In case you hadn't noticed, there's a digital evolution occuring, and only the fittest will survive. If you are a librarian living in literature land, hoping that students will just continue to walk through your doors for a good book, or ask you which Dewey number holds books on "issues," then please read on and welcome to the 21st Century. I expect students to continue to read books in print, but I also expect their numbers to dwindle. Recently I heard a librarian complain that this digital age, is "not what Isigned up for. It wasn't what I went to school for."
Well, we've come a long way baby and that same line was spoken by: the Elevator Operator, the Pinsetter, the Lector, the telephone switchboard operator, the lamplighter and the typesetter--to name a few. If librarians don't evolve into a digital purveyor of information and eBooks, they are likely to be replaced by their IT department, as only the strong skilled will survive the digital evolution.
We have wonderful librarians who have evolved into Cybrarians, meeting the needs of the digitally hyper-connected Millennials. They provide a webplatform for access and have embraced our Virtual Digital Download library successfully. Kudos to them. In other profound words, this is not Kansas anymore. So you can see that everyone's world is changing. Llibrarians stuck in the ostrich syndrome,will find themselves in the same predictament as the dodo bird. That is probably not you, because you are reading this blog. Congratulations. Reach out to a colleague and encourage them to evolve.
For the last four years in our area, we have purchcased and maintained a virtual digital download library through Overdrive for 84 schools and 56 librarians. The company has been wonderful to work with (although you might hear differently from one state caught in a landmark battle of copy ownership) and Overdrive has improved their infostructure to keep pace with the changing eBook world. We have gone from Mobi pocket books for Palm Pilot readers and .WMV files for computers, to recently released Kindle compatibility. We have supported special education needs, and provided audio books for dedicated track teams looking to make good use of their practice time. We have added any and every ELA core novel that was for sale and imbedded the Gutenberg Project public domain works. We are there. BUT -- where are the librarians?
I have IT people asking me for passwords, and teachers emailing to get added to the authentication file. I have students discovering our library, when the public library has no copies available and they refer the students to our school library.
We just launched our second Overdrive digital library, this one targeted at elementary students, and I find it inconceivable that some librarians have had this product for four years, and still dont' know how to check out a digital book. We are providing a first class virtual library to our 84 schools and some of those librarians haven't asked for a single student log in.
Ken Aluetta, author of GOOGLED: The endo fo the world as we know it, claims that there will be 5 billion handheld devices by the end of this year. Now I really dont' believe that 5/8ths of the world will own handheld, but believe that probably 3/8ths will hold multiple devices. There is still a digital divide. The point is, that those 5 billion owners can access ebooks from a library, and never have to enter through the door of your building. What they get in the public domain is a mixed bag of great classics and free garbage, but they can still retrieve them. Most of what the public wants to read, they are paying for. That is the missed opportunity for the public libraries in our areas.
Benjamin Netanyahu last week addressed the UN, and in his speech he mentioned that when they released Gaza, they expected Gaza to be defeated. However, "they weren't defeated, they were devoured." That is likely the same environment we are currently operating in. Print will likely be "devoured" by eBooks, unexpectedly.
I will admit. I personally, love print. In fact, I love large print. However, I also love to read on my iPad and was very surprised to discover that I enjoy downloading and reading eBooks on my tiny handheld iPod touch. I'm a baby boomer and a hyper-connected working class American priveledged to live in a country with free access to information and a plethora of it available...in my back pocket. Let's join the digital evolution and evolve our collections to embrace digital formats. Where do you start? Here are a few suggestions:
- Locate "free" resources on the Internet and imbed them with marc records in your catalogs. Assuming your catalog is available on the web, then your free resources will be accessible via the web. Start with Google Books
- Ask the students with smart 'devices' to be your tutors. Make yourself transparent and say, "lets experiment and download a book to our phones." Have an APP lunch. Host an Ebooks lunch and experiment together.
- Sit down with your adminsitration and present a plan on how to fund a virtual library. Contact Overdrive, Netlibrary, or other provider to compare the costs and configuration. State all claims and needs in terms of "how it will benefit the students."
- Face the music. Strengthen your digital knowledge, if you need to. Attend next months SLJ eBook Summit, online webinar.
- Start small with a goal of big delivery.
- Switch your focus from the device to the delivery! The device will change over and over again, but the content will be sitting there on a virtual shelf to be checked out.
- Don't be defeated before you start. There are simple steps to take and small steps toward the goal of digital evolution.