Thursday, September 18, 2014

Mobile libraries adapt with changing communities

by: Elaine Kelly-Canning

The dwindling availability of brick-and-mortar book stores, in the age of Amazon and evolving technologies, raises the question of what role libraries will play in the future of our communities.

The mobile library or “bookmobile” has a long history in Canada, facilitating literacy in areas with limited access to a library. Bookmobiles made their debut in most cities across Canada between 1920 and 1930. They were converted trucks or buses outfitted with inwardly-slanted shelves and would often carry up to 2,000 books. Each bookmobile was staffed by a travelling librarian who familiarized themselves with the literary tastes of the community to customize each stop.

However, due to diminished funding and increased brick-and-mortar infrastructure throughout the 1970s and ’80s, most of these services were eliminated around 1990. Cities that lost their bookmobile service often replaced it with outreach services for patrons with disabilities, providing audio books and magazines, e-text, and braille.

But some bookmobiles survived and are still on the road. Strathcona, outside Edmonton, is using a converted transit bus with custom-designed, portable shelving that allows staff to roll on specialized content, explains bookmobile manager Diana Balbar. Their design attracted two visiting librarians from the Netherlands who were documenting best practices in public libraries around the globe.

Ottawa and Edmonton are working on new buses and customized vans to keep up with rising demand. Edmonton is outfitting vans to promote digital literacy by providing computers and laptops (including software to edit films), a sound station with synthesizer keyboards, eBooks, and a device called a “MaKey MaKey” that connects to a banana or other object to make music.

The benefits of the service are unequivocal: it curtails kids’ screen time and gets them out engaging with their community, and it fills in the gaps in the public-school library system. The bookmobile reaches residents that have socio-economic, geographic, or other barriers that prevent them from accessing regular library services and offers a flexible and timely way to address these needs.

Cities with surviving bookmobile services, such as Toronto, Montréal, and Ottawa, claim an increase in readership and use of the service. Michelle Leung, communications officer at the Toronto Public Library, notes that it has adapted to changing community needs and anticipates that there will always be patrons with barriers to access. Canada’s ever-expanding cities might mean we’ll see a resurgence in the bookmobile service in years to come.

from: Spacing

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Vancouver’s main library to undergo major reorganization

by: Tracy Sherlock

Vancouver’s downtown library — a nine-storey “Colosseum” that holds 1.3 million items and covers a full block at Georgia and Homer — is approaching its 20th anniversary, and with that will come some significant changes.

The downtown branch, which is known as the Central Library, is being rearranged to make it easier for people to find books, as well as to create space for a new Inspiration Lab.

The 3,000-square-foot Inspiration Lab will be on the library’s third floor, which will be transformed into a space where people will have access to equipment and reference material that will enable them to learn and experiment with traditional, digital and new media. The free, public space is designed to “nurture the talent and creativity of our city and be a hot spot where the next generation of Vancouver’s digital and creative community can get its start,” the library says.

Christina de Castell, the library’s director of resources and technology, said the lab will be a place where people can bring digital stories to life, using the library’s equipment. Examples might include converting old videotapes into digital family movies, or using one of five audio booths to have a grandparent’s voice narrate a family movie.

The equipment will be bookable and free of charge for the public, de Castell said, adding the library is also working with local technology companies to develop training and possibly an expert-in-residence to help people use the tools.

Fundraising is underway for the $750,000 lab and the library hopes to have it open early next year, de Castell said.

Even without the lab, the Vancouver Public Library was voted No. 1 in the world in a study by Heinrich Heine University in Dusseldorf last December. In 2012, it was used by an estimated 74 per cent of Vancouverites.

To accommodate the new space and to better organize the library’s holdings, levels three through six of the library are being reorganized, which is no small task. The move includes about 750,000 books, 800 bays of shelving and 50 computers and workstations.

The library promises the new layout will mean it is easier for people to find the books they want. The library is staying open during the move and there will be no changes to the children’s library (Lower Level), Special Collections (Level 7) or the fiction, multilingual, teens and DVD sections (all on Level 2).

