The NJ Library Roadshow Recap

I’ve been hedging writing this post over the last couple of days. I should have written it last week when it was fresh and new and, well, pre-hurricane. It’s now hard to muster the excitement for the day when you see pictures like this and this from Atlantic City. The Atlantic City Historical Museum (our first stop) sits on a pier jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean between the Showboat and the Revel casinos putting it squarely in the path of the storm surge and the hurricane (pictured above). I can’t even link to the Atlantic City Public Library (the institution that manages the museum) or the museum’s website since both are down and will probably stay down till the city isn’t flooded. As a Jersey born, raised, and proud person, the images of Atlantic City and the other shore communities have been really heartbreaking.

It’s somewhat hard to fathom that it was only a week ago that Sophie and I hopped into the car and took a trip to visit three very different and very awesome libraries in New Jersey. We tried to document and incorporate everything that we saw or heard from our stops into the NJ Library Roadshow Tumblr, but there really is just too much. In doing the research for the Roadshow, even the little bits of trivia about the towns and areas we’d be passing through provided a glimpse into the state’s varied history of gangsters, political refuges, and natives.

Beyond a shadow of a doubt, it proved to me that the roadshow format is something that can be done in other states as part of overall advocacy efforts. It’s a library talent showcase that brings the best to the forefront, it can be done on a shoestring budget, and (most importantly) it’s fun. I’d encourage anyone interested in doing it in their state to look through the Tumblr, check out our posts, and feel free to contact myself or Sophie for more details.

As I get news from my peers around the state in the storm aftermath, there are many stories and pictures of people filling the library for a warm spot to sit, a place to recharge their devices, and to get back online to connect with friends and family as well establish a brief sense of normalcy. I can attest to the same at my library judging from the full tables and every outlet being used to charge one thing or another. There were many “Are you open?” calls as well as people attesting that they didn’t know the library offered wifi, internet access, or printing. (I wish I was kidding about those last two but, alas, I am not.) It certainly puts a new spin on the motto, “Libraries are Essential”, and shows how the library helps its communities in short term needs.

Many thanks go out to Don Latham and Heather Perez at the Atlantic City Public Library, Dee Venuto at Rancocas Valley High School in Mount Holly, Katie Anderson at the Paul Robeson Library of Rutgers-Camden, and Linda Devlin and David Lisa at the Camden County Library System for allowing us to come and show off their libraries. More thanks to Peg Cadigan, Tiffany McClary, Heidi Cramer, and State Librarian Mary Chute for including the Roadshow in this year’s New Jersey Library Snapshot Day.

Facebook, Libraries, and Post Promotions

If your library has a Facebook page and uses it for outreach, you need to read this article from the Dangerous Minds website. There really isn’t a good quote to pull out the meaning, so take a moment to go and read it. The basics revolve around Facebook monetizing page promotion while simultaneously throttling the amount of people who can see a post from a Facebook page. In short, if you want your page posts to reach your entire audience, you have to pay.

The free ride is over.

I can’t really fault Facebook for making a change like this; their investors want dividends and what drives that is revenue. The amount of things you can do with Facebook for free still makes it valuable for other purposes like keeping in touch with far away family members and friends. It does, however, feel slightly at odds with the ‘power to share’ sentiment from Mark Zuckerberg’s IPO letter seemed to be aiming towards. It reframes it into “I want you to share but only a limited audience will see it unless you pay up” which really doesn’t seem as much of a lofty world-changing dream anymore. 

The basic promise to ensure that all of your followers see a post brings up the old sentiment as to whether that is effective or not. I watch the “Skip this ad in X seconds” counter in the bottom corner of a YouTube video more than the moving pictures of the ads that are attached to the video. I couldn’t tell you what the last couple of companies were because, frankly, I don’t care. It’ll probably be true for the promoted Facebook post at the top of my news feed, especially if it is something that one of my friends or family has “liked”.

Given that some pages have a very local element to them (for example, pretty much every library that has a Facebook page), I’m figuring that promoted posts will end up missing the mark by inserting themselves into feeds of people who aren’t local. The New York Public Library has roughly 70,000 likes, but how many of them are local? Judging from my 45 friends who like the NYPL, it seems to be about 50/50. Is it worthwhile to pay to promote a post when it’s not going the audience you want it to reach (constituents)? What if some of those likes are pushing it into a higher promotion post cost bracket? Given the number of times I’ve seen pleas for people to ‘like’ their libraries page, I think this is a possibility.

