When I visit my local library and look for a specific book, I might be lucky and it’s on the shelf, if I am less lucky it’s not at my local library, but is available from another library. If I am unlucky then someone else has borrowed it and though I can out in a reservation, I have to wait until it is returned.
This is one of the disadvantages of having just a single copy of a printed book. Of course one of the advantages of the digital ebook is that it would be possible to make and lend it to as many people who wanted it… or so you would have thought.
My local library service, LibrariesWest have recently launched an ebook lending library. It uses Adobe Digital Editions so works fine with the Bluefire Reader app on the iPad, so no need to worry about having a proprietary ebook reader.
However I was a little taken aback when I looked at the range of books available to find that most of them were out on loan!
I couldn’t actually download a digital version of the book I wanted as it was on loan to somebody else. Now the reality isn’t that the digital file is on someone else’s computer and not available, no of course this is a DRM limitation placed on the library service by the publishers.
The publishers have taken the traditional business model they have used with libraries before with printed books and applied it to digital ebooks.
So if someone “borrows” an ebook, then it is not available to anyone else. This isn’t a technical restriction, it’s a business choice.
It wouldn’t surprise me if the business model only allows the books to be borrowed for a certain number of times before it “wears out”.
I am sure that LibrariesWest could spend a lot more money and have ebooks that can be borrowed by multiple users all at the same time.
What this does tell us, is that we are still at the start of the ebook lending model and at this stage publishers are trying to duplicate a traditional business model in the online world. As with a lot of other traditional business models, this will change at some point in the future.
The aim of the keynote was to remind those attending where we had come from, where we are and where we might be going. It was important to ask the question with all the mobile technologies that are currently available, why aren’t they already embedded into the provision of library services?
One of the features of the libraries at Gloucestershire College (well the Gloucester and Royal Forest of Dean campuses) is that we have sofas in the library.
I have been asked a few times why do I have sofas in the library when the library is a learning environment?
I would ask then, where is it written down that learning has to be uncomfortable? Where is the rulebook that states learners should sit at desks on hard chairs? Is it not possible for a learner to learn whilst sitting on a sofa? Why can’t a learning environment be enticing, comfortable and even a little bit social?
What myself and the Learning Resources team have created in the Library space is a learning environment that will encourage a range of learning activities, from group work, individual activity on a computer, individual study and importantly places for reflection and for reading. The sofas are part of the environment that recognises that individuals do different things for their learning, they learn in different ways at different times, and as a result we need to provide an environment that meets these different needs.
Sofas in the library is not about turning the library into a social area, it’s about creating an environment for learning that meets the diverse needs of our learners who will want to learn in different ways at different times; the end result is learners who achieve their qualificational goal.
Virtual History, Roma & Firenze – iPad Apps of the Week
This is a regular feature of the blog looking at various Apps available. Some of the apps will be useful for those involved in learning technologies, others will be useful in improving the way in which you work, whilst a few will be just plain fun! Some will be free, others will cost a little and one or two will be what some will think is quite expensive.
Firenze – Virtual History, a three-dimensional journey using your iPad through the city that invented the Renaissance. Enter this epicenter of art, invention and history and even explore in detail masterpieces like those of Dante, Leonardo and Michelangelo.
Mondadori presents a fantastic voyage to Ancient Rome, the capital of the largest empire in the ancient world, which has been reconstructed in virtual form and which you can explore in a “full-immersion” panoramic experience.
I was discussing with my team the other day on whether we should be placing iPads into the libraries at the college to provide additional resources and content for learners. There have been quite a few projects and trials that have shown the value of library users having access to the iPad for research and reading. The iPads would not replace existing paper resources or online content, but would supplement and enhance. I hope to expand on these ideas in a later blog post.
For arts, history and travel & tourism I found these two apps (from the same publisher) that I feel would be useful for learners on those courses. Both the apps have an “immersive” experience that allows the users to explore both these famous cities using the touch interface of the iPad.
These apps would introduce the learner to these great cities and would be a starting point before moving onto for example for travel & tourism students we might also have on the iPad, the Rough Guide to Rome. We would also place e-books onto the iPads for additional detailed and indepth content, as well as content and links from practitioners.
Well maybe by starting off describing what it isn’t might give you a better idea.
Some people’s idea of an e-library is a website (or a section on the VLE) with information about the library, the services it offers with links to online resources. Some people take this a little further and have a link to enable users to search the online catalogue.
For me though an e-library should be an online environment that learners go and visit for the same reasons that they visit a physical library. I don’t think I have ever had a visitors to our libraries from any learners to find out what services we offer and how much the photocopying costs. Okay we might have had one person coming in to find out vacation opening times…
Most of the learners who come into the physical library are going there as they need some support, help to support their learning to achieve their qualificational goal. This support at a basic level might be a quiet environment or access to a computer. However a library is much more than just a place to study, there are resources: books, journals and online resources. There is access to collections and catalogues. Also a key part of the library are the library staff, the information professionals who are there to support and help the learners.
An e-Library should have those within it and should be seen as a support tool that is used by learners to support them on their learning journey.
The VLE is a an ideal location for such an e-Library.
Of course all that information on photocopying costs and opening times can be placed there and as the VLE can be searched (usually) then this allows learners to find that information if they need to.
Another obvious thing is to put in a link or search box to allow learners to search the library catalogue. Key question once the learner has searched and found a book, can they reserve it? Can they access their record on the library system and renew stuff?
So as well as the things that are obvious what about other stuff for an e-library?
