Friday, December 10, 2010

A Dozen or So Reasons I Applaud Lamar High School for Ditching School Library Books

Librarians, educators, and parents are up in arms after Principal James McSwain of Lamar High School in Houston, Texas ditched many of the books in his library and re-opened the facility as a high-tech Reading / Research Center & Coffee Shop this year. To Principal McSwain, I say kudos for your foresight and bravery, though I know many of my paper-trained librarian friends and colleagues give this principal a big thumbs down.

The principal was awarded the “Rotten Apple in Education” award on the School’s Matter blog, and there were more than 100 mostly angry comments posted on the Hair Balls section of the Houston Press with this headline, Lamar High's Library Ousts Books, Re-Opens as Coffee Shop. It’s no surprise that the blog and newspaper enjoy the sensationalism of the story. The same thing happened last year in Boston when The Globe reported on the Cushing Academy library's radical and sudden decision to throw out their library books which also polarized school librarians on everything from their philosophy on reading, to student rights, to process, to the fundamental question of whether a space without books had the right to call itself a library.

In reporting about the latest library to give itself an update, the Houston rag indicates the Library is now a Coffee shop and there was this from the School’s Matter blog.
This month’s Rotten Apple in Education Award goes to Larmar High School principal, James McSwain, who has dumped, burned, who knows, most all the books and "repurposed" the school library into a coffee shop run by students. I guess you might say McSwain is really serious about preparing his high schoolers to compete for those 21st Century American jobs.

Similarly, The Houston & Texas News Chronicle had this to say, “Critics worry that students without Internet access at home will be at a disadvantage, and that all students will miss annotating texts or bringing a good book to bed.”

When I posted the story on my Facebook page High School librarian Barbara Mehlman said the following:

This librarian hates it. When I read a book, I often go back to reread certain passages. And when I return to a book, I frequently reread certain parts or skip back and forth, depending on the kind of book I'm reading. I find this very difficult with eBooks. I read 100 pages at a time and a computer screen is just too tiring for the lengthy bit of reading. In many of the books I read, I like to take notes, highlight, underline and that's too difficult with eBooks. It's also impossible to thumb through pages with an eBook. I realize you think that I feel that way because I'm "old," but there's a reason that books have survived so long, and they will continue to do so -- alongside eBooks. One doesn't supplant the other; they're complementary and anyone who throws out paper books is shortsighted and doesn't fully understand the joys of the reading experience.


Lynne a Library Coordinator in New York had this to say,

"Of course the kids love it. Who wouldn't rather hang out in a coffee shop than attend a class in the library? Where's the learning? Where's the differentiated instruction? This principal took an old concept of a library, added a coffee shop and plugged it in. Not well thought out at all. Limiting the collection to only what's available via e-books misses the mark for me. Oops! Just lost connectivity - wish I had a book! Why didn't they create a Learning Commons like Chelmsford (MA) High School?


Of course, these reactions don’t surprise me, first, because reading and writing digitally is something that is brand new and change is difficult, second, because it just makes such a dang good story to get up in arms about. Library becomes coffee shop. Burning books! Where have our values gone???

So why would an innovative educator and former librarian like me say kudos to this principal for dumping the books? Well for starters because every accusation above is untrue and also because behind all the hoopla, when we dig past the surface we find this new model for libraries in the digital age is a brave and smart decision that is gaining momentum and kudos for preparing 21st century learners. Here’s why.

