Overdrive – downloadable ebooks and audiobooks: now a part of our Networked School Community

Overdrive Logo
Image by South Carolina State Library via Flickr

I wrote this in March 2010.

We have three Kindles, and will begin lending them out for a week at a time next term. We’ve decided to not invest in more of them and are awaiting the release of the iPad to see how that looks. But really, the reader device is not our big issue. I don’t see us purchasing these devices in bulk and borrowing them out. I see our clientele having a device (their own computers can fulfill this purpose!) and we as a library lending out a file…

Our big issue is, how is the publishing industry going to respond to the rollout of a device like the iPad, and how will we as Libraries be involved? My personal opinion is that I think the iPad is going to be the start of the revolution that will see an ereader device have a major impact on the way people read. But the tricky question for libraries will be, how do we become a part of that revolution??

Unless I’ve missed something somewhere, I’m not seeing this essential question being answered in the networks I inhabit or by the publishing industry. I did discuss it with the developer of the library system we have just moved to, and he was talking about having the ability to encrypt files so that they could be transferred to a device, but they would only remain on the device for a two week period. When that time was up, they would once again appear as a file available for borrowing. Now that made sense to me; in fact, it was the first time someone had presented an idea that I thought was even feasible.

…Are there answers out there to these questions? If there are, point me in the right direction, because I want to make my library relevant to the kids we teach. I want to see them able to borrow files like these and not have to fork out money to pay for everything they want to read on an ereader or listen to on an iPod or other MP3 device. I want my library to fulfill the function libraries have been performing for the last century or so; ensuring access to information.

The way information is accessible is changing; the way Libraries lend content will change with these new ways of receiving information. Let’s work out how we’re going to go about doing it.

I don’t know how long it was after writing this post that I started reading about Overdrive,  a company providing an option for libraries to lend ebook and audiobook files that will stay on a device for a specified period and then return to the library’s collection for borrowing again. I do know that what I was reading held my interest. Here was a company doing what I had envisaged as possible.

What I did do was discuss Overdrive with our Library team and the school’s Technology committee. Every discussion I had was met with enthusiasm for the idea that our students and staff would be able to download ebooks and audiobooks to their computers and ereading and listening devices. But still, I hesitated. I asked myself questions like:

What if a better option presents itself?

Is it sensible to tie ourselves into platform delivery for ebooks and audiobooks?

Will this company become the frontrunner as an ebook/audiobook borrowing solution?

I think they were good questions, and I thought about them long and hard for at least 6 months. I looked out for other options, but nothing as fluid as Overdrive had presented itself. I was reluctant to tie us into a platform for delivery, but I did want to see our school library move into the ebook/audiobook arena in a serious way. We’re a 1:1 laptop school, and we have some voracious readers who absorb content at a rapid rate. I wanted to see us have an option that would allow a student sitting home at 7.30pm, thinking they might want to read a book, be able to sign into our system and download it to their device. I still don’t know if Overdrive will emerge as the frontrunner as the library ebook/audiobook solution. Nobody knows the answer to that question. Eventually, after more discussion with our library team, we decided to make what we think is going to be a significant and positive change for our library, and we subscribed to the service.

We began working with Overdrive in July 2011, and the system was launched with our staff at the end of the 2011 school year (that’s December in my hemisphere). We probably could have got things going earlier, but if your library is anything like mine, plenty of things get in the way, not the least of which was the work that was going into the development of the Information Fluency program I outlined in my Moving to a Networked School Community post recently. We also decided to begin working with Libguides at the same time (I’ll write another post about that soon) and that took up time as well.

If you’re interested in the nuts and bolts questions about how Overdrive works, their Frequently Asked Questions page is worth reading. Scroll down to the bottom of the page for the system fees; I’ve found that’s what most people want to know first. Here’s the answer to that question (from their FAQ);

System Fees

How much does School Download Library cost?

Pricing for the School Download Library service starts at just $4,000 per year (including $2,000 worth of eBooks and/or audiobooks) for an individual school or a district of up to 2,000 students. For pricing for a larger district, please contact the OverDrive Sales Team at 216-573-6886 Ext. 4, or sales@overdrive.com.

Here’s what the Toorak College site looks like.

