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In Redux

By Elizabeth Wroten

The Bookless Revolution?

On 04, Feb 2013 | In Redux | By Elizabeth Wroten

So I guess that new bookless library that is going to open soon in San Antonio is causing a bit of a titter in the media – in and out of Libraryland. If you haven’t heard about it you can read a bit about it here on NPR’s website. The story has now run on NPR’s All Things Considered and also on APM’s Marketplace. I think my husband even told me he saw something about it on Gizmodo.

I thought, however, that the idea was interesting in light of two other blog posts I read on The Ubiquitous Librarian and on Censored Genius. Admittedly they aren’t exactly about the topic of ditching books, but they have ties to it. And they got me thinking about adding my two cents to the whole maelstrom.

I guess what irritates me about this whole debate is that it should be a non-argument because places like this new bookless library are really outliers on one end of a spectrum where most libraries fall somewhere in the middle. We should remember that library services are varied. We offer readers’ advisory and we offer computer classes. We offer study space and collaboration space. In the end I don’t think anyone, except for a very few outliers, are advocating that we drop everything in favor of buying the latest and greatest technology or that we abandon books altogether.

In some ways my irritation hearkens back to my thoughts on how librarians (or at least the slice of Libraryland I happen to follow) like to predict the next big thing in technology. That isn’t our job, though. And neither is going bookless when that isn’t a fit with your institution’s mission. I’m 100% for being innovative and looking ahead to provide services your patrons couldn’t even articulate a need for. But at the end of the day you need to take into account your community’s or institution’s culture. Know thyself.

In fact maybe this ties in with the blog post I read about on Hi Miss Julie about recognition and outrage at people getting lots of it for shiny new ideas that don’t really relate to the day to day literacy that goes on in libraries. I get irritated when people try to argue against the (imagined?) bookless revolution, too, by essentially saying that libraries are all about books and how can we even think about implementing technology? I understand that Miss Julie wasn’t really making that argument (in fact her point had nothing to do with the future of libraries debate at all) and that she is in a unique position as a children’s librarian. But we also need to recognize that we are living in a digital age. Even children will have some exposure to technology and need the skills to cope with a digital world. It doesn’t really matter if we personally like the idea of using screens and gadgets. They’re going to, and if that is what we need to encourage their literacy and build their information literacy skills, then that’s what we need to use. Especially if that’s what our institution’s or community’s culture demands.

I touched on this a bit in my piece about crossover from my parenting research. The thing about our patrons these days it that they are becoming as much creators of information and content as they are consumers of it. In Brian Mathews’ piece on The Ubiquitous Librarian he says:

At Virginia Tech we’re positioning ourselves to not only provide content, but to support content production. We think of this as not only about access to information, but also about enabling the creation of new knowledge. We’re evolving from a warehouse model toward a studio model.

And this is what we need to take into consideration when we add gadgets, books, and anything else to our library space and collections. This is how people interact with the world these days- through books, through the Internet, through Facebook, through crafting, through Tumblr, and through a million other content creators and aggregators.

I guess the crux of all this is that I believe libraries are more community hubs of learning, and always have been, than they are bastions of literature. Sure we offer books. But that isn’t the only way people learn and connect, now or in the past. Despite all the heated arguments for libraries being 100% books or 100% technology, no library really is. We all fall in the middle. With the exception of that one in San Antonio, of course.

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In Reading Round Up

By Elizabeth Wroten

Reading Round Up: Mixed Bag

On 25, Jan 2013 | In Reading Round Up | By Elizabeth Wroten

I’ve been collecting up links over the last two weeks, since last week I decided to go with a job hunting theme. Hope there’s something here for everyone.

Here’s a neat tool for augmenting videos. Popcorn from Mozilla allows you to add links, pop-up comments, Twitter feeds, definitions, etc. I could definitely see applicability with the flipped classroom and with library instruction that isn’t boring. On the other hand, if you have too much going on it gets to be distracting and detracts from actually watching the video. Less is more. Less is more.

From Walking Paper, a piece about getting out of the library to evaluate user experience. I think this is a great idea, not only because we can end up so engrossed in our own libraries and library land, but also because it makes us look at good experiences and see how they can apply to our situations. I should add that I love this blog. He always has great ideas about user experience, something I am particularly interested in and find important.

Corin the Librarian has a podcast called Library Chat. It is available through iTunes. It sounds very interesting and he kicks it off with Jenica Rogers. He is also going to interview Rivkah Sass of my hometown library, Sacramento Public Library.

I recently joined CUE (Computer Using Educators). They’re a great source for professional development including online webinars. The nice thing for me is that they hold a conference just over in American Canyon (near Napa). I like it when there is professional development that doesn’t involve major travel.

Here is a very interesting response to the second portion of Forbes’s articles on libraries and ebooks. This has less to do with ebooks and more to do with taking issue with what the author, David Vinjamuri, told librarians they should be doing. The really interesting thing here is that Vinjamuir actually commented and Kristi Chadwik then responded.

