New Technologies, New Directions Emerge at ALA 2011
The lowdown on high-tech trends showcased in the exhibits
Posted Wed, 07/13/2011 - 08:10
Tablet-gazing on the ALA exhibit floor
Technology, innovation, and convergence were all on display inside the bustling 2011 ALA Annual Conference exhibit hall in New Orleans. Aisles of publishers with bright, appealing print-book displays and long lines of fans awaiting author signings gave way to technology pavilions with presentation seating and numerous demonstrations in progress. Conference attendees flocked to the exhibits, collecting tangible souvenirs of their literary loyalties, from advance reader copies to posters and other conference swag. Likewise, many came seeking information about e-books, e-journals, digital collections, and new platforms and products for managing electronic content.
E-books—and more e-books
With e-books and e-reading becoming an increasingly sought-after choice by library patrons, e-content providers at ALA highlighted new and improved products and options for selection and delivery of e-book collections. Moreover, innovative licensing models explored by librarian-developed organizations, such as GlueJar and Library Renewal, were once again on the scene; both were formed to facilitate library access to e-books via different contractual arrangements.
OverDrive announced OverDrive WIN, an enhanced, streamlined e-book platform that provides access to more than 500,000 titles in OverDrive’s catalog. Overdrive WIN offers increased support for various formats, with Kindle Library Lending and patron-driven acquisitions expected later this year. Also announced were “eBook Samples,” immediately available previews of popular e-books, and “Open eBook” titles, which are DRM-free e-books. Lists of publishing partners, along with up-to-date news as OverDrive WIN features go live, can be found on the OverDrive blog.
Ebrary, a ProQuest company since January, announced integration with the ProQuest search platform and the expansion of the Academic Complete collection by 16,000 titles. Ebrary’s patron-driven acquisition model and new short-term e-book loans provide options to libraries seeking a usage-based approach to e-book collection development.
Details about the long-awaited eBooks on EBSCOhost product line were unveiled, which fully integrates the former NetLibrary collections into the EBSCO platform. It was expected to go live in mid-July. Benefits include increased e-book discoverability; compatibility with B&N Nooks, Sony Readers, and iPads; patron-driven acquisition; and the option to upgrade titles purchased under NetLibrary’s single-use license to allow multiuser access for high-demand e-books.
New to the e-book market this year are 3M and Library Ideas, both introducing market-friendly products that caught librarians’ attention at the conference and beyond. 3M’s products include a Cloud Library, expected to offer 100,000 titles by the end of the year; a new e-ink e-reading device; and a freestanding Discovery Station to promote e-book browsing in libraries. Library Ideas, known for their Freegal music product, introduced Freading, a patron-driven e-book product utilizing “tokens” to be exchanged for e-book borrows.
More than “just mobile”
The mobile library products presented at ALA11 demonstrated more specialization and utility than last year’s products, going beyond basic mobile website and SMS-enhanced reference tools to include research guides, notification systems, location assistance for finding items in library stacks, and fully fledged mobile applications.
SpringShare, known for the widely accepted LibGuides platform, offers a suite of such mobile-friendly products as LibAnswers, an SMS reference platform, and Mobile Builder. Mobile Builder is a mobile website tool designed to easily organize library information and mobile-optimized databases and LibGuides on a mobile site customized for each library. Another product, developed by StackMap LLC, provides users with mobile directions to books shelved within libraries, and is linked directly from the library’s OPAC search results. Mosio’s Text a Librarian announced expanded messaging options in support of “patron relationships” via SMS, enabling libraries to send alerts and notices to interested patrons in order to market library services and enhance interactivity. Each of these vendors presented useful, specialized options for the mobile library market.
The most robust, full-featured mobile library platform was presented by Boopsie, well-known as an ALA conference partner for producing the mobile app used by many conference attendees. Its mobile library app, available for iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry, offers a branded, customizable mobile service point for accessing library information and collections. Earlier this year, Boopsie announced BookCheck, the first mobile self-checkout tool for libraries. In New Orleans, Boopsie demonstrated the expanded features of its Optimum Package, including other exciting firsts: one-click access to OverDrive e-book collections via the library’s mobile catalog; and BookLookMobile, a barcode-scanning tool that informs patrons whether the book is available at their local library and allows them to request or place a hold on the title. “Discoverability is key right now,” explained Boopsie CEO Greg Carpenter. “We’re trying to offer an economic solution for libraries to be a central point of [mobile] discovery.” Boopsie plans to continue seeking partnerships with mobile service providers to enhance the services and offerings provided by the mobile app.
New platforms, new possibilities
All through the exhibit hall, the synergy of print and electronic, publishers and technologists, librarians and students, present and future was as vibrant and informative as ever. Yet beneath the hum and hustle, there was a discernable difference: Exhibitors’ products demonstrated a forward slant, anticipating growth in new markets and preparing for emerging shifts in the traditional business of libraries.
During ALA TechSource’s Annual Tech Wrap-Up on July 8, Marshall Breeding, director for innovative technologies and research for Vanderbilt University Libraries and author of the Library Technology Guides website, described this change as it applied to integrated library systems. He outlined how leading ILS vendors are rolling out new “next-generation” products, yet he noted that the term doesn’t quite fit. Instead, Breeding said, we’re now experiencing a “major upheaval” wherein the old concepts of an ILS no longer adequately serve as a foundation of comparison to new systems. Breeding discussed Serials Solutions’ Web-scale Management product, OCLC’s Web-scale Management Services, Alma by Ex Libris, and Sierra by Innovative Interfaces. He described these new products as “library services platforms” with flexible options and varying features, hosted in the cloud, and effectively reorienting data management activities to align print workflows with e-resource management activities.
After several years of tough library budgets—concurrent with rapid technological shifts toward more affordable cloud-based options, open source software, and increased demand for e-books and mobile-friendly services—libraries face a critical reassessment of staffing, workflows, and expenditures. In this environment, it is not enough for vendors to be innovative; library technology must be more than flashy or patch a single problem. Instead, new technologies must provide efficient, cost-effective solutions to creatively meet the diverse and changing needs of patrons and libraries alike. Librarians at the 2011 ALA Annual Conference overflowed meeting rooms to learn about such developments as e-books, licensing, mobile technologies, cloud services, and discovery systems. In the exhibit hall, these topics are driving the evolution of innovative library technology, as vendors display products designed to both adapt and grow with the next stages of electronic content management and delivery.
LISA CARLUCCI THOMAS is digital services librarian at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven.