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Online Newsstand Makes Databases Fun

   March 7th, 2012

Update 3/30/12:
Library Journal published an article on the project, EBSCO's objection, and the process of working towards a resolution.

Update 3/20/12:
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.

Update 3/12/12:
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:

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.

Original Post:
Online Newsstand logoDo 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 [email protected]. And of course I'm happy to talk about how it works in Chelmsford, too.

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9 Responses to “Online Newsstand Makes Databases Fun”

  1. The Online Newsstand Project | Walking Paper Says:

    […] just learned about this via The Swiss Army Librarian where he writes: So, instead of libraries paying to use the Online Newsstand, participating […]

  2. Emily Weak Says:

    That’s a great tool! What I really love is how it is set up collaboratively though. It is such a simple solution with exponentially valuable results. Very elegant.

  3. Joe Montibello Says:

    This is a good idea, and I agree with Emily that the collaborative nature of it is awesome. Libraries need to do more of this kind of thing – helping ourselves instead of waiting for vendors to solve our problems.

    Are the cover images current? Where do they come from? More background on how it works for libraries who see this would be great!

  4. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Emily: it really is. It’s too bad vendors don’t just offer something like this, but it’s great that Steve could pull it together as he has.

    @Joe: I don’t think the images are updated right now. We pull them from the theonlinenewsstand.org server, and perhaps as more libraries come on board, the project could expand to updating those with new issues as well. I can only tell you how it works for my library (which is, very well!), so for more background, check with Steve at [email protected]

  5. Emily Weak Says:

    I’m actually kind of glad vendors *aren’t* offering something like this, because I think some of the lessons we are learning with e-books and exorbitant vendor pricing is that librarians need to find ways to create value/content themselves. A solution like this which is collaborative, yet not overly time consuming or complex is a very good start, and in line with emerging 21st century library values. Librarians need to filter, curate and collect, instead of just providing access.

  6. Rosemary Says:

    This is brilliant! I wish there were more libraries using Gale. I think I’m going to have a hard time convincing folks this is a good idea when there are only a dozen or so titles linked.

  7. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Emily: true, I hadn’t thought of it like that. I totally agree.

    @Rosemary: if it helps at all, the number is growing quickly. A few months ago there was just maybe twelve, but now it’s up to I think twenty-eight titles. I believe a few more Gale libraries are coming on board soon, and I’m hoping this post generates even more interest. Portsmouth uses Ebsco and they’ve been building that library longer, which is why there are more titles available there – but hopefully we Gale customers won’t be too far behind.

  8. Swiss Army Librarian » Pinterest is the New Black :: Brian Herzog Says:

    […] 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 […]

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