It’s All About Mobile

I came across this article in my RSS feed from the NY Times.  It is called Tech Predictions for 2013: It’s All About Mobile, by Claire Cain Miller from February 18, 2013.  I especially resonate with the beginning, and crux of the article– that mobile usage will increase a lot in 2013.  Having recently gotten a new smartphone, or what they’re now calling a “superphone”, I can definitely see that mobile will be more popular this year.  Businesses are honing their apps now more than ever, the LTE network is awesome, and the hardware of these superphones has improved by leaps and bounds this past year (in my humble opinion).  My new Android phone has a remarkably lovely HD screen that is large enough for me to read text and watch video with comfort.  In fact, I now wonder how I even used my old phone for so long– it looks so archaic by comparison.

With the jump in mobile phone technology to a quasi-tablet feel without the bulkiness, more and more people will use their mobile to do “traditional” desktop/laptop computer-things.  I know I will.  Now if only we could encourage the stragglers who have not yet developed a mobile app or even a mobile website for their business to get with it…  In case I haven’t been convincing enough, I also posted about this topic last year where I discussed a study on the importance of mobile from the Pew Internet & American Life Project.  You can link to that post from March 6, 2012 here.

As I’ve said before, mobile matters!  If you’re not moving forwards, then you’re moving backwards.

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Libraries are Forever: E-books and Print Books Can Coexist (Infographic)

This infographic was sent to me and I thought it was interesting, so I decided to post it.   It is courtesy of TeachingDegree.org.

121102BooksFINAL

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E-book Media and Communicat​ions Toolkit: A Free Resource from ALA

Image from the ALA toolkit

I received this message from the American Library Association via LinkedIn today.  A great resource for libraries!

“For librarians asking what they can do to advocate for fair e-book lending practices and to help libraries in informing the public about e-book lending practices, the ALA is offering the free “ALA E-book Media & Communications Toolkit.” These resources at www.ala.org/ebooktoolkit support librarians in taking action in their communities.

Developed by the ALA’s Digital Content and Libraries Working Group (DCWG), the toolkit includes op-ed and press release templates for library supporters interested in informing the public of the role that libraries play in building literate and knowledgeable communities. Additionally, the toolkit provides guidance on ways to use the media templates, as well as ALA talking points, e-book data, and public service announcement scripts.

The Digital Content & Libraries Working Group, a representative group made up of 27 ALA members from various types of libraries, advises the Association on issues related to libraries and digital content, and the provision of equitable access to digital content for all. The group has developed a number of other resources about e-books, including the report “Ebook Business Models for Public Libraries,” a digital rights management “Tip Sheet (PDF),” and an E-Content supplement to American Libraries magazine.

To view the communications toolkit, visit www.ala.org/ebooktoolkit. All questions about the media toolkit should be sent to Jazzy Wright, press officer of the ALA Washington Office, at jwright@alawash.org.”

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A New Reason to Stick with the Old

I just read an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education entitled Now E-Textbooks Can Report Back on Students’ Reading Habits by Marc Parry (Nov. 8, 2012).  The article discusses a new service attached to certain e-textbooks called CourseSmart, where the book will be integrated into the university’s course-management system.  It will track students’ behaviour, including how much time they spend reading, how many pages they view, and how many notes and highlights they make.  That data will get crunched into an engagement score for each student.  Three institutions in the US— Villanova University, Rasmussen College, and Texas A&M University at San Antonio— plan to run pilots of the product.

Data mining can be scary when it’s in the wrong hands or used for the wrong purposes.  When I was a student in university, if I chose to read or not read something for a course, it was my business.  Afterall, I was an adult by that point and wanted to be treated like one.  Aside from the huge invasion of privacy that such a service would entail, there is another big reason to think twice about it– its inability to give faculty the information they really care about.  The stated intention of mining reading habits through CourseSmart is to enable educators to reach out to those showing low engagement.  But there already is a tried and true way to do almost the same thing:  pay attention to the students right in front of you who don’t participate in class, appear to be bored during lecture and have low scores on tests, exams and essays.  Why do you also need to know when your students did their readings, how long they took and what they highlighted?  The scores, facts and figures generated from that information can be misleading– one person may be a faster reader than another, and some may choose to not highlight much because they have a good memory.  What about those who take notes elsewhere and not in the digital book itself, or the students that read and take notes religiously but still have trouble understanding the material?  This service is missing the point and is overlaying the learning process with statistics that don’t really add up to much.  It fails give faculty what they need to know:  whether their students learned anything and have been impacted by it.  Isn’t that the whole point of education?

To me, this is kind of like a library completely relying on circulation statistics to justify its existence.  A book, e-book or DVD that is signed out doesn’t really tell you whether it was useful or not, or whether your library serves its community the way it should.  What you need to know is your library’s impact on its community– a much deeper issue that can’t be properly determined by a number on a screen.

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A Teacher’s Guide to Social Media

Working for a school board, I thought this infographic posted at the end of July on Online Colleges was interesting.   Embedding social media in curriculum can go a long way to diversify how teachers teach and how students learn.

