This is a fun presentation.  I gave this keynote at the SEFLIN Conference a week or so ago in Miami.  The intention is to look realistically at where our libraries are at, where our customers are at, where we’re likely to go if we stay on the same path, and where our customers will go based on their paths.  Hint: the paths do not magically merge.

We have a real opportunity right now with funding challenges to focus on the service area with the highest return on investment of any unit, branch, or service.  That’s right–digital and web services.  This means eBooks, eAudio, eMagazines, eNewspapers, online services that tutor kids or help you learn a new language.  We have all this stuff…have had it for a long time.  But now that our doors are closing it’s a nice time to say cheerfully “We’re open online, and here’s what you can get!”

I also think we’re in a time where people with ideas they feel passionately about will have the chance to be heard.  If it saves money, increases efficiency, provides a new service cheaply, then management will be all over it.  Because ultimately, management’s biggest problem is $$$.  Oh yeah, that and politics.  But if you can help with the money part with ideas you’ve been holding onto for ages, now is the time to let those ideas blossom.  We are not powerless.  Our libraries can be what we want them to be–they do not need to remain, as they have, for the last few centuries.  It’s time to make a big, bold move people.  So, what’s yours going to be?

Augmented Reality

August 2, 2010 | Comments (10)

I love Augmented Reality (AR).  It is HOT HOT HOT.  But most people don’t know what it is yet ,or if they do, they’re kind of scared of it.  I encourage you to take a try with AR once more.  We at SJPL have a $50,000 grant to develop historical walking tours using augmented reality and original items in our history collection.  So exciting!  Below is a presentation I did for Handheld Librarian 3 Conference.  It walks you through some of what’s out there, the differences in the equipment and data, and what that means potentially for library services.  Be ready to be amazed!

This is a presentation I gave as part of the Trendy Topics webinar series (which is still going on, y’all — get in on it!)  The idea of having an instruction booklet for staff about social media worked…here’s how!

I’ve been digitally tidying up my to-do list, and have several presentations to upload to share with you all, as usual.  This one is an interesting topic–mobile services with little or no money to fund them, and little or no staff to coordinate them.  Oh, you mean all public & school libraries RIGHT NOW? :}

This presentation about mobile services for libraries was originally given to the Bay Area SLA group, then modified for a presentation at the Handheld Librarian 3 Conference.  That is the version you see here.

Here is an example of freaking brilliant marketing: Give away an iPad for customer stories denigrating your competition!

Azaleos, a company that builds server side products competing with Microsoft,  is giving away an iPad for the best horror story about using Microsoft’s junky products, like Microsoft Exchange, Active Directory, SharePoint (*gag*), or Office Communications Server.

And in a move of marketing brilliance, they’re connecting the contest to National Systems Administrator Appreciation Day on July 30…so the IT managers and Sys Admins who are Azaleos’s customers not only connect winning something from Azaleos with slamming Microsoft’s piece of crap products, but they connect it with a day meant to honor them and their work.  Brilliant!

I certainly have stories of my own (which will be featured in the #FAIL track I’m moderating at Internet Librarian 2010).  The temptation to tattle on this software is too strong to resist!  And hey, our library needs some iPads anyway.

The contest ends July 29th, so get your own horror story in now!

I’ve been struggling of late to simplify my life — to remove distractions, refocus my time on what is most important, reevaluate my environment to make it calming and relaxing, and in general weed out what isn’t crucial to me or my life.  There is simply too much of everything, too many distractions, and I need peace.  The problem of simplification is a common struggle among my friends and family.

In pursuit of my goal, I ran across a frelling awesome website, Zen Habits,that offered a number of useful resources for people trying to overcome overload in all areas of life.  A blog that started in 2007, the site has an extensive back-file of useful simplifying and organizing information. As I know many of my library colleagues struggle with information overload and work overload, I would like to suggest this site as an ongoing resource (email & RSS updates available).