Jenny Marsh, director of development at the Vancouver Public Library Foundation, said there is still at least one naming opportunity available for a donor to the lab. The library decided to try crowdfunding to raise money for eight iMac computers for the lab. The $16,000 campaign has raised more than $6,000 to date.

The library also has partnered with the City of Vancouver and the Vancouver Writers Fest to seek the next Poet Laureate for the city. The position is honourary, with a flexible term of either two or three years, to begin in October. The poet acts as a champion for poetry, attending civic and public poetry events and completing a unique project. Nomination letter or letters of intent are welcome from published or performance poets who live in Vancouver are due today. 

from: Vancouver Sun

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Florida university lets students buy titles for its e-book-only library

by: Mariella Moon

It's not uncommon for libraries to offer e-books in addition to dead-tree copies, but the newly opened Florida Polytechnic University takes its digital tome offerings a lot more seriously. The institution has decided to completely forego stocking its library with paper books and will instead rely solely on e-books, which its 550 students (the school is so new, it's not even licensed yet) can browse on tablets, laptops or e-readers. Now, here's the kicker: the students can browse any book they want using the school's proprietary software, but they can access it for free only once -- the second time someone clicks on it, he/she ends up purchasing it for the whole school. In fact, the university has set aside $60,000 for e-book purchases, leaving the library's catalog in its student body's hands.
Aside from that, the school's also discouraging students from printing out documents even though printers are available in the library, in an effort to move away from using paper. Students who still prefer holding hard copies, however, can always just borrow a book or two from the school's off-campus library, which it shares with another institution.

from: engadget

Monday, September 15, 2014

Fast-selling ‘new adult’ genre vying for shelf space in bookstores

by: Stephanie Chan

Author Kathleen Tucker had self-published three young-adult romances when she decided to try her hand at something aimed at a slightly older audience – with more sexually explicit content.
The results were better than anything she expected. A month after she self-published her novel Ten Tiny Breaths online in October, 2012, Ms. Tucker, based in Stouffville, Ont., had raked in more than $50,000 and sold more copies in a day than her three previous books had in a month combined.
Since then, countless authors have followed the same route, taking advantage of a new and growing genre of literature aimed at primarily female readers between 18 and 25. Known as “new adult,” the genre features mainly university or college-aged protagonists dealing with early twenties life, in particular romance and sexual relationships.
The segment of the book-buying market is hard to quantify as the wider industry has been slow to embrace the genre and the bulk of sales are made online. But a recent report by author and publishing data website found that self-published books make up as much as 25 per cent of Amazon’s bestseller lists. The overwhelming majority of those were in the romance genre, many of which were new adult titles.
New adult has spawned a host of successes such as E.L. James’s Fifty Shades of Grey and Colleen Hoover’s Slammed, with the former reportedly having earned $95-million (U.S.) between mid-2012 and mid-2013. Several authors, such as Ms. Hoover and new adult romance author Bella Andre, have also managed to negotiate with larger publishing houses for print-only deals while keeping e-book selling rights – a rare luxury that happens only when authors hold some clout.
