Category Archives: Library Issues

5 days, 3 states

In the next 5 days, I’m speaking for two different state conferences that someone out there in bloglandia might be interested in.

First, I’m heading out to Minneapolis, MN for Academic & Research Library Day. I’ll be presenting a keynote tomorrow morning entitled The Everywhere Patron, where I’ll be talking about the expectations of patrons vis a vis personal electronics and services. I’m really excited about the talk…if you’re going to be at ARLD please say hello!

After that, I head over to Stamford, CT for the Connecticut Library Association conference. There, I’ll be doing a presentation on eBooks, both in terms of content, containers, and the challenges for libraries during the transition to digital texts.

If you are at either presentation, come introduce yourself and say hi!

Kindle Library Lending

The online library world is abuzz today with the announcement of Kindle Library Lending, which promises to finally bring the ability for libraries to check ebooks out to patron’s Kindle (or Kindle software-driven devices). The announcement itself is full of promise and light on details, including such gems as:

Customers will be able to check out a Kindle book from their local library and start reading on any Kindle device or free Kindle app for Android, iPad, iPod touch, iPhone, PC, Mac, BlackBerry, or Windows Phone. If a Kindle book is checked out again or that book is purchased from Amazon, all of a customer’s annotations and bookmarks will be preserved.

Translation: Amazon will be maintaining notes and details of the book you read on their servers, and providing a way to purchase said book as a part of the library experience.

Amazon is working with OverDrive, the leading provider of digital content solutions for over 11,000 public and educational libraries in the United States, to bring a seamless library borrowing experience to Kindle customers. “We are excited to be working with Amazon to offer Kindle Library Lending to the millions of customers who read on Kindle and Kindle apps,” said Steve Potash, CEO, OverDrive. “We hear librarians and patrons rave about Kindle, so we are thrilled that we can be part of bringing library books to the unparalleled experience of reading on Kindle.”

This appears to mean that Overdrive will be the library-facing partner in this enterprise, and I’m guessing that the checkout experience and user interface will be Overdrive driven. This is (IMNSHO) a disappointment, as I’d much rather deal with Amazon directly (even though I’m sure they would not rather deal with libraries…thus, Overdrive).

Bobbi Newman, as always, has a thoughtful post up about this, and asks a couple of questions for which I’m going to guess the answers. She asks:

Will libraries be forced to add a third ebook format (which will only spread their already thin money thinner?)

If yes

  • Will I be allowed to borrow library ebooks in epub and pdf format on my Kindle?
  • Will owners of other devices (such as the Nook or Sony) be allowed to read Kindle books on their device? (the press release reads as “no”)

I would find it VERY hard to believe that Amazon is going to convert all of their proprietary files into a new format just for libraries…so yes, I believe strongly that there will be yet another format. I also find it hard to believe that Amazon will suddenly decide to embrace Adobe DRM…which means that there is little chance that library books via Overdrive or another vendor that are in the epub or pdf format will start working on the Kindle.

As to the last question…I believe very strongly that if Barnes & Noble and Sony decided to allow Amazon DRM/filetypes on the nook or Sony reader, Amazon would be thrilled to provide them with books. But that’s probably not going to happen either. For a reminder of all the intricacies of the filetype/DRM issues here, see my post on eBook Filetypes and DRM.

I have requests out currently for answers from Overdrive and Amazon on the following questions…if either of them get back to me, I’ll make sure to post it here.

Will the Kindle Library Lending functionality require the use of the Overdrive Media Center Console?

Will the functionality require a “buy this book” link in the Overdrive catalog?

Will the KLL functionality require the library patron to be physically in the library, or authenticated via IP address, or will they be able to access this remotely? Or some combination of the two?

The press release mentions that Whispersync will be enabled to remember page numbers, which implies that patrons will be able to load Kindle books that they check out onto multiple devices…what will the mechanism for this be? If I check out a book, and then load it onto my Kindle, my Kindle DX, my iPod Touch, and my iPad, will that count as 4 checkouts, or one?

