ebooks, Google, Libraries, Music, Social Media, Technology

Post Holiday Library Technology Help

Like most librarians in a public library, I am expecting a sizable number of patrons visiting the library after the holidays in search of technology help.  For the last few years, I’ve watched this phenomenon grow a spattering of random technology questions to something that libraries need to plan in advance for.  Luckily, we’re already doing that.  I point to these two awesome examples:


Over the next few days, the Princeton Public Library in Princeton, NJ is having a number of programs focused on helping patrons with their new devices.  The program mentioned above, Help Desk for Holiday Gadgets, is just one of many offerings that the library has to help out their community.  You can click here to see the full list of programs being offered by the Princeton Public Library that focus on post holiday technology help.


The Maine State Library tweeted about their Getting Started with eBooks page and it caught my eye.  If your library can’t have programs like the Princeton Public Library, offering an online walk through will no doubt help out your community.  You can view the full Getting Started with eBooks page here.



The Darien Library in Darien, CT does a great job at throughly collecting technology help resources for you at their eBooks page.  They offer both print and video resources to help you navigate your new devices.  Double bonus points goes to them for offering this digital only catalog: http://digital.darienlibrary.org

And finally, why not give YouTube a try?  There are many public libraries out there utilizing YouTube to share video walk troughs for their community to view.  I really liked this well put together video by the Hennepin County Library.  It is well made and very clear and easy to follow.

In closing, I pose this question: Should public libraries begin to look to next year when there will most likely be even more of a need for technology help?  Should we look to establishing year round technology help departments in our library?

ebooks, Libraries, Presentations, Technology

Thank You Belfast Free Library!

I had a wonderful time yesterday at the Belfast Free Library hosting a Technology Petting Zoo program for their library patrons. This year, they’re celebrating 125 years of enlightening and inspiring the people of Belfast.

We explored the latest and greatest in technology, apps, video games, ebooks, and more. It was great chatting with the library members and seeing where they’d like to go with their library in the next 125 years.

Please feel free to read/download my handout which I prepared for this program here: http://goo.gl/zPDgZ


Books, ebooks, Libraries

Ebooks, again

Every blog post should have a good image. I don't have a good image for ebooks, so this sloth will have to do. They're really neat animals. Carol Schaffer took this picture, and you can find the original picture here: http://goo.gl/eQX0A

Now that Penguin has pulled out of lending ebooks to libraries, that leaves 2 of the 5 big publishers left in the library lending ebook game.

I don’t know about you, but the whole situation depresses me.  It’s not because there are less and less ebooks and not many way other ways to get ebooks into libraries, but because it feels like every time something happens in regards to ebooks and libraries, the same thing happens over and over again.  People involved with libraries recommend that you:

  • Cancel your subscription to Overdrive
  • Quit buying physical books from these publishers
  • Write the publishers and voice your concern
  • Talk to your patrons about what the publishers are doing
  • BoycottTweet/Blog/+1/Facebook a lot about it

And I’m not saying that any of these things are wrong.  I’m a firm believer in people doing whatever they feel is best for them to do at that moment in time.  But it all just feels like we’ve had these discussions before and it’s led to…the same thing happening.

I don’t have a clear answer of what libraries should be doing, but what I keep coming back to is this: The ebook wars have given us an excellent opportunity to forever change the idea of what a library means.  Long before ebooks came along, we were doing so much more for our patrons (reference, the library as a space, programming) but we were still known as the “place where all of the books are”.  Now that we can’t have ebooks, we can work towards getting rid of that stereotype.  We can change our image to include everything we do: we provide space, we make stuff, we inspire people, and we lend out a lot of neat things.

To me, this is a beautiful way forward.



ebooks, Libraries

The end of the eReader debate (for me)

I bought a Kindle because I wanted to use a Kindle to read eBooks.

In my eyes, the Kindle provides a great reading experience.  I like the device and how it works.  I like the ability to highlight quotes, store them, and share them.  I like how it manages books and PDF’s.

It all boils down to happiness.  From now on, I will encourage patrons to buy the eReader that makes them the happiest.  DRM issues, cloud storage, who actually owns the book…all of that stuff has importance, but it should be secondary to happiness and a great reading experience.

To encourage patrons to the eReader that makes them the happiest, I highly suggest programs like this where there’s open discussion and the ability to play around with eReaders.


Libraries, Things


Libraries have money to spend.  Some have bigger budgets than others, but the point I’m trying to make we have money and a big part of our job is to spend it.  Where should we be spending this money?  Sure, it may be very easy to place orders through big material distributors (and sometimes that is really nice to do!) but libraries, being an important part of the local community fabric, should also be doing all that they can to support their local economies.  And a lot of that can be done by buying local.

