Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Library ebooks on iPad and iPhone -- now there's an app for that!

I love technology, though sometimes I wish it did not change so fast -- but not this time! I am pleased to report that since I wrote my last blog post about ebook readers for the holidays, Bluefire Productions has developed a method for downloading ebooks in library ebook collections to an iPad or iPhone. The process is a little cumbersome, requiring the reader to download the ebook to a computer and then email it to him or herself for loading into the iPad; however library staff have tested it and found that the directions are clear and the process works. Directions and links can be found on the Downers Grove web site here.

Overdrive, the vendor of the library ebook collection, is also developing a process for downloading the books to Apple products directly from the ebook library. I hope that will be available soon, as well.

In the meantime, Happy E-Holidays!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

All I want for the holidays is an ebook reader!

Last January a common question from library patrons was, “I was given an ebook reader for the holidays; does the library have digital books that I can read on it?” With all of the discussion about ebooks that we have seen in the media lately, we expect to hear this from even more patrons after the holidays this year. And the short answer is, “Yes, we do have an ebook collection that Downers Grove Public Library patrons can borrow, just like you borrow print books.” The longer answer must include the warning that our ebooks can be read on most brands of ebook readers – but not all of them.

Library collections offer ebooks in the standard formats of DRM (digital rights management) protected EPUB and PDF. Ebooks in these formats can be read on most computers and ebook readers. Downers Grove patrons can access our collection of downloadable audio and ebooks through our website: http://www.downersgrovelibrary.org/books/downloadable_books/index.php. In fact, as you read this blog librarians are selecting more titles for our ebook collection, in anticipation of the holiday rush.

Unfortunately, some of the vendors of ebook readers have designed their machines to be proprietary. They can only read ebooks that have been purchased from that vendor. Some vendors also offer software that will convert free, public domain books from sources such as Project Gutenberg into a format that can be used on their proprietary reader, but they will not allow the owner to read ebooks that are purchased from other sources or borrowed from a library’s lending collections. This is not the library’s choice; it is the decision of the ebook vendor.

Anyone who would like to buy an ebook reader that read ebooks borrowed from the library or purchased from a variety of sources should look closely at the specifications of the ebook readers being considered. The library’s eMedia Library site includes information about supported ebook readers that can read ebooks in our collection. The site also provides information about MP3 players that can download the audio books in our collection.

In January, library staff will offer two workshops on how to download ebooks from the library collection, for those of you who would like some help learning how to do this.

Happy digital holidays to everyone!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Thanks for Helping the Library Systems!

Thanks to everyone who contacted the State on behalf of the Illinois Library Systems! We just received the news that a portion of the funds still owed for FY2010 will be disbursed to the library systems that are most in need. Metropolitan Library System, that serves Downers Grove Public Library, will receive about half of the funds that are owed to it. This will fund the remaining services – interlibrary delivery and some support for SWAN – through the winter. The news came on Friday after the Governor and Comptroller received thousands of emails and letters from library supporters across Illinois.

This doesn’t mean that the Systems have been saved, only that they can continue to offer the remaining critical services for a few more months. There has been no word on when the other half of the funds appropriated last year will be released, or if and when any of the funds appropriated for Systems in current year will be paid. This is good news for libraries now, but after the November election we will have ask our supporters to continue to remind the State that on-going funding for library systems is important.

In the mean time, thanks to all of you who took the time to contact the Governor in support for Illinois Library Systems!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Illinois Library Systems In Danger!

Illinois Library Systems and the support that they provide for local public and school libraries are in serious danger. The Library Systems have only received 52% of the funds that were appropriated for them in the State budget for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2010. They have received no funds for the 2011 fiscal year. Most system services have been eliminated and most library system employees have been fired. Systems are using up their reserve funds to continue to provide the critical services of delivery of materials between libraries and support for automation consortia such as the SWAN online catalog. The reserve funds in most systems, including the Metropolitan Library System, will be exhausted at the end of November 2010. The Systems will be forced to shut down completely, if the remaining funding promised for 2010 is not released by the State of Illinois. Systems are not looking for increases in their funding, they are only asking that the funds that were actually budgeted for Library Systems be disbursed by the State.