Personally, I’m hoping that Facebook considers cutting a price break for non-profits and education related institutions. It’s one thing to charge corporations like Coca Cola and Comcast for post promotion, it’s another when you’re charging the local library. Alternatively, now would be the time to find other online outreach platforms.  

The New Jersey Library Roadshow is Coming!

nj-roadshow-full-logo

This coming Wednesday, Sophie Brookover from LibraryLinkNJ and I will be hitting the road to do a version of the Great Library Roadshow here in New Jersey. We have finalized our schedule and will be visiting three very different libraries: Atlantic City Free Public Library, Rancocas Valley High School in Mount Holly, and the Nilsa Cruz-Perez Branch within the Paul Robeson Library of Rutgers in Camden. We’ll be taking in the archives that fuel the look of the HBO Series Boardwalk Empire, a high school working with the latest technologies, and an academic-public cooperative library. We are stoked at the complete variety of libraries we’ll be visiting and all the great things they have going on.

This smaller scale version of the Great Library Roadshow came about after a conversation with Josh Hadro at Library Journal at the Public Library Association Conference back in March. Having just marshaled Patrick Sweeney and Lisa Carlucci Thomas up the East Coast, he had expressed the hope that other people would take up their own road trips and document them as well.

Challenge accepted, Josh.

While Sophie and I will not embark on a multi-day multi-state trip, we will be going from the Shore to the Delaware. Between locations, we’ll be tweeting and tumbling New Jersey trivia and pictures along the way. It will be more about New Jersey than you ever thought you’d know; and if you’re a native like me, it might have some things you never knew!

Here’s how you can follow along in our travels.

Twitter:

Sophie Brookover (@librarylinknj)

Andy Woodworth (@wawoodworth)

Hashtags: #njsd12, #NJlibraryroadshow

Tumblr:

NJ Library Roadshow

Everyone is encouraged to ask Sophie and/or me questions and we’ll be answering them as the day goes on using the #NJlibraryroadshow hastag. If you’re not on Twitter, you can ask us on the Tumblr site. We will get back to you (eventually). Promise!

We won’t be the only teams out on the road. The New Jersey State Library will be sending out people to visit libraries in the northern end of New Jersey. We couldn’t possibly cover it all in one day and remain sane. They will be posting to the Tumblr account as well so there will be a ton of content going up over the course of the day.

If you’re a New Jersey librarian and your library is not participating yet, it’s easy! Here’s how!

Teaching Towards Your Blind Side

On my way home this afternoon, I happened to catch American RadioWorks on NPR. This particular piece caught my attention when they talked about “expert blind spots”.

Deep expertise in a field is obviously a critical asset that colleges look for in their professors. Koedinger says it can also be an obstacle to teaching. He says experts often have a blind spot that blocks them from perceiving a problem from a student’s point of view. "If you’re a chess expert, the chessboard looks different" than it does to a beginner, he says. Experts grasp patterns and relationships by second nature. In essence, the expert can’t understand what the student can’t understand.

In designing the OLI courseware, Koedinger and the Carnegie Mellon team work with experts to overcome the "blind spots" and break each piece of knowledge into its building blocks. They deconstruct the patterns so students can rehearse putting the pieces back together. And because the OLI software captures every click of every student’s mouse, massive pools of "clickstream" data help the OLI team tease out what kinds of lessons and exercises lead students to master their subjects most effectively.

"One of the big surprises in this data set for me is when you look at the learning process from task to task, it takes a long time for kids to get better at specific content, whether it’s math or science or language," Koedinger says. "The progress we see is steady, but it’s slow. That’s one of those things about learning we often forget — how much repetition and practice is critical to becoming an expert."

It really resonated with me because of the computer classes I teach. It has taken months to develop some of the simplified or layman explanations and examples that I give in class to talk about things that are generally taken for granted in a modern technology skill set. I’ve had to adjust my terminology and approach to bring computer skills down to a level where people feel comfortable and confident. I’ve been using computers for over twenty five years; it’s a good reminder of how recent the development of the personal computer is when you are teaching people who have never used one in their life. 

Whether you teach computer classes in the public library like me or in an academic setting from elementary to college, please take the time to listen to this particular episode. It’s pretty damn amazing in looking at a potential of computer assisted education as well as the continued development of online courses.

If you’re someone in the classroom (regardless if that is at a college, high school, grade school, or public library), what kinds of technology assisted instruction have you used or seen?

