A New eBook Challenge: Can Publishers and Libraries Find Compromise?

Mere hours after posting some eBook buying guidelines for children’s librarians over on the ALSC blog, news broke that HarperCollins is renegotiating their lending terms with Overdrive to limit the total number of times an eBook can circulate.  Their proposal: 26 circs.

And people are pissed.  With good reason.

Before I heard the actual cap, I was not completely surprised.  After all, publishers have to pay authors, illustrators, designers, editors, and yes, even themselves.  The truth is, physical books do eventually fall apart.  And libraries often replace those copies.  Looked at from that perspective, I didn’t think it entirely unreasonable for publishers to be a little wary of a medium that never, ever needs replacing.

Then, I heard the terms.  26 circs.  Yowza.  And now I’m having a harder time justifying this in the name of paying hard-working authors and illustrators.  That’s just downright unreasonable, almost laughable in it’s absurdity, and frankly, a digital slap in the face to readers and libraries.

But I’m a peace-loving, middle-ground-seeking kinda gal.  I think the way through this current eBook crisis will be by finding better, smarter solutions that offer a compromise for all parties involved.

What’s this grand solution?  Well, let’s start brainstorming.

To start, Liz Rea has some innovative ideas.

What about a tiered lending model?

Think about how libraries purchase print books. For flash-in-the-pan hits, we might buy multiple paperback copies.  The idea being that they will get a lot of circ now and then die out, fall apart, and be weeded.  For works with staying power, we might invest in a library-binding edition that costs a little more, but will last better over time.

What if an eBook was available with limited digital shelf-life?  Rather than capping the number of times checked out, say they expired from our catalog after 1 year, or 3, or 5, or 10, depending on the price.  We could decide which type to purchase for our collections.  When the expiration date approaches, we would be given the option to “renew” it or we could let it die.

Some have suggested a boycott of HarperCollins books- digital and otherwise- until they relent.  I’m much more hopeful that HarperCollins, and other publishers about to make similar decisions, will come to the table and realize the importance of working with libraries.  Developing a fair lending model for libraries is in the interest of both parties.

photo courtesy of Flickr user Pen Waggener

The Reluctant Reader’s Bill of Rights: The Redux

Waaaay back in the summer of ’08, I wrote a post musing about the formation of a Reluctant Reader’s Bill of Rights.  Using Daniel Pennac’s famous Reader’s Bill of Rights as a jumping-off point, I attempted to draft a document that would enumerate the many acceptable forms of reading (for pleasure) that would help encourage, and perhaps inspire, reluctant readers.  I offered a couple examples including “The right to read graphic novels and manga,” “The right to read non-fiction,” and “The right to not like a book.”  I also asked for feedback and further suggestions and promised an updated post compiling the responses at some future date.  Now that some time has passed, I thought it would be useful to take a look at some of the interesting, often surprising, comments and criticisms and offer a newly updated Reluctant Reader’s Bill of Rights. Continue reading

Not quite what Walt had imagined

A show of hands, please.  How many librarians/teachers/parents/otherwise responsible grownups who work with young girls are sick of these ladies:

image courtesy of disney-clipart.com

Look, I grew up in the eighties.  I loved The Little Mermaid.  I sang the songs, I role played at losing my voice for the Prince, I wish desperately for red hair and…..um….something worthy to be covered by seashells.  Hey, I’m not proud of it, but there it is.  I, and my sense of self-worth, survived.  Although, looking at the barrage of sexualized and unrealistic images thrown at girls from practically the moment they are born, I cannot help but wish that the young women of the next generation have some better, more realistic, role models. Continue reading

Disabled Children’s TV Host at the BBC Causing a Stir (really?)

Cerrie Burnell, the one-handed host of the CBeebies show on the BBC is apparently causing quite the controversy among our neighbors across the pond.

According to the CNN.com article, their chat rooms are going bonkers!