Reasons to Ditch Library Books
  1. Up-to-date information
    For non fiction resources, a computer beats paper hands down. There is just no way encyclopedias and reference materials can keep up with information that can be accessed online. Rather than replacing sets of encyclopedias, reference books, etc, the school has accessed repositories of free and purchased materials.
  2. More access to periodicals
    Let’s face it the newspapers and periodical industries are a dying bread. These subscriptions are all available digitally and with services like Flipboard and Paper.li digital reading enables us to Provide Students with a Personalized Newspaper Everyday for Free!
  3. No internet required for eBooks
    The criticism that eBooks require students to have the internet is wrong, wrong, wrong. The book is downloaded and accessible on the device. No internet required. They can read the book at home or anywhere regardless of whether they have internet.
  4. Battery Life
    Some say they prefer pBooks (paper) to eBooks because the battery might run out. With most eBooks having a battery life of 9000 pages and rechargeable anytime, this isn't of much concern for digital readers. And, for the adults or students who share a room with siblings if the lights go out, with an eBook, you can still read.
  5. Books can be borrowed from outside the school
    Digital books can be borrowed from the local public libraries. When the school library makes a connection with the local libraries, there’s even more resources available to students.
  6. eBooks can be EZ on the Eyes
    eBooks and digital devices have special readers that are developed to make reading as pleasing and easy to the eye as paper. Software like Microsoft eReader provides a free eReader for laptops and computers that don’t have one installed. Research on the topic indicates that reports of digital eye strain often stem from the early computers and televisions that used an outdated technology. The students who are reading more on screens then on paper, seem to be voting with their eyes and it seems strain hasn't been much of a factor.
  7. Adaptive technology comes with the territory
    Digital books allow for really cool adaptations like these below.
    1. Hear the author read “Where is the Love?
    2. Read and Personalize Books for Free with MeeGenius
  8. Access to primary sources
    Primary sources don’t need to be housed in a library. They can be found on the web.
  9. Digital reading assists readers
    While some adults believe there’s nothing like the experience of a book, paper, and turning the page, those fluent in reading digital texts can make a great case for the benefits of reading digitally. For instance:
    1. I can click on an unknown word to learn the definition and pronunciation. This allows for a smooth flow of reading and comprehension.
    2. I can easily and quickly search for a passage I want to reference.
    3. I can instantly go to a page and never have to worry about losing my bookmark.
    4. I can have a word, passage or the whole book read to me.
    5. No paper cuts!
  10. Superior annotation capability
    Paper annotations are no match for digital annotations. With an eBook I can annotate my heart away...taking notes, highlighting, underling, bookmarking to my little hearts desire. I never need to worry about damaging the book and it’s searchable too.
  11. Collaboration
    Collaboration could very well be the number one reason digital books are superior to paper tombs. In fact, it is exactly what led to The End of Books? (For Me, At Least?) for Will Richardson. Read his post to find out amazing ways that reading digitally provides unparralled collaboration and my post about why I love that Social Books Unlock Reader’s Voice and Provide Opportunity for Conversation.
  12. Anytime/anywhere access
    Students have anytime/anywhere access to thousands of nonfiction books, research texts, and fictions books. Every student is given an ID and remote access code for logging into the system from any device (laptop, eBook, even their phone!) whether it’s their own or the school’s.

Freeing up all this space from books means more space for students to come, read, write, receive tutoring, and learn in a hip, stimulating environment that is inviting to teens.Hurst, who has been the librarian at Lamar for 13 years, said she ditched books that had not been checked out in more than a decade, those in poor condition and those that were easily available electronically resulting in more reading opportunity for students at the school. There is more thinking and learning going on in the library now then in the past. In fact, since the library has opened this fall the number of books being checked out at Lamar has more than doubled according to data from the librarian. The number of students visiting the center this years has already increased threefold. "We've never had this kind of traffic in here," McSwain said.

26 comments:

  1. I say kudos to Principal McSwain, too. I love books. I grew up in a home filled bottom to top with books and now live in a home with 100s of books. I have never used an e-reader and don't plan to start any time soon.

    This week I became a school librarian and among my first actions was to start going through the shelves and pulling books to dispose of. Some of those books have not been off the shelves since the 1970s and one had not been checked out since 1964.

    I also polled my students (from the four classes 'i taught before this week) about their reading preferences. Most of the readers preferred books to e-readers and the reason they gave is that the book covers attract them to some books and they like the textural feeling of holding a book and turning pages. Then two of my teaching colleagues who came in on their lunch period pulled out their e-readers and started to read.

    Libraries have to serve people a variety of ways. Information and entertainment has moved beyond the printed page. Why do I need six sets of encyclopedias that were out of date within hours of coming off the printing press? On the other hand, some books just don't work as well on e-readers.