Currently, the Overdrive ebook model works with Adobe Digital Editions and ePub…I am assuming that the Kindle books will remain in the standard .azw format, and use Amazon DRM. Can you confirm this assumption? If so, can you describe the process by which patrons will check out a book using this service?

What will the limitations on the KLL catalog be? How does it compare to the overall Kindle ebook catalog?

Will publishers be able to opt-out of allowing Library lending in the same way that they can currently opt-out of other features of the Kindle?

What is Amazon doing to ensure the privacy/confidentiality of library patrons?

UPDATE


Overdrive finally posted to their blog about the issue, and I just received a callback from Overdrive marketing. While they weren’t able to comment a large number of things, I did get confirmations on a few details. On the Overdrive blog post, they say:

A user will be able to browse for titles on any desktop or mobile operating system, check out a title with a library card, and then select Kindle as the delivery destination.

The exact quote that I got from the Overdrive marketing department was that the books would be “deliverable to Kindle” and that did include any Kindle and Kindle app.

The blog post also says:

Your existing collection of downloadable eBooks will be available to Kindle customers. As you add new eBooks to your collection, those titles will also be available in Kindle format for lending to Kindle and Kindle reading apps. Your library will not need to purchase any additional units to have Kindle compatibility. This will work for your existing copies and units.

When asked about the potential catalog non-overlap (what happens when a book available via Overdrive isn’t available on Amazon), the answer from Overdrive was that they hadn’t looked fully at the catalog overlap yet. But it sounds like the Kindle compatibility is simply going to be there for your existing books as an additional option…well done!

MASSIVE SPECULATION AHEAD:It sounds to me like Overdrive will be providing the ability to checkout a book and click “deliver to Kindle”, much in the same way that Amazon currently does when you purchase a book. If I’d been thinking for half a second, I’d have realized that’s the ONLY way they can do it and support Kindle Apps. None of the Kindle apps that I’m aware of allows for any sort of side-loading of content…all the content that is in them can ONLY come from Amazon directly. CORRECTION: Kindle App for iOS does allow side-loading via emailed or web-linked files of the appropriate filetype (mobi, azw)…but no tethered side-loading. You can obviously plug your Kindle directly into your computer and throw a random PDF on it, but you can’t do that with Kindle Apps. They have to deliver these to you via Whispernet…there’s no other choice.

Back to the blog post!

The Kindle eBook titles borrowed from a library will carry the same rules and policies as all our other eBooks.

One answer that I’d really like from Overdrive is relating to this piece. On the phone call, I asked if a publisher limited the number of times that a book could be downloaded (which some do), whether this would effect the number of devices that I could have said book delivered to. The official statement was that they didn’t have that information right now, but that whatever the solution it would “support publisher’s existing models”.

Last bit of news for now: I tried to get Overdrive to give me anything on a timeframe, and they weren’t even willing to promise/commit to a quarter of the year…all they would say was “in 2011”. So we could have some time to wait for this.

Focus on the Future

Here’s a little thing I put together for the Bay Area Library and Information Systems group that were kind enough to have me speak to a group of Children’s Librarians a week or so ago. Was a brilliant time, and I really appreciated getting to hear from a group of librarians that I just don’t talk to enough. I also had the pleasure of presenting with two very impressive people, Roger Sutton of Horn Book fame and Kristen McLean, Founder and CEO of Bookigee.

I’m really happy with the way this presentation went, especially since I used Eliza as the theme for it. 🙂 The downside of the way I do my presentations, however, is that the slides themselves are a tiny fraction of the actual content…most of it is me, and talking, and asking questions and such. But I liked the slides too much not to share.