A sample post from the site is The Zen Mind: How to Declutter, which I found to be a short, helpful approach to sorting through physical clutter (and the principles translate pretty well to digital clutter too).

The author also has written a DRM-free and copyright-free eBook entitled The Simple Guide to a Minimalist Life.  The first $5,000 in proceeds benefit the non-profit Guampedia.  I have read through the first half of the book and am very impressed with the quality of content and simplicity of approach.

So go forth, declutter your life in all ways, and be free.

Yahoo has released a style guide, The Yahoo! Style Guide: The Ultimate Sourcebook for Writing, Editing, and
Creating Content for the Digital World
, in direct competition with the AP Styleguide.  It will be in stores (yes, in digital & physical formats) on July 6th.  In reviewing the Yahoo guide, it’s clear that it is more progressive, modern, and mindful of the internet technologies and web terms and their usage, for example website instead of Web site and email instead of e-mail.   I definitely agree with Yahoo more than AP, and I never thought I’d write that sentence!

The website for the book is a great web content resource in itself, including:

Peter Hirtle wrote a thoughtful post on the LibraryLaw Blog about whether or not libraries can legally lend out eBook readers.  While there’s no problem with the hardware, there are legal problems with the eBook software licenses as well as the individual eBook title licenses as well.  Those use licenses are not library-friendly and in fact preclude any kind of lending, sharing, or mass use such as you would find in a library.  If your library is lending out eBook readers, Hirtle suggests consulting with an attorney in detailed analysis of all three components: hardware, software, and eBook title.  The same goes for any other eMedia, such as eMusic, eMovies, or eAudioBooks.

Please be careful, libraries.  And please take this as a lesson why we need organized lobbying to eMedia companies and publishers to create library-friendly licenses, use policies, digital rights management, and formats so that libraries can continue to act as the great sharers and equalizers in their communities.

Internet Librarian registration is open! Register now for a great conference in Monterey, October 25-27!

As one of the conference organizers, I can tell you we’ll be doing some really interesting thing.  My two favorite items of the conference are the user-centered web design pre-conference I’m co-teaching with Aaron Schmidt and the Failure & Innovation panel I’m moderating.  The FAIL panel is going to be off the hook, including a number of speakers talking about the key lessons they learned the hard way through not succeeding.

If your library still is lucky enough to have training and travel money, shoot on down to Monterey and join us for a really great conference, as well as access to some of the most beautiful areas of the country along the Santa Cruz and Big Sur coastlines.

I participated last week in an online chat via Twitter about eBooks put on by Follow the Reader.  Something I wrote then, and thought bore repeating is as follows, succinctly summarized in one Tweet:

I think w/o new ebook DRM, licensing, & copyright, library ebooks will continue to exist only in our communities’ margins.

I strongly feel that eBooks & eAudioBooks are only used on the margins of our library communities.  Not because people don’t have the technology–they do.  And not because they don’t want eBooks–they do.  But because using library eBooks is such a horrible pain, sometimes impossible, due to the restrictions that DRM places on us (which affects the subsequent issues of licensing & copyright).

The publishers need to realize that DRM doesn’t stop the real pirates.  All it does is frustrate normal folks trying to read an eBook on their Blackberry.  What it ultimately does is prevent people from accessing the very content that the publishers are trying so hard to promote!  Why?  When will they wake up and realize that these issues prevent normal readers from reading their authors’ content?  How many people need to make this argument, how many frustrated customers do they need as proof?

I chime in as a frustrated customer.

I recently purchased an Android HTC Eris smart phone.  I have a Mac at home, and a PC at work.  This means that I have three separate “groupings” of library eBook content that I can access, depending on what device I’m using at the time.  My library subscribes to several eBook collections: Overdrive, MyiLibrary, NetLibrary, TumbleBooks, Safari Tech Books, and Learning Express eBooks.  What I can access on each depends heavily on my device.  Why?  Digital Rights Management.