Residents are urged to contact Governor Patrick Quinn and Comptroller Daniel Hynes and ask them to release the funds the Library Systems are supposed to have received in FY2010.

More information about the plight of Illinois Library Systems and links to the email address of Governor Quinn can be found here: http://capwiz.com/ala/il/issues/alert/?alertid=18893756&queueid=[capwiz:queue_id]

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Open letter to Secretary of State Jesse White

June 3, 2010

Jesse White, Secretary of State/State Librarian
213 State Capitol
Springfield, IL 62756

Dear Secretary White:

I am writing to express my concern and outrage at the State’s failure to fund the operations of the Illinois Library Systems. I know that the Systems are generally invisible to the average resident and, thus easy to ignore during the State’s funding crisis, but the services they provide are critical to enable local libraries to do our work.

System’s consulting and continuing education services have been valuable in helping the staff of local libraries develop their skills and share ideas for improving library service. Cooperative buying projects organized by the Systems save local libraries and their taxpayers a lot of money each year. System delivery services and automation systems, such as the Metropolitan Library System’s SWAN consortium, have allowed Illinois public libraries to lead the nation in the resource sharing that gives patrons of one library access to the collections of all the libraries in the Illinois. SWAN provides the patron’s of over 70 libraries with easy access to the collections of all the member libraries. They can request materials online and have them delivered to their home library within a few days. Most other library systems host similar consortiums. Many System services have already been lost, and the remaining services are in jeopardy. All this at a time when library use by the citizens of Illinois is at an all time high.

This terrible situation has occurred because the State has refused to release the funds that were allocated to Library Systems in the FY2010 budget. When the State budget was adopted last summer, System funding was cut 15% over the previous years. Systems immediately made budget cuts to deal with the reduced funding. But even though the fiscal year ends at the end of June 2010 only 57% of the money that was actually budgeted for the year has been disbursed. Most of the library systems in Illinois are in the process of suspending most services and are struggling to maintain even the essential delivery service. Some systems are even dropping delivery service because they are completely out of funds.

I implore you to release the funds that were budgeted for the library systems for the year that is ending as soon as possible. As cuts are made in the FY2011 budget, please maintain a reasonable level of funding for Library Systems so that at least the essential service that directly impact the patrons of our libraries can be maintained.


Christopher F. Bowen
Library Director
Downers Grove Public Library

Cc: Governor Quinn

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Illinois Library Systems Need Help!

I will start by saying that the Downers Grove Public Library is in pretty good shape. Like most public libraries in Illinois, we are funded by property tax, a relatively stable revenue source. We did not experience the sudden dramatic loss of sales tax that resulted in massive cuts in most village and city budgets. (As has been the fate of a few a few libraries that reduced or eliminated their property tax levies in exchange for a share of their municipalities’ sales tax.) However, the State-funded network of multi-type library systems that provides the behind-the-scenes support for much that local public libraries do is hurting, and hurting bad!

According to the Illinois Library Systems Act, “Illinois multi-type Library Systems provide service in the following areas: Automation/Technology, Bibliographic Access, Consulting, Continuing Education, Delivery, Interlibrary Loan, Reciprocal Access, and Reference Services.”

What does this mean to your local public library? Downers Grove belongs to the Metropolitan Library System. MLS hosts the SWAN consortium – the on-line catalog that gives patrons access to the collections of 80 libraries. MLS provides the delivery service that moves over 3 million items between libraries each year. (MLS delivery interconnects with the other 8 Illinois library systems to move materials between libraries across the whole state.) All Systems provide member libraries with consulting, continuing education programs, and networking opportunities that help local library staff improve skills and share ideas in order to provide better service to their patrons.

Illinois Library Systems are funded by an annual grant appropriated by the Illinois General Assembly and distributed through the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office. Systems have not had an increase in funding for about 20 years. The State budget adopted last August, included a 16% cut in funding for Systems. That cut hurt, but worse is that Library Systems have received only 58% of the funding that was approved in the State Budget. It is one thing to have to deal with a 16% budget cut, but it is much harder when the remaining funds that were allotted are never provided.

What is happening to the Library Systems? The leadership of our system (MLS) saw the writing on the wall and began cutting staff and services almost a year ago. Yesterday our neighboring North Suburban Library System announced cuts that will go into effect on May 30. NSLS hopes to retain its delivery service. “But most other services and programs will be dramatically reduced, eliminated, or spun off.”