Are Libraries Licensing eBooks That They Should Be Owning?

Apparently, there is a story going around that Random House says libraries own their eBooks. This notion is not new, however, as it apparently came up a few times in recent months as early as March. Library Journal reports:

For those who have been paying close attention, this is not news. It came up at the Massachusetts Library Association conference in May, it was bruited about at the American Library Association (ALA) annual meeting in Anaheim in June, and it was mentioned in a “corner office” interview  I had with Skip Dye, Random House’s vice president of library and academic marketing and sales, during LJ’s virtual ebook summit on Wednesday. But the potential implications of Random House’s stance are not receiving enough attention and consideration.

Sounds straightforward, right? Enter the noggin scratcher:

“This is our business model: we sell copies of our ebooks to an approved list of library wholesalers, and those wholesalers are supposed to resell them to libraries. In our view, this purchase constitutes ownership of the book by the library. It is not a license.”

I would hope that people would be reaching for their eBook vendor contracts now so as to see if they affirm such a belief. Because, if for example some large company that constitutes the majority of the library eBooks market has been buying these eBooks and then in turn licensing them to libraries, this poses a problem. What kind of problem? A Big One.

The hue and the outcry that was the Random House 300% library eBook price increase might have been mitigated by the fact that it is a purchase, not a license. There would be a greater quid pro quo to the transaction; sure, it costs more, but libraries own the file at the end of the day. It turns a bad deal into a, well, mediocre deal.

What it doesn’t resolve is whether this ownership would come with lending restrictions on it as a condition of the sale. If libraries own the actual eBook file, could they offer greater simultaneous lending options? This would be a radical departure from the rest of the Big Six publishing stance on library eBooks. However, I still have some doubts that Random House would be this ‘hands off’ in the retail chain process as such lending practices are perceived as a dire threat to the entire industry.

Back to the middleman question: so what have been library eBook vendors been doing with Random House books? Are they purchasing these Random House eBooks and then in turn licensing to libraries? It’s not a true infraction since people still sign these contracts knowing what they are getting into; it’s an omission of this knowledge that really speaks to the character of the companies.

The most polite term I can think of is “dickish”. I’ll let you be the judge, but now is the time to go read the fine print of eBook contracts.

Again.

A Fistful of eBook Settlement Dollars

In checking my email after being away for the weekend, I got the eBook state settlement notice. (Quoted in full below) My first thought in opening this email is that it looks a lot like a well drafted phishing attempt. But then I remembered that I had actually bought a book on my iPad when the iBooks app came out. (Sir Ken Robinson’s The Element, which is basically a very lengthy rehashing of one of his TED talks.) I think I purchased the book for either $12.99 or $14.99 which makes me think that any credit will only be a couple of bucks. I’ll be interested to see how they calculate the “right” price.

Here’s the email I got:

Benefits from an Attorney General E-books Settlement Fund

Para una notificación en Español, llamar o visitar nuestro website.

Settlement ID Number: [redacted]

Records indicate that you are eligible for a payment from Settlements reached by the State Attorneys General with electronic book publishers Hachette, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster. The Settlements resolve an antitrust lawsuit about the price of electronic books. Apple Inc. (“Apple”) has not been sued in this case. It is assisting in providing this notice as a service to its customers.

What the Settlements Provide

The Settlements create a $69 million fund for payments to consumers who purchased qualifying electronic books from April 1, 2010 through May 21, 2012. If the Court approves the Settlements, eligible consumers like you will receive credits to your iTunes account. The credit can be used on any purchases of electronic books. The amount of your payment has been determined based on the qualifying electronic book purchases identified by Apple in your iTunes account.

How to Receive your Benefit

Because you are pre-qualified, you do not need to do anything at this time to receive your credit. If the Court approves the Settlements, you will receive another email letting you know how to activate your credit. Once you activate the credit, it will be applied to your account by Apple. (If you bought electronic books from more than one retailer, you may receive notices with different instructions about whether you will receive a credit or need to file a Claim Form for that retailer. You will have a separate claim for each retailer and you should follow the specific instructions from each one.)

You also have the option to receive a check instead of your credit. You can request a check by calling 1-866-621-4153, or going to the Settlement website listed below, and clicking on the Check Request Option link. Be sure to reference the Settlement ID number found at the top of this email. The Settlement website is:

www.EBookAGSettlements.com

Your Other Rights

You can choose to exclude yourself from the Settlements and keep your right to sue on your own. If you exclude yourself, you can’t receive any benefits from the Settlements. If you don’t exclude yourself, you can submit objections about the Settlements.