Harper Collins and some numbers

Day 364 - kindle!So after the Harper Collins Incident of the last couple of weeks, I thought it would be interesting to see, based on my library, what the numbers looked like for books that have circulated more than 26 times. Here are all the caveats, in hopes of derailing some of the questions that I’m sure this data will raise:

  • This is, roughly, 10 years worth of circulation data. The last major ILS migration happened 10 years or so ago, and the data from the decades prior to that is non-trivial to access or non-existent.
  • UTC has about 10K FTE students
  • Our circulation is, based on peer-institutions, ridiculously low. We are working on fixing part of the problem.

Now, the numbers: removing AV materials (DVD/VHS, audiobooks, CDs), reserve items, and things that don’t circ (journals, etc), we have 409,213 things in our catalog that qualify, mostly, as “books” and that are available circulation. That includes Reference, which only circulate to Faculty, but seemed worth including. Of those 409,213 items, the total number of them that have circulated more than 26 times in 10 years is:

126

Yep, that’s right. 126 books, or just about .03079% of our collection. Looking at the titles, that’s even including multiple copies of the same work (we have three copies of A rhetoric and composition handbook that are all on the list of >26, for example).

If you add the total number of times these books circulated, and divide each by 26 to determine how many additional books the library would have had to purchase IF they had all been eBooks under the Harper Collins rules, my library would have had to purchase an additional 148 books in order to meet the demand. That’s under 15 titles a year, on average. I don’t have average costs of Harper Collins ebooks handy, but if they followed the Amazon pricing model for eBooks, they would be between $9.99 and $14.99 each. Let’s split the difference and call the average price $12.99…that means my library would have to find an extra $194.85 a year to keep up.

I understand that eBook have the potential to circulate more often than print…the decrease in access time alone should push them to be more popular choices, if what we’ve seen happen to our print journals is any indication. I also know that one small academic library is the equivalent of anecdata in the grand scheme of libraries. But if we don’t look at numbers, and only look at rhetoric, I think we’re doing ourselves a disservice.

I still disagree with Harper Collins new eBook rules, but for a lot of reasons that don’t necessarily come down to “it’s horrible for my library”. It is, I think, a bad idea to change the rules of the game midstream, at least without a lot of input from all the concerned parties (and no, I don’t actually think that a lot of libraries were consulted about this change). But it’s also a bad idea, as I’ve said a few times now, to just assume that the digital needs to act like the physical. We need to find new ways of dealing with these things, and I hope that situations like #hcod are just growing pains.

Privacy and Freedom of Information in 21st-Century Libraries

CoverI’m really priviledged to be a part of the latest ALA TechSource Library Technology Report, Privacy and Freedom of Information in 21st-Century Libraries. When I was given the opportunity to contribute to an issue with Deborah Caldwell-Stone, Sarah Houghton-Jan, Barbara M. Jones and Eli Neiburger…well, I said yes.

I wrote the chapter entitled “Social Networking and the Library”, and the general thrust of the chapter can be seen in this excerpt:

The central tension between libraries and social networks is simple: a social network gains usefulness when you are identifiable (people know who you are) and you share information about yourself (people know what you like). Libraries have, for years, operated under the general guideline that both of those pieces of knowledge are no ones business but yours….Taken at face value, as they relate to social networks, library ethical policies can be interpreted as directly contradictory with…privacy statements. Libraries have chosen, at times, to value privacy over access to social networks when these are in conflict. If the privacy of the patron is compromised via social networks, one possible answer is to attempt to limit access to those networks, which flies in the face of open and free access to information.

If you’re interested in the topic of Freedom of Information and how difficult holding on to library’s traditional values becomes in the 21st century, this issue is a great read. Head on over to Techsource and pick it up.

Library of Congress blocks access to Wikileaks

This is evidence of the insane world we’re currently living in…the Library of Congress, ostensibly the Library of Record for the United States, is currently blocking access on it’s staff computers as well as it’s guest wireless network to Wikileaks.

From the above story, the Library issued a statement, saying:

The Library decided to block Wikileaks because applicable law obligates federal agencies to protect classified information. Unauthorized disclosures of classified documents do not alter the documents’ classified status or automatically result in declassification of the documents.