We were able to customise the header and were grateful to our Media Studies teacher who helped us come up with a design we were happy with . We’re using the same header for our Libguides site, but that is entitled ‘Library’ and not ‘Digital Collection’ (obviously!). The tab on the Digital Collection site for TC Library will take our students to the Libguides site. We had to make decisions about the look and feel of the site, and what terms we were going to use in the check out process of a book. We opted for using the term ‘My Cart’ for the check out process, because we thought it was a term commonly used on sites and would be familiar to students and staff, even if it does sound like they’re shopping. They are shopping, but the books coming to them are free!

There are some things you need to be mindful of. We are a dual platform school, supporting both Macs and PCs, but the vast majority of students in Yrs 5 – 8 have Mac computers. Many of the audiobooks that are available will not be available to download as an MP3 file on a Mac computer. The vast number available are WMA Audiobook files, and need to be downloaded to a PC before they can be transferred to an iPhone, iPod or iPad. We are going to set up and Overdrive Download Station in our school library to assist students who don’t have access to a PC at home.

Another thing to take note of is the fact that not everything published is available to add to your library content. Publishers make a decision to work with Overdrive, so you’re limited to publishers who have made that decision, and to the content they are offering for  purchase as a digital file. There isn’t a huge raft of Australian content, and hopefully we will see more titles make their way to their marketplace store in the future.

I’ve spent time over this holiday period downloading titles to my iPad via the app they have available in the iTunes store. It’s been incredibly easy. I even managed to impress my hard to impress daughter one morning when she said she’d like to read a book. I got the iPad, opened the app, accessed our library, found a title, added it to my cart, proceeded with checkout, and downloaded it then and there. Within a minute or two she had a book to read. She raised an impressed eyebrow at that one, and that’s no mean feat!

We are going to have to do quite a bit of work with our students when we return to school educating in them in how to use the platform. They’ll ‘get it’ easily, I have no doubt. They need to sign up to Adobe Digital Editions to use ebooks, and download the Overdrive Media Console to use audiobooks. I created a couple of screencasts to demonstrate the steps they need to follow on a computer and through an iPad, and they will be uploaded to our school intranet to help them out. We found a very helpful document created by Adelaide City Council City Libraries explaining the process of downloading audiobooks to PCs and Macs, and how to transfer these books to ereaders and other devices like iPods and iPads. Natalie, our wonderful Library Technician, morphed it to suit our library  – I hope the Adelaide City Council is OK with that!

Our budget has been designed this year to reflect purchases for a print and digital collection. We will still be purchasing printed fiction, and there will be duplication in our print and digital collections. Obviously we will need to monitor usage, and see what the adoption rate is like for the digital collection. It’s going to be interesting to see how things pan out.

I feel comfortable with the decision we have made to go down this path. We have made contact with other school libraries in Australia who have purchased Overdrive, and it’s been extremely helpful knowing that some advice from others in our country is only a phone call away. I’ve been pretty impressed with the support offered from the Overdrive team. Obviously they are in the United States, and the time zones aren’t all that friendly, but our questions are usually addressed in a 24 hr turnaround. They have provided promotional material using our Library header image, and we’ll be circulating that around    our Library and in classrooms on our return to school.

What it comes down to is that we are providing another avenue for our students to access fiction and non-fiction reading and listening material. This year is the National Year of Reading here in Australia, and we aim to do whatever we can to help our students discover the joy that can come from immersing yourself in a good book. We also see this as part of our Networked School Community model. We are providing our community with a way of accessing our collection from anywhere, at anytime. That’s got to be a good thing.

I’ll keep you posted as to how things pan out as the year progresses.

Where does learning come from today?

Well, according to my son, it’s from the Internet.

Here’s what he told me tonight about his day.

“She gave us a tub of books, random choices off the shelves of books they thought we would like.

My library teacher has no idea of where learning is coming from today.”

I work in a library and I see our non fiction collection losing relevance by the day. Not because the content within the books isn’t worthy, some of it is incredible. But to students with a vast array of online resources available at their fingertips in a 1:1 school, it’s hard to convince them to visit the shelves. In recent times, with some assigned tasks, I’ve recommended the students head to the Internet to find more detail than that available in our books on the shelves. Two paragraphs in  book is sometimes all there is on a topic, and yet they can source web pages with enormous detail. Any wonder they are attracted what is available online.

