Wednesday, July 6, 2011

ISTE Reflection and eBook Evolution

Last week, I attended the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference. I blogged and tweeted so much in Philly that I feel asleep every night with sore fingers. Now that I'm home, my fingers have finally recovered and I've had an opportunity to reflect on my learning.

More than anything, ISTE provided great affirmation. I certainly came home with many little wisdom-seeds that will surely sprout into great things, but a majority of the sessions I attended looked and sounded awfully familiar. We're already implementing many of the ideas and technology showcased at the conference. This didn't disappoint me in the least. Rather, it made me feel warm and fuzzy - like, wow, we're doing something right. Go us!

For example, when it comes to eBooks, I think we're already doing some great things. I attended the SIGMS Forum on Tuesday morning where Anita Beaman (she tweets under anitabeaman), from Illinois State University, talked about the evolution of eBooks. Everything Anita said rang true, and her talk mirrored many of my personal feelings.

She asked, "Do we want to give up our paper books for an electronic screen?"

The answer is: YES!

According to Anita, here's why:
  • Kids have come to expect on demand services, and librarians need to meet this expectation
  • School Library Journal says only 30% of librarians have eBooks in their library. Of the remainder, 65% aren't getting them any time soon. This means that these librarians are not evolving! We need to evolve so we don't go the way of the dodo bird.
  • Weeding eBooks is so much less painful! No need to dispose of paper discards! They don't take up landfills and they don't magically wind up back on your desk.
  • You don't have to worry about eBooks ever being overdue
  • eBooks means 24/7 access to the library's collection
  • Appeals to tech loving teens who suffer from book phobia, teens who are sick of carting 50 lbs of books around, kids too sick to come to the library, and book lovers who can't see in the dark
  • eBooks allow us to connect reading and technology
What librarians need to do:
  • Explore eBooks for personal use
  • Remember, you can read eBooks on things OTHER than Kindles, Nooks, iPad, etc. Kids CAN read an eBook on their phone or computer screen.
  • Don't forget about things like Tumblebooks - these are eBooks, too!
  • Acknowledge that eBooks are not going away
After listening to Anita, we talked with our table about ways libraries can evolve to address the eBook evolution. Out of our table of ten, only three librarians were currently circulating eBooks. I guess that SLJ statistic is pretty accurate!

During our table discussion, we addressed these topics:
  • Follet's Shelf - an eBook portal. Kids sign into the portal via a special URL. It costs about $800 for 50 eBooks. These are fiction books, but there are limited titles to pick from. Great idea to purchase eBooks that address summer reading lists.
  • How do you select which devices to purchase when many eBooks are platform specific? For example, Nooks won't read AZW files and Kindles won't read EPUB files. (This is a BIG question. I don't have the answer for it. We've just "picked one." Anyone else have a solution?)
Honestly, I was surprised that more people at our table hadn't jumped on the eBook bandwagon. We circulated nine Kindles last year, and I'd certainly consider our program a rousing success. We've been diligent about asking kids to fill out surveys after using a Kindle. Here's the survey instrument if you want to check it out. I promise a post in the next few weeks that summarizes what we've learned about circulating Kindles in our library.

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