Archives for Technology:
March 21st, 2012 Brian Herzog
It's funny how rapidly new web tools are developed and adopted - I've only been hearing about Pinterest for the last couple months, but already it seems to have spread far and wide in libraries.
For those who don't know (like me until yesterday), Pinterest is visual social bookmarking. It's similar to Delicious*, in that you create a set of bookmarks to interesting things online to basically create a curated web directory - but it has images, so it's extremely visual and engaging. Libraries love curated directories (or pathfinders, or bibliographies, or whatever), and I think people respond better to pictures than text (witness the Online Newsstand) - so of course this is something to look into.
I just created an test account and started playing yesterday. I think I get the jist, but I'm also sure there's more to it. For libraries, the obvious use is creating virtual bookshelves - staff picks, best sellers, series books, If You Liked... lists, etc. - with the nice book covers linking back into the catalog.
However, this proved to be more of a pain to accomplish than I would have expected. Because Pinterest focuses on images and videos, if there isn't a big image on the webpage, it can't easily be pinned. This is the case for our catalog - the cover images shown are often smaller than 100 x 100 pixels, which is too small for Pinterest to pick up (using their bookmarklet button).
So, the manual workaround is to pin the image you want (our catalog does link to a bigger version of the cover, so at least that's easy to get to), view the pin, click the Edit button, then paste in the URL for that book in your catalog - and then you've got it. Not prohibitive, but it does take a little extra effort.
And that's just one way to use Pinterest - there are plenty of other examples of things to do:
- Brookline (MA) Library on Pinterest
- Walker Memorial (Westbrook, ME) Library on Pinterest
- David Lee King on how the Topeka (KS) Library is using Pinterest
- A Tame The Web post giving a nice overview of Pinterest
- Onlinecolleges.net with a great list of library examples and ideas for Pinterest
- Something we're going to use it for is to pin videos of library programs: our local cable station records many of our programs, then posts them on their website. The tool they use doesn't have a nice "embed" feature (like YouTube or other sites), so getting them into our website has always been slightly difficult - I think Pinterest will make this much easier
- And don't forget the social nature of Pinterest - it also let you create little "Pin It" buttons to put on your website, to make it easy for other Pinterest users to pin your library's content (go to About > Pin It Button, and scroll to the Pin It Button for Web Sites section). Doing this for every item in the catalog isn't realistic, but it's worth considering for featured content
Also great is the Pin It bookmarklet I mentioned above - using this lets multiple computers (meaning, any staff or desk computer) pin website on the fly, so staff can easily add pins to your account whenever they stumble across something they'd like to share with patrons. To find it, click About > Pin It Button.
Something to always keep in mind is that Pinterest lets you use other peoples' images and videos in ways that might not be entirely consistent with copyright laws. So before you start pinning away, check out Pinterest, Copyright and the Library and How to Use Pinterest Without Breaking the Law.
And like with most tools, the more you play with it, the ways you'll come up with to use it - so have fun and be creative. However, standard social media rules apply: there's no guarantee this tool will be there tomorrow, so be sure the library can degrade gracefully if the service changes or goes away.
*More on Delicious
, and also: it looks like Delicious
is getting visual, too.
March 17th, 2012 Brian Herzog
This isn't so much a reference question as it is just me venting about two different reference interactions that ended up having the same answer.
A patron comes up to the desk and asks to see Consumer Reports. In my library, we get two copies of the magazine - one to circulate, and one to keep behind the reference desk (otherwise, it would only circulate in one direction*). Generally this works well. Our circulating versions are usually checked out, so often people using the reference copies just photocopy the article or ratings or whatever they want.
Such was the case with this patron - except, when I suggested photocopying, I also offered the fact that we have online access to Consumer Reports (through EBSCO). The patron got excited about that, so I showed him how to find it and log in from home. By this time we had found the article he was looking for in the reference copy of the issue, but he said instead of photocopy it he would look it up tonight online, as well as spend more time researching the ratings.