I have tried downloading our several downloadable collections onto my Android phone.  According to the documentation on these vendors’ websites, I should be able to do so.

Let’s take Overdrive as our test case.  I don’t mean to pick on Overdrive, but it is definitely representative of what I experience with all library eBook providers.

I begin by happily installing the Overdrive Media Console onto my PC and my Mac (for home & work eBook use).  I download the Overdrive app onto my Android phone, which I am encouraged to do on our library’s Overdrive site.

But then I see after the fact on the Overdrive website that because I am using Android, I can only access MP3 audio books on my device, which GREATLY reduces my selection.  WAV audio books (the bulk of our collection), music, and video are completely off the table unfortunately and I cannot access them.  Worse  yet, I cannot access any of the text eBooks.  No PDF access whatsoever.  By the by, I had to hunt for this information on the Overdrive website–nothing came up on my Android download warning me about the limited access.

Nevertheless, as the Digital Futures Manager for a large public library, I persist.  I feel guilty.  If I can’t figure it out, who could, right?  So, I find a relatively old semi-classic MP3 audio book in our collection that I can try downloading.  I download it to my work PC (not even wanting to get into the whole Mac issue at home).  It downloads successfully.  Then I try transferring it to my Android.  I get error message after error message.  Troubleshooting tips included checking that I had the console on my phone (check) and that I had plenty of SD card space for the MP3 file (check).  I tried transferring the whole thing, then just the first part, then a whole different book.  No luck.

I asked Overdrive for help, and was told “Yeah, sometimes that happens and we don’t know why. It seems to happen a lot with Android.”

So I am left having wasted about an hour and a half trying to get a book I didn’t even like or want onto my phone, and have nothing to show for it.  And you know what?  I have the same experience with almost every eBook platform we have.  It’s all bad.

Imagine that this experience just happened to a library customer.  Do you think they would even ask for help from you, or just give up? I wager that about 2/3 just give up right there (or before that point) and never try library eBooks again.  Maybe 1/3 ask for help, and I’m thinking the half of that group eventually gets tired, fed up, and gives up too.  maybe half of that group actually gets an adequate answer so that they want to return to the collection and keep using it for a grand total of 1/6 of our potential users being successful.  That is not a good success rate.

It makes me wonder: How many of our library customers have tried eBooks once, failed, and given up…never to try again?

I feel guilty writing this.  I feel embarrassed.  eBooks are in my area of management for my library, and I can’t figure out how to get them onto my own smart phone! Why was my entire experience frustrating? DRM. The hurdles, apps, restrictions, and differences in devices wouldn’t exist if there was no DRM.

Beyond that, what I could get theoretically wasn’t even what I wanted!  The good books are WAVs which don’t work on my device!  Why?  DRM.

It’s high time that a group of librarians banded together, really hard and really fast, and demanded from the publishers that they recognize our right to treat an eBook title like a print book title.  We should be able to loan it out to as many users, one after another, as we want.  Those users should be able to read any of our books, no matter their preferences for reading environments (in this case, devices).  And those users should be able to print a page if they need to, or excerpt an audio clip for a report they’re giving.  But of course not–most eBooks and eAudioBooks do not allow these meager things.  They’re locked down and locked up.

I would like to see ALA gather a group to work on digital content issues — to work with the publishers and with the vendors to find solutions that work not only for the publishers and vendors, but for libraries as well.  We all know we’re unhappy with the status quo but so far we’ve done nothing about it.  We’re not boycotting inflexible publishers.  We’re not boycotting vendors who create operating-system-specific platforms (e.g. that don’t work with Macs or iPods).  We’re not boycotting vendors with horrible systems (again, not picking on Overdrive–they’re all pretty hard to use).

What are your own concerns about eBooks?  Your own problems at your library?  What do you hear from your library customers?  What would your eBook Nirvana look like?  Tell us all by commenting.