Oh, really? Is that so?

Anyone online realizes this is a senseless act, and that anyone with any knowledge of the Internet will be able to get around this sort of filter trivially…this does absolutely nothing to protect classified information. As far as I can tell, it does nothing except make the Library of Congress look asinine. Perhaps the librarians running the LoC should take another gander at the Library Bill of Rights to remind themselves what exactly it is that they should be doing.

I hope that there is serious fallout for those who made this decision. ALA Council…here’s a discussion worth having.

Serialized Literature makes a comeback

Way back in 2008 at the Online Information conference in London, I talked a little about where I thought we’d see writing in general go, given the technologies that were mature/maturing: eReaders (the Amazon Kindle had been for just a year at that point), blogs and blog software, and more. I predicted that we would see a revitalization of the sort of serialized long-form content that was prevalent in 19th century literature, like Dickens and Doyle. It made sense to me at the time, given that one could subscribe to an ongoing series, have it automatically delivered as written/released, enjoy it on your container of choice (eReader, mobile phone, etc).

While there have been a few attempts at serialized writing in the last few years, it’s only very recently that I think authors have hit on a model that might work well. There are two that I’m aware of that take slightly different paths but are, in the end, paving a path to an old way, but a new channel, of publishing.

The first, and most exciting to me, is The Mongoliad. From the wikipedia entry:

The Mongoliad is an experimental fiction project of the Subutai Corporation, scheduled for release in 2010. The corporation is an application company based in San Francisco and Seattle, whose chairman is speculative fiction author Neal Stephenson. Stephenson is the guiding force of the project, in which he is joined by colleagues including Greg Bear.

The work is intended to be distributed primarily as a series of applications (“apps”) for smartphones, which the Corporation views as a new model for publishing storytelling. At the project’s core is a narrative of adventure fiction following the exploits of a small group of fighters and mystics in medieval Europe around the time of the Mongol conquests. As well as speculative fiction authors Neal Stephenson, Greg Bear, Nicole Galland, Mark Teppo and others, collaborators include filmmakers, computer programmers, graphic artists, martial artists and combat choreographers, video game designers, and a professional editor. In a departure from conventional fiction, much of the content of The Mongoliad will be in forms other than text, not bound to any single medium and not in the service of the central narrative. Once the project develops momentum, the Corporation envisages fans of the work to contribute, expanding and enriching the narrative and the fictional universe in which it takes place.

So this is collaborative, multimedia, world creating…which just happens to be led by two of the biggest names in genre fiction. I’m a complete sucker for Stephenson, and I signed up as soon as the site went live. I’m really looking forward to seeing where this project goes.

The other interesting serialized novel being done is also in the genre fiction realm, the DragonsBard project by Tracy & Laura Hickman. Tracy Hickman is probably best known for being half of the Weiss & Hickman writing duo that gave fantasy the Dragonlance world of novels. Unlike the Foreworld stuff above, which is a subscription model, the DragonsBard publishing model is a single price upfront, which gives you access to the ongoing story and a limited-edition signed & numbered hardcover of the story when it’s over.

There are two things that I find interesting about this model of publishing. The first is it’s leveraging of technology to provide not only different sorts of distribution, but also different types of content completely (images, video, etc). The second is how it allows for the complete disintermediation of the publishing house.

I look forward to seeing if other authors take this approach. I also look forward to seeing how these sorts of works get cataloged. 🙂

Are we live?

Today is the scheduled Go Live date for the first implementation of the OCLC Web Scale Management services, and we are so close that we can almost touch it. We spent the day doing massive testing of the various pieces of WMS: Circulation, Acquisitions, Cataloging, and our WMS-driven Worldcat Local, with the OCLC team working with us to tackle anything that popped up. As you might expect, being the first to implement this radically new a system brings things to light that neither we nor OCLC entirely knew about or understood…the infrastructure for this is only now really being tested with live data from a working library. I know that a lot of eyes are on this to see how it works (or doesn’t work), so here’s a quick rundown of where we are today.