I really enjoyed this piece about school libraries becoming learning commons. I do think libraries need to think about making collaborative spaces more prominent. I also think it’s important to know your community’s culture before making  a leap like this. I also don’t think books need to go, but we offer a lot of other services besides books. And when it comes to book I prefer the “just in time” model to the “just in case” one. I may use this as a jumping off point for another post.

Here is a really interesting piece from the New York Times about “conditional stupidity”, or feeling smarter or dumber based on social situations and factors. I got the link from a tweet by The Unquiet Librarian (Buffy Hamilton) who made a good point asking if there are implications of this in education. I certainly think there are.

I wish I read faster. I think a lot of librarians wish they do. 🙂 Here is a technique from Bill Cosby of all people to help with that. From Brain Pickings this week.

From The New York Review of Books, what will the Library of Congress do with all those tweets they are archiving? A good question.

And finally, for anyone who was a fan of Arrested Development (if you aren’t you need to be). It’s apparently The Brothers Karamazov updated and set in LA. I always knew there was something to that show. 🙂

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In Redux

By Elizabeth Wroten

Instagram and Privacy

On 24, Dec 2012 | In Redux | By Elizabeth Wroten

Just FYI for anyone interested. Here are some amusing responses to the Instagram debacle. On Gizmodo and on ReadWriteWeb.

I do think this whole Instagram maelstrom has raised some interesting issues about privacy and ownership on the Internet. Although I am considered a part of the Millennial generation, I did not grow up with Internet or even a computer in the house until I was older. And our setup looked nothing like the setup of kids a good 10 years younger than me (who are also lumped into the Millennial generation). That being said I do share more characteristics and opionions with a younger set when it comes to the Internet and privacy. I really think there is a generational gap in regards to these issues.

Let me begin by sharing what practices I think are not okay, because I know my feelings are not what everyone in Libraryland agrees with. I disagree with the implied idea that Instgram can use and profit from someone’s photos without compensating them. I don’t think children should be targeted. Prey on those of us who are capable of understanding what you are doing with our information and can make more informed decisions. I don’t think publishers are being reasonable in their “agreements” with libraries. Help libraries out by providing them with sustainable models that protect their investments (i.e. possible ownership of electronic materials or continued access to what has been paid for). They are some of your biggest, or even only, customers.

But really when it comes to ownership of things like eBooks I am lax. I understand that libraries feel the need to own their collections. I understand that there are weird gray areas because of the possiblity of losing access to things you have paid for.  Personally, I purchase  physical copies or download (and occasionally print) electronic copies of articles and books I really want to have access to in perpetuity. I think publishers are preying on people, but I also think we need to begin looking at digital content in a new way. I remember balking at the thought that I would have to buy a new computer every few years or upgrade my software, but I no longer bat an eye at that. I think in part this is because I have adapted to a new way of thinking about technology. I’m not saying we need to accept what the publishers are offering in terms of licensing agreements, just that we need to think of eBooks and eContent as different from physical books and physical content. Do we really need to hang on to Fifty Shades of Gray for the next fifty years? God, I hope not. Weeding could get a whole lot easier.

In terms of internet privacy I have read quite a bit about the information being collected on me. I have also read about how companies use that to market to me and to others like me. But all things told, I don’t worry too much about it. Not yet. I am not opposed to targeted ads. If you’re going to give me coupon I would prefer it be for something I would want to buy. I can always ignore it. The quantity of data collected and my own obscurity also reassure me that I am not being singled out. Google collects a lot of data, yes. So do Facebook and Amazon. But they collect it on millions of people. Millions. I don’t stick out in the crowd. It is unlikely that, currently, I will be singled out. I think the possibility of my wallet being stolen and credit card being used as more of a threat. I believe my generation is much less private (as evidenced by Facebook) than generations before us. Is this good or bad, here or there? I don’t know.

There must be a line somewhere and I don’t want companies to cross it before we can ensure our safety and well being. Obviously ownership, eBooks and privacy are things that are huge in libraries and in other circles right now, so I’m keeping my eye on the situations. I’m even following privacy legislation and law. As things develop and change I’m sure my opinion will too. For the time being I just don’t worry about it. Not to mention I’m not going to stop using Google, or Amazon, or Facebook. Sorry if I sound like something out of Tron, but we live on the grid now.


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In Redux

By Elizabeth Wroten

Redux: Thinking Outside the Binding

On 21, Dec 2012 | In Redux | By Elizabeth Wroten

I hopped on the eBook bandwagon about five years ago when I purchased my first Sony eReader. I was curious about the technology and had a lot of free time to read (i.e. no kids), so packing fewer books in my purse was very appealing. I was a little irked that the books weren’t cheaper than their print counterparts since I was funding the reader too. But who was I kidding? I was going to buy the books regardless. What was a few more dollars to pay for the reader.

Now my family has that old Sony, several iPads, and a Nook. Not to mention the Nook app on our iPhones. (Hey, my husband is a technology director.) As much as I enjoy reading the occasional novel (mostly YA) on it, I haven’t been super impressed with eBooks.