From Online Colleges (http://www.onlinecolleges.net)

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The Bookless Library

The bookless library– a prominent point of discussion in the library world and a topic that has now also caught on in the mainstream media.  The topic is a heavy one, especially for library professionals and library supporters everywhere; to think of a great institution coasting towards obsolescence is scary, but nonetheless a definite possibility if libraries don’t adapt to change.

There have been many articles, lectures, blog posts and tweets about the future of libraries, but none, in my opinion, have completely and coherently explained the situation and choices that libraries, especially public libraries, are facing in today’s information landscape.  Until now.  Check out the fantastic article by David A. Bell, published July 12, 2012 on The New Republic entitled The Bookless Library: don’t deny the change.  Direct it  wisely.  Here are the first couple of paragraphs to wet your reading appetite:

“They are, in their very different ways, monuments of American civilization. The first is a building: a grand, beautiful Beaux-Arts structure of marble and stone occupying two blocks’ worth of Fifth Avenue in midtown Manhattan. The second is a delicate concoction of metal, plastic, and glass, just four and a half inches long, barely a third of an inch thick, and weighing five ounces. The first is the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, the main branch of the New York Public Library (NYPL). The second is an iPhone. Yet despite their obvious differences, for many people today they serve the same purpose: to read books. And in a development that even just thirty years ago would have seemed like the most absurd science fiction, there are now far more books available, far more quickly, on the iPhone than in the New York Public Library.

It has been clear for some time now that this development would pose one of the greatest challenges that modern libraries—from institutions like the NYPL on down—have ever encountered. Put bluntly, one of their core functions now faces the prospect of obsolescence. What role will libraries have when patrons no longer need to go to them to consult or to borrow books? This question has already spurred massive commentary and discussion. But in the past year, as large-scale controversies have developed around several libraries, it has become pressing and unavoidable.”

To read on, please see the article online on The New Republic‘s website.

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Does your company’s website suck?

Some of the fab cupcakes from Crumbs & Co.

I recently ordered a birthday gift online for a family member.  When I sat down and decided that I would get cupcakes delivered to her on her birthday, I started my Google search for the best cupcake-maker in town.  After sifting through many websites, menus and options, I finally decided on one place that looked great to me.  I had never ordered from them before, nor had I heard from a friend that they were good.  I based my decision, in most part, on their website– How was their site organized? Was it easy and intuitive to navigate? Was their logo professional? Did they show pictures of their products with clear pricing and shipping details? Did they offer secure and straight-forward online payment? etc.  I asked these questions and then chose what I thought was the best business for me and my needs.  I figured that if they took the time and effort to put together a good, customer-friendly and professional site, then they probably take the same time and effort to produce a yummy product.  And I was right.  The cupcakes were delivered on time, in the lovely packaging that they stipulated, and they were delicious and fresh!  Did I mention that I ordered these cupcakes less than 24 hours before they were to be delivered?

Being the good librarian that I am, I immediately thought of libraries and their websites.  I have seen way too many library sites that suck– they’re not organized in a clear and simple way, they use convoluted terms that only librarians understand and appreciate, and they post way too much information that overloads the average user.  If I can choose a company based on a website, then it’s not a far stretch to think that many library customers and non-customers will choose to visit the library and/or use their virtual services based on their website and it’s ease of use.  Marketing library services is vital today, in a time when we must justify our existence and relevancy.  Why would you ignore or under-value you’re online presence?  It’s a fantastic channel in which to reach people when and where they are, and it’s great way to showcase the library and its services to the community that supports it. 

To get back to my online cupcake ordering experience, a few days after the order was completed and my very grateful mother-in-law received her birthday gift, I got a friendly e-mail from the company thanking me for choosing them and asking if I had any feedback… all this just for a simple, inexpensive order of cupcakes.  And that got me thinking:  why can’t libraries, an important community building tool, do the same thing?  Maybe not after every transaction, but say, once a year?  I’d love to get an e-mail from my library system taking the time to thank me for using their services and asking for feedback.  Why not?  The library is not a business in the same way that my now favourite cupcake company is, but we’re all after the same thing– success.  How else can you definitively justify your existence?  As a librarian, I can talk until I’m blue in the face about how important the library is, but the bottom line is this:  a library’s strength lies in its community’s opinion. 

By the way, the fabulous cupcake company that I used is Crumbs & Co.  See what a satisfied customer can do?  Spread the word…

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I’m back with a new published article in tow

After a reluctant yet much needed break from blogging, I’m back.  It’s been almost 2 months since my last post, but it is for good reason:  my husband and I just bought our first home and we have spent the last little while preparing and packing, moving and now unpacking.  Life is starting to resemble normalcy again, however we’re not fully there yet.  I am resolved to blog again, and now with a working computer and bit more time, I’m posting my first entry since the beginning of March.

And I couldn’t think of a better thing to post than the announcement that I, along with a wonderful collegue, Jennifer Andreae, have just gotten our first article published.  It is now available in the independent, professional, and refereed online journal Communications in Information Literacy (CIL), volume 5, no.2.  Our article, in the perspectives section, is entitled:  Re-conceptualizing Access: The New Role of Information Literacy in Post-Secondary Education.  Since the journal is open access, you can get it anytime and anywhere, as long as you have an internet connection– no financial or legal barriers to access academic research at CIL!

