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Digital libraries

The limits of “Hack the library”: Don’t aim for too much more with too much less—and try harder for more
April 18, 2014 | 10:25 am

Hack the LibraryLess than 12 percent of U.S. public library spending goes for books and other items. Doubt the need for “hacking the library” through ingenious tech upgrades and reinvention of processes, missions and plenty else? I don’t. Nor do the organizers of the 29th Computers in Libraries conference named after the magazine. Much to their credit, this Information Today event borrowed from the Harvard Library Innovation Lab and made “Hack the library” the theme at a gathering of well over 1,000 library professionals at the Washington Hilton. A keynoter, the ever-stimulating David Weinberger, lab co-director, told them April 7: “Libraries are getting squeezed a...

The most urgent digital library needs are those of Lady Gaga and the Kardashians
December 15, 2013 | 1:07 pm

Lady_Gaga_BTW_Ball_Antwerp_02Just a dream. But what if I really could write the headline above—and not as a joke? Would more Americans, inside and outside the media, care more than they do now about the Hispanics, African-Americans and poor people mentioned in LibraryCity’s latest digital library commentary? Of course, as is evident from the post, you don’t have to be in a minority to benefit from full-strength digital libraries. The challenge is to let people know, “We can make full-strength national digital libraries happen. We don’t have to put up with a crappy $4.20 per capita spent each year on public library content in all...

Jim Duncan, Colorado Library Consortium executive director, speaks out in series on public libraries and the Digital Public Library of America
October 29, 2013 | 4:14 pm

Jim Duncan, executive director of the Colorado Library ConsortiumWhat kind of national digital library system---or systems, plural---should the U.S. create? Read Parts One and Two of a new series where Jim Duncan, executive director of the Colorado Library Consortium delves into the major issues. Is the Harvard-incubated Digital Public Library of America the solution with its “one big tent” approach for public and academic libraries? With museums even included? Or do we need intertwined but separate public and academic systems, so literacy issues, K-12 needs, related digital divide matters, and other national concerns do not fall through the cracks? Could a national digital library endowment, started mostly with philanthropic donations...

First all-digital public library system a hit in Bexar County, Texas—with hundreds of e-reader gizmos and an eager young crew to explain them
October 20, 2013 | 1:11 pm

bibliotechLast year LibraryCity.org knocked the library system in Rockford, Illinois, for planning to spend around a quarter of its $1.19-million collection budget on e-books. A third of Rockfordians were living below the poverty line in 2009 by one estimate. And yet the local library initially wanted to start out with just 50 Kindle e-readers---hardly the best solution for people too poor or technophobic to buy and use e-book devices. The local NAACP and other groups yelled foul, just as they should have. So what’s happening down in Bexar County, Texas? BiblioTech, the world’s first all-digital public library system, opened there September 14...

How to get the most out of library ebooks via the right gadget, text to speech, and otherwise
October 18, 2013 | 6:26 pm

FireVergeWant to hear text to speech from free library ebooks on your 50-mile commute? Even if you own an Android machine and the usual OverDrive app can’t do “read-aloud” unless audiobooks count? Also, what if you haven’t even bought an e-reading gizmo for library use, but want to? Which model to go with? In those cases and others, the guidance here is for you. Most tips will work even with low-cost, no-name tablets. But let’s pay special attention to the new Kindle Fire HDXes. They are among the top choices if you care more about reading than about tech and can stomach...

Booktrack Combines Music with your E-Books
September 12, 2013 | 1:30 pm

I am a daily commuter, and as such I always my e-reader with me so that I have something to read on my daily train rides. However, the train is far from a quiet library, and as a result I have gotten in the habit of listening to music while simultaneously reading. However, it's no easy task finding the right music to complement your book let alone amplify it. That's where Booktrack comes in. In short, Booktrack is a digital publishing tool that enables bloggers, artists and writers to self-publish their work with corresponding soundtracks. Writers can choose from a catalogue...