But the next day, he called and said he couldn't find in the database the article that he saw in the magazine. I thought it just must have been his searching skills, so I grabbed the issue to get the title, and then searched the database myself - and I couldn't find it either. And then I noticed that none of the articles seemed to be in the database - the ratings and reviews were, but not the magazine articles.
I apologized to the patron, and told him I'd contact the database vendor to see why those were missing from our account. He said he got enough information from the ratings, so that was good, at least. But I emailed EBSCO anyway, and then got a call later in the day from our sales person (new sales person actually, so he was calling to answer my question and to introduce himself).
He said that our experience was correct - the Consumer Reports database we purchased through them was limited (by the publisher Consumer Union, as EBSCO is just the distributor) to the ratings and reviews only. The full magazine is only available for customers of MasterFILE, which has the full text of each issue.
So, that sucked, and was not something I realized when I originally subscribed to the database (which was probably an oversight on my part, even though it might be a natural assumption to think buying the magazine database would give you full access to the magazine).
The day after I first spoke with the Consumer Reports patron, another patron asked for help with our Ancestry database. She said she was in the library the week prior doing genealogy work, had printed a page of search results, and now she couldn't figure out how to get back to it.
That seemed simple enough - she was in the family tree section, so I helped her drill back into the family tree search for the name she was researching - and nothing. Not only was there no matches for that name, but the family tree screens didn't look like what she had printed out.
When I realized the menus were all different from our library interface, it occurred to me that perhaps she had gone directly to the ancestry.com website, instead of through our subscription database. So I switched to their website, drilled into that family tree search (called Public Member Trees) - and sure enough, we found the page she had seen before.
But when we clicked the name to see more information (which of course is what she wanted), we were prompted to purchase Ancestry. We were both puzzled as to why something behind the website's paywall wasn't available in the subscription the library was already paying for, so I told her I'd contact the vendor to find out.
I emailed ProQuest, who we buy Ancestry Library Edition from, but they wrote back in a few hours saying that since my question was about the Ancestry.com website, I'd have to contact them directly (and provided the contact information). I did, and a few days later I got this reply from them:
Thank you for contacting Ancestry Library Edition support.
Unfortunately, the Ancestry Library Edition does not have access to the Member Trees that a personal account does. While there is a "Family Trees" section of the library edition, it is limited to the databases listed on the following URL:
The answer to your question is that the databases available to the library edition do not contain a match for the person being searched for when limiting to the "Family Trees" category.
If there is anything else with which we might assist you, please let us know.
Also in looking around the Ancestry.com website, I found this:
About Public Member Trees
This database contains family trees submitted to Ancestry by users who have indicated that their tree can be viewed by all Ancestry members. These trees can change over time as users edit, remove, or otherwise modify the data in their trees. You can contact the owner of the tree to get more information.
Perhaps I can understand that, since the family tree information is uploaded by users, there is some licensing reason it cannot be resold to libraries. At any rate, I informed the patron, and she was disappointed, but okay - in fact, she thought she knew which Ancestry.com member posted that family tree, so she was going to try to contact her directly.
But the bottom line was, in both situations, the library version of the subscription database didn't have the information in it that the patron was looking for - even though it was available through other (not free) sources. And probably in both cases, it was me being a bad librarian for not having known this beforehand, or evaluated the library editions more thoroughly when I signed us up for them.
I'm sorry for concluding such a long post without some great insight or happy ending. It was just a odd coincidence that these two situations happened at the same time, and with the same (unsatisfying) resolution.
*By which I mean, get stolen.
March 15th, 2012 Brian Herzog
Integrating chat into your website
You put your info desk in the middle of your physical library, so put the chat reference link central to your website.