    Like everything else, libraries will evolve of they will die off, but it will never go back to the stern room and sterner adults who enforced the church-like decorum. I want my library to reflect the interests and needs of the students and staff I want to use it.

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  2. @Deven Black, thank you for your insights. I'd love to ask the same question to students showing them a paper book cover, an iPad book cover, a Kindle book cover etc and see what they choose. Like me, sometimes kids say the answer they're familiar with or think others want to hear, but when they see it, can feel it, and really have the choice, this Vegas girl's money is solidly placed on a digital book :-)

    Do we have a bet????

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  3. i'm halfway there with you. i see no reason why the entire reference section can't be e, for all the reasons you mentioned above: current, comprehensive, etc. (though i would like to mention that any library has the ability to borrow outside itself around the world; i have borrowed texts of all sorts from far away places via my library.) but to toss out the novels, i think, is a grave error.

    do students really "read" books in e-readers? how do we know? they haven't been around long enough for a reasonable study of any value. people who read, who like reading, who read for pleasure, like *books.* not words on a screen, books. we have intimate relationships with our books, and i'm pretty sure i've written about that on your blog before, so i won't belabour the point now! i hope this principal hasn't simply tossed said books, when there are people out there hungry for them.

    about your bet? if you wish to do a study based on students who are known readers (say, check out 20 books a year based on library records - i read at least 60 myself, excluding holidays), then sure, i'll take that bet. but if you're going to dazzle just anyone by contrasting a dogeared dusty tome with a bright and glittery brand new ipad, no. that's a losing proposition, and it wouldn't have anything to do with books or reading (not that i assume you would!).

    cheers,
    kelly

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  4. @kelly, okay, so we’re on the same page (pun intended) when it comes to the reference section. You point out that libraries could always borrow books outside themselves, but I’ll point out when I did that as a librarian the process took a VERY long time. With eBooks it’s on demand. As far as the grave error in toss out novels, that is not part of the story. While this library got an update and ditched a good portion of its books, they weren’t tossed out. Rather they were donated to students, staff, and community members.

    You assert that people who read, who like reading for pleasure like *books* not words on a screen and you share that you have an intimate relationship with your books. Like many of the people I know who read digital, I love reading, and know that the term book is not confined to just paper. In fact this love of reading is what prompted many of us to go digital where we can literally have an unlimited collection of reading in our hands wherever we go. I prefer the 21st century book for the 11 reasons I shared with the top reasons being that when a book get’s an “e” for electronic or “d” for digital then it can do all the things the “p” for paper book can do, but like Will Richardson, the never turn back moment was when the “e” / “d” books moved from mainly consumption devices to creation and connection devices. The built in assistive / adaptive technology capabilities for my student also elevates them above their elder counterparts.

    Regarding the bet, I’d say, lets just take a look at the numbers. At Lamar library, in just the few months that the library has been updated the number of books being checked out has more than doubled. While it’s a tough pill to swallow for those tied to their fond memories of the dusty old paper book this year Amazon announced its Kindle editions were outselling hardcover books. In fact for its top 10 best-selling books, its customers are now buying the Kindle edition twice as often as print copies. The numbers are in. When given the choice the eBook is attracting readers and quickly gaining momentum over its single-purpose predecessor.

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  5. I'm on the same page as Kelly. I'm slowly digitizing my library.

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  6. I can agree with a lot of this. BUT ... it also sounds like all the old books that hadn't been checked out in decades should have been discarded OH, LET'S SAY AT LEAST EIGHT YEARS AGO and replaced with newer-at-the-time stuff. Then Lamar's "circ" numbers would have been higher (and those kids had a more literate experience) and the difference not so glaring. I don't know that library personally but it sounds like it was quite a stick in the mud place. So please don't compare that to libraries everywhere. Lots of vibrant library programs need BOTH extensive print and digital experiences.

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  7. @Angie, I'm not comparing this to libraries everywhere. I'm just comparing the library pre and post update. The other library I linked to in this post had similar results when they did this last year.