One of the other perks about buying local?  You not only keep the money local and support your community, but you get to interact and talk with experts.  I try to do as much of my graphic novel and video game/movie purchasing through two local stores.  The people working at these stores help me build solid collections.  They take the time to look at my teen graphic novel and manga collection and fill in the gaps, make recommendations based on what we have, and just generally make the collection stronger.  With video games and movies, they take the time to locate not only the best prices they can give me, but they also track down hard to find and rare items that my patrons request.  Sure, these items may not come to the library pre-processed with labels, call numbers, and other things all ready to go on the shelf, but where they make up for that is the local businesses attention to detail.  This is something you can’t put a $ sign on, but is something so valuable we cannot forget about it.

This summer, I worked with a local hip hop artist named Sontiago and 5 teens to create 2 original hip hop tracks.  The beauty of the project was not only were they made IN THE LIBRARY but they were MADE BY TEENS WHO USE THE LIBRARY.

This project really sums up 2011 as a librarian for me and has helped me form ideas about moving ahead in libraries.  Instead of us being the place that collects popular media, we have to be the place that helps our community create things.  Be it a painting, a graphic novel, a locally published book, music, or a movie, libraries should become the community hub for creativity.  Librarians should become the mentors for the community, the people that help empower the community to create things.

Steve Teeri of the Detroit Public Library is also doing this sort of thing with the teens he works with.  I highly suggest you check this article out if you’re serious about making wonderful things with your patrons.

Is there a problem with this idea?  Yes.  Who is the audience that wants these locally created pieces?  That is the tricky part.  For example: even if you have a patron that creates the ultimate zombie film, your patrons are still gonna wanna watch Dawn of the Dead or another big name zombie film.  Mainstream media will still be more popular, more recognizable, and more immediate than locally made art.  But libraries can help change that.  I mean, it’s never going to be perfect, but libraries can help communities shift their thinking towards recognizing locally made creations as valuable for strengthening the community.  Our organizations are big, and when we speak, our communities listen.  If we can clearly communicate the goal of our programs to our communities, we can build momentum in this movement…let’s call it the “experience local” movement.  We can make something like this take off and have legs.  We can build the interest.

And even if we don’t, we can still do important things like this.  


If things like social media and technology are the future, then we should be getting in the game of building unique platforms and experiences for our patrons.  A good example of building something unique for patrons to experience happened at the Ann Arbor District Library this summer.  Instead of going along with the typical Summer Reading themes, their development staff (read their very interesting blog here) came up with an online summer game that rewarded patrons for playing along.  Programs and experiences like this have been popping up in other libraries too (check out what the NYPL did).

It doesn’t have to be just about games though.  Libraries should be building their own tools, apps, games, and more for their patrons to use.  Cookie cutter products offered by big companies are not gonna cut it anymore.  Catering to our patrons unique and individual needs is going to enable us to give them the best possible services.

You can read more about the AADL Summer Game at the following links:

Have libraries done a good job of standing up for themselves?  We’re getting there.  Amazing things have happened in New Jersey and Connecticut (here and here), where librarians have stood up and clearly communicated to the powers that be about their importance in the community.  I also wrote about how I think we haven’t really got all there yet.

But one thing is clear to me.  We always need to stand up for ourselves.  A small victory, an increased budget, or the go ahead to move ahead on a big project does not mean everything is going to be hunky dory for many years to come.  We have to keep working (not fighting.  That’s too negative and we need to stay positive) and communicating who we are and what we do.  And that brings me to…

Budgets, budgets, budgets.  We all have shrinking budgets.  We all have to do “more with less”.  I think we all understand that and agree that this is what the future looks like.  It doesn’t have to be all grim and gray though.  We can make interesting things happen if we think outside the box about who we could partner with in libraries.

I’m a firm believer that the library isn’t just a place where we collect books or things, but instead a center for the community.  With this sort of mindset, I see the possibility of the library expanding to something bigger, better, and more convenient for our communities.  What about post offices in libraries?  They’re not having the best time with their finances and are looking for new ways to deliver services.  What about de-emphasizing the idea of a central library location and instead making the library an idea that exists everywhere in the community?  Get out into the communities that you serve and have library programs anywhere that you can, with whomever wants to work with the library.  The library outside of the library?  It may be one of the best ways for us to communicate the importance of the library.