Placement = point of service, so put it everywhere, and be consistent (catalog, website, not just handouts and flyers)
Feb 2012 = 619 sessions (at Arlington Heights (IL) Library)
- Homepage: 135
- User account signup page: 133
- Catalog pages: 124
- These three pages are 63% of the total
- Top-right or top-left, make sure it's above the fold
- Talk to vendors: some will let you put chat widgets inside the databases
- Put it on other community websites (local newspaper, Town Hall, social service agencies, etc)
Use a promotion to boost usage and introduce the service to patrons
"Win a Nook" promotion at Anne Arundel County (MD) Public Library
- Promotion lasted one week, which was plenty long (especially for staff who had to keep promoting it)
- Pass out bookmarks, pins/badges, and flyers to tell people how to get to the chat
- This told patrons to mention the contest when they started their chat session, so they got entered to win the Nook)
- Promotion focused on staff/patron interaction, so patron had to also mention staff person's name (staff person could then with a Nook also)
- Results: 436 people tried chat that week - 632% increase; 899 sessions for the entire month - a 162% increase over previous year
- Lessons learned: easy promotion; chat sessions increased; public "got" the service by trying it out; people love winning free stuff
- Contact Betty Morganstern (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more details
Tags: 24/7, 24x7, chat, libraries, Library, oclc, pla, pla12, public, questionpoint, reference
March 7th, 2012 Brian Herzog
Library Journal published an article on the project, EBSCO's objection, and the process of working towards a resolution.
Good news: EBSCO and Steve have been in contact, and they are currently exploring the possibility of developing a service comparable to the Online Newsstand that would be acceptable to publishers.
EBSCO contacted Steve and asked him to shut down the Online Newsstand project. They said they had been contacted by a publisher who had concerns, and EBSCO cited the Online Newsstand violating their license agreements.
I'm hoping this is a temporary "let's meet and work this out" kind of deal, and not a "we don't want anyone doing something better than us" situation. After all, EBSCO isn't losing any money (and Steve isn't making money) - if anything, EBSCO and their publishers only benefit from increased database usage, because higher stats make libraries more inclined to renew their database contracts. Not to mention that EBSCO gives out awards to libraries for doing exactly this kind of innovative project (I won one):
Steve has contacted EBSCO to try to get Online Newsstand back online. If you're so inclined, you can contact EBSCO to let them know what you think:
- Tim Collins, CEO: email@example.com
- Mark Herrick, Senior Vice President of Business Development: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Ed Roche, Vice President of Field Sales, APK: email@example.com
- Emily Hayden: Senior Director of Customer Success, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Melissa D'Amato, Vice President of Publisher Relations: email@example.com
Only EBSCO has demanded Online Newsstand be taken down, but to be on the safe side until this is resolved, Steve has also brought down the Gale version as well. What an incredibly unfortunate and unnecessary state of affairs.
Do you wish the great content in your databases was easier to access and more engaging for patrons? Sure, we all do. And now it can be, with the Online Newsstand.
Steve Butzel of the Portsmouth (NH) Public Library developed the Online Newsstand Project to promote some of the great content libraries are already paying for - just by making that content more visible to patrons. Instead of having to go into MasterFILE or Expanded Academic ASAP, patrons can browse their favorite magazines on, well, an online newsstand, right on the library's website. It looks like this:
Pretty neat, huh?
Patrons don't need to know what a database is, or how to use one - they just click the magazine and article they want to read, log in with their library card number, and they're in! Almost as easy as reading an actual magazine.
And the second best thing about this (the first best is how awesome it looks) is that it's free for libraries to use.
Here's how it works: the Online Newsstand doesn't replace databases - it's just another (prettier) way to access their content. Steve compiles a list of the top articles of each magazine issue, along with the direct link to that article in the database. That way, the Online Newsstand can easily display the table of contents for a magazine, which eliminates all the searching and drilling down into publications in databases.
Check it out at the Portsmouth Library, on my library's website, and also on our mobile website (which is great for patrons on the go).
Updating the table of contents for each issue in the Online Newsstand would have been a monumental task. But it occurred to Steve that, since so many libraries are paying for the exact same content in the exact same databases, a bunch of libraries working together could make light work of it.