    And, as a former librarian, I agree that certain books should have been weeded, but it sounds like this library did do weeding. Perhaps it wasn't perfect...but those who think they are perfect, well, I'd question that. We don't know previous politics but from my experience sometimes the problem when the library is not a focus for learning is that when there's not funding, sometimes, you need to keep some of the outdated materials so at least the students have something. Though, from what I can gather the librarian did a fair - good job of weeding given her circumstances pre-update.

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  8. I agree with most of the points you have made but think that the answer is probably somewhere in between the two extremes. We definitely should be heading toward a digital library but no one will ever convince me that ALL books need to be discarded. I do have one question about point number 3--no internet needed but then you stated you download the e-book. How is that possible without Internet access at some point?

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  9. Oh, I have no doubt the librarian was doing the very best they could with the political climate of the school at the time. I just have to personally disagree with the idea that you keep some outdated books around so at least the students "have something." If it's not useful to them (and being used) then it's NOT something and it has no place taking space on the shelf.
    Of course that is also political ... some people totally overreact at weeding (and they often tend to be the same people who think that library budgets can be cut and cut and cut and cut with absolutely no changes in services).
    Both schools will be a sort of test. Give it some time and see if once the kids leave the school are they STILL connected digital readers if they have to go out of their way to find the materials. I think it's the same with print resources. We rarely get to see the end result ... but if they're able to continue to find the information they need as well as hopefully make the time for some pleasure reading, well, then ... it's all good.

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  10. I've always been a big believer in a smaller and more appealing collection and I have recently weeded my nonfiction collection way down to popular and useful titles with very little fat. But in a K-5 library, reading level matters and we're not there yet in terms of digital offerings totally replacing what my students need. My solid 3rd gr readers will be OK w some online reference sources, but I still need good books for the K-2 and struggling readers.
    I don't think the research is in on how devices meet the social needs of those learning to read. Literacy specialists have told me that reading is best reinforced through contact with supportive and interested adults in person.
    Also, my budget won't support a lot of what I wish I could offer my students. It's interesting to me how many parents at my school who work in computer science, software development, intelligence analysis, etc. want their students reading books heavily and widely. They are frequent library users and neither I nor our public library consortium (where Overdrive has 2 juvenile audiobk downloads) can meet their needs with only ebks and online sources.
    It's going to be a slower transition to all digital than we think... and until the digital world is as rich in offerings, as easy and as available as I want, my library will have a good mix of print and digital resources for my students.

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  11. At my school in Indonesia - which is 1:1 Mac we have already done this over 2 years ago. We have a cafe in every school building - following the Starbucks theory and we have an extensive paper book library but our Middle High school kids just don't want to use it. They prefer ebooks - so we are redefining our library for that part of the school. eBooks work in the same way as paper ones. When one copy is borrowed - it cannot be borrowed by a different student until it has been returned. The software to read the book on a laptop is free - part of our library system. Our kids download at school using school wifi and then they can read the ebook anywhere as each student has their own laptop which is issued by the school.

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  12. There's something here that I find quite disturbing. Why isn't anyone talking about the fact that many families can't even afford one e-reader, let alone 1 for each member of the family? My children and I frequently get together on weekends, go to the library, check out books, and sit in the living room and read. I can't afford an e-reader for myself; I certainly can't afford 4. So if our library decides to chuck all of the paper books, what exactly are we going to read? If those students' families can't afford internet access at home, you really expect them to be able to afford e-readers? There are schools in this country and around the world that can't even afford the paper books! You expect them to give every student an e-reader? In our rush to be "hip" and "current", we are leaving behind a very vulerable population of students who have just as much right to an education as their more affluent classmates. Ben Franklin is probably rolling over in his grave.

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  13. @Jeff Thomas, I don’t think anyone was trying to convince you that ALL books need to be discarded. There are still up-to-date fiction books in the library. The answer to your question about no internet needed and needing to download the book is as follows. The books are downloaded at the library. Once this is done, the book lives on the device and no longer requires internet to be read.

