need to be examined and balanced against what other providers can do more effectively and how people prefer to receive information. If public libraries no longer need to worry so much about an archival role or providing popular materials, how should they fulfill a noble mission to support a vibrant “life of the mind” in their communities?

A few respondents felt libraries should shift from a content repository to a community center for learning and events. They urged a stronger focus on performance, programs, storytelling, and using physical space for social interactions that let people hear, learn, meet, and mingle around shared meaning. These respondents imagined a more curated or mediated experience with information. [Emphasis added.]


Background and methods
As electronic books grow within the public consciousness and more devices and economic models arise to vend them, public libraries are increasingly concerned about how it will affect their core audience. Many library leaders believe a tipping point is not far off. When enough people choose convenience over a sharing model, the relevance and mission of public libraries are in jeopardy. Libraries need to anticipate this shift and become part of the eBook story.

To discover what library leaders want and need to make eBooks an effective piece of their service model, COSLA worked with Pinpoint Logic, a design strategy company. We interviewed ten library managers and staff from urban, suburban, and rural public libraries. [Emphasis added.] … We analyzed these interviews to surface larger themes and insights that guided the remaining research with industry experts, through which we gathered a more complete picture and determined areas of opportunity for COSLA and its partners to pursue.

Participants expressed needs around eBooks in these areas:

    • Finding a low-cost way to lend devices through the library or let people try them out
    • Improving the ease of use for discovering and getting library eBooks
    • Expanding access to eBooks through larger collections and national buying pools while delivering real-time local statistics in a manner that helps library funders see the value of large-scale collaboration at the local level
    • Applying leverage to publishers and vendors for better pricing, licensing models, more reasonable copyright or DRM models around shared use, and standards
    • Exploring how libraries can transition from an emphasis on content supplier to creating spaces that invite social interaction around learning and living literature

These needs range from a short-term help to a long-term view. We feel the best strategy lies somewhere between. Would a national buying pool have the intended effect of bringing larger collections and a establishing a good foundation for additional leverage with publishers? If so, how does that effort raise the importance of solving the user experience issues in finding and getting library eBooks from a national project? And what local usage reporting would we need to provide to gain credibility and high participation from member libraries around the country?

Participants [industry experts] expressed opportunities for public libraries and eBooks within these seven areas of action:
• Purchasing power, vital collections: group purchasing leverage, tough vendor and publisher negotiation, and quality collection development
• One point, many libraries; using BookServer to deliver eBooks at the point of interest
• eBook reader certification: testing and assessing eBook reading devices against usability and design guidelines for public library use
• Research connections between library use and book buying: showing how public libraries support authors and publishers and feed an ecosystem of reading
• Create authors and support self-publishing: take advantage of the explosion in do-it-yourself publishing to differentiate public libraries from other sources of popular reading materials and better serve community needs
• Civic discourse and public policy: foster serious discussions and leadership around copyright and fair use
• Library as laboratory: prototyping new uses for library spaces, new ways to engage the public in a life of the mind, and identifying new skills for librarians

The Report goes on to elaborate on the following themes;
1. Assure Access: cooperate for quality
2. Data and Leadership: show value
3. Living Literature: discover new roles

and to offer scenario examples of implementation of actions within each theme (using a graphic novel format which I found interesting).

There is much about which librarians should be concerned in this report. The role of the library in the digital world, the efficacy of offering eBooks as a library service, taking on the publisher world as competition, etc., are all MAJOR library issues for the future – WHICH IS NOW.

The one caution I see in this report is the extremely small sample group used to collect the data. I question whether or not the data are representative of the vast majority of public libraries, and whether it prevents the conclusions drawn from being generalized to the entire public library community. Having said that, we are indebted to COSLA for their efforts on this major issue, and I strongly encourage all those interested in their future to read eBook Feasibility Study for Public Libraries – Final Report.


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