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Mobile library services — where are they?

The Pew Internet & American Life Project has done it again– they have released a very timely study.  The survey, entitled Nearly half of American adults are smartphone owners, was published online on March 1, 2012 and it details the sharp rise in smartphone ownership in the United States, from 35% in May 2011 to 46% of American adults as of February 2012.  A quote from the study overview:

“Nearly every major demographic group—men and women, younger and middle-aged adults, urban and rural residents, the wealthy and the less well-off—experienced a notable uptick in smartphone penetration over the last year. Overall adoption levels are at 60% or more within several cohorts, such as college graduates, 18-35 year olds and those with an annual household income of $75,000 or more.”

So why are libraries slow to adopt mobile library services?  In Bibliotech episode 15 with guest Marshall Breeding, Director for Innovative Technologies and Research for the Vanderbilt University Libraries in Nashville, TN, we discuss the importance of mobile services in spite of his prediction that:  “Mobile technology will continue to attract strong interest, but it will not necessarily drive significant innovation.  Despite the ever-increasing use of mobile devices to access library services, strategic library-oriented mobile products continue to develop and see implementation at a relatively slow pace.” (from his January 10, 2012 post on the ALA Tech Source, entitled What’s in store for the library automation industry in 2012?).  We talked about this very important issue with Lisa Carlucci Thomas last week on the show (episode 17) too.  Stephen Abram also recently pointed to this issue on his blog Stephen’s Lighthouse.  In his post from February 28, 2012 called Less Than 10% Of The Web In 2012 Is Mobile Ready, he forwards an article by the same name from Michael Martin.  From the article:  “Is your site ready for the estimated 1 out every 4 searches in 2012 coming from a mobile device, or are you part of the 91% of sites that aren’t?”

Something to think about, and more importantly, to get implemented.  Mobile matters!

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Are Libraries Dying? Um. No.

Image from: thesilo.ca

I have recently been surrounded by a lot of talk about the perilous future of libraries.  It’s been the subject of many a lecture offered around Libraryland, and it’s been a hot topic on the Bibliotech podcast series in which I participate.  I also recently met someone new who asked me what I do for a living.  When I told her that I am a librarian, she said to me:  “But I thought libraries are dying?”  “Not exactly,” was my response, “they’re evolving.”  And then I posed the question to her:  “Have you been to a library lately?”

I presently work in two library systems, however I have held several contracts within different libraries over the last couple of years.  The libraries in which I work or have worked, are busier than ever!  Yes, the services we offer are changing, but in all circumstances that I have seen, the demand for library resources is overwhelmingly strong.  It is not unusual to see cart after cart of books, kits, DVDs and CDs being returned to the library each day– enough to run the circulation staff off of their feet.  There are often line ups at the information desks too, and that doesn’t include the frequent phone calls that they get from remote library customers.  If you factor all of this in with the countless reports from OverDrive about the continual rise in library ebook lending and all of the other electronic resources that are utilized, then you get a very different picture of libraries.

So why do people think libraries are dying?  Is it because people think the book is dying?  Not enough people read anymore and everything is now available virtually, so the library is a dinosaur, right?  Nope.  There are plenty of people who still need paper books and resources for various reasons.  However, the virtual realm is slowly taking over and the library is heavily involved in that too– most systems have a long list of electronic databases that you can consult for anything from health issues, to do-it-yourself guidance, to figuring out what fiction book to read next.  If you want to delve into the fabulous world of ebooks, then the library is great place to go.  Library systems across the country are adding thousands of titles to their ebook collections each year and librarians are poised to help you get started.  But if you simply want to come in to get advice on how to research a particular topic, or you’re there to read a newspaper and enjoy some down time, then you can do that too.  However, the library is not only a storage facility for books, newspapers and articles (both physically and virtually speaking).   The library is also buzzing because it offers more than that– it’s a place for community meetings, poetry readings, group projects, homework help, gaming tournaments, access to settlement services, etc.  It’s also a place where people can be inspired to improve their lives, or to build on existing knowledge.  For instance, you can register for a program in a library to help you learn computer skills, a new language, how to do financial planning, Chinese medicine, study skills, writing short stories, etc.  You can also use many libraries as your one-stop-shop for personal tech help and trouble shooting, such as figuring out how to use your new laptop, installing software, setting up your ebook reader, learning how to use online social networking sites, etc.  Some forward thinking libraries are now also moving in the direction of providing hackerspaces, where you can build your own tools or whatever you want, and share/learn from those in the know.

So are libraries really dying?  No, they’re changing.  Are books dying?  No, their changing too.  To say that libraries are dying is to say that information is dying, which we all know is rediculous, especially as we have now moved into an information economy.  Libraries are not book warehouses, but rather they are places of learning.  As long a people have a drive to learn, libraries will exist.  Libraries just need to evolve with the community and get away from relying on nostalgia to stay afloat.  But if nostalgia is what you’re looking for, then the library still has many services that will appeal to you too– the difference now is that the library does not simply exist to fulfill its past.

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