Ugh… DVDs are the new eBook?

Ok, this post is NOT about ebooks but somehow I feel like its along similar lines. I just received this email from Midwest Tapes (who is a fantastic vendor) about a recent change in Time Warner’s policies in regards to sales to libraries. They said-

We have recently learned that Warner Home Video will no longer distribute theatrical releases to libraries or home video rental stores until 28 days after they release the movies for sale at retailers. This Warner Home Video policy applies to all public libraries and video rental outlets such as Redbox, Netflix, and Blockbuster.

In addition to being released 28 days after the retail version, Warner’s rental version DVDs and Blu-rays will not contain bonus features or extras. However, we understand that there will be a significant price reduction for these products, apparently amounting to an average $4 per DVD title and $8 per Blu-ray title.

Warner Home Video has announced that it may seek to enforce its new policy by auditing its distribution partners’ sales. Additionally, Warner may require retailers, like Amazon, Best Buy, Walmart, and Target, to limit the number of copies of a new release that may be sold to a single customer.

Please note that Warner’s new policy will only impact titles that have a theatrical release, perhaps amounting to about 12 titles per year. Non-theatrical Warner releases will not be affected by this policy.

Below are the first three Warner theatrical titles affected. Note that Warner’s rental versions will feature rental artwork.

So, once again, major multimedia companies are giving libraries the shaft. I’m kinda tired of getting picked on as if we’re some horrible organization responsible for ruining the capitalism of America. But what can we do about this kind of thing? Its not good for our business, its a disadvantage to our patrons, and it forces libraries to remain subservient to the whims of commercial America. I have to point out, that libraries are NOT a threat to captalism nor are we in competition with any company in the world.

Ebooks are already a big enough problem, and now we have to deal with basically the same ideal behind this DVD policy too? Anyone have a solution?

Adam Block talks to JP Porcaro about “Off the Fence”

While in the “office,” Adam Block started talking to us about his company called Off The Block. We tried to get the interview in the “office,” but we decided to step out into the hallway instead.

Librarians Unplugged (Mobile Guitar Lending Library) #ala11 #alatt

Hey! Stop being a “hero” and play a real guitar! This year, the ALA Think Tank folks are all about the power and strength of music to bring folks together. We will be returning from midwinter to Annual with our mobile guitar library. The ALA Think Tank will provide two guitars and various other instruments of construction. If you want to play guitar, maybe learn something from each other, network, or just want to enjoy some good… music played by some of the great talent found in our profession come on by and jam for a while. This is an open session where anyone and everyone can “check-out” an instrument and jam for a bit while meeting other awesome librarians. If you want to find it, you can follow @pcsweeney or the #alatt hashtag on twitter for current locations. See you out there!

If you want to check out last year’s Mobile Guitar Library you can check out the video –

(About the Vid)
At the 2011 American Library Association Midwinter meeting, the crew of the Think Tank infiltrated the conference with a guerrilla guitar lending library just to see what would happen. We invited all kinds of folks to “check-out” a guitar for a few minutes or a few hours. Many librarians and other good folks sat and played. As it turns out, our profession is filled with talented musicians. This video is the mashup of many of the patrons of this guerilla library.

Librarian JP (JP Porcaro)
Lisa Carlucci Thomas
Jaime Corris Hammond
Josh Hadro
Peter Bromberg

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Rebooting Libraries Back to Issue #1

I was just thinking about DC comics idea to reboot all of their comics back to Issue number one. As part of the news they are also reissuing all of the #52 comics in the reboot in digital format starting with Justice League. Now, I was a HUGE comic book fan when I was kid, and my super hero of choice was Firestorm (also by DC comics), so this whole idea got me thinking about this concept for libraries.

What you have to remember is that, while they are starting the comics at number 1, they are not republishing the first comics. They are retelling the stories in different ways. There will be new storylines, new ideas, and bigger and better concepts. Or, as DC Comics co-publisher Dan DiDio told USA Today;

“We really want to inject new life in our characters and line. This was a chance to start, not at the beginning, but at a point where our characters are younger and the stories are being told for today’s audience.”

So basically, they are not doing away with the core of their product. They are not changing Superman’s powers, or the speed of The Flash, they are just re-examining the story that they are telling.

