Notes of a Binge Thinker

Thoughts from NTLP's Executive Director

Archive for the ‘Misc’ Category

Ebooks are best sellers and now authors can sign their ebooks

Ebooks are taking over the publishing world!  Here is an quote from the ebooknewser.

eBooks hit a major milestone in February. According to Association of American Publishers(AAP) sales figures, eBooks ranked as the top format “among all categories of trade publishing” that month.

eBook sales totaled $90.3 million for the month, expanding 202 percent compared to the same period  last year. Below, we’ve embedded the full release.

On another ebook note, authors can now sign their ebooks through a special app

Well, BTC, what does all this mean for libraries?

Written by amwlkaw

April 18, 2011 at 9:57 am

Posted in Misc

Subscribe to Ebooks? – A model for libraries

Hi.  I often read the ReadWriteWeb blog because of its top of the line posts and it keeps me up with every aspect of my interests:  web, gadgets, writing and libraries.  In a recent post, we were introduced to the idea of subscribing to ebooks.  In this model, a reader will pay a monthly fee to access as many items as they would like.  As I read it, I thought to myself that this sounds like a private library to me and by the time I finished the article, I was surprised to find the author had agreed with me. 

E-book subscriptions may sound like a new and exciting model for readers, authors, and the publishing industry. But there’s already an “all-you-can-eat” model for books: libraries. That library card gets you access to all the books you want, for free.

So, what do you think BTC, are ebook subscriptions something libraries could take advantage of?  What would you suggest?  I am going to write the company, 24symbols and see what they think about libraries.  I’ll let you know what I find out…

Written by amwlkaw

April 14, 2011 at 3:34 pm

Posted in Misc

The Library as Curator of Current Events



Happy March! I hope everyone is enjoying the warmer weather.

If you remember, I am going to focus on five guideposts that NTLP feels libraries need to follow in the next decade when planning their service offerings. Here are the five guideposts again as a refresher

The Library of the Future increases the overall value of its community by:

Guidepost 1: facilitating access to education as a service to the public.

Guidepost 2: staying aware of current interests within the community, finding information relevant to those interests, and making that information publicly available.

Guidepost 3: ensuring easy public access to information in all its forms.

Guidepost 4: encouraging civic participation through public information campaigns that explain matters of public policy, informing public decisions, and maintaining awareness of public
services (including its own services).

Guidepost 5: maintaining its standing of public trust by operating as an independent “third voice” in its operations as well as its communications, and meeting on neutral ground.

Each month I will focus on one guidepost. I will highlight a library (or libraries) that I feel is following that guidepost closely and doing something innovative to make the guidepost a reality.I will then give some benchmarks (examples of what libraries can do to follow the guidepost) that the NTLP staff has developed.

This month I am focusing on guidepost number two. I have selected two libraries that practice this guidepost in a very structured determined fashion: Alvarado Public Library and Azle Public Library.

Read the rest here.

Written by amwlkaw

March 22, 2011 at 10:59 am

Posted in Misc

What are you doing with your old computers?

Jolicloud is a company that has designed a lightweight version of Linux that they claim you can load on computers up to ten years old to make them Internet stations.  They claim that the computers will be like new again.  I have heard promises like this in the past so being the nerd that I am, I decided to load it on my wife’s old broken down netbook to see if their claims were true.

I first had to download the iso file to the computer and then I had to create a bootable USB drive.   By bootable drive, I mean that the computer would boot up from the USB drive versus the hard drive.  I had to do it this way because I was completely replacing the windows XP OS on my wife’s computer.  You have the option to have Jolicloud reside alongside Windows if you want to check it out before taking the plunge.   I then turned my wife’s computer off and then on again, changed the boot sequence through the bios(you can hit F2 or esc to access the bios) to boot from the USB drive and then followed the online instructions.  Overall, it took me two hours to complete and I have to say that after playing with the computer for the last two days that it actually works better now than it ever did with Windows.

Now, you do have to remember that it is not Windows, it is Linux so the interface is different, but I am able to check my facebook account, gmail account, linkedin account and surf the net on the computer.  It has over 275 apps that you can use with the OS.  My son was thrilled to find over thirty free games that he can play with the software.  It also has access to Google docs and openoffice apps.  In my mind, it seems like a mixture of an smartphone and computer.  Another cool feature of it is that you can access your files in the cloud right next to your files on the harddrive.  It is done through the same interface so no more having to open a browser window to access your box.net files.

The designers of the OS intended it this way.  They wanted a way for people to recycle their old computers into Internet device where you can mix the cloud with the local device.  It is very slick and well done.  Their manifesto explains their reasoning for doing this.