Today I learned that Voices of Vision Talking Book Center soon may have to cease operations. VoV is one of 4 regional centers that provide talking books and Braille materials for the visually impaired. VOV serves residents of 12 counties, including DuPage. It has been hosted by the DuPage Library System (DLS) through a contract with the Illinois State Library (also funded by the Secretary of State). VOV has only received 3% of the funds allocated this fiscal year. It has only lasted this long because DLS used its own reserve funds to support the service. DLS reserves are running out and the System can no longer afford to support Voices of Vision.

Library Systems are not asking for more funding. They are not even protesting the 16% cut. If you want to help, urge your State legislator to work to release the System funding that was budgeted for this year and to continue the current level of System funding in the new budget year.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Not as easy as it looks!

From time to time someone looking for volunteer work will contact the Administrative Office and ask if they can shelve books for a few hours. They are always surprised when we explain that we do use volunteers for a variety tasks, but we only use trained, paid employees to shelve library materials.

The fact of the matter is that although they are on the first rung of the pay scale, shelvers are among the most important employees on a library’s staff. The ability to shelve materials accurately and quickly is critical to our mission of providing excellent library service. Most patrons know that we have been celebrating a circulation record – more than 1 million items were checked out of the Downers Grove Public Library in 2009! What most people don’t consider is that if over 1 million items are checked out, over 1 million items also have to be returned to the shelves – to exactly the right place on the shelves.

We work hard to organize our collection so that material can be found. The online catalog tells a patron that the call number for “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” by Julia Childs is 641.5944/CHI and that there is a copy on the shelf. The patron expects to go to the shelf and find it there. If a staff member (or more likely, another patron intending to be helpful) places the book on the wrong shelf it is effectively lost. A miss-shelved item may not be found for some time, and the on-shelf status will drive patrons and staff crazy whenever someone else tries to find the book (or DVD or audio CD).

We use alphabetizing and decimal sorting tests to select shelvers. New shelvers receive a lot of training and supervisors audit their work thoroughly, particularly during a new shelver's first weeks on the job. In addition to accuracy, shelvers are monitored for productivity. They are expected to accurately sort and shelve a specified amount of material per hour. In addition to accuracy and speed, shelvers must be in good physical condition. They are constantly stretching up to the top shelves and crouching down to the low shelves for a four hour shift. Shelvers must have a reasonable amount of manual dexterity in order to manage several different types of locking security cases for DVD’s and CD’s. And shelvers must be strong! Loaded book carts are really heavy!

In the interest of full disclosure, I should confess that I started working in a public library as a shelver when I was in college. This means that I can testify that shelving is a great part-time job, with one significant hazard. Be warned that you will bring home almost as many books as you shelve, because shelving is a great opportunity to find books, movies, or music that you might never have discovered before.

Next time you see a shelver pushing a cart-load of books across the library, think about what it takes to get over 1,000,000 items back on the shelf.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Help Rebuild Haiti's Libraries!

Everyone is aware of the devastating disaster caused by the recent earthquake in Haiti. Libraries and archives are among the institutions that have been destroyed or badly damaged, and the historical record of this fascinating country is in peril.

Haiti became the first independent nation in the Western hemisphere and the first black-led nation in the world, after a slave rebellion in 1804 threw off French rule. The island’s historical archives contain the primary record of the Haitian experience.

Currently there is an urgent need for donations of money to rebuild libraries and preserve the historic documents in Haiti’s archives. The American Library Association is coordinating efforts for relief and rebuilding with the U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield (USCBS), the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), and the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Donations to assist Haiti’s libraries and archives can be made at www.ala.org/haiti Up-dates on the condition of libraries in Haiti are also posted at this site.

While many people have offered to donate books for Haitian libraries, Haiti is not able to receive book donations at this time. The library structures must be replaced or repaired, and existing historical collections must be salvaged, before resources can be devoted to restocking library collections. However, when donations of books and other materials are appropriate, ALA will coordinate those efforts, as well.

The library community has always been very generous in supporting efforts to rebuild after other natural disasters. I am confident that we will step up to help Haitian libraries recover from this disaster and preserve its' history.