The technology has improved drastically since I bought that Sony. But to me, most eBooks aren’t any different than what Gutenberg was turning out on his press. The problem with this is is, eBooks are technology. They aren’t bound (ha!) to the physical page. They can and should engage you in a different way.

I remember when the magazine Project came out on the iPad. (See here for a video walk through from Tech Crunch.) That to me was a huge step in the right direction for what eBooks should be doing. It utilized some of the many things that made the iPad unique- touch, animations, sound, color display, etc. Now many eReaders have the same features, so use them!

I remained unimpressed, until the other day when I downloaded the Charlie Brown Christmas app as well as Barnyard Dance by Sandra Boynton. Both were books for my daughter. It suddenly dawned on me that children’s eBooks have actually been quite innovative in an attempt to engage those squirmy little beasts. We have Pat the Bunny, Pete, and Nighty Night on our iPad and all of those books make use of the broad range of iPad/eReader features.

I would like to note, at this point, that my daughter has an enormous personal collection (we’re talking hundreds strong) of print children’s books. I don’t think eBooks for children will replace beautiful copies of their most beloved books (although…if I have to read Happy Hippo, Angry Duck one more time…), but I think it’s really wonderful to see that someone out there in the land of publishing is thinking about more than just scanning the print version of a book. I would like to see this for textbooks, non fiction books, and even fiction novels. How about special features like on DVDs, like author interviews, different versions of the cover, interactive drawings (I’m thinking of you Leviathan!), etc. So, let’s start thinking outside the bound book.

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In Reading Round Up

By Elizabeth Wroten

Reading Round Up

On 17, Dec 2012 | In Reading Round Up | By Elizabeth Wroten

Here is a collection of links (with comments, because it wouldn’t be complete with out my blatherings) of various things that I have been reading online over the past few days. They are all things I have found interesting and pertinent.

Oops, I did it again: Forbes article on the war over eBooks. I know I’m fed up with hearing about eBooks, but they are important. I know I don’t have experience as a purchaser of eBooks for libraries, but I can certainly see and understand how problematic it is. I do tend to agree that we need a new model for purchasing them and I also agree that the status quo (and the stalemate) are not doing anyone any good.

I would also like to add that, I wish book publishers would also stop thinking about eBooks as physical books. Let’s not have a legacy culture in eBooks, with pricing or with format. The technology we have now and will have can open up the book experience.  (Upcoming post about how I think children’s eBooks are busting out of the mould).

Yes, just yes: Oh how I want to have a drink with these ladies. I also want to start up a Sacramento chapter of their book club. Any takers? This blog is now added to my reader.

Timely: I thought this was a timely article given the post I wrote a few days ago to the Octagon. I’m not sure Facebook in schools can really be considered intellectual freedom, but if you begin encroaching on one thing it’s easier to get to the next. I would rather err on the side of caution. Personally. I also know there are a lot of reasons for not.

Brain Pickings: Okay, I subscribe to this weekly email. They review books and talk about stuff. Existential, brainy, think-y stuff. Sometimes I skim it, sometimes I read it top to bottom. It is always thought provoking and I love it. Found this particular article reviewing a book about how to talk about books you’ve never read. I think, as the skill is described, it is a skill all librarians need to have and need to continually fine tune. There (sadly) isn’t enough time to read everything, but we need to sell it and we need to be able to place it in a framework (as the book/article suggests). Take some time with this little piece. I think it will resonate with librarians.


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In Redux

By Elizabeth Wroten

Redux: eBook

On 20, Nov 2012 | In Redux | By Elizabeth Wroten

I just want to say that I am fed up with eBooks. I am sick of people asking me if I think they mean the death of libraries. I am sick of people asking I if think they mean the death of print books. I am sick of hearing about the publishers of eBooks and the fights libraries are having with them. I am sick of reading about the future of eBooks. I am sick of reading about DRM on eBooks. I am sick of eBooks.

I just want, for a little while, to curl up with one of those eBooks and read one. No strings attached. No cacophony of negativity. No guilty thoughts about the soullessness of them. No possibility of switching over to play angry birds for “just a minute”.

Okay, I like eBooks. There is a lot of stuff that I prefer not to have taking up precious real estate on my bookshelves. They can be a bit cheaper for the consumer (library purchasing issues aside for the moment, please!). I can skip packing a suitcase full of books to take on vacation. I can easily read in bed or while nursing my daughter, or while out and about (my Nook books are on my iPhone too!). They aren’t perfect and I still like my physical non fiction and children’s books, but I like eBooks.

I guess my angst over eBooks comes from the overload on discussion of them. I have this haunting feeling that we’re about to become hyper focused on eBooks (see my post of hyper focus on technology in general here). I think we need to give them a bit more time. Yes, we need to take action. Yes, book publishers are being jerks. Yes, libraries are about books. But they are not all about books.

So for an hour I want to let everything about eBooks drop away while I sit and enjoy one.

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