At Jolicloud we believe a movement has started. A movement that will change the computer industry forever: a world where computers are inexpensive, where operating systems are free and software is online. This is the world we dreamed of when we first discovered computers and the Internet. And this is why we wanted to build an operating system (OS) around a platform that gives everyone the opportunity to be part of this movement and access a whole new range of possibilities.

Jolicloud is an Internet operating system[1]. It combines the two driving forces of the modern computing industry: the open source and the open web.

Jolicloud transforms your netbook into a sophisticated web device that taps into the cloud to expand your computing possibilities. The web already hosts a significant part of our lives: mails, photos, videos, and friends are already somewhere online. Jolicloud was built to make the computer and web part of the same experience.

The online world is taking processing power away from our computers, so we won’t need expensive machines in the future. The web improves itself, so we don’t need to replace machines all the time to be able to run newer versions of operating systems or office suites.

But the real catalyst of change has been the arrival of the netbooks: they started as an experimental low cost laptop for kids and they now radically change our views on how much we are willing to pay for personal computers. Think about it: computers are now becoming cheaper than mobile phones and MP3 players.

We feel privileged to witness this rebirth of the computer culture and are very excited about the world changes it can foster: More affordable means more people around the world connecting with knowledge, more communication between people and more balanced access to computing power with less cost, format or geographical limitations.

We come from the web, so we built our user interface mostly using its core technologies (HTML, JavaScript, CSS). We have integrated our web DNA into the OS to make it modular, social and personal. Our developer platform relies on the web and will let anyone or any service join in no time. With our API, developers will have the ability to let their website communicate with the computer directly with no need to code specific native applications.

Of course it’s just the beginning. Netbooks are very new. They are still bulky, but they are making progress with better keyboards, better screens and battery time.

No one has yet entirely switched his or her life online, but everyday larger parts of our personal and business lives are relayed and stored via the web. Online connectivity is still expensive but prices are dropping as operators can’t resist the global needs of the always on generation.

Legendary computer inventor Alan Kay once said, the best way to predict the future is to invent it. This is why we created Jolicloud. Like every project we can’t do it by ourselves. We need your help and support to make this project a success. Together let’s change the status quo and build the coolest OS for netbooks.

 

I do want to point out that the Manifesto says netbook, but they have made recent claims on their blog that version 1.1 will work on any virtually device 10 years or younger.  They tell user after user on their facebook page to just try it.  I plan to do this with an old laptop and desktop that my in-laws no longer use.  I will let everyone know if it works as well.

I am sure, BTC, you can think of the advantages of this type of OS provides to your library.  Now, you don’t have to throw away those old computers.  Just recycle them using Jolicloud.  You can even use them for the Public, because it has user accounts and ways to lock down the OS so patrons will be forced to behave themselves.  Of course, if someone does end up doing mischief on one of the computers, it is so easy to install Jolicloud that you can just reinstall the software.

So, BTC, go out, get your old computers, try it out and let the rest of us know how it goes….

Written by amwlkaw

February 25, 2011 at 10:47 am

Posted in Misc

The Library as the Community’s Education Cornerstone

 Happy February! I am tired of the winter. It has snowed twice this week. I live in Texas because I don’t want to deal with snow and ice. Please go away.

If you remember from my column last week, I am going to focus on five guideposts that NTLP feels libraries need to follow in the next decade when planning their service offerings. Here are the five guideposts again as a refresher.

The Library of the Future increases the overall value of its community by:

Guidepost 1: facilitating access to education as a service to the public.

Guidepost 2: staying aware of current interests within the community, finding information
relevant to those interests, and making that information publicly available.

Guidepost 3: ensuring easy public access to information in all its forms.

Guidepost 4: encouraging civic participation through public information campaigns that explain
matters of public policy, informing public decisions, and maintaining awareness of public
services (including its own services).

Guidepost 5: maintaining its standing of public trust by operating as an independent “third voice”
in its operations as well as its communications, and meeting on neutral ground.

Each month I will focus on one guidepost. I will highlight a library that I feel is following that guidepost closely and doing something innovative to make the guidepost a reality. I will then give some benchmarks (examples of what libraries can do to follow the guidepost) that the NTLP staff has developed.

This month, I am highlighting the Lewisville Public Library, lead by Library Director, Ann  Wiegand. Ann was kind enough to be interviewed about what she is doing to make her public library a cornerstone for education in her community. I personally believe that what she has done in Lewisville could be one model for libraries to follow in the future.

Basically, Ann has changed the language of her library to be more education-centric. She has changed her job titles, job description, and programming descriptions to language that more closely matches that of a school setting than what you would expect from a public library setting.