New adult or NA was born out of a casual mention in a call for manuscripts sent out by New York-based publishing giant St. Martin’s Press in 2009. But the throwaway term caught the attention of the online book community and, finally last year, received its own Book Industry Standards and Communications (BISAC) code, which assigns genres to books so that booksellers can more easily place them in sections.
It’s a far cry from new adult’s early days, when Ms. Tucker says friends tried to pitch ideas but received little attention. The genre was too new, she added, and many agents felt it was too soon to take the risk.
But mainstream publishers started to embrace the genre in 2012 after self-published new adult titles, such as Ms. Hoover’s Slammed, shot to the top of bestseller lists, proving that the success of Fifty Shades a year earlier wasn’t a one-off.
“I think … a lot of the interest is among romance publishers or contemporary publishers who have some interest in romance,” said Monica Pacheco, a literary agent with Toronto-based Anne McDermid & Associates. “I think in the last year, I’ve seen a little over 30 deals for it, and by and large, they were mostly romance.”
Thirty isn’t an astronomical number, but it’s an indication that interest in new adult is growing among traditional publishers, she added.
Ms. Tucker, who was signed to New York-based Simon & Schuster’s imprint Atria Books shortly after Ten Tiny Breaths came out, said the industry now sees her and others as hybrid authors, those who have some titles signed to big-name publishers, but who also release their own e-books on the side.
But while new adult is picking up traction in digital sales, large publishers are grappling with how to handle print versions of the books.
Margo Lipschultz, senior editor at Harlequin Enterprises Ltd., said that although new adult titles have made their way onto tables and featured spaces at the end of aisles, few retailers have gone so far as providing the genre with its own shelf space.
“I think they find the term a little confusing or not specific enough to capture a large readership,” she said, adding that Harlequin has been focusing resources on the genre after observing its digital sales success.
“We’re always looking to ensure that we are growing awareness among print readers,” she said. “That can entail anything from including bonus material that’s exclusive to print editions or just looking at ways we can partner with booksellers to ensure that we are shelving them in the right places.”
Other publishers have also made efforts to show traditional sellers that the market for new adult is healthy and thriving by bringing the authors to the stores. Atria has jumped full force into new adult and now plans to release 15-20 NA titles every year, compared with none before 2012.
“The thing is in … convincing booksellers that it’s not just a fad, it really does exist,” says Judith Curr, publisher and president of Atria. “They haven’t really seen people coming into the bookstores and asking for the books perhaps. Whenever it’s a new area, they ask, ‘If I really am going to dedicate shelf space to a new area, what am I going to take it from?’
“All of the readers who made [young adult] explode are now new adult readers potentially,” Ms. Curr says.
What is clear to her, however, is that new adult will have to expand outside of its current literary conventions if it hopes to continue its success. Authors such as Ms. Tucker, whose pen name is K.A. Tucker, and veteran Canadian author Kelley Armstrong, who predicted the wave of new adult way back in 2009, agree.
Already, Ms. Armstrong says, the writing community is quickly responding, with authors branching out into paranormal and suspense. She predicts that in the future, new adult books will be even meatier and plot-driven, though in her experience, publishers interested in the genre now are still mainly interested in what has worked for the past two years.
from: Globe and Mail

