Category Archives: Professional

Integrating digital content (it’s more than just adding eBooks!)

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Open 24/7 flikr photo by Tom Magliery shared under a Creative Commons (NC-SA) License

This weekend I’ve started reworking a presentation I gave on eBooks at the 2015 SLANZA conference. In a few weeks I’ll be presenting a similar but more informal workshop to a group of school librarians about integrating digital content into our collections. I believe that school librarians should worry less about the ‘print vs digital’ debate and explore how our role can become more relevant, by smashing the stereotype that the Librarian is ‘the keeper of the place where the books are stored’.

As well as sharing the nuts and bolts of how to add eBooks to predominantly print collections, (and most attendees will be thinking about adding eBook fiction to supplement, duplicate or replace print books) I’m hoping to encourage them to “think bigger” and to consider the many benefits of reinvigorating all physical collections (not just fiction) by integrating a wide variety of digital resources, embracing BYOD, working collaboratively with teachers and putting the student at the centre of everything we do – adding new relevancy to the role of the Librarian and Library within a school.

Source: WOBI – World of Business Ideas

Our library seems to always be in a state of change and continuous improvement. That’s a good thing!

No library collection is ever finished or complete, and no school library can ever hope to own every resource their teachers and students might possibly need. Physical space and budgetary limitations are the motivators for extending our physical collections via the selective integration and application of digital media that can propel access to the resources beyond the four walls and opening hours of the library. We need to be flexible and responsive by being able to confidently offer ‘Just-in-time’ resourcing and by adding in appropriate, quality, relevant digital content whenever it’s required, rather than trying to have print materials that cover every learning and subject area ‘Just-in-case’.

Technology plays an enormous part in the success of digital integration into library collections and not a day passes where I’m not enormously thankful to be working in a school that offers a BYOD programme that allows even our very young students to work on iPads. However, great things can still be achieved by Librarians in schools without 1:1 device use or BYOD. I hope the attendees at the workshop in April will be able to find ways to integrate the power of digital information sources by the clever use of the devices they and their students do have, and by collaborating smartly with external agencies to obtain access to content they might not be able to afford alone.

It’s been four years since we introduced OverDrive ebook fiction and three years since we added in MackinVia multi-user ebooks for inquiry. I’m still excited by how these tools have transformed our practice. I’m more excited thinking about what the future holds for librarians who like to look for new ways to meet the needs of the learner wherever they are, and whenever they need to learn.

Digital collection development – balancing the mix of ownership/lending models

ebooks.001Our collection currently comprises almost 2/3 one copy/one user titles and 1/3 licensed titles (either metered or expiring after a period of time).

This ratio isn’t what we were planning when we began selecting ebooks and audiobooks for our digital collection, but it has evolved this way over time. Although we would prefer to buy more content on a one copy/one user model a lot of very popular fiction is only available on a licensed basis and to complicate the ratio further, some of the one copy/one user material is ridiculously expensive.

One of the aims of our digital collection is to entice students to read; and therefore the offering must be as appealing as the physical collection otherwise it risks being seen as only a supplementary, fringe or niche collection. In order to meet the objective of enticement, we’ve simply had to ‘bite the bullet’ and buy a considerable amount of licensed content in order to provide the popular material that students will want to borrow.

The bulk of the metered titles (and nearly 1/4 of the whole collection) are titles sold on the 26 metered model (predominantly from HarperCollins US and UK and their imprints, plus  a small number of titles from Disney). I’ve grown to accept and ultimately love this model because although 26 may not seem high (and it’s not high if kids accidentally check ebooks out and then return them without either downloading or reading them…) but it is similar to the number of uses a popular paperback might get. When titles have expired after they’ve been regularly checked out then the decision to repurchase is an easy one. At least if a title isn’t popular and doesn’t go out much it doesn’t expire in your collection until that magic number of 26 is reached! Often the prices are very reasonable and it’s not difficult to feel justified when adding extra copies of titles in high demand.

The 52 checkout/24 month model is one that I initially wasn’t keen on. But now I feel these titles will grow as we can now purchase more content from Pan Macmillan, which has an excellent price point for this lending term. The chart above shows the number of titles (rather than the number of copies we own) so it’s a little misleading because we often will have 2-3 copies of Macmillan titles due to their popularity. Combine the high interest of their titles with a very reasonable price (and one where you do not feel you are being extravagant with the schools money if you purchase extra copies when demand is high) and you can only feel good about the balance here.