As Teacher-Librarians, we don’t want to go the way of some books and lose relevance to our students. My son’s comment is something I fear is echoed in the living rooms of countries everywhere. Subscribing to authoritative databases or looking at an ebook platform are important considerations for Teacher-Librarians today. Resources need to be accessible for multitudes of students simultaneously rather than the ‘borrow the book, make it unattainable for others’ model of libraries of the past. To that end, providing school libraries with adequate funding to ensure they can do just that is necessary too. Database providers need to lift their game as well, and make their sites more appealing and user friendly so that our students want to use them.

While I don’t think my son is totally right in his estimation, I do think there are plenty of teenagers out there who’d share his sentiments. In schools’ today, we need to stay relevant and know how to make the most of all the online resources at our disposal.

Creating a Library for the future

Well, that’s what we hope we’ve done. Created a Library for the future, that is.

When we started planning Toorak College’s new Norman Carson Library, we knew this would be a space that had to meet the needs of a school population into a future that will see a physical collection change as society becomes increasingly comfortable with digital storage and usage. The space needed to be flexible and able to accomodate our book collection, but we didn’t want the books to be the predominant feature. We realise that fiction will be with us for some time, but our non fiction collection we see as a shrinking collection. We needed to find a way to make it inviting, but able to be transformed with changing times.  You get one shot to get things right. Our students return next week, and we can’t wait to see their reaction to the space. It will be their usage of the spaces that will let us know if we’ve hit the mark. I thought I’d share some pictures here to demonstrate the thinking behind the design.

The non fiction shelving in our large learning commons space. We wanted to utilise the wall as much as possible so that we could hopefully accomodate two classes in this space. We will have to see if it is possible once our furniture arrives.There are three break out rooms at the back of the learning commons space. We see these as small group work spaces, meeting spaces and private study areas. Each room has it’s own LCD TV to be used for presentations by students and staff. A divider separates two rooms so that we can create a larger space for a small class if necessary.

Room divider

This is the large conference/work/relax space at the front of the learning commons area. This room has a large divider (see below) that can provide us with a large room for Year level presentations. It has a projector and very large screen for this purpose. (see below) We aim to provide flexible furnishings in this space that can allow for it to be transformed for different purposes. This vista of this space is simply beautiful. It looks out to our Edna Walling designed gardens and historic Hamilton Building.

High pitched ceilings give the library a feeling of additional space, and louvre windows will help with the release of heat when the air conditioning is not being used.

Here is the circulation desk, opposite the entrance, with the library workroom behind. It divides the two spaces of the library and allows for visibility to the learning commons space and the reading and multimedia spaces.

The library workroom is centrally located, with windows all around giving visibility to all areas.

This is our Multimedia room, that will be fitted out with Mac desktops. It adjoins our fiction/reading spaces.

This is our Fiction collection, looking out to our reading space. We are going to replace a standing double bay with wall shelving to help us maximise space.

Our reading space. We intend to make this an L Shaped space, once we have the wall shelving in place.

Opening doors at the rear of the reading space open to this deck, making this an indoor/outdoor reading space. The tree behind has had its canopy trimmed since this photo was taken, and it looks even more picturesque.

This tiered room, for chillin’ out and relaxing, or for presentations to groups, adjoins our fiction/reading space. It’s my favourite room, and has a very high ceiling giving it an interesting acoustic quality.

It is so exciting having the opportunity to help plan and realise a new learning space for students. Like I said, the proof of its effectiveness will lie with student usage. Seeing their reaction to this space when they return next Monday will be something to savour I’m sure. There are floorboxes with data and power dotted throughout the space for our power needs (we are a laptop school), and we will have netbooks and iPads available for student use when their own devices are not with them.

Our next step is furniture, and this is exciting too. February will see the first installment with more to come in a second stage. Flip tables are being used, as are ottamans, colourful chairs and what we are calling a snake lounge, and that will be the signature piece of the Library space.

Hopefully this will be a space that will meet our students needs well into the future. We wanted it to be welcoming, and it certainly has a homely feel when you enter it. It has been enthusiastically embraced by staff, and I expect to see the same reaction from our students, maybe an even more effusive one. I’ll let you know how it’s received.

 

Reinventing our Library space – what did we do?