The Future of the Traditional Bookstore
September 11, 2013 | 2:57 pm

Here's more digital ink being spilled on this topic: what should the bookstore do? With ebooks on the rise, print on the decline and increasingly, shelf space being occupied by non-book items, what is the bookstore to do? Michael Kozlowski thinks they should be making apps, to lessen their reliance on third parties like Google and Amazon. While I think he does fine work over at GoodeReader, I have to disagree with him on this one. We don't need more apps. We don't need more ecosystems. We don't need to fragment a not-quite-settled marketplace yet with still more stuff, for two...

The DPLA and the risks of gentrifying America’s public libraries
August 29, 2013 | 9:26 pm

DPLAJim Duncan, now executive director of the Colorado Librarian Consortium, offered some needed candor about the Digital Public Library of America for NPR reporter Laura Sydell’s August 19 segment on the DPLA. The reaction from certain NPR commenters online? Nasty bashing of Duncan and other public librarians. One listener, for example, accused public librarians of "hopping on board the ‘library patrons only read trash and would rather make this a rec center’ train.” Now back to reality. Duncan himself used to be an academic librarian, and he hopes that the DPLA will succeed hugely and offer a wealth of cultural and historical riches, in line with his...

Promising DPLA debut—but please don’t confuse special-collection items, exhibits and APIs with a full-fledged ‘public library’ demo
April 19, 2013 | 10:00 am

DPLAA caveat first. The Digital Public Library of America is evolving. What’s more, I’m a booster of the organization and of the people behind it, including the new executive director, Dan Cohen, who so decently reacted after the Boston Marathon bombings. But for now, the academic-and-hacker mindset is prevailing at the DPLA over the traditional public library one, judging from the demo’s worthy but rather limited debut yesterday. Not necessarily a bad thing, mind you. But then, why insist on the P word in the organization’s name? Also, the K-12 appeal so far is not quite as great as I’d hoped despite some...

TeleRead founder David Rothman in The Atlantic
February 19, 2013 | 4:50 pm

The Atlantic logo"Over the years I've often quoted David H. Rothman of Alexandria, Va., a pioneer in the entire field of electronic reading devices," writes James Fallows, a national correspondent for The Atlantic, in an article about U.S. infrastructure that was published earlier this morning on The Atlantic's website. "[Rothman] was talking about his "Teleread" proposal many, many years [before] products like the Kindle, Nook, or iPad had been conceived." [caption id="attachment_79310" align="alignright" width="130"] David Rothman[/caption] In the same post, Fallows also emphasizes Rothman's philosophy of e-readers as "'public goods' and indispensable parts of the modern infrastructure of the 21st century, in much the way public libraries...

Two websites illustrate the need for separate national digital library systems—public and academic
August 12, 2012 | 11:24 pm

Two good websites on learning disabilities show the need for separate but tightly intertwined national digital library systems. One system public, one academic. Neither site is a library’s. Friends of Quinn is a grassroots nonprofit featuring Quinn Bradlee, son of Sally Quinn and Ben Bradlee—the legendary society columnist and the Watergate editor. LD OnLine is from WETA, a public broadcasting station in the Washington, D.C., area. Friends is livelier and folksier. It’s a “must” starting point for any library patron eager to find out about a child’s learning disability or maybe her own. LD OnLine is stodgier but more comprehensive, and many academics would favor it over Friends. Viva la difference! In...

U.S. Navy ships and subs to get e-book libraries
August 11, 2012 | 8:26 pm

According to a story in yesterday's Navy Times, the Navy Library Service (who even knew there was such a thing?) is currently in the process of  "working to put e-library systems on ships, allowing sailors to choose from thousands of digital books to read while at sea." "This is a challenge," the story continues, "because limited bandwidth on surface ships and the complete lack of it on submarines prevents seamless e-book downloads while at sea." Bids will soon be solicited from companies that provide e-library services to large-scale organizations. Once a service provider is chosen, a test run "tentatively scheduled for next spring"...