What if we could reboot libraries back to issue #1? What would we change about our story now? If we could rewrite our library’s stories for today’s audience and inject new life into our characters what would we say?

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Guitars at the Library? Its Gonna Be Freaking RAD!!

I thought I’d share an update on the whole Guitar Lending Library at my library. It’s been a long journey but I think we are almost there. A whole lot of awesome has happened since we started this back in October. If you want to read about the genesis of the project you can check out the link to it here.

The first thing that changed is that we decided to not get our guitars from Guitar Center. I’d like to say that I love Guitar Center, but they didn’t really give me that level of service I was looking for when I went and told them I wanted to buy 15 guitars. I mean, I’m buying 15 guitars! At least sound like you want me to buy them from you.

So… I went and bought them from a great local guitar shop called Gelb Music. They totally bent over backwards to help me out. They sold me great guitars at a great price and I couldn’t ask for better service. I purchased Hohner Classical guitars, with a gigbag, tuners, extra strings, wall hangers, and I’m going go back and buy some capos too. I’ll let you in on a little secret too… They gave me a better price than guitar center!

I took the guitars up to the central library office and our great cataloger Ida hooked me up with the item record, and loan rules and all that. The guitars check-out for 8 weeks, they have a five dollar a day fine up to $50.00, and can be renewed, but can’t be put on hold. There are various reasons for all this, and if you’re interested in the finer details, I’ll lay that all out in a later post. (If anyone cares)

In preparation of the guitars arrival, we had county maintenance install the hangers. When the guitars finally came in after all the processing (RFID, Barcodes, etc…) we hung them up to be ready for our first round of guitar group lessons.

Our group lessons are being taught through a great partnership with a member of a local band called Vintage Music Collective named Justin Phipps. This partnership came about after their band played at the library and we found out that Justin taught lessons in the local schools. Justin was also the one who recommended the Hohner guitars and Gelb Music since that’s who he gets his guitars through.

Overall, I’m pretty stoked about this project so far. We don’t start checking them out until June 15th and I’m leaving a lot of details out of this post. In a future post, I’m going show you our loan agreements, staff guitar training guides, and various other details of the project.

-This project was made possible through the Eureka! program and an LSTA grant

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A Video Tour of the EPA Seed Library.

This is an updated video of the EPA Seed library. In this version, Nicole Wires gives a tour of the library and explains how to use it. This video also includes interviews with the builder of the library case, a seed library patron, and Kris Jenson the executive director of Collective Roots. Collective Roots is the local gardening organization that the EPA library collaborated with to create this library.

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Reference is Dead, Long Live the Enabler

At the time of writing this blog post, I’ve read two articles on the death of reference. The first was called “Is Reference Service Dead?” by Mathew Ciszek and the second was by Michael Stephens and it was called “Stuck in the Past.” Even I wrote a reference is dead blog post once many years and two other blogs ago. So, if reference is so dead, and it’s been written about as long as I can remember, why are we still talking about it? I think there are four choices.

1) It’s not dead
2) We haven’t come up with something better
3) Folks refuse to let it die
4) Students in Library School who think it’s something new to write about

Here is where I tell you which one of the four that I think is true. The truth is, I don’t know. I’m pretty sure that it’s a little of all four but my thought is that mostly its number two. I think there is something better than reference services and it ties into a future post that I’m working on. But, here is the reference version of that future blog post.

Eli Neiburger of the Ann Arbor Library District argues that armed with Google and an internet connection, the need for reference librarians has diminished. “Travel agents were outmoded because people felt they had better access to the information than they could get from the travel agents”, he said, and just as travel agents have become a thing of the past, so will the anachronistic reference librarian. With everything on Google, who needs them? (from Ciszek’s blog)

My thought is, he’s right! Who does need them? Lonely seniors and folks who can’t or don’t know how to access Google might need them but for the general public, the crap they dreg off the bottom of the information sewer on Google is good enough for them. Even though it might be wrong, or poorly written (like this blog), or out-of-date, or an ad for a guaranteed weight loss solution, they are satisfied with what they now “know.” Really, and I hate to break this to folks, but it’s all about perception. If the perceive that they have what they need, then that’s all it takes.