Friday, September 12, 2014

Books in translation take off in the U.K.; can they do the same in Canada?

by: Steven W. Beattie

Two of the year’s biggest bestsellers thus far have something in common – something that may come as a surprise to those who haven’t really considered it.
At first blush, Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century, an 800-page tome about income inequality, and Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle, a multi-volume autobiographical novel, may seem completely different from one another, and in most respects they are. One aspect they do share: neither was originally published in English. Piketty’s book first appeared in France in 2013 as Le Capital au XXIe siècle; Knausgaard’s six-volume opus, which runs to more than 3,000 pages and has so far had the first three volumes appear in English translation, was published in his native Norwegian between 2009 and 2011.
Conventional wisdom has it that books in translation are a tough sell, though this attitude may be changing, thanks to Piketty, Knausgaard, and such best-selling foreign authors as Stieg Larsson, Jo Nesbø, Herman Koch, and Haruki Murakami. According to the GuardianBritish readers lined up to get their hands on copies of Murakami’s latestColorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. (The queues are testament to Murakami’s international rock-star status, and belie naysayers like Janet Maslin, who wrote in The New York Times that the new novel “is as short on explanations as it is long on overwrought adolescent emotion.”)
The Guardian article indicates that sales for books in translation have been highly robust in Britain lately, surprising publishers and booksellers alike:
In 2012, Hesperus Press, a tiny British firm, sensed potential in a comic Swedish novel that went on to become a European publishing phenomenon after major British and American companies rejected it. Hesperus bought the rights to Jonas Jonasson’s The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared, which went on to sell more than 500,000 copies.
Chris White, fiction buyer for Waterstones, said that, blockbusters apart, there are “plenty of translated titles we’ve discovered recently which have sold in their thousands.” He singled out The Collini Case, a legal thriller by Ferdinand von Schirach, one of Germany’s top authors, which has sold 29,385 copies – “more than the last John Grisham” – eclipsing some homegrown novels that barely sell a few hundred. “The perception of translations isn’t what it was perhaps 10 years ago,” he said. “They are just treated as great books.”
Here in Canada, the perception that books in translation are “just treated as great books” by English-language readers may hold true for genre stalwarts such as Larsson, Nesbø, and Henning Mankell, though it continues to be an uphill battle for homegrown fiction from Quebec, despite a series of government-funded translation fairs over the past several years. Numerous houses – including Coach House Books, House of Anansi Press, Cormorant Books, Talonbooks, and Biblioasis – have published works by noted Quebecois authors, though none has reached bestseller proportions among readers in English Canada.
Earlier this year, Coach House published an English translation of Guyana by Élise Turcotte, one of the most interesting authors currently working in Quebec, to little fanfare. Last year’s Anansi translation of Louis Hamelin’s FLQ-era thriller October 1970 was longlisted for the 2013 Scotiabank Giller Prize, but failed to catch on with anglophone readers. Even winning the 2010 iteration of Canada Reads didn’t push the English translation of Nicolas Dickner’s novel Nikolski into bestseller territory.
Perhaps the vogue for translated fiction currently washing over the U.K. will be replicated here. This fall, Arsenal Pulp Press will bring out the English edition of Skandalon, French author Julie Maroh’s graphic-novel follow-up to Blue Is the Warmest Color; the new volume is translated by Canada’s own David Homel. One of this country’s best French-to-English translators, Homel recently collaborated with Jacob Homel on a translation of the late Quebec author Nelly Arcand’s novel Hysteric, published earlier this year by Anvil Press. Kim Thúy’s new novel in English translation, Mãn, is out this month from Random House Canada. (Mãn is the follow-up to 2012’s Ru, which did achieve modest success in English after being shortlisted for the Giller and the First Novel Award.) Thúy’s book is translated by Sheila Fischman, who is also responsible for the English translation of Crossing the City, the latest from the prolific Michel Tremblay, coming in October from Talonbooks.
Canada clearly does not have a paucity of fiction in translation; finding an audience for it is another matter.
from: Quill and Quire

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Google Wants to Save Our Schools—And Hook a New Generation of Users

by: Issie Lapowsky

The old “dog ate my homework excuse” is about to become a thing of the past. And kids will have Google to thank.

The search giant has just released Classroom, a free tool that allows teachers to do everything from assigning projects to collecting and grading assignments, all online. Classroom uses Google’s own products such as Docs and Drive to manage and organize the often chaotic classroom workflow.

Google launched a pilot of Classroom in May, but on Tuesday, the search giant announced it was offering Classroom to anyone with a Google Apps for Education account. The goal, says Classroom creator and Google product manager Zach Yeskel, is to make already overburdened teachers more productive by reducing the time spent pushing paper around a classroom.

“We did user research, and what came to the forefront was the fact that teachers were spending a lot of time doing things other than teaching,” Yeskel, a former high school math teacher, says. “The goal of Classroom is to make the things that should be simple, simple.”

The Business of Education

Of course, Classroom isn’t simply a show of altruism. There’s a business case for the product. For starters, Google Chromebooks have been a runaway hit in schools. In the second quarter of this year alone, Google sold 1 million Chromebooks to schools. The tiny laptops now account for a fifth of all the mobile computer purchases made by schools today, according to The Wall Street Journal.

This somewhat unexpected trend has made Google more focused on offering even more products to teachers already using Chromebooks, Yeskel says: “They were an organic hit in schools, so now our sales team and marketing team and product teams are all thinking about those users more.”

What’s more, those users just happen to be extremely valuable. The whole world may use Google products today, but kids will dictate tomorrow’s market. Tech companies from Facebook to Google are all too aware of the importance of hooking younger users early. “They’re the future,” Yeskel says. “They’ll be going into business someday.”

Just a Start

So it stands to reason that Google would make an aggressive push into the education space. The question is, of all the problems teachers face, why focus on this one? After all, the American school system is fraught with issues, and in Silicon Valley, there’s no shortage of well-meaning companies attempting to use tech to solve those problems. Some provide sophisticated testing tools to assess kids’ skills in real time. Others offer up coding classes as the cure to the education system’s ills. All of it makes Google’s decision to focus on what is essentially a productivity tool for teachers seem somewhat mundane.