However, I do feel that all the publishers offering ebooks on this basis have been a little disingenuous regarding the 52 checkouts. It’s very difficult to consume 52 checkouts within a 24 month period – especially if the favoured lending period by students is 3 weeks. Even if a title is issued as soon as it’s returned, then the highest number of checkouts we might expect with 24 months is just under 35 (104 weeks divided by three). Of course there will be some students who return a book quickly and well before the three week loan period is up – but it is unlikely that any title will be on issue continuously and reach 52 checkouts.  Where we have reached high checkout numbers on some of these titles, we have only been able to achieve this by owning multiple copies (so no single copy is responsible for 52 checkouts within 24 months, no matter how popular). The situation may be quite different in a public library and that’s the reason why I keep suggesting that the terms for school libraries need to be considered differently.

The 36 checkout model portion is made up solely with titles from the Non-US Penguin/Random House family – including Australian, New Zealand and UK content. Whilst it looks like we may have given this model a solid endorsement because we have already purchased a considerable number of titles in a short space of time… I’m very much in ‘two minds’ about it. As time passes and I peruse the additional titles I’d like to add, I find that I am unable to make the leap and push “purchase” due to an almost emotional reaction to the pricing. Perhaps 36 checkouts is a little more realistic than 52 within 24 months, but the price point of many of the titles, which will expire after only two years, seems expensive. The mitigating factor is the popularity and desirability of many of the titles and series. However, some imprints from this publisher (think of those nice fat annotated Penguin classics) lend themselves to the one copy/one user model in a school library context in my opinion.

The 60 month (or 5 years) model that represents a tiny sliver in the chart at less than 1% of the collection – is made up solely of the 7 Harry Potter books in both ebook and audiobook formats. These titles, published by Pottermore, are currently only available through OverDrive, but they are extremely popular with students.

Lastly the 12 month time restriction feels prohibitive and dare I say mean; and before I purchase any title under this model, there is quite a bit of soul searching and calculating to try and predict how popular the titles might be to justify the cost over such a short period. I’m also very conscious of buying 12 month titles towards the end of the year knowing full well that they will expire in exactly 12 months and one can only plan and hope that there will be budget available the following year. Despite there being a vast range of content from Simon & Schuster and DK (Dorling Kindersley) available we’ve only purchased 21 titles so far.

If we had only been able to add one copy/one user content then we would not have a collection that is appealing to readers as the one we have built up over 2 1/2 years, but planning for and dealing with the variety of lending models and price points can be rather complicated and exhausting.

Interestingly, if we were to buy exactly the same titles today under current ownership models  – then many of those that had been available under the one copy/one user model would now only be available on a licensed basis.

Here’s what the breakdown would look like today:

ebooks.002What’s changed?

There are 223 titles that we had previously purchased under the one copy/one user model from Random House Australia, Random House New Zealand and the bulk from Random House Children’s Publishing Ltd (RHCP UK). When  I added these to the recent purchases we’ve made from the newly released Penguin and Random House titles they add up to a sizeable chunk of licensed content at 13% of the collection – all of which would expire after 36 checkouts or 24 months.

There were also 48 titles purchased from Allen & Unwin before they switched from the one copy/one user model to the 52 checkout or 24 months model.

Now that our collection has reached the proportions shown in the earlier chart, I believe it’s time to look at formulating a more rigorous digital collection development policy that caps the amount of metered content. This needs to be done otherwise each year a significant amount of our budget will have to be allocated to replacing content (which feels rather unpalatable if it has not been checked out much – no matter how desirable it is to have it in the collection). Some titles might be purchased with expiration in mind – but only if the price is reasonable at the time of purchase and where you anticipate that the title won’t be needed in the future or at least not as many copies.

Note: I’m still planning on writing detailed posts about each of these lending model and ownership types, which I hope will help others come to understand how they all fit together. For some libraries how the collection is made up may look very different to ours and some libraries may find that shorter ownership periods may suit their collection and community better, depending on their requirements. I do believe that all these lending models need to be incorporated into our collection if we wish to continue to offer a wide range of attractive content that mirrors and supports the physical one.