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  14. @Jill G, that certainly would be disturbing if this were only for those with access to digital devices and internet, but that is not the case. The school library is providing e-readers for check out for any student without access to their own devices. Students have a choice. Use a school device or access from their own device rather than forcing kids who have devices to use two different devices. The student device could be a laptop, desktop, Smartphone, or eReader. A nice bonus that I didn’t even realize until I responded to this, is that the student could likely check books out for family members too.

    Also, you don’t need internet at home with an eReader. The book is downloaded at the library and can then be read without internet access anywhere.

    As far as Mr. Franklin goes, certainly he would be disappointed if in all this time there had been no advances in the publishing industry. With the connected, creative, assistive / adaptive opportunities eReading I think he would be quite pleased with what he saw.

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  15. @Jane Ross, that sounds very interesting. I'd love to know more. I invite you to consider writing a guest post here to share some insight into what this is like for the students and teachers at your school.

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  16. Well, intersting points, however, how have we addressed the needs of schools that don't even have the resources to provide regular textbooks, let alone have an inventory of e-readers to loan out? This may not seem to be a big problem - hey, they can continue to use paper books! - except for the fact that several traditional (paper) publishers have either ceased to publish paper books or have drastically reduced their inventories, and aren't actively signing new contracts for print books. So far this has primarily impacted genre fiction, but it's just going to get worse. Again, my comment about Franklin stands. I don't think he'd be pleased to know that there are going to be significant segments of the population left out of literacy because they can't afford these new adaptive technologies.
    Again, my point about the internet and the e-reader was not about needing internet access to use it. My point was that they if they can't afford internet access, they certainly can't afford e-readers. I don't think libraries in high-risk communities would be able to loan out e-readers, so if this technological revolution finally deals the coup de grace to print books, those who have traditionally been underserved will suffer. Being excited about technology isn't a bad thing, but we need to look at and address the detrimental effects.

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  17. @Jill, districts in need get a lot of federal funding for projects like this. The first thing we can do is ensure the funding goes to the school. In cases where it doesn’t I think we need to stop waiting for folks from the outside for help. When I was a librarian in Harlem I didn’t spend much time lamenting the fact that my library didn’t have the materials it needed. I approached businesses in search for ones updating their inventory. I found Bender, Goldman and Helper and took any and all old devices and asked that they come help me set them up. I went to a law firm Cravath, Swain, and Moore and an initial $5000 donation became a $50,000 donation in books, materials and furniture. We set aside a Saturday when several volunteers from their staff and students at my school came and cleaned everything and updated the library. Today, I would have asked that some of that been donated as both eReaders and purchases of certain books. Another thing I do today is give back by donating to Donorschoose.org. In fact I just did so funding a project that helps students to read with iPods (http://tinyurl.com/readingwithipods)

    Regarding your thoughts about libraries loaning devices in high-risk communities, it can and does happen. In fact not only are imperceptible eReaders being loaned, laptops are too. These communities know safety is a priority and schools partner with businesses and families to ensure students are safe designating safe sites for students if necessary, having chaperones to / from buses and subways etc. This is a part of a smart school culture and there are also savvy kids who jump at the opportunity to ensure no one messes with the student body or the teachers.

    In short, there are always ways and reasons progress can be held back and I see it in education more than most places, but when we shift from thinking of all the reasons, “those poor kids can’t join the 21st century” and move to asking ourselves, “so what are you gonna do about that” (http://weblogg-ed.com/2010/yeah-youve-got-problems-so-solve-them) there is a much brighter future.

    And, no surprise, but I disagree about the words you’re putting in the mouth of B. Franklin. Of course he wouldn’t be happy that there were have nots, but haven’t there always been? He would be happy that innovative educators though were not using this as an excuse to stay in the past and instead were working to bring access to all.

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  18. Regarding your response to Deven Black I have done that, showed some our frequent library users my own nook and polled them to see if they would be interested in an ebook reader. Each one said they preferred print.