Read the rest of the column here.

Written by amwlkaw

February 22, 2011 at 3:06 pm

Posted in Misc

Digital Public Library of America

Hi BTC

I have been hoping for a national wide movement on building a digital library since I started researching ebooks last year.  It seems to me that if we are to make a dent in the decision makers(publishers, resellers, authors,etc) of our reading ecosystem, then we need a national digital library, where we collectively we have more bang than any local or regional library ebook movement.  As it stands right now, we do not have much of a say on the decisions being made when it comes to ebooks.  A national library movement would make the decision makers stand up and take notice.

I hope the Digital Public Library of America will be that library.  They have a wiki and a discussion group.  If you are interested, join up and see what the fuss is all about.

Written by amwlkaw

February 17, 2011 at 3:06 pm

Posted in Misc

Personal Digital Archives – Do libraries have a role?

Hi.  I was looking over the latest trend called Personal Digital Archives and discovered a pretty interesting site to help individuals, and maybe a model for libraries to provide their communities.  

If I understand it correctly, Personal Digital Archives are a record of everything that we do online today.  If you think about it, we store a lot more online today than we have ever have in the past.  You most likely have a facebook account, a flickr or shuttlebug account, itunes, paypal and several email accounts.  How do you preserve this content for future generations?  How do you let your loved ones know about how to access your online information after you are gone?  This is where personal digital archives come into play. 

In my research, I found a service called Legacy Locker that provides this service to individuals at a price.  Here is a blurb from their website:

Legacy Locker is the safe and secure way to pass access to your online accounts to friends and loved ones. It’s like a digital safety deposit box – you can put passwords to all your online accounts (emails, photos, social networks, everything online that requires a login) in it. For every account you store, you can assign a beneficiary, someone to whom you want to entrust your digital content for the future.

How could libraries help individuals with their Personal Digital Archives?  Of course, we have always been archives of local history so if we could figure out a way to do this for digital content, I think it would add a value to the library in the minds of individuals.  At the very least, a workshop or two on the subject might be appropriate for the library patrons. 

What do you think, BTC?  Does a library have a role in Personal Digitial Archives movement?

Written by amwlkaw

February 15, 2011 at 10:26 am

Posted in Misc

Have you slashed a website today yet?

Hello BTC!

Here in Texas, we have been cold and icy.  I hope that winter goes away soon.  I am so tired of the snow, ice and cold.

For years, I have been bemoaning the state of the Internet.  The Internet is a wonderful information tool for us to use in our daily lives.  I find it hard to remember what it was like before I could look up a quick question on the Internet.  However, once you get past the ready reference type questions, the Internet is a hard beast to swallow because of the amount of trash that exists alongside the good credible material.  Search engines don’t really help with the situation.  Instead, they give use as much “spam” as they do good material.  For the longest time, I thought that only librarians really cared too much about this as the world at large seemed to be content with “good enough” in their search results.

Last week, while snowed and iced in my house, I read about a search engine called Blekko that launched last fall.  Blekko has taken a new approach to search by allowing users to create custom search through the use of slashtags.    The purpose behind this approach is that it allows the user to search only the sites that they want by applying a slash tag to sites that are credible and eliminating the spam.  The company explains their approach on their website.

how to slash the web

make ’em:
Make a slashtag that includes just your favorite sites. make it as narrow (/scuba) or as broad (/favorites) as you like. Add that slashtag to any search and you’re only searching those sites.
use ’em: find a friend’s slashtag and get in their head for your searches. For example, try searching Rich’s home brewing slashtag for quality info on brewing your own beer (ex. wheat beer /homebrew).
make ’em better: We’ve already created hundreds of topic slashtags that you can search now. everything from /conservative, to /humor to /vc is there. Drop us a tweet (@blekko) and tell us if you think any are missing sites or if you have ideas for other topics.

 

I haven’t had a chance to use the search engine yet, but I see a lot of application in a library setting.  You can create your own reference searches for topics often asked about in the library.  You can then point this out to patrons when they come to search for that topic.  To see an example, check out this tutorial on how to use Blekko and other custom search engines.

So, what do you think BTC, can we make searches mean more or we stuck with the spam along with the good?

Written by amwlkaw

February 7, 2011 at 11:39 am

Posted in Misc

Qwiki – The Information Experience

Now for something a little different….

Qwiki is a different type of tool for our patrons to utilize in their information searches.  In my mind, it is combination of Youtube, Wikipedia and Google.   Basically, it presents you with visual information along with the textual. The visual aspect is done in a very professional way and very appealing to the eye.  It also includes a voice over along with the text of the entry.   They claim it is an “information experience.”