I’ll add in as a side note, that I do wholeheartedly disagree about the whole IT hiring frenzy thing though

But don’t worry; I’m not about complaining I’m about answers and solutions. So, here is my solution –

Reference is dead, long live the enabler.

Before I get more into my thoughts here, I can’t even begin to tell you how important it is for librarians to watch this video. So please, I’m begging you to watch it. I blogged about it once before, but here it is again.

So if we don’t have reference as a core service, then what do we have? We have the ability to enable people to live more fulfilled lives. We can do this by providing answers (some forms of reference), materials for better lives (more extensive collections like guitars, tools, seeds, gaming, augmented reality), a third place (a quiet work or relaxation place away from kids and husbands and wives), and a place to learn with the resources they need to learn (isn’t this really what we are about at the end of the day?). Hey Michael, notice I didn’t mention books?

What I’m saying here in a round and about way, is that we need to continue what libraries have always been, and that is to be enablers to those who want to learn and provide the resources that enable our communities to learn. It’s not reference, its enabling our patrons to live more fulfilling lives. After all… By answering reference questions wasn’t that the real goal anyway?

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Partnerships = Library Awesome!

I’ve been thinking about some of our libraries most successful programs and services that we offer. I realized that almost all of the most successful ones have come from partnerships that have been cultivated by the staff. These partnerships have led to larger program numbers, a wider array of programs, and increased services and collections. Even more importantly, we are being offered money and resources to provide some things that we wouldn’t have been able to provide before. The following list are some of the partnerships we have at EPA Library.

Literacy Fair
East Palo Alto is holding its first ever Literacy Fair called Reading Rainbow in the Park. This came about through a partnership with the Stanford Alumni Association. We were contacted by a liaison from this group who had the idea for a fair and came to us for help. We are providing many of the books and giveaways as well as some of the entertainment and they are providing the organizing of the event itself.

Health and Wellness Programs
We have a local community health organization that provides a lot of the medical services in the area and we offer them a space for community outreach and education about health issues. They especially do many programs for our seniors. My librarians work with this organization to bring those presentations to our library.

Guitar Lending Library
This partnership isn’t complete yet, but it bears mentioning. I received a grant to circulate guitars at the library and one of my librarians brought in a band called the Vintage Music Collective to perform. One of the members of this group teaches music lessons in EPA through their non-profit called Live in Peace and we will be providing the guitars while he provides the lessons.

Catered Events
One of my librarians works closely with an organization called Jobtrain that provides vocational training in the Culinary Arts. The community members who are involved in this program need somewhere to showcase their culinary skills and talents and we have events where food is always welcome. So, these students “get to” provide food and food services to some of our larger events.

Seed Library
This is one of the few ones that I was the one who approached a local organization for. Our Library offers a seed library to the public that was modeled after the Richmond Grows Seed Lending Library. When I heard about the library in Richmond I looked around in our community and found the local gardening non-profit called Collective Roots that runs the Farmer’s Market. When I told them about the seed library they jumped at the chance and we now offer seeds for “check-out” from our library. We also have plans to expand to tools for gardening and they provide gardening programs from our library.

Poet Library
An organization called School After School for Successful Youth (SASSY) is an offshoot of the jobtrain organization. The students in this program create a large amount of art, literature, and poetry and they need a space to display their work within the community. We are simply giving them a wall to display the work of the community members. Eventually, (they don’t know this yet) I want to expand this partnership to bound and cataloged materials for circulation. Sort of, a local authors collection, but published and provided only by the library. I did something similar when I was an elementary school librarian and I think it would work well with this kind of partnership.

East Palo Alto History Project
We are working with Stanford students to create a history of EPA mural across the back wall of the library. This mural will show the history of East Palo Alto through the eyes of the library as it has moved and changed over the last 75 years. The movement and changes that occurred in the library parallel a lot of what has happened here and is very reflective of the changes in the community.

We have many more, but those are the ones that I am most excited about. Basically, I’ve figured out my job in this community is to find ways to say yes to as many things as I can then figure out how to make it work. While I might say “not yet,” I almost never say no to a community member unless the service they want to provide lies outside the scope of librarianship or community building.