    I suspect that one of the reasons this library saw an increase in circulation is because of the weeding that was done during the transition. As others have pointed out, having books that haven't circulated in more than 10 years isn't helpful to students and staff. Of course, updated resources of any format will attract more checkouts.

    I'd also like to see some research on whether students actually read most of what they download on ereaders. My suspicion, after observing how students skim web pages and skip lengthy web pages, is that they don't read quite a bit of the ereader content. As I said, I do own a nook and it works well, but I myself find that compared to my print reading I skim or don't finish much more of the content on my ereader.

    I do agree that ebooks are a great resource for reference and I think that they are good for non-fiction topics like science and technology where currency is so critical. I do also see their place for academic required reading with the highlighting and note-taking abilities. For personal leisure reading, it's been my experience though with talking to my students that they still prefer the print.

    It's also going to be interesting down the line as technology continues to evolve how difficult or tedious it's going to become to transfer ebooks to newer readers and formats.

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  19. The library at Lamar High School is exploring what it means to be a digital and paper library. The non-fiction has been donated to libraries, families, and the community – not burned or trashed. The fiction has stayed put and is frequently updated to meet the popular needs of students.
    The coffee shop is doing brisk business of flavored coffees, yogurts, apples, cheese sticks and the healthy like. I think Lamar is exploring how to make the library a sanctuary for learning, one that is comfortable, safe, and full of resources.

    The library has 90 laptops available for library use, ebooks, online testing, research, and general computing. They can operate on battery for over 5 hours at a time. The school district has recently blocked any plans for eReaders besides laptops, due to network security reasons.

    There are other issues around eReaders in a library that have to be addressed, and the library is researching that now. Most eReaders are designed around a single owner/user model, not around a model of a shared device. How do you manage a case full of eReaders? How do you keep device software updated or reset to factory defaults when a device has been hacked or disabled after check out? How to you track your eBooks that are checked out through the Overdrive.com site while maintaining usage reports through the library online catalog? How to do you track how many library visitors you have as opposed to how many books or devices checked out? How do you check out an eBook, at checkout or does the student check out books through the device? How do you keep track of that? How do you keep the eReaders device charged and secured? How do you keep the transaction times short for device/eBook checkout? (books are so quick to check out, eReaders could demand several steps to check out/load eBooks) If the school won't allow eReaders on the school's wireless network due to security, then how do you check out a book in the library? Can you check out books to students' smartphones and track them?

    There are lots of questions that still have to be answered and when Lamar called their library catalog vendor, Alexandria, they didn't have any answers because no one has ever asked them. Well, now is the time to ask those questions and many of the questions above. It's all new territory and there is a balance and procedure that has to be developed to make the hybrid world of e/books easy, accessible, affordable, and enjoyable. No one has all of those answers yet, but Lamar's library will become the place where librarians will turn to for ideas because they've gone off the beaten path.

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  20. The library at Lamar High School is exploring what it means to be a digital and paper library. The non-fiction has been donated to libraries, families, and the community – not burned or trashed. The fiction has stayed put and is frequently updated to meet the popular needs of students.
    The coffee shop is doing brisk business of flavored coffees, yogurts, apples, cheese sticks and the healthy like. I think Lamar is exploring how to make the library a sanctuary for learning, one that is comfortable, safe, and full of resources.

    The library has 90 laptops available for library use, ebooks, online testing, research, and general computing. They can operate on battery for over 5 hours at a time. The school district has recently blocked any plans for eReaders besides laptops, due to network security reasons.

    There are other issues around eReaders in a library that have to be addressed, and the library is researching that now. Most eReaders are designed around a single owner/user model, not around a model of a shared device. How do you manage a case full of eReaders? How do you keep device software updated or reset to factory defaults when a device has been hacked or disabled after check out? How to you track your eBooks that are checked out through the Overdrive.com site while maintaining usage reports through the library online catalog? How to do you track how many library visitors you have as opposed to how many books or devices checked out? How do you check out an eBook, at checkout or does the student check out books through the device? How do you keep track of that? How do you keep the eReaders device charged and secured? How do you keep the transaction times short for device/eBook checkout? (books are so quick to check out, eReaders could demand several steps to check out/load eBooks) If the school won't allow eReaders on the school's wireless network due to security, then how do you check out a book in the library? Can you check out books to students' smartphones and track them?