Here is an excerpt from their About Us page.

“Whether you’re planning a vacation on the web, evaluating restaurants on your phone, or helping with homework in front of the family Google TV, Qwiki is working to deliver information in a format that’s quintessentially human – via storytelling instead of search.

We are the first to turn information into an experience. We believe that just because data is stored by machines doesn’t mean it should be presented as a machine-readable list. Let’s try harder.”

I can see this tool being used quite a bit by students of all ages and those of us who just want a quick explanation of a particular subject.  For example, I typed in my home town of Saginaw Texas and was pleasantly surprised by the response.  It actually had some good information about the town, although it did include a picture of a downtown from another location(I assume it was Saginaw, Michigan).

In order for it to work for libraries in assisting their patrons, I do have some recommendations.  First, they need to explain where they are getting their information.  I know for most people, the information alone is enough, but we as librarians like to know the sources of our information.   It does mention some sources in the voice over and text, but none of the visual components refer to original sources.   In order for it work in a school library and academic library, the tool really needs to bring in links to Google Scholar(similar source) as further reading so the students can use Qwiki as a starting off point for their research.  Right now, they have links to Wikipedia, Youtube, Google and Fotopedia, but more should links should be provided.  Most students will need more substantial material for whatever research they are conducting.

I would also recommend Qwiki hire some librarians to help them with the sourcing issues as well as work with them on information retrieval.  Librarians have been focused on information for 100 years and many of them have skill sets that go far beyond the walls of the library.

IMHO, it would be neat for a library to use a kiosk dedicated to Qwiki.   It could be placed next to the Reference desk and patrons could use it to search for subjects on the Internet much in the same way they search for library material in the library’s OPAC.   You might wonder why this would even be needed since we have public access computers and smart phones (Qwiki apps are on their way), but the computers can often be tied up and despite the rumors, not everyone has a smart phone.

So BTC, take a look at the tool and let the rest of us know what you think.   Have fun!

Written by amwlkaw

January 25, 2011 at 9:53 am

Posted in Misc

What is the Future of the Book in Libraries?

Happy New Year!

I hope everyone is having a wonderful start to 2011.  As we moved into the new year, I thought about the focus of my column. What subject can I highlight that will be beneficial to the libraries I serve on a daily basis?  With my column last year, I focused on the new roles libraries will take on in the next decade.  Out of all the subjects I covered, the one that seemed to cause the most passion was: What role will books play as we move forward?

I pondered this question as I read about the millions of ebook readers sold over the holidays.  As you have most doubt read, Amazon and Barnes and Noble’s ebook readers are their all time best sellers.  Each company has respectively sold more ebook readers than any other product.  A remarkable development for a device that many felt had come and gone with the turn of the century.

I actually have been interested in the ebook phenomenon for quite awhile now.  I even held a workshop about what a library would need to do to provide an ebook reader to every citizen.  At this workshop, we went over the basics of the ebook business and looked over some of the readers.  We, then, spent an hour in the afternoon going over all that a library would have to do to provide an ebook reader to every citizen and make the entire library’s content available to the citizens through the ebook reader.  My intention was to generate an ebook on ebooks from the feedback I received from the workshop.

I have started the book on numerous occasions, but every time I would finish a page, something would change in the ebook industry to nullify what I had just written.  I grew tired of trying to keep the ebook on ebooks current.  It didn’t take a leap for me to realize that the material might be better suited as a segment of my monthly column.

So, without further ado, there seems to be two aspects I wanted to concentrate on in 2011.  First, what will the role of books be in the library in the year 2020?  Second, focus on some of the issues libraries are facing when it comes to ebooks and ebook readers.

Library of the Future Guideposts!

You’re traveling through another dimension — a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That’s a signpost up ahead: your next stop: the Twilight Zone! (one of the three introductions for the television show Twilight Zone)

As I do with most everything here at NTLP, I went to my consultants and asked them what they thought about books in libraries in 2020.   Specifically, I asked them to brainstorm on some guideposts (or signposts as the quote above mentions) libraries could use as guide in the next decade as books are deemphasized as a service.

My questions sparked a major discussion between my staff.  It was a pleasure to watch these intelligent individuals passionately discuss a topic.  I could fill a book (or ebook) on what was discussed.  In the end, we decided on the following guideposts.

The Library of the Future increases the overall value of its community by:

Guidepost 1:  facilitating access to education as a service to the public.

Guidepost 2:  staying aware of current interests within the community, finding information relevant to those interests, and making that information publicly available.