So, instead of libraries paying to use the Online Newsstand, participating libraries "adopt" a magazine, and they are then responsible for adding the new article titles and links to the Newsstand whenever a new issue is published. The interface Steve created makes this extremely easy - I do The Economist (a weekly magazine) and Outdoor Life (a monthly), and it takes me about ten minutes per issue - tops.
I love the approach of libraries working together. My ten minutes' labor a week benefits other libraries, and also gives my patrons access to the work done by other librarians. This is the true spirit of cooperation that is so emblematic of libraries.
The Online Newsstand is available both for EBSCO and Gale customers. And as more libraries get involved in the project, more and more magazine titles will be added. And again, this doesn't change or affect your relationship with database vendors - it just improves the patron experience of using the resources we're already paying for.
If you're interested (and I hope you are), contact Steve Butzel at firstname.lastname@example.org. And of course I'm happy to talk about how it works in Chelmsford, too.
Tags: database, databases, libraries, Library, magazine, magazines, online newsstand, portsmouth public library, public, steve butzel, user experience, ux
February 15th, 2012 Brian Herzog
Almost exactly a year ago, I posted about scanning library cards on smartphones. While the FaceCash scanner I ordered worked, it wasn't designed to be used for library purposes, so didn't really fit at the circulation desk*.
At the time, we decided that as our existing desk scanners stopped working, we'd replace them with CCD scanners, so we'd be able to accommodate patrons with their library cards on their smartphone. And I'm happy to say it finally happened - one of our scanners stopped working, and we replaced it with a CCD scanner.
The model we chose is the one Jeff Pike from the Groton (MA) Library found - Unitech MS335, which features long range laser, USB attachment, and on a hands-free stand.
One catch is that the scanner, by default, is trigger-activated, rather than motion-activated like our other desk scanners. That was solved by switching it to "continuous" mode, which means the laser is always on. A little different, but the Circ staff doesn't seem to mind. Another catch was that the scanner ships with Codabar support turned off (which is what our library barcodes need). That was easy to fix too, as the barcode to turn on Codabar support was in the manual. I called Unitech to ask them these support questions, and they were excellent - an actual person answered the phone, was friendly and answered all my questions, and the entire phone call lasted maybe five minutes - with the end result being our scanner worked the way we wanted by the end of the call.
Since that post a year ago, I've gotten lots of questions about these kinds of scanners. The only two I'm familiar with are the two listed above, but I was curious what scanner models other libraries use, and well they work. If your library has a scanner like this, please let me know in the comments - hopefully this will become a resource for other libraries looking to buy these scanners. Thanks.
*So I was happy to keep it at my desk so I'd have a scanner to use
Tags: barcode, ccd, libraries, Library, library card, ms335, public, scan, scanner, scanners, smartphone, unitech
February 8th, 2012 Brian Herzog
Last week, a salesman from Library Ideas, LLC, came to demo their new ebook product, Freading. This is the same company that has the DRM-free music download product Freegal, so I was curious to hear their approach to ebooks (tl;dr version is their excellent FAQ).
Ebooks are more popular than ever in my library, and our Overdrive ebook catalog (which we share with 36 other libraries in my consortium) just cannot keep up. Patrons are disappointed that everything they want to read isn't available for immediate download (either because the publishers won't deal with Overdrive or because other patrons already have that ebook checked out).
And that's how Freading is different: instead of the Overdrive model of building your library ebook collection by purchasing one ebook that only one person can use at a time, the Freading model gives immediate access to their entire 15,000+ ebooks, and any number of patrons can download the same ebook at the same time.
A Better Model?
I really like this model much more than Overdrive, because patrons never have to wait for books, and right off the bat you're offering a huge collection. Although there is the question of sustainable cost, which I'll get to later.
They also have a lot of kids books - at least, more than we currently offer with Overdrive.