But Yeskel says Google’s education team spent a year working with teachers around the world to assess the crowded ed-tech space. They found one gap that remains was classroom management. “It was clear they had a lot of technology that helped with other problems, but there was still an opportunity for us to solve a real problem in classroom organization,” he says.

The whole world may use Google products today, but kids will dictate tomorrow’s market.

Today, Classroom allows teachers to set up a virtual classroom, invite students in, distribute worksheets, assign work, grade and return work, and collaborate with students on a document in real time. Classroom keeps track of what work has been turned in and automatically sorts it into Google Drive folders. Still, Yeskel admits this is just a start. Classroom is merely laying the foundation, spreading Google’s existing services to classrooms around the world in order to layer additional tools on top of it in the future.

“We think there are some foundational pieces that needed to be put in place before we can tackle those problems,” says Yeskel, adding that the company is currently in talks with some third party developers. “Classroom is just the beginning of what we hope to do.”

from: Wired

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Denver Public Library launches local music service Volume

by: Matt Miller

Like books, CDs have gone the way of vinyl and cassette.

This generation's musicians are emerging in a digital landscape. Albums are sold as MP3s, branding is done through social media, and many times the instruments themselves are nothing more than laptops and hard drives. Music, along with technology, moves quickly, and it's up to traditionalists to catch up. In the year of its 125th birthday, the Denver Public Library is hitting play on a digital means to disseminate local music to the community.

Sept. 11 marks the official launch of Volume Denver, the library's online collection of local music that's available for free streaming and download for anyone with a library card. Currently, the site has 38 albums available, including local favorites Esmé Patterson and Ian Cookeand genres ranging from Americana to hip-hop.

"We thought this could be an amazing opportunity to connect with our local community," said Volume project manager Zeth Lietzau. The Denver Public Library will celebrate the launch of Volume, along with the library's 125th birthday, with "Overdue: Beer, Books and Bands" at the McNichols Building on Sept. 11. The event features samples from local breweries, food trucks and performances from Ian Cooke, Plat Maravich and Switchyard Social Club.

Taking the idea from a handful of experimental libraries across the country, DPL started building Volume last winter and soft-launched the site on Aug. 5. Since the soft launch, Volume has had 200 albums downloaded, 2,000 tracks downloaded and 6,000 tracks played.

Volume is directed toward two primary audiences, Lietzau said. The first is younger people who don't realize the type of services the library can offer.

"We tend to lose a lot of people in their 20s and early 30s," Lietzau said.

The second targeted audience is the people already using the library who might not know the local music scene.

But with many — if not all — local artists familiar with or already using traditional channels of sharing music like Bandcamp, Soundcloud or Spotify, what would pull users away from established services to the Denver Public Library's Volume?

"I think the one thing that we have is the specifically local piece," Lietzau said. "What we're trying to find is a place that creates a really Denver-centric community. That's a niche that people are interested in."

The service is local to its core — any band that's not based in Colorado isn't allowed to be included in Volume. To compile these local artists, DPL started by putting out a call for submissions.

For this first batch of local musicians, Volume received 91 submissions and selected 50 of those using a committee consisting of library staff and local music enthusiasts who have worked in record stores or reviewed music.

"Hopefully, the fact that they make it through is a source of pride," Lietzau said. "But the biggest thing for them is that local exposure."

While getting some major players in the Colorado music scene — like OneRepublic, The Fray and others — would provide great visibility for Volume, Lietzau said that record label restrictions would deter bigger bands from participating.

But, for smaller bands not yet signed to a record deal, this isn't an issue. In fact, unlike many major online streaming services, Volume will pay artists for their music. Volume gives musicians $100 to host a full album for two years.

As of now, the Volume budget will support 100 albums a year. This budget, and the number of albums available, will grow if Volume proves to be successful.

"We would gauge success on how often things are downloaded," Lietzau said.

from: Denver Post