Circulation could, as far as the system is concerned, go live now…it’s a functional system at this point, with all of our policies in place and working for all of our patron types. However, we now have a backlog of circ data to catch up on (the delta between the last massive data load and now), and we’re proceeding with it, and with further data-verification testing at the same time.

Acquisitions/Cataloging is so, so close. We successfully received and cataloged books today from scratch for the very first time, and walked them all the way through the process of preparing them to circulate. As a part of this process we discovered that we are going to have to re-evaluate our workflows even more…even we, who have been preparing for this for 6 weeks now, didn’t really grok the degree to which this alters our traditional workflow. So over the next few days, we’re going to be taking a closer look at those, and see how we take advantage of the massively streamlined workflows that are possible with WMS. Acquisitions is still very much a module in progress…it’s much ahead of schedule as far as the initial install schedule goes, and I’m impressed with how far it’s gotten in almost a ridiculously short timeframe.

The last piece of the puzzle is Worldcat Local, which is about 95% of the way there for our needs. The one major display issue cropped up last week as we started to see our serials holdings in Local, and that display issue is already scheduled as an out-of-cycle fix. We’ve seen the fixed display, and it works really well.

I can’t really explain how hard many people have worked to get us to this point. Andrea Schurr, our Web Technologies and ILS Librarian has worked multiple 80 hour weeks to get all our data out of our current system and into WMS. The entire staff at Lupton Library have laid other needs aside to help out with every little piece of this project, completing things in weeks that were timelined for months of work yet. And the team at OCLC has just kicked ass responding to questions, pushing for updates, and generally being amazing in helping us understand how this beautiful beast is constructed so that we can get the most out of it.

So with all that said, it comes down to: did we make our implementation date? Are we “live” with WMS? At this point, for my purposes, we are. We have about 98% of our data in the system, and the few straggling records are ones that require some serious cleanup…which we’re doing, and those will be done in the next couple of weeks. We are are working towards catching up our circulation activity of the last 2-3 weeks, which will take a few days. As well, we are going to take a few more days to examine our acquisitions and cataloging practices in order to make sure that we’re using the system and our staff as efficiently as possible, and then begin the process of catching those data bits up…if you aren’t processing as you go, it’s amazing how quickly things fall out of sync. And our patrons are already using Worldcat Local, driven by WMS data, for discovery and resource location.

Are we as live as I’d hoped? Honestly, no, we’re not. But as my Dean keeps reminding me: it’s not about us, it’s about the patrons. We have to get just a bit more testing, more data verification, and more workflow examination on our end in order to make sure that what we’re delivering to our patrons is the best possible experience we can for resource discovery at UTC.

Here’s my takeaway from this whole process up to this point: we now have the first working system of this kind in any library in the world. We moved from our previous ILS to this completely new model and set of data structures in just 6 weeks, or roughly 1/6th the time of the average ILS migration. We are working very hard, still, to make this as good an experience as we can for our students, faculty, and staff. Who can complain if we take a couple of extra days to triple check a few things? 🙂

LITA Top Tech Trends – ALA Annual 2010

Here’s the video of the LITA Top Tech Trends panel from ALA Annual 2010. My impressions of the panel were mainly “OMFG I’m on stage with Lorcan Dempsey” and “How big IS this room?”…was very hard to concentrate on the content being put forth while actively involved in it. But I think we all had very interesting things to say. I’ll see about cleaning up my notes and putting them up in a post in the next few days.

Code Monkey a la LSW

Here’s what happens when someone offhandedly makes a comment about a music video on Friendfeed: dozens of librarians, thousands of miles apart, put together a small, almost-musical tribute to JoCo.

I discovered three things in watching this:

  1. My voice isn’t all that bad.
  2. There are people much more musically talented than I.
  3. Jason Puckett rocks.