Your written Exclusion Form or objections must be postmarked by December 12, 2012.Please visit the Settlement website for detailed information on how to submit a valid Exclusion Form or objection.

A separate lawsuit against two other publishers and Apple continues and is set for a trial in 2013. Apple denies the allegations in that lawsuit. Your rights in the separate suit are not affected by any action you take in regards to these Settlements.

The Court will hold a hearing on February 8, 2013 at 10 a.m. to consider whether to approve the Settlements. You or your own lawyer may ask to appear and speak at the hearing.

For more detailed information:

Call 1-866-621-4153 or Visit www.EBookAGSettlements.com

LISNews has a copy of the Kindle email that was sent out in case you want to compare the two.

I’d be interested to hear if any libraries that purchased an eReader (Kindle, Nook, iPad, etc.) to lend to their community got a notice for any books they might have purchased to put on it. With that in mind, I’m wondering about the cost analysis between purchasing an eReader, buying books for it, and lending it out versus purchasing the books through Overdrive or another library eBook middle man and making it available through the website. If someone who is better with numbers and ‘what if?” situations could do that, I’d show my appreciate with some link love.

Update: Amelia from Twitter provided me with the Barnes & Noble letter.

Dear [redacted],

We’re pleased to tell you that you are eligible for gift certificate credits thanks to recent legal settlements between States Attorneys General and three eBook publishers. Barnes & Noble was not a party to the settlements but as a NOOK® customer, you can take advantage of the benefits agreed to by the settling publishers.

Although we are required to notify you now of the settlements, there is nothing you need to do to receive the credits as you will receive them automatically in the form of an electronic gift certificate sent via email. Once the settlements’ claim period ends, the Attorneys General will calculate the amount of your credits. If the Court gives final approval to the settlements, we expect to be able to send you your gift certificate in the first half of 2013.

Once you receive your gift certificate, you can register it on our website,  www.bn.com, for up to one year. Once registered, no further action will be required on your part, and the certificate will have no expiration date and you can use it any time to shop the wide selection of great titles on  bn.com.

You may prefer to receive a check instead of a gift certificate, or you may decide not to participate in this settlement at all. If you want to consider either of these options, we recommend that you review the steps you can take, as well as your rights, which are explained in the attached legal notice.

As always, we appreciate your business and thank you for being a valued NOOK and Barnes & Noble customer.

Sincerely,

Barnes & Noble

Benefits from an Attorney General E-books Settlement Fund

Para una notificación en Español, llamar o visitar nuestro website.

Records indicate that you are eligible for a payment from Settlements reached by the State Attorneys General with E-book publishers Hachette, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster. The Settlements resolve an antitrust lawsuit about the price of electronic books (“E-books”). Barnes & Noble has not been sued in this case. It is providing this notice as a service to its customers.

What the Settlements Provide

10/17/12                   iCloud Mail – You Are Eligible For eBook Credits

The Settlements create a $69 million fund for payments to consumers who purchased qualifying E-books from April 1, 2010 through May 21, 2012. If the Court approves the Settlements, eligible consumers like you will receive credits to your E-reader accounts. The credit can be used on any purchases of E-books or print books. The amount of your payment has been determined based on the qualifying E-book purchases identified by Barnes & Noble in your E-reader account.

How to Receive your Benefit

Because you are pre-qualified, you do not need to do anything at this time to receive your credit. If the Court approves the Settlements, you will receive another email letting you know how to activate your credit. Once you activate the credit, it will be applied to your account by Barnes & Noble. (If you bought E-books from more than one retailer, you may receive notices with different instructions about whether you will receive a credit or need to file a Claim Form for that retailer. You will have a separate claim for each retailer and you should follow the specific instructions from each one.)

You also have the option to receive a check instead of your credit. You can request a check by calling 1-866-621-4153, or going to the Settlement website listed below, and clicking on the Check Request Option link. Be sure to reference the Settlement ID number found at the bottom of this email.

The Settlement website is: http://www.EbooksAGSettlements.com

Your Other Rights

You can choose to exclude yourself from the Settlements and keep your right to sue on your own. If you exclude yourself, you can’t receive any benefits from the Settlements. If you don’t exclude yourself, you can submit objections about the Settlements.

Your written Exclusion Form or objections must be postmarked by December 12, 2012. Please visit the Settlement website for detailed information on how to submit a valid Exclusion Form or objection.