My opinion on the print vs digital ‘war’

I’m fuming.
This article appeared in the Washington Post on February 22nd 2015 : “Why digital natives prefer reading in print
The link was posted on the NZ School Librarian ListServ today and predictably due swift responses affirming a preference for print over digital.
I sighed loudly. I thought and fumed a bit.
I sighed again as I considered replying to the thread on the ListServ.
The bee in my bonnet? I get very frustrated when librarians appear to gleefully seize upon any article or piece of ‘research’ that ‘proves’ that print is winning the ‘war’ against digital. Why is it a war or even a battle? Why do some librarians see the future as print OR digital, rather than print AND digital?
What upsets me is not so much whether the opinion expressed in the article is right or wrong (or some shade of grey in between), but the attitude to the adoption and acceptance of new digital forms by my librarian peers. They use any article like this one as validation for their choice not to introduce digital formats or a reason to continually justify their reluctance to do so.
My opinion: We are not preparing students for the same world many of us grew up in, or are living in now.
Regardless of whether individuals prefer print or digital for reading for pleasure, they need to learn how to synthesise and comprehend any information presented digitally for research purposes. The reality is that even in a school library with a predominantly print based collection (no matter how comprehensive and up-to-date), sometimes the best information on a topic will be online.
I also read this local article today and two snippets provided me with food for thought:
“The average Kiwi teacher is a woman in her early fifties. She’s facing a generation of kids she wasn’t trained to teach who have grown up with Wi-Fi, the cloud and hand-held technology”.
“The full impact of digital kids was expected to hit over the next couple of years, as a critical mass of children now under 10 floods the education system”.
I wonder if the average school librarian is of similar age?  Given I am a woman in my early fifties I am prepared to say that age and gender is no indicator of mindset and rate of technological adoption. I have met so many incredible teachers and librarians via social media and conferences that have an incredibly open mind about the use of technology, adapting to change and being motivated self/life-long-learners.
If I ever hear a teacher tell a student, who is happily reading an ebook, that she wants them to choose a ‘real’ book instead, I blanch. An ebook is a ‘real’ book – it’s just in a different format. For some students that difference in format can be a game changer. I have seen a number of struggling students become readers, by using technology where they get to control the text size, font type and background page colour and use an inbuilt dictionary or enable text to speech features for words they don’t recognise or understand. When I hear librarians justifying their decisions to not introduce ebooks into their collection, or doing it very reluctantly, because of their own preference for reading and researching in print, then I also blanch.
Students accessing a multiple user, recently published, non-fiction ebook access the same text as their peers (they haven’t missed out because another student checked out the best book first or because the Library only owns one copy). Every student in a class or year level can access the same material. For differentiated learning they can make use of the different text types and images in the text exactly the same way they do using the print edition or they can choose a lower or higher level book on the same topic from a group of ebooks curated along with other resources related to their inquiry issue. They can also highlight and take notes in their own words (but not cut and paste like they could with a website), store their notes in a personal notebook and immediately add the resource they are using to a bibliography or prepare a citation.
My opinion: Reading digitally is a skill that needs to be learned like any other literacy.
Our own preference for print and/or the problems some of us have coping with electronic text should not be used as a yardstick to gauge whether or not we allow students ready and easy access to non-print formats. Our own biases towards print should also not prevent us from teaching students to be effective users of information in all formats. We are doing our students a major disservice if we do not prepare them for a world where most of the research they do in the workforce will be digital. I feel it’s part of my role (and should be for every other future focussed Librarian and teacher that young learners encounter) to enable them to be future ready and to be able to navigate text and visual information wherever they find it and in whatever format. Don’t we want our learners to apply all the critical skills they have learnt about identifying and using appropriate, authoritative and relevant sources to whatever they are accessing or reading? Does it really matter if the information source students use is print or digital as long as they can use both equally well?
‘The digital natives’ referred to in the Washington Post article are predominantly college (university) students, and although this group grew up with computers and more recently easily adopted mobile devices, many of them have not had the same exposure to extensive and ‘every-day’ use of ebooks, ejournals, and websites for research, until they got to senior high school or university, that younger kids are used to using right now, today.
Many students in the younger years in primary schools right across New Zealand are already using more technology than the ‘digital natives’ portrayed in the article did at the same age during their years at school. We have students in Year 1 who use a combination of non-fiction print and ebooks for inquiry and then pick from a variety of digital tools to present their learning. Our students from Year 3 up, are writing their own blogs and reading and commenting on the learning reflections of their peers. All of these students still have ready access to a wide selection of print resources and they have a choice of format for their recreational reading as well. There is a noticeable difference in the levels of ebook use for reading for pleasure between our youngest students and those at the higher end of the school. As these younger students grow with their devices and acceptance of digital forms I expect the numbers reading ebooks at different year levels in future years to change significantly.
The reality is that I can get more books into more hands if I use a combination of print and digital format than I could if we used print alone. Students have the convenience of accessing books (not just websites and YouTube videos) from anywhere at anytime (and not only when the library is open during school hours). Our students are learning to be ‘ambidextrous’ and switch between formats and to handle a variety of text styles and layouts. It’s really important for the success of our students that we provide them with  great quality, current, authoritative resources. For some topics there may be more material available in one format over another. Publishing and content availability is in transition and it is is almost impossible to predict what resources students and workers will be using in the future. I doubt very much that they will only be using print.
Whether or not I love to read ebooks, or if I struggle with online forms, or even if I swoon at the smell of a paper book… none of these things should have any bearing on the level of encouragement and support I give to young readers and learners to make the best use of the resources they need to learn to use so that they will thrive in their future.
Rant over.

