This past week has been interesting for me for a couple of reasons:
- A book I have wanted to read for several months appeared on my desk: No Shelf Required: E-Books in Libraries by Sue Polanka and friends.I’ve been interested in ebooks for years and a few months ago bought a NOOKcolor and love(d) it and then learned how to borrow books from Seattle Public Library and read/listen to them. It was heaven. It really was. When this book crossed my desk at work in February, I wanted to pick it up and read it. I wanted to know what other “librarians” were thinking about ebooks. We see a lot of what publishers say and what patrons say, but librarians (with the exception of the HarperCollins fiasco) have been relatively quiet and shy when asked about ebooks.
So, I’ve been reading the book and finding that (of course)it is an interesting, frustrating and an overall thoughtful read. And here’s why:
- This week, Muir Library (where I am the library director) went live with our Overdrive collection. The contract with Overdrive happened before I had the job, so I still don’t have all the specifics, but from what I understand, the library system (Traverse des Sioux) got a grant that will pay for the system to have a contract with Overdrive for the first year and then the individual libraries will have to pay annually.There were a couple of training sessions (before I was hired) for using ebooks and we have also been told we will receive ereaders to train our employees, but we are live with the program as of now. This means many staff people are going to be learning as the patrons learn and unfortunately that means that some of those younger, digital natives are going to catch on quicker than the digital immigrants who work at the library. No – I take that back – that is not unfortunate – that is an opportunity to recruit help from the younger people (like myself). I will say that I am QUITE impressed that Traverse des Sioux is up to the challenge of ebooks and that they’re jumping ahead and learning as they go. There are going to be challenges, but there will also be great rewards for the staff and patrons in this area.
In the introduction of No Shelf Required, it talks about how libraries have been interacting with ebooks for years and how it is expected that libraries have ebook content for patrons. I highly doubt this was the case when the book was written. Not only do many of the rural library patrons not know about ebooks (or, frankly, care about them), but they also don’t know how to use a computer and cannot fathom the idea of using one to read a book. I feel like there were some severe generalizations made in the book and while it covers different realms of libraries (school, public, academic, etc.), it doesn’t recognize the differences in the ways of accessible technology in different libraries.
I appreciate the way the “acquiring ebooks” chapter is written for different points of view. This is helpful when explaining the ins and outs of ebooks and purchasing to someone who hasn’t done it before. But, on the other hand, I think this can/will/already is changing quickly and because this book is static, it will soon be out of date. It’s an absolutely great start to guiding someone along the way of learning about ebooks in the library – in fact, I think I may suggest that my staff read it as we start this busy time of troubleshooting ebooks at Muir Library.
I’ll write more when I finish the book, but that’s what I have right now!
Oh – and – I sincerely think it is SILLY to have bookmarks with the directions for how to download ebooks to your ereader. DUH – people aren’t using paper bookmarks if they’re reading ebooks! *sigh*