A separate lawsuit against two other publishers and Apple, Inc. continues and is set for a trial in 2013. Your rights in the separate suit are not affected by any action you take in regards to these Settlements. The Court will hold a hearing on February 8, 2013 at 10 a.m. to consider whether to approve the Settlements. You or your own lawyer may ask to appear and speak at the hearing.

For more detailed information:

Call 1-866-621-4153 or Visit http://www.EbooksAGSettlements.com

Settlement ID Number: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

 

The Collection Quagmire

At first reading of this story, I was pretty horrified:

A representative of Frederick County Public Libraries will come before the Board of County Commissioners Thursday to discuss the books, CDs and DVDs the system has acquired in the past few months. The county commissioners will also decide whether to free up funds for the next three months of library purchases.

Commissioner Billy Shreve, who has already started poring over the list of recent buys, believes some of the materials might not be worth taxpayer dollars.

“Why should my tax dollars pay for someone else’s recreation? Why should my tax dollars pay for someone to watch ‘Charlie’s Angels’ or ‘Battlestar Galactica’ or read about Lindsay Lohan?” Shreve said in a phone interview. “It’s funny looking through here, and it’s also sad, because it’s money we could be using for schools, money we could be using for our police and firefighters.”

Library officials and the public should start asking the same questions, Shreve said. In his view, the library’s mission should center on education rather than entertainment.

Then, after a few hours of letting it roll around the brain pan, I relaxed and looked at it for what it was: the shifting of old bones into new graves. The library version of this canard, the “why should my tax dollars pay for [insert thing I think is frivolous] that the library buys”, has proven to be a well worn path for critics who look at one aspect of the collection and declare the whole mission either as not worth it or misguided. This is examining less than $600 of a quarterly materials budget that is over $250,000  (0.0025%, to be precise) in just the items mentioned. While I’m sure a fine tooth combing of all of the purchases could push that price tag higher, I’m going to go out on a limb and say it is still a fraction of the overall budget.

But, really, Shreve stepped into a philosophical quagmire here, one that is special to libraries and perhaps our best defense on collections. The logical follow-up question to his stance is, “So what do you think should be in the collection?” Here is a partial answer to that:

Critics have objected that the commissioners’ scrutiny of detailed purchase lists could lead to censorship of certain library materials. However, Shreve says he is just trying to start a conversation, not control what goes on bookshelves.

So, the conversation is whether or not entertainment items should be on library shelves which in no way controls what goes on the shelves. Uh huh. I suppose it won’t have a chilling effect at all. As Commissioner David Gray points out, removing entertainment would take out the entire fiction section.

From here, one could just continue to pose questions and let the person beat themselves up with the answers they give. “What is entertainment?” “What is educational?” “How can the library tell the difference?” Vague comments about how the library should be centered on education and not entertainment do not a policy make, even if it scores points with a constituency. I’m not sure how any of those items drag it away from being centered on education, but I’ll let that one go.

What makes this story interesting to me is not so much a standard knucklehead approach to securitizing the collection for any whiffs of weakness, but that I’ve actually been to that library. My girlfriend’s parents live in Frederick and we attended a wedding there a few months ago. They took me by the library as part of a tour of the downtown area. It’s a great big beautiful building right along one of the canals that goes through town.

No, the interesting part to me is that the library has computer center that is closed due to a lack of staffing, at least according to the sign on center’s door during my visit. I was told at the time that it had been like that for awhile. I find his quibbling about a couple thousand dollars to be breathtakingly short sighted if the library can’t even staff their computer labs. This has a ripple effect in terms of being unable to offer classes to the public for programs that can be used to improve job skills and/or help with job hunting or resume building. Although, I guess it’s easier to fight over a couple thousand dollars each quarter than to expend way more money hiring people and providing them with benefits and salaries so that the library could be properly staffed.

Honestly, the best response to statements made by people like Shreve is just let them flail away. The more they struggle to articulate their position, the more the quagmire sucks them in. I can safely say that buying a biography on Lindsey Lohan (as loathsome as that may be) is cheaper than a constituent lawsuit brought about by the restriction of library materials (which, in this case of an elected official acting in his government capacity, does meet the definition of the word, “censorship”). If anything, I hope this issue illuminates how the library could use more support from the commissioners of Frederick County.

 

(h/t: Infodocket for reporting it and Amanda Goodman for pointing it out on Twitter)

 

Update: Mike makes an excellent point in his comment below. Don’t miss it.