Thinky thoughts

I’m pretty sure I don’t share enough.

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Image source: Flickr

Yes I rave on twitter from time to time, but I tend to shy away from some of the other outlets for school library discussion in New Zealand often due to time constraints (I really don’t have much time during the school day for anything except classes, PYP planning and keeping my head above water!)

Our school library is part of an independent school and I sometimes sense that other school librarians feel that anything we do is irrelevant because of a perceived disparity in budget and resourcing levels. I don’t agree with this. All of the things we are doing to make our library more student-centric can be adapted or adopted anywhere and all of the innovative things we are doing have been inspired by other librarians and educators from libraries and schools of every type. Take what you can, and use what suits your community and situation.

Here are some things I think about (mainly while in the shower but generally all through the day…and night) that I’d like to share. I’d like to slip in a few blog posts about these in between #365PictureBook posts.

  • Hacking Dewey
  • Collection arrangement by format – is this relevant when so many formats are converging? I am switching to putting things where kids will be looking for them or where they will get most use and value.
  • Fiction genrefication/genrification – what we did and what it means for students, teachers and librarians
  • Discussing those print vs digital articles that seem to polarise librarians…
  • A publisher by publisher summary of digital content availability in NZ School Libraries including access rights and pricing issues – and what this means for collection development.
  • Collection development with a high proportion of digital content (print vs digital, digital only, titles in both formats etc)
  • An open letter to publishers regarding their stance on eBooks in school libraries (especially if you are in New Zealand or Australia)
  • Any other ways to collectively put pressure on publishers to open up availability of digital resources for our students
  • My changing view of non-fiction – our collection for curiosity and inquiry contains more and more material that isn’t strictly nonfiction
  • How we are using multiple-user (school-wide) eBooks instead of buying print non-fiction wherever possible (very relevant after changes to National Library Services to Schools Curriculum support)
  • Time management, work life balance etc
  • How one manages feeling like a ninja librarian trapped inside a middle-aged body?

Let me know if there is anything else that I rave about on Twitter that you want to know more about that I can share here…. Even if no one reads my thinky thoughts –  I am hopeful that reflection, articulated into words on a page, might mean I can let go of more and stop thinking quite so much?

Hoist by my own enthusiasm

Chris Overworked

Image: Flickr Commons : Ferrell McCollough
It’s nearly the end of what has been a crazy and chaotic year in my life as a school librarian.

I haven’t blogged since May. Why? Possibly because I am doing the work of more than one Librarian and sabotaging my own success by enthusiastically taking on too much.

For me the end of this year is a time of reflection, on the good and bad. I should be patting myself on the back for having been an integral part of a team that successfully launched ebooks into our school and the hands of my students. Instead, I am feeling guilty about all the other things I didn’t do well. ‘Stretched too thin’ is what comes to mind – with no area in my domain covered really well and most ‘at standard’, possibly some below.

Things I will muse over while on hoiliday:

  • how libraries are affected by the digital shift to e-content – it isn’t one format over another
  • how our roles in schools have changed – yes the future is exciting but someone still has to shelve the books!
  • why Librarians tend to take on and give too much and what it means for us professionally and personally
  • can I get my mojo back?

Would love some reflections from others in a similar mind space.

Hello world!

Welcome to my blog where I hope to share the excitement I feel for the wonderful children’s books I work with each day. “100 great books before lunch” refers to the joke I share with my colleagues….I always have a list of titles I would love to buy for my students that is far in excess of my budget…”I could buy 100 great books before lunch” is something I feel, if not say, on a daily basis. There are so many great books being written and published for children of all ages these days, that there isn’t any excuse for them not to be reading at every opportunity!

Happy reading 🙂

Alison