Well the VLE can act as a portal to any e-books the library holds. With the addition of guides on how to use the e-book platform, this will enable learners to access e-books through the VLE. You can do something similar with e-journals.
The VLE is also the obvious portal to signpost ay digital and online collections that the library subscribes to. As well as providing the link, it could include additional information and details about any of the collections.
Tools within the VLE also allow for discussions and FAQs, using the forum functionality, learners would be able to post questions and importantly get answers about learning resources needs. You do need to manage expectations, so learners posting at two in the morning realise they may not actually get an answer from the library until it opens at 8.30am! You may want to post any questions you get from learners on a regular basis actually in the library to the FAQ (with the answers) so that learners can find it themselves, or useful for signposting when answering e-mail queries.
You may want to use forums (or other tools) as a method of eliciting feedback from learners. Listening to the learner voice and getting feedback is an important part of our self-assessment and review of how we work.
Immediate support on a learning resources issue is generally quite easy within the physical confines of a library, on an e-library, might be more challenging. You could for example use the live online chat facility to enable learners immediate access to an information professional who could provide support and help as well as links and advice, just as they do in the physical library.
One thing I expect my team to do, is to support learners through a reader development programme. A series of events and offers of training that helps learners build up their study skills. The VLE in conjunction with a virtual delivery system (such as Elluminate or Adobe Connect) would allow for both the delivery of live and recorded study skill sessions. This would help learners improve and enhance their information skills.
An e-library should be a place that supports and develops learners in their learning journey in the same way that the physical library does. The VLE is an ideal location for an e-library as it sits alongside the virtual courses they are already using. A familiar environment that they already know how to use.
Is there a role for mobile devices in the modern library? What are the issues, challenges and opportunities of using mobile devices to support learning and resource discovery in the library? Is it time to stop telling people to turn off their mobile phones? From communication, collaboration, storage, notes, books, journals and more, mobile technologies are changing the way in which users can and are using libraries.
The presentation first looked at the importance of changing cultures and resistance to change, before we discussed in small groups the potential of mobile devices in the library.
Like most colleges we do provide access to a range of digital and online resources. There is some fantastic content out there which is either available for free or for a relatively low cost subscription.
Feedback from learners, talking to managers and practitioners, show that these resources are not as well used as they could be. There are a range of reasons given why both practitioners and learners do not use them, and in some cases do not even consider using them. These vary from the usual, not enough time, to access issues, or as often happens they didn’t know the college subscribed to them…
Didn’t they have a library induction?
Didn’t they read the e-mail?
The reality is that resources shown at induction or identified in an e-mail will be noted, but not generally remembered. Unless they are use to accessing online resources or are sign-posted to use online resources; they won’t use online resources.
This isn’t just about online resources, experience in my institutiuon and talking to others in a similar position, demonstrate that learners won’t be using books and journals in the library unless they are use to using them or sign-posted to use them.
So who sign-posts?
Well obviously the library staff (learning resources team) can do this with learners who are in the library. They can go and meet with learners in the classroom and inform them of the availability of resources. But these tactics are in many ways like inductions or e-mails, they may not be at the point of need and learners may not readily identify or link the resources to their topics or assessed work. The “clever” learners will know that they can go the library staff when they have a “need” and get signposted that way.
One thing practitioners can do is to sign-post resources to their learners during lessons, within assignments and on the VLE. If a learner wants to get the best grade possible, either in exams or assessed work, they need to use a much wider range of resources than what is made available in the classroom, the library and online resources are two prime locations for these resources. Not all learners know that and not all practitioners realise that they need to signpost to their learners about this. Some may think it so obvious that they don’t even mention it… that can be a mistake.
So how do we change things, so that learners are aware of what online resources are available or what the function of the library is?
Practitioners need to be made aware of the value of the resources available and working with the library staff enable easy access to those resources for their learners.
For every course on the VLE each team will identify at least one e-book from the e-Library (currently 3,000 e-books in the collection) and link to that book from the course. The team will promote the e-book to their learners. Usage stats will be taken at the end of the academic year.
All practitioners to attend a session on the online resources available to the college, all practitioners to choose at least one online resource that they will use with their learners on one of their courses.
Learners are recorded about how an online resource helped them understand a topic better, or complete an assignment successfully.
We are so lucky now to have such a huge range of online resources and content, to ignore it is missing a trick. But getting both learners and practitioners to take advantage of them, is not just down to wishful thinking, but requires communication and planning.
A book, how on earth can you read a book on the VLE?
A book, a printed paper thing!
Of course we are talking about electronic books, e-books.
It doesn’t really matter whether you like or don’t like e-books as the issue isn’t about choosing one over the other, it’s about convenience and ease of use for the learner.
e-Books should really be seen not as an alternative to paper books, but as an addition an enhancement. Learners still may be given or buy a core text book, they will still have access to the library and that collection. Using e-books on the VLE is about increasing access to resources.
For any course, it is very useful for learners to have access to a reading list, a selection of useful books. Having access to those e-books via the VLE makes that reading list really useful.
Generally most VLE platforms can not be used to host commercial e-books, so most of the time you will need to link to whichever e-book platform that your institution decides to subscribe to.
We use the JISC Collections e-Books for FE collection and this uses the Ebray platform. This allows us to link to individual pages within individual books, books and collections (bookself) of books.
We would never expect learners to just use e-books and never use any other books, however having access to e-books allows learners to access a (virtual) library at a time and place to suit them.