Tomorrow, I return to work. It’s an early start for me, and that’s because the new library that has been under construction is completed. It’s very exciting and something I have alluded to over the last year. Our library, and the staff who work in it, have been located in temporary accommodation for the past twelve months so we are very much looking forward to moving into a spacious environment where we can realise some initiatives we have planned for the 2011 school year. I haven’t written a post outlining the process we underwent planning this construction, and I thought it might be useful for anyone facing either remodeling or building from the ground up.

Our original brief was to remodel an existing building, but the eventual outcome was the demolition of our old library, and the construction of a new building on the same site. We had very little time in the planning stages to come up with a design, but after working in a library that had functional issues, I was already convinced of the changes we needed to implement to make for a more functional space that would meet the needs of our learners, and the people who work in the building.

Our old library had already seen a change in usage as a result of changing seating options. Over a two year period we invested funds into couches and cushions, and we strategically placed them in and around traditional table and chair configurations. What we saw was an almost gravitational pull towards the new seating options. Classes that were booked in would float to those spaces rather than the traditional areas. At recess and lunch breaks those spaces were fully occupied with students working on their laptops, reading and talking. We also had become more flexible about eating arrangements. I know this will not suit many, but we allowed our students to eat in the library, provided they were respectful and cleaned up after themselves. I have always struggled with break periods like lunchtime, and restricting student use of the library until they have finished lunch. For many students, the library is a refuge, the one space in the school that is always supervised and can provide them with a place to belong. Those kids need the library, and eating lunch by yourself can be a very solitary pursuit. At least in the library they are in a group atmosphere. I think it helps them. I’m not sure how we will approach eating in this new space. My feeling is that we will be very precious about it to start with, and probably will ask students to eat before they come in, but I feel we will need to gauge this and see how our ‘refuge’ students react.

We had always struggled with poor design that meant our workroom was located well away from the main traffic areas. It led to a dislocation of staff and an inability for some staff to see when times were busy and more hands were needed on deck. We made sure in our new design that our workroom was centrally located with visibility to all parts of the library. The reality of any library is that we are service providers in our school; students and staff needs come before all else, and we need to be responsive.

I’ve included a floorplan of the new library below. I used an online program called Floorplanner to help me insert furniture, and I used Jing for the annotations. The furniture is not necessarily as it will appear in the new space and there may well not be all of it either. It will very much depend on what the space looks like when we walk into it! The picture below was my thinking based on what we envisaged might be possible. We have tried to put most of our non-fiction shelving along a wall, so that it doesn’t compromise what could be a learning space, but we have found that we will have to have some shelving spreading  into a learning space. The ‘snake lounge’ as I’ve called it, is actually a very large piece of furniture that will be the defining piece of the large library space. I can’t wait until it’s installed- it’s going to be a stand out piece. It won’t be in until mid Feb at this stage. I’m excited about the portable IWBs that we will have in the space (there will be three of them) because we intend to allow student use of these. I’m interested to see what use they make of them.

Right throughout the flooring are floorboxes containing data and power for students to power up devices. This was a crucial part of the design process- there are not many desktop computers- they exist only in the multimedia lab. Our students bring their own laptops to school and we provide netbooks (and iPads as of this year) for student use within the library if their device is not working.We are a wireless networked environment, but we have factored data points for cabled connection into the floorboxes for moments when the wireless may be down.

Another exciting addition is the presentation space. It’s a room off the fiction/reading /relaxation space that has  three rows of tiered seating – a reverse amphitheatre type arrangement. All of the tiers have power outlets within them, so that our students can lounge there and plug their devices in when necessary. We envisage teachers will book this space for presentations and will be using one of the portable IWBs that can be rolled in to allow students to hook up their computers.

The conference room at the front of the very large learning commons type space is exciting too. It has doors that can be remotely closed making it a self contained space. It will have a data projector and very large screen installed for presentations. If your school is anything like mine, you will know how hard it can be to facilitate large groups like a year level for a presentation. We think this room is going to see a lot of traffic, and we are planning flexible seating arrangements so that it can be reconfigured to meet changing needs quickly.

We will be sharing the space with our IT Department and this will be located in the back of the building. Both the library and IT department welcome this. We work very closely together facilitating technology needs of our students, and a closer physical working arrangement is going to be an added bonus.