Take one dad who “lamented that Burnell being on the show forced him to have conversations with his child about disabilities.”  Sweet jumping jellybeans!  Not an honest and open conversation with your child about the diversity of people in the world around us!  How will either of you ever recover?

Is it me, or does this just make you angry?  I appaud both Ms. Burnell and the BBC for putting a strong, positive disabled role model on television for children.  Not only will disabled children watching her show be inspired and experience a part of themselves mirrored in the larger world, but non-disabled children will benefit from learning more about the disabled and having (hopefully) discussions with their parents about people with different abilities and the importance of treating everyone with love and respect.

Baby LoJack and Teen Surveillance: Can (Should) Technology Replace Good Parenting?


Adorable baby photo courtesy of Flickr user //endless

So, I happened to catch one of those sanctimonious Duracell commercials in which having a pair of double A batteries saves the world from blowing up, prevents a small child from falling down a glass-shard-encrusted well, or some such nonsense.  This particular commercial depicted a mom spending an afternoon in the park with her children.  Mom turns around for a millisecond and little Timmy is gone.  But not to panic!  Mom has a Brickhouse Child Locator System (powered, of course, by Duracell).

Using GPS technology, little Timmy is equipped with a homing tag (at present this is an external device that can be worn or stored in a pocket or backpack) and his mom has the Locator which beeps faster as the homing tag gets nearer.  Crisis averted. lojack2

I was curious about this Child Locator system (which I fondly like to think of as “Baby LoJack”) so I checked out the website of the makers: Brickhouse Security.  They have some interesting products for “child safety”: hidden nanny cams (one looks just like an air purifier, another is disguised as an alarm clock), a GPS teddy bear, and bulletproof backpacks! Who are these kids’ parents?  Jack Bauer?

But then I found their “Teen Tracking” product line (“As seen on Fox News!”).  Get a load of this:

Sex, Drugs & Reckless Driving. Teen Tracking will put you as parents back in control. Sleep peacefully while your daughter or your son is out, monitoring their movements. Your children are counting on you to keep them safe.

Wanna know what you kid is text-messaging?  No problem!  Get a Cell Phone Spy Data Extractor.

Worried that Cindy Ann and her new bf are making out in your station wagon?  Put the kibosh on that with a CarCam Voyager.  Over 8 hours on one video card!

Wanna know if Johnny is really at baseball practice but don’t want to, you know, ask him?  Say no more!  Brickhouse’s got you covered.  Slip one of their Super PocketTrack Covert GPS Tracker pens into his (bulletproof) backpack!

Not quite invasive enough for you?  Why don’t you attach a Brickhouse Key Logger to his computer?  See over 64,00 keystrokes- even passwords!

Think Annie is lying to you?  Do you suspect that she is having premarital sex?  Don’t sit down and have a frank, heart-to-heart, mother-daughter talk!  And there is certainly no need to place any trust in your teen.  Technology is here for you!  Try Brickhouse’s Portable Lie Detector!  It can analyze any voice in person or on the phone.  And best of all, it has super cute graphics: “the Demon icon’s nose and horns grow when someone tells a lie.”  Nice touch!

Still have doubts?  Why not make like a CSI and invest in a Brickhouse Semen Detector?  (No, seriously.)

It’s a brave new world, huh?

Everyone Serves Youth…But Does Everyone Do It Well?

You’ve heard it and probably taken the workshop- “Everyone Serves Youth.”  Certainly a worthwhile philosophy and a positive public service credo.  While all library staff may be expected to serve children and teens, do all librarians do it as well as, say, a children’s or teen librarian?

I don’t know about other large library systems, but my own is in the midst of major organizational restructuring.  When the first of the organizational changes were announced, there was criticism and grumblings from almost every level.  People who had been with the system for years were suddenly worried about their jobs.  How will they be absorbed into the new hierarchy?  How will their day-to-day duties change?  How will different levels of the organization- from branches to administration- communicate effectively?  And most importantly, at least for my work, how will the specialty services (such as children’s and young adult) be affected?