Guidepost 3:  ensuring easy public access to information in all its forms.

Guidepost 4:  encouraging civic participation through public information campaigns that explain matters of public policy, informing public decisions, and maintaining awareness of public services (including its own services).

Guidepost 5:  maintaining its standing of public trust by operating as an independent “third voice” in its operations as well as its communications, and meeting on neutral ground.

I encourage you to embrace these guideposts:

  • In your long range planning.
  • In your discussions about the library with friends and family.
  • In your discussions about the library with your decision makers.

Eat them, breathe them and live them.  Libraries are going to change.  It is just a matter of how and we hope these guideposts will help guide you in your efforts.  In the coming months, I will focus on one guidepost a month and attempt to find a library abiding by the rule.   I also continue this conversation with my staff and convey some of the benchmarks that libraries could be following in the next decade as they approach each of these guideposts.

An Ebook Reader for Every Citizen

I have recently began to utilize Scenario Planning, where you build four possible futures based on key factors and then plan strategy around the possible futures developing.  It is an interesting technique for long range planning and one I would like to employ as I explore ebooks in my columns.  My first scenario is described below.  What would happen if a key decision maker like a mayor decided that each citizen deserved to get an ebook reader?

Here is the scenario itself.

“I promise to carry out all of my campaign promises, the least of which includes providing every citizen digital knowledge.  I will do this by providing an ebook reader so they can access the breadth of information found in our world class library.”

Alan Worth, Director of the Anytown Public Library, read the quote taped on his computer monitor for the hundredth time.  It had been four months since the elections and he had dreaded the day when he knew he would be called to the Mayor’s office to discuss the town leader’s pet project.   Alan had received the call last week from the city secretary inviting him to attend lunch with the Mayor, Bill Smith, at his favorite downtown hole-in-the-wall.

The quote itself came from the city newspaper in an article that appeared the day after the election.  Many since had questioned the Mayor’s sincerity about the project, but Alan had taken it seriously and had mentally prepared himself for the meeting.  Libraries had changed a lot since Alan started working as a librarian 20 years earlier.  With the rise of ebooks and digital information, Alan knew it was only matter of time before he would be facing possibility of providing ebooks to his patrons.  He just never thought it would be on the scale that the Mayor’s campaign promise had taken on.

His library board had asked Alan the week after the election if it was possible to do what the Mayor wanted.  Alan spoke frankly at the time.

“I simply don’t know at this point.  I know that we face some legal hurdles to get over before we can safely offer all content in an electronic format, but it depends how risky you want to get.  We also have the possibility of offering some, but not all of our printed material in digital format.  We might have to reach a compromise of some sort.  As far as cost and logistics, this would have to be researched by my staff and a plan put together. ”

The board seemed happy with his response and told him to be cooperative with the Mayor’s office.

The time had finally arrived. Alan stood up from his desk to make his way to a lunch date that he had been dreading for weeks.  He took a deep breath before leaving his office.

“I know we can find anything on the Internet and I don’t see why we need the library to house dusty old books any longer when you can just download it to an ereader device.”  Andy listened to Bill Smith tell him over their salads.  He grimaced at the stereotypical accusations.  “We can use the current library budget to get everything online and make my project a reality.”

“Mayor, I know you think everything can be found on the Internet, but this is simply not true.  We have to pay a subscription to access certain data that is not publicly available.  Even with the free data, not all of it is factually correct; you have to evaluate the data for its credibility.”  Andy told him in response.  “And ebook readers are really not set up for accessing the Internet.  All they really do is allow you to read ebooks.”

“How about the Ipad thingie?  I saw on TV that you can do other things with it.”  The mayor commented absently as he finished the last of the salad.

“This is true, Mayor.  My IT staff tell me that tablet PCs will eventually replace the dedicated ebook readers.  However, these are so much more expensive, about $400 more.  Do you really want to buy an ereader for every citizen?”  Alan responded, disappointed that the Mayor completely ignored his comment about the validity of the Internet.

“This is what I promised and this is what I want to do.  Alan, we have known each other for  quite awhile now.  You are smart and resourceful.  You will figure out a way to make it happen.” Bill said looking Andy in the eyes.  Bill reached out and grasped the library director’s arm in a supportive gesture.  “Don’t make a liar out of me.”

The food arrived and Bill smiled at Andy again.  “Let’s eat!  I am sure you will figure something out.”
Andy just sighed and started eating his food.  It was going to be an interesting year.

I will explore the strategy to handle this scenario next month

Read the rest of my column here.

Written by amwlkaw

January 19, 2011 at 1:34 pm

Posted in Misc