4/7/11

Coming Soon: Public Centers for New Information Technology

PCCLD is working now on an important new initiative. This year, we will establish Public Centers for New Information Technology. Library staff are working diligently to see that this project is up and running by mid-year. The goal of these Centers is to expand community access to current broadband wireless information technologies, such as tablets and eReaders, and to the burgeoning world of downloadable eBooks and related eContent.

Why is this important? Simply put, because libraries are changing.

For example, experts today are talking about the impact on libraries resulting from the current transition from the codex (bound paper manuscripts—some now refer to these as “tree books”) to the eBook. This was a major topic at a recent gathering in Washington, D.C., of more than 2,000 librarians and information scientists from around the world. These experts cited several interesting facts. For example, it took only six years for DVDs to supplant VHS for delivering video (and, of course, this is changing again as DVDs are replaced by streaming video). Another example, fifteen years ago the back files of periodicals and traditional reference books were digitized. The impact of this change on libraries was dramatic. Where libraries once housed row upon row of bound periodical back files and reference books, now we find row upon row of computer terminals. Where librarians once taught patrons how to navigate the broad world of information found in the bound volumes of journals, indices, abstracts, dictionaries, directories, encyclopedias and so on; now librarians teach customers how to navigate an even larger universe available via the Internet and a variety of digital reference services.

The consensus at the Washington conference is that what took place before with periodicals and reference is now happening to books and monographs. For example, Google has been working since at least 2002 on a project to put into digital format all the books of the world. Google announced in 2010 that there were about 130 million books, and that it intends to convert all of them by the end of the decade. Google also announced that it has already scanned over 15 million books. There are other efforts to digitize book back files, too, such as Project Gutenberg, Europeana and the Internet Archive. Such initiatives clearly will offer unprecedented access to human knowledge, and have tremendous implications for libraries. If one can simply print-on-demand or download the contents of any book, what impact does this have on the physical library as a warehouse of books?

In addition to the work to digitize back files of books, today’s publishers are making available most newly published books in digital format with the ability to download these anytime, anywhere to portable, wireless personal eReaders, such as the Nook, the Kindle and so on. So, today you can buy most best-selling and other contemporary titles in a digital format compatible with one of the many available eReaders.

In fact, with all this new technical capability available, some are calling for the creation of the Digital Public Library of America. This idea has interest from a number of academic, government and philanthropic organizations. The various backers of this new national library, and a number of interested parties, met in late 2010 at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, which is coordinating the project. Representatives from technology companies like Google and Apple also attended.

Clearly, libraries are on the verge of change. But this isn’t new. Libraries have always been evolving, and our project to establish the PCCLD Public Centers for New Information Technology is only another step in providing our community with 21st century library services. With this initiative, we will provide portable eReaders preloaded with high quality books, and we will teach you how to use them. We will provide portable wireless tablets and laptops designed to allow users to access and manage digital information, and we will teach you how to use them. We will provide additional eBook content to download onto your own personal eReader, tablet or computer, and we will teach you how to do this, too.

You see this is what librarians have always done. We help you navigate access to information, whether it is from a clay tablet, a papyrus scroll, a codex, a vertical file, a newspaper or periodical, a microform, a CD, a cassette tape, a VHS tape, a DVD, a preloaded MP3 or USB drive, a hard-wired computer, or, now, a wireless eReader or tablet. Our role is to provide the public with access to information, regardless of the format. The formats change but the public library’s role in providing free and open access to information does not.

Our goal is to have the PCCLD Public Centers for New Information Technology open to the community before July 1st, 2011. So, stay tuned.

4/5/11

E-Books, E-Readers and the Public Library

The proliferation of e-readers, tablets and e-books seems to be spreading like wildfire. This past holiday season, the popularity of the Kindle e-reader was so great that Amazon named it their best-selling product of all time. Barnes & Noble found so many Nook e-readers attempting to activate at once that their servers crashed. Several major publishers said that e-books had climbed to about 10 percent of their total sales, and some predict that they will rise to 25 percent in the next two to three years. The New York Times even has started publishing an e-book best seller list. And, of course, I almost don’t even need to mention the popularity of the Apple iPad (and, now, the iPad2).

E-readers and e-books have been around for many years, but now it seems to be different. The digital world is clearly impacting the world of books, and we seem poised on the threshold of a major shift. Just as music and movies are moving online, so, too, books are shifting online.

I have been hearing regularly recently from community members interested in discussing their e-readers and e-books. Customers have a clear expectation that their library will have a significant role in all of this. And, after all, shouldn’t we? E-information is certainly near the heart of our mission. To see examples, see our online offerings of music and e-audiobooks at http://www.pueblolibrary.org/pld_digital and online reference resources and periodical archives at http://www.pueblolibrary.org/pld_search/er_main_rm.asp. Plus our public-access Internet services have been very popular now for the past several years.

PCCLD’s investment in e-books so far has been modest. We are providing access to some e-books via NetLibrary and Project Gutenberg. But we plan to do much more later this year. A group of library employees began planning for this late last year. The effort this group is making will shape a program for PCCLD as we begin providing customers with access to e-readers and a more robust collection of e-books. We are using the proceeds from a grant from the federal government to help pay for this program.

So, stay tuned, and please know that although we are not quite there yet, PCCLD does have more planned this year for this quickly surging phenomenon.

LOCAL HISTORY AT THE LIBRARY by Jon Walker

Our community enjoys a rich and diverse history.  This is the story of the people and events helping to shape the saga of this region over ...