Friday, July 19, 2013

E-book Ranting (Again)

So, I was helping an adult patron this week (they do wander into the Children’s department from time to time.) He wanted to check out a book and it was only available as an e-book. In our catalog it says, “MY MEDIA MALL. CLICK ON THE LINK.” When he tried to click on it, the link only opened a record. It wasn't the actual book. I told him that even though it says, “CLICK ON THE LINK” you can’t link up to the e-book from the catalog. What it really should say is: “Go to your library’s website and click on the link at your library to get the book. Just another way that library catalogs are unfriendly to the patron they were built to serve.

Anyways. I know from working with e-book files that in order to get what you want from your library you have to go through a multi-step process. First, you have to have established an electronic account for your library card. A patron may think that this gets done when they get their library card, but this is not true (at least at our library.) Then, you must consider your particular device. Is it compatible with the file formats for this e-book? I’ve known of patrons that get just so far with the multi-step download process and are stymied when the book in question cannot download to their device because of compatibility issues.Next, after establishing an account for your library card, you must download, “OVERDRIVE” which is the encryption product that our library uses. Your book must be encrypted to expire at a certain time. This is how the file gets “returned.” Again, consider your device. You may also need to have an account at your device’s product website too, like an amazon account, for example.

Okay! Now check out your book onto your electronic library card account. (Be sure you have selected your library. Your library card will only work at your library’s e-book link through your library's website.) Now click on the book to download it. Your book is now on OVERDRIVE. You can quit now and read it on your Desktop through the OVERDRIVE reader or you can do another step to get it on your device.

Here’s where it’s important to know about your device and its little quirks. Make sure you’ve looked at the “help” at OVERDRIVE for your device. There will be things you need to know about in order to have access to the book on your device. Are you going to need a download cord? Can you download wirelessly? Make sure your device has been updated! Oh, by the way, things work easier if you've gone ahead and gotten the OVERDRIVE in its app form for your device. Did I fail to mention that?

The big thing that people are still taking about is how printed books are going to go away. I don’t see this happening because they are just so darned easy to use. Sure, you can buy your e-books through your e-reader’s website. Then getting them to your device is much easier than getting them from the library, but it gets tedious to always buy them, and not everyone can afford to keep doing that. But you say that your e-reader’s website offers some books for free? True, but many of the free ones are by authors that have potential, but their books may not have gone through much editing and proofing. (Yes, I know that print books have typos too.)

Ease of access will always win. Until everyone can click once and read, print books will be the winner. And really, how many books will you be getting to that are stored on your Kindle? Be honest. Are you really going to get to all those downloads?

Thankfully, my adult patron was not dissuaded and I encouraged him to give it a try, omitting any of personal frustrations. The e-books that libraries get through a lease agreement (they never own them outright) are expensive and we must justify that expense. My patron said he’d be back with his Nook to learn how to use the system. It's important to keeping offering library e-books to those that can't afford buying e-books themselves. But I encourage all library patrons to stay angry. Complain about the service and maybe something will be done about it. The customer is always right and librarians are tired of uselessly flapping their jaws.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Share and Share Alike

This week the topic of special lending rules for popular titles came up at my library. We are part of a consortium, a grouping of many libraries that join together to offer their holdings to other member libraries. It's a terrific way of expanding what you can offer your patrons without additional expense, but sometimes it presents a problem.

The problem for our library was what to do when books we own are in high demand. Should we restrict them? After all, we must first serve the people that live in our public library's jurisdiction, right? We can modify lending rules so that those titles are only lent to our community members and many libraries do this, so why not us?

I voted for only modifying lending rules for one copy of the books in question so that we could satisfy our obligation to provide materials for our patrons while at the same time, fulfilling our duty to the consortium.

I believe in sharing. I think that at this time in the life of public libraries, it is the right thing to do. There is an impulse to "batten down the hatches," and "circle the wagons" in a climate of fear and libraries are fearful for their future. But if they are going to have a future, I believe it is by fighting this impulse and doing just the opposite. It is better to go for a group gestalt than to twist in the wind.

In the end, we managed to satisfy both our customer service obligations on both the micro and macro levels.