    There are lots of questions that still have to be answered and when Lamar called their library catalog vendor, Alexandria, they didn't have any answers because no one has ever asked them. Well, now is the time to ask those questions and many of the questions above. It's all new territory and there is a balance and procedure that has to be developed to make the hybrid world of e/books easy, accessible, affordable, and enjoyable. No one has all of those answers yet, but Lamar's library will become the place where librarians will turn to for ideas because they've gone off the beaten path.

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  21. @Emily said...
    About the eBooks, you’ve shown to students, I’d need to understand the background. Perhaps like many of those up-in-arms about libraries updating, they didn’t know the superior ability to annotate, adapt to setting most comfortable to their eyes, that the book will read and define unknown words or that they can have access to a tremendous amount more material with an eReader. Perhaps they didn’t want to borrow their teacher’s device. Perhaps they were in touch with the answer that would make you happier. Perhaps they had no experience with an eReader so didn’t really understand the advantages. While I imagine it is possible if given the choice a student would select a book over paper, I always see curious students instantly gravitate toward reading on screens.

    As far as the increase in circulation, that is due in large part to the huge increase in offerings available once a library goes digital and being digital does indeed automate the weeding process making it much easier.

    Regarding the research you propose, I think it all boils down to learning outcomes and accountability. Books are devices made with the intent of consumption. Digital text moves us to connection and creation. We can assess what students read via paper or screen by the outcomes produced. If you follow the link in my post in #11 from Will Richardson where he explains why it is the end of paper books for him, you will find that using digital books it can become very easy to assess if students have read content. When that content becomes interactive both accountability and engagement generally increase.

    You share your preference for leisure reading with paper and the preference your students have, but is that REALLY their preference? How much of an opportunity have you given them to read in this way. Have you provided them with the opportunity to read digitally using a service like Book Glutton which I link to in # 11 with the post Social Books Unlock Reader’s Voice and Provide Opportunity for Conversation.” Adolescence love the opportunity for socialization and conversation. Given the opportunity for reading to become a social experience where book clubs and conversations can happen anytime, anywhere, with anyone, to me the choice is clear.

    And if you haven’t heard, Google has solved the issue of eBooks, formatting and transfer which I recently wrote about here e-readershttp://theinnovativeeducator.blogspot.com/2010/12/google-helps-books-grown-digital-wings.html . Google eBooks are devices agnostic meaning they can be read on everything from laptops to netbooks to tablets to smartphones and you can move between them all. If you have a student ID system like Lamar does, the books can follow the student.

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  22. @Nick Alvarado
    Thank you for the insights. It sounds like you have first-hand experience at the library. It does indeed sound like the principal is trying to make the library a sanctuary for learning, one that is comfortable, safe, and full of resources. From the responses here, it sounds like he may want to come up with a name for the space that is more reflective of that vision. Regarding the choice of device, it’s interesting. With all the hype and marketing by these eReader companies, the reality is any digital device can be an eReader. A laptop, a phone, a Tablet, and iTouch, etc. Additionally, if I understood correctly students with their own digital devices could read on them if they preferred and with the prices already dropping to under $150 for new devices and under $100 on eBay, I think we’ll see more and more students who already own devices.

    I wonder if the new Google eBooks (http://theinnovativeeducator.blogspot.com/2010/12/google-helps-books-grown-digital-wings.html) will address some of the concerns you mention. Books available through them can be accessed on any device and knows where you left off regardless of device. They also have a way to let you track your reading from whichever device you are using.

    What I really like about this library is that they don’t force students to use their devices. If a family has invested a $100 - $500 on a device like an eReader, iTouch, netbook, iPad, phone etc. they instantly have access to all the library resources. For those students who don’t have devices, they can borrow.