Try to find me saying that “every library should have a video game collection” in something I’ve wrote online and I be you’ll be successful.  Well, I take that back.  A video game collection may not be right for your community.

It’s easy to listen to the trends happening in libraries and get very excited about them.  It’s also really important to keep your library up to date and relevant for your community.  But why invest in materials that would not be good for your community?  Focus on the things that are relevant at that moment and always keep an ear out for what may be the latest trends with your patrons.  Don’t create collections just because everyone else is doing it.  Do it for your community first, and once they’re happy, feel free to experiment.  Things may work, things may not.  At my last job, I added a small teen music section to the teen library.  The collection was really popular and continues to grow to this day.  When I moved to my current job, I thought “hey, I should try that again.  It worked at my old job, so it should work here.”  It didn’t work at all, and now I have a small music collection that just takes up valuable shelf space.  I’m giving it some more time to possibly catch on before I scrap the idea all together, but when I look back all that I can think of is “I should’ve waited to see what my patrons wanted.”

The last thing may seem like the most simple thing, but I think it’s the most important.  Talk to your patrons, share stories, have a laugh, and always smile.

Books, ebooks, Libraries, Music, Things


  1. The whole eBook thing  reminds me of what happened to the music industry after Napster and continues to happen to this day (death of the physical product, digital music sales up, piracy of digital goods, resurgence of a dead physical format as a niche collectors market (vinyl)).  Yet here we all are debating and discussing when instead we could be copying/pasting/learning from the music industry.  What have they taught us?  Physical formats will stick around, but the market for them will just keep getting smaller (CDs and Vinyl=Physical books) and digital sales will continue to rise.  Now let’s move onto the next step…
  2. Why the hell do we care about the eBook thing so much?  To me, this is a clear indication that LIBRARIES STILL BELIEVE THAT BOOKS ARE THE FOCUS OF WHAT WE’RE DOING.  When music started going digital were we freaking out about our physical library collections?  Maybe some of us were, but as a whole we were not.  We just kept on buying physical CD’s thinking that everything was gonna be alright.  Libraries lack of care about music going digital and the freak out about eBooks shows that we still believe purchasing and lending books is our primary function.  To some, this may be true, but I urge you to take a look around your library and see how people are using it: reading books, using computers, borrowing DVDs, music, video games, reading to their children, working on personal work/work work/school work, resting, browsing through magazines and newspapers, and much more.  That should be our focus.  Being everything and everything to our patrons.  Not just catering to the book market.

EBooks and Libraries (an idea)

(I'm pretty sure this idea has already been kicked around. It's new to me, so I'm sharing.)

I know that there’s bigger issues at hand concerning ebooks and libraries and much more stuff to be figured out, but as a public librarian who is trying to introduce and teach the public about these tools, my focus gets moved around quite a bit.  Right now, I’m thinking how the heck can I do SOMETHING with ebooks for my community?

At my library, we’ve been talking about ebooks for a couple weeks and the idea above has been tossed around a few times.  I dig it.  Here’s why…

Imagine being a patron who just got a Kindle and  has absolutely no idea how to use it.
Where would you go?  What would you do?  Imagine that you decide to go to the library.  You ask them for assistance…and they can’t help at all.  FAIL!

That’s why I think it is so important for libraries to obtain the tools, study them, and then be ready for the onslaught of patrons with questions.  That’s one way we can show that public that we are still very important.

You are now an ebook master.  What do you do with this knowldege?  Don’t hide behind your reference desk.  Instead, get out there and teach your community.  Hold workshops, have demo units around the library with librarians ready to help patrons out.

Hands on experimentation and the help of an educated library staff will translate into better community relations.  This is a good thing!

I’m sorry, but at some point you’re gonna have to give that IPad back.  Why?  The patrons want to borrow them!  Ereaders ain’t the cheapest things around.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t have $500 just lying around.  People want to see what these are all about…so let them borrow them!

Lend out the device as a unit with books preloaded on it.  Consider it less of borrowing a book and more of a tool that your patrons can borrow.  Make sure you have a sound policy if any kind of damages occur.  Think before you jump into the world of lending out ereaders.  But don’t let all the little details bog you down…go for it.  Libraries need to take the leap here.

This is where it gets tricky.  My approach to this area isn’t solid, but I’ve got an idea. Have an ebook librarian.  Keep on lending out devices, but take that approach to the next level.  Allow the patron checking out the device to request a book (or two).  Slowly, you’ll build up a library (ha!) of ebooks.

Yah, I know this ain’t the definitive answer.  But’s it an idea, a start.  And we really need to get the ball rolling.