What I want to know is-
1) What partnerships are you building in your community?
2) What would you say no to?
3) What are some of your dream partnerships?

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Seed Library Opening Day (video)

Here is a video of our seed library at EPA Library.

More information about seed libraries can be found from our great model organization Richmond Grows.

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Starting an E-Reader Lending Library

This is my grant narrative for the East Palo Alto E-Reader Lending Library. This opportunity arose because a neighboring library had a friends group with unspent funds from a grant. The money needed to go towards the implementation of some kind of technology. Basically, I know that a few other librarians have started some kind e-reader lending library and I wanted to jump into the e-reader fiasco sooner rather than later (we saw what happened to borders) so I put this grant idea together.

Short Description –
A set of E-readers with high-demand subject-specific content pre-loaded to check-out to community members.

Long Description –
The East Palo Alto Library, as a branch of the San Mateo County Library, seeks to create innovative and exciting collections to engage our users in ways that meet their changing needs. We have established unique collections as part of the East Palo Alto Library that includes a Seed Library, circulating laptops, and a newly implemented Guitar Lending Library. By expanding our unique collections to pre-loaded and high-demand subject-specific e-readers we are seeking to engage the public with resources that they may otherwise lack access to. Some of these non-fiction resources would include career- and job-seeking guides, as well as cooking, entrepreneurship, business management, and travel guides. Besides non-fiction, the East Palo Alto Library has a high demand for some genres and authors of fiction materials as well. Some of these include many urban fiction series, mysteries, thrillers, and various authors within these genres. These kinds of collections can help adults with their educational and recreational resource needs.

Besides providing e-readers with content that is exciting to adults, some e-readers would be pre-loaded with many titles and genres that would interest children and teens. Children are growing up in the information age and are considered information natives in the ways in which they interact with digital mediums. With this understanding we can appeal to the techno-appeal of digital environments by providing student resources, picture books, early-readers, and fiction materials for both teens and children.

It is also becoming increasingly evident that seniors are re-discovering the joys of reading through the use of e-readers. These devices are becoming more simplistic to use for those older adults not familiar with digital media and as the boomers (who are techno-savy) age, we are seeing an increase in retirees with strong computer skills who are enjoying reading on digital devices. Also attractive, is that the easy-to-read e-ink text on the devices can be effortlessly increased in size for easier reading for individuals who may have hardships of sight.

E-readers also lend the library with interesting and new opportunities for collection development. The “collections” kept on the e-readers can vary widely and because an e-reader can hold up to 3,500 books, many varied collections can be kept on one e-reader. These collections are easily and cheaply interchanged if needed and can be supplemented with many of the free e-book resources found online as well as through access to the library’s Overdrive digital book resource. These kinds of innovations will allow the library to continuously interchange collections while not being forced to throw away or weed existing collections thereby creating a greener organization as well.

My big questions that remain are…

  • What percentage of funds do I put towards the pre-loaded e-reader collection?
  • What percentage of funds do I put towards e-readers?
  • And most importantly, which e-reader do I purchase?
  • The third question seems to be the most difficult one to answer. Do I go with popularity (Kindle), ease of use (Nook), more exciting for children (Nook Color), and there are so many other variables that I really don’t know where to begin to start researching this. So I purposefully left out, which device I’m planning on purchasing.

    More info…
    If you haven’t followed ALL the e-reader debate in its all encompassing and over-passionate glory (neither have I, it’s just too overwhelming) here are some good places to start.

    Stephen’s Lighthouse
    Amazon to Launch Library Lending for Kindle Books

    Heather Braum
    Discriminating Against Libraries 26 ebook Circs at a time

    Jason Griffey
    EBooks Dominate as Most Popular Format?

    Librarian in Black
    Questions we should be asking about Kindle Library Lending

    Librarian by Day
    Some Questions for Overdrive and Amazon about the Kindle Lending Library

    Agnostic Maybe
    Houston We Have a Problem

    Librarian in Black
    EBook User’s Bill of Rights

    Librarian By Day
    Publishing Industry Forces OverDrive and Other Library eBook Vendors to Take a Giant Step Back

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    Punk-Ass Book Jockey
    Librarians Against DRM
    The Dark Ages Began With Closing A Library