    You make a great point about businesses who supporting education. While they currently don’t have answers they need to find them and places like Lamar are pushing them to do that. I agree that Lamar's library will become the place where librarians will turn to for ideas but I’d say it’s not just because they've gone off the beaten path, but because they’re blazing the trails for an educational future that will empower students to learn, connect, create, and publish in ways never before possible.

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  23. I showed them all the bells and whistles the nook has to offer, and asked them if this was a device they'd either be interested in owning or borrowing from our library if we purchased some. Your suggestion that the students might feel that print is the answer that I wanted to hear I don't think holds true. By owning a nook myself, if anything, I think it would lead my students to think that I was looking for them to jump all of the ereader. Their responses were that they "already spend too much time in front of the computer" and that the ereader had to many "distracting features" for them to engross themselves in books.

    Your point about the weeding process with a digital collection is well taken, but I was referring to the weeding process of the print collection during the transition. Again, whenever outdated content is replaced with current content the circulation will increase. increase in the number of purchased materials. While a digital collection does make the collection easier to weed, the school will still only have a certain amount of money to update the collection with, which means that a digital collection by no means guarantees an updated collection in the long-term.

    Yes, digital reading can be assessed to see if students have actually read the material, but assessment is not the point of leisure reading.

    My students use ebooks via computers all of the time for research, and do have experience with annotation features, etc. ebooks are great for research. In terms of using a service like Book Glutton, our district (about 200 hundred schools) doesn't permit the use of any service that requires students to have a username or password (with the exception of Blackboard). For various reasons this is an obvious frustration, but not one we can get around because the district policy isn't likely to change. As a result of the limitation to Blackboard, it's been our only option for online book clubs which have always been a bust, but our 3 book clubs that meet in-person have great turnouts (about 120 students total).

    Yes, I am familiar with Google's eBooks. Two things:

    1. Readers who are using digital content are going to download and purchase from various vendors, not just one.
    2. All technology eventually changes, even Google's will in time. What's universal now, may not be in 10 years. Take a look at cassette tapes and DVDs which need to be transferred in today's world.

    I know this all makes me look anti-ebook, which I am not. They serve good purposes. That being said, there are just too many unresolved issues to blanketly push them as a single desired format. This doesn't even address the purpose of using a specific book. The use will undoubtedly impact which format is desired by the specific reader. Libraries of the 21st Century must be ready to provide multiple formats if they are to service all of their patrons. One single approach to book formats will not suffice for students.

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  24. I teach at a community college and one semester a few years back someone decided the students would all get e-books instead of paper books. The students hated them. I really did not care one way or the other. 1st the price was the same for the e-book and the real book that was sold the previous semester. The e-books are sold by companies that are not going to reduce profits and this is really just a ploy to increase profits. Usually I am all for that, but in the college textbook racket, there is no fair and free competition. Students cannot go pick the best book, they have to pick the book the school says they will buy. Another reason for disliking the e-books is that our class had a lot of exercises on the computer and it was too hard to use the e-book for instructions and use the computer at the same time.

    Lamar High School is a school of the richest neighborhoods in Houston. I don't own an Ipad and I am not going to buy one for my high school student. This is not crazy.

    Also, they don't let soda in public schools, so why is it ok to sell them coffee? No way is coffee better than Pepsi!

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  25. I just posted some comments on eBooks over at Jason Bedell's site. That conversation is very similar to the one on this blog.

    http://jasontbedell.com/e-books-how-should-schools-embrace-the-new-technology/comment-page-1

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  26. I would love to give away my library's non-fiction section, especially the dozen or so encyclopedias I've inherited, and get a bunch of e-reader pieces of hardware, maybe a couple of dozen Nooks or Kindles, or -- gasp -- iPads, but I put in a request for a gross of bookends last week and my school is looking to see if we can scrape up the money for them.

    Were I to give away the non-fiction section and not need all those bookends, the money I'd save by not buying them would buy 1 iPad or two Kindles.

    This whole discussion is an academic diversion for me that momentarily takes my focus away from the real issue in education: how do we make the opportunities for learning equitable when resources are so inequitably distributed?

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