Another huge plus is that I find the interface and whole download process way easier than Overdrive. You can check it out at http://freading.com - it's not the most elegant interface, but the process really is just three steps:
- Search for an ebook
- Click to view the ebook details (title, author, summary, etc)
- Click to download (all are epub, some are also pdf)
Yay for not having to "add to bookbag" first, and all the other extra steps.
Multiple authentication methods are available, so there is also the step of the patron entering their library card number. Then, downloaded ebooks go through Adobe Digital Editions just like Overdrive, and patrons would use that to transfer to their devices (or their app for smartphones and tablets).
One major drawback is that it doesn't work with the old-style Kindles, but it does work with Kindle Fire and pretty much any other ereader. This is almost a deal-breaker, as about 70% of the people I've been helping use basic Kindles.
Another drawback is that they don't have books from the major publishers in there. They do have books from 45 publishers, but I searched for our most popular Overdrive ebooks, and none of them were in Freading. So at best, this would be a supplement to Overdrive, until the bigger publishers get on board.
Which, according to the salesman, is just a matter of time, because of the payment model Freading uses. In their model, libraries will be paying every time an ebook is downloaded (rather than buy it once and use it indefinitely like Overdrive [except for HarperCollins]), so theoretically the publishers stand to make more money this way.
Side note: check out Cory Doctorow's American Libraries article on revamping copyright, and also the White House petition to reform U.S. copyright law in regard to libraries. (via)
Something else is that, even though I like their interface, it amounts to being yet one more place patrons need to check to cover all their bases. I asked about MARC records to put in our main ILS catalog, (which we do for ebooks from Overdrive and Safari), to make it easier for patrons to find the ebooks we have access to. The salesman said they can do it, but it's still in process and should be available by PLA in March. But then there's the question of whether we want to dump 15,000+ new records into the catalog, on the off-chance someone might want it.
Within Freading, "paying" for downloads all happens on a "token" system. A token is $0.50, and it takes different amounts of tokens to download different types of books. Their breakdown is:
|Ebooks published less than 6 months ago*
||4 tokens ($2.00)
||once for 1 token ($0.50)
|Ebooks 7 months - 2 years old
||2 tokens ($1.00)
||once for free
|Ebooks older than 2 years
||1 token ($0.50)
||once for free
|*Publishers do make exceptions for bestsellers or popular books - the example he gave was Water for Elephants which, although it is more than 2 years old, is still a 4 token book.
Patrons would each get, say, 5 tokens a week (this can be adjusted by the library). Unused tokens continue to rollover for 4 weeks, and then are lost (so if you had 1 token left after week one, week two you'd have 6 tokens, but week one's extra token, if not used, would disappear in week five). Libraries can also cap the total number of tokens their patrons can spend a month, to control how much money the library spends.
I looked into my library's Overdrive stats for Jul-Dec 2011. We averaged about 356 downloads a month. If the 4/2/1 token breakdown is averaged at 2 tokens, that means we'd be spending about $356/month on downloads, or about $4200/year. It's hard to estimate, because I think Overdrive stats are way down because so many people are on waiting lists, but if Freading doesn't have a lot of the popular titles that Overdrive has anyway, then it might be a wash (not to mention subtracting out all the Kindle users).
The other cost to factor in is a one-time setup fee of $150. After that, libraries only pay for downloads, not a platform fee or annual subscription or anything else.
How it Works for Patrons
Once someone does download a title, they have it for 2 weeks, and then it automatically expires (like Overdrive). At any point after that 2 weeks, the patron can renew the book once (whether it be immediately after the first two weeks, or months later - and see table above for renewal costs). After the one renewal though, the price goes back to regular, and they would need to spend more tokens to check it out a third time.
We haven't decided whether or not we'll go with this product, but I certainly think they have a lot in their favor. The salesman said three libraries in Connecticut are already running it (http://www.westportlibrary.org is one), and I found an article saying their count is up to 50 and lists some other libraries.
And again, check out their FAQ for more information on how it works. Hopefully I got all the details right, but please weigh in if your library is using this - or NetLibrary, or any other ebook service.