I’m an optimist.  I like the idea of shaking things up, reworking old paradigms, and revisioning the public library.  I am not opposed to change and I welcome new ideas and fresh perspectives on customer service. 


Good customer service -“value-added” service-  in the public library is impossible without youth service librarians.  The children’s and young adult librarians who plan and provide specialty programming, who know the literature and provide reader’s advisory, and who maintain youth spaces and collections that reflect the needs of their communities are essential components of any 21st century library model. 

Unfortunately, my own library system has not made these priorities clear in their new model.  Which is not to say they aren’t planning on it.  (See- that’s the optimist in me.)  It’s just that over a year into the new model, youth services seems to have taken a hit to the gut.  

When I was first hired, all new librarians and librarian trainees had to pick a specialty (children’s, young adult, or adult reference) and complete a training seminar related to that specialty.  While most of the day-to-day skills needed to perform specialty work were learned on the job, the specialty seminar was a formal introduction into the finer areas of specialty services.  For the children’s seminar, I was required to learn an oral tale and do a storytelling program.  I had to do a certain number of class visits and booktalks.  I had to attend a book order meeting.  I had to both observe and plan an early childhood program.  Though most importantly, for me, I got to meet and socialize with other children’s librarians in my system- both new hires and veterans.  I got the sense that the work we specialists were doing was just that: special.  And the skills we were learning and perfecting were important, invaluable resources for our communities.  Together with our co-workers, who were themselves specialists in teen or adult reference services, we combined to form a solid branch-level force of not just librarians- but a team made up of a children’s librarian, a teen librarian, and adult librarians.  Certainly, we were all capable of pitch-hitting when needed.  A children’s librarian could take the reference desk, and a reference librarian could watch the children’s desk.  No problem.  But when it came to programming, or a tough reader’s advisory query, we were able to confidently call up our colleague for help. 

When my system offered the Everyone Serves Youth workshop, I was excited to participate.  While I already “served youth” in my capacity as a librarian trainee in a children’s department, I liked the idea that librarians from other specialties would receive youth services training.  In terms of providing better service for tweens and teens, I believed (and still do) that teaching adult services librarians about the value of age-appropriate programming and the developmental assets will help foster more positive interactions between library staff and the community of users.  In my mind, the Everyone Serves Youth program was a way to bridge the gap between library staff who didn’t understand children and/or teens and the specialty staff who served them. 

Here’s a good example of how Everyone Serves Youth was helpful:  “Ryan” a loveably grumpy adult reference librarian who has been working for over 30 years does not understand why the teen librarian is always out of the building and why the children’s librarian cannot cover the reference desk on Thursday mornings.  Rather than simply explaining that the teen librarian is doing class visits and the children’s librarian has a toddler program, “Ryan” would be educated about why such outreach and programs are important and necessary.  To my mind, answering the why goes long way to establishing both better working relationships and customer service.    

What I didn’t envision was the Everyone Serves Youth workshop serving as a replacement for trained youth services librarians.  One of the major changes to accompany my system’s new model has been the disappearance of the specialty seminars.  New librarians and trainees will no longer be required to specialize in a particular age group.  Instead, every new hire will take a general course on public service- of which one day will be spent on service to children and teens, respectively.  The idea being that everyone serves youth.  And thus, there is no pressing need for specialists.

It is not clear how far this new approach to youth services will go.  Are dedicated children’s and teen librarians to slowly fade away?  Will Toddler Times be done by “Ryan” the grumpy reference librarian?  Or will it be more cost-effective to simply outsource library programs and hire professional performers to entertain toddlers and their caregivers? 

But, as I said, I’m an optimist.  I’m hoping that my system is simply going through some growing pains.  That after the dust settles, the powers that be will come to see the value that children’s and teen librarians bring to a branch library.  And that while having “Ryan” the grumpy reference librarian take over a Toddler Time for a day might be fun to watch, it’s not a long-term solution.