We won’t have all of our furniture installed from the start of the school year. It will be a partial fit out to start with but we envisage the place to be totally functional from May. It’s going to be a bit messy and very busy for the start of the year, but it’s going to be exciting too. I’ll post some pictures of the completed building in the coming days.

Our Library- close to end of construction

Busy days ahead!

Reinvention – stage one

I feel like I’ve hardly been here of late. There have been plenty of things to write about, but, quite honestly, no time to write about any of them. I’ve been pretty time poor because we’ve been in the process of relocating our school library to temporary accommodation in preparation for the construction of a new library in 2010. It’s all very exciting, but any new development means that you need to evaluate what you need and what you can do without.

We’ve had a bit of time to think about this, hence our decision to do something like delete the VHS collection. Knowing we were moving and were going to be constrained in terms of space, we figured it was time to make tough decisions like this one. We also deleted quite a bit of non-fiction, but truthfully, the collection is still quite large and needs further deleting. Our fiction collection is quite large but it does get significant usage; it’s the only print collection we intend on growing. Next year we intend to explore ebooks and see how to integrate more of these into our collection.

So, where are we now? We’ve moved from a substantial building with offices and space to house a collection and class spaces, to a double classroom and one other large room. First up, I’d like to thank ABR Relocations for doing a stellar job of moving our book collection and shelving. In two days, they moved the whole lot and set it up so that it looked even better than it did in its original location! Yes, we paid them, but a move like this is intense, back breaking work, and they did it in a very professional manner. Graeme and crew, thanks very much.

And here’s what girls will resort to when they think they can find a bargain, even if it is an old cushion discarded from your school library!

I thought you might like to see how we’ve set up the double classroom space. This is going to act as our main centre, housing fiction, some desktop computers (we’re a laptop school so don’t need huge banks of computers), and comfy, relaxed spaces encouraging our students to come in, take a look around, relax and read. It’s also housing our desks, and although it’s nice to be with the kids, some away space for planning etc is going to have to be factored in to help us maintain sanity!


In this picture, you can see Catalogue, our Library cat, taking a nap on our new rug!

I took these photos today, our first day back in operation.

The students have found us and are pretty happy with the new surrounds. There have been lots of comments about how much they like the space and how they think it’s better than the old library!

We were only closed for a week during this relocation. I am very grateful for all of the hard work undertaken by the library staff and maintenance staff at my school. It’s a trying process, but everyone contributed with good grace. I’m not sure how long we’re going to be here, but we’re going to do all we can to offer as good a library service as we possibly can given the space constraints we have.

The Robert Pattinson effect

An interesting thing happened on the way to building readership of our school library blog.

One of our staff wrote a post about Robert Pattinson. (You know him, he plays Edward in this film that’s done pretty well at the box office of late. Twilight, that’s the one. If you work in a library you’d know all about it. It’s the series of books by Stephanie Meyer that haven’t sat on the shelves in months; they’ve been from one schoolbag to the next  and are lucky to be still in one piece after the countless times their pages have been thumbed.) 

And our stats went through the roof.

We now have this cluster map showing big red dots from all over the world and blog stats showing 4,524  hits.  The biggest day registered 357 hits on the blog, and we’ve been averaging 230 hits or so a day since it was posted. Already today the 2rak info 4 u blog has had 50 hits while I’ve registered a paltry nine!

So, what does it mean. Not a lot in terms of the meaningful readership of our blog that we are aiming for. We are trying to have our school community access the blog and use it to learn about events we are promoting and new ideas they may find helpful. I’d say maybe 800 or so (quite possibly less) of the 4,254  hits we’ve had are from our school community. We’ve still got a lot of work to do in shifting the mindset of our staff and students in terms of having them access this resource as a natural course of action. We, too, need to try very hard to get posts up; invariably we get caught up in the reactive nature of school library operations and find time is against us. At this early stage we still have to send out emails alerting staff to posts we’ve written.

What does it mean? It means that Robert Pattinson is very hot property and can probably pretty much name his price for his appearance in the next movie I’d expect.  

It also means I’m about to conduct my own market research into the effect of writing a post about a popular movie icon and what this does to your blog stats. I’m well aware that this may cause inflated stats that do not reflect the quality of posts appearing on this blog that deserve readership. It will reflect the number of (predominantly) teenage girls who are accessing the web to find information about the much desired Robert.

It’s going to be interesting. Keep an eye on those stats.

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