Thursday, October 25, 2012

FASTER patron-driven acquisitions (PDA): a library model

OUR LIBRARY has pioneered what we believe is the first program of its kind in patron-driven acquisitions.

One of the problems with most library collections is that although they may be extensive, they can never be complete.  And when the patron requests books on a topic, for example, "theoretical experimental particle physics," although the library may pride itself on its exhaustive collection, with current on-demand and online publishing it can't ever call its collection complete.  So when the patron is given ten current books on "theoretical experimental particle physics," it is still a common occurrence whereby the patron will respond with infantile disappointment.

So the current model of collection development is broken.  Libraries can't ever hope to meet every need. We buy and buy, but it's never enough for some people.  So our library has adopted a new model that reduces our inability to fulfill our patrons' requests down to nearly zero.  If the material exists, we can get it.

Here is a typical PDA transaction at our library:

The patron has expressed a need for some online content and the librarian assesses the system requirements of the content and the system configuration held by the patron  to verify a match. When a match is found, for example, an iPad, the librarian will initiate the purchase by locating the item in the app and downloading it to the patron's device.

"Enter your password."


"This is how it works. Just do it."


"Now tap that."


"And it's downloading to your iPad.  And you can read it right now.  Pretty cool, huh."

"But I didn't want to spend *my* money!  That book was four *hundred* dollars!"

"But the library already spends your money through the taxes you pay.  This is faster."

"You DICK!"

As you can see from the model, the patron gets what they want, when they want it, but the cost to the library has also been reduced to nearly zero.

The uniqueness of this model is that the library does not spend any money, at all, for the item.  The content is delivered to the patron utilizing her own funds.

Patrons get their content when they want it and the library doesn't need to waste staff time creating payment systems for the various e-content retail outlets because the patrons already has those accounts configured on their own devices.

The previous model of collection building by purchasing (leasing) large expensive online products proved over the years to create a WIN-LOSE situation for libraries where patrons WIN by having access to vast online materials, but libraries LOSE by paying yearly maintenance fees to keep the content access current. This model creates a LOSE-WIN situation for the library.

The LOSE-WIN model, where patrons PAY money for their content when they want it is a BIG WIN for our library.  

Libraries can never anticipate demand for any book or magazine.  And other PDA models still suffered from the universal weakness of using library money for something that only one person wants.  Giving patrons the power to buy what they want when they want it with someone else's money was turning them into assholes and we believe this model corrects that behavior.

We believe that the patron-driven/patron-payment (PDPP) model satisfies many libraries' needs for faster delivery of content to their users.  Maybe you will, too.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Lies librarians tell. Or maybe just me.

When is a library program not a library program?

According to the rules at my library, I did nothing today.  Two months ago, I submitted the topic for today's program to the marketing department who added it to the schedule of classes we post on our calendars.  One month ago, I created the sign up sheet for the program and posted it in the book at the desk for patrons to enter their information and register for the class. This morning I set up the room, copied the handouts and got the sign-up sheet to check in the patrons who had registered. 

One person showed.

According to the definition of a "program," I did not have one today.  Because the rules say, "training delivered one-on-one and not to a group is not to be counted as a library program."

So, does programming delivered to one person count as a program?

I could argue that as intended the training was for a group, but that's not what the defintion says. So I have two options: submit my sheet with my one student and have the program counted as something else that is not a program, or lie.  So I marked that two people showed.  And two, by my definitiion, is a group.  And by the library's definition, a group means a program.

Most people think wrongly that libraries are here for books, when libraries are really here for statistics.  We continually measure what we do, how long we take to do it, how much it costs and how many people benefit from whatever is done.

Well, at my library, we value library programs.  We offer as many as we can.  We schedule rooms for them, arange speakers. set up chairs, turn on projectors, adjust the A/C.  We count the ones we present, the people who show and the ones we turn away because they came too damn late.

So what I need to know is, what is a program?  Does it matter how many people show, or how big the venue is, or who the presenter is, or whether there was cake?

These are my options for what could be a program compared to what is not.  From the choices below, which would you call programs?

All of these are computer instruction and/or adult informational transactions. But I guess you could modify them to use with story times.  But if you're offering free story times at your library, but the parents/daycares aren't bringing the kids, then you probably have bigger problems than we can solve here.
  • making an appointment for the next day for 30 minutes to show a patron how to download an ebook
  • making an appointment for the next day for 30 minutes to show a patron how to download an ebook and she shows up with her spouse who also wants to learn
  • scheduling a computer program in the computer lab, but only one person shows up
  • making an appointment for the next day for 30 minutes to show a man how to download an ebook and he shows up 3 other people who also want to learn so you move the group into the meeting room or computer lab
  • offering computer catalog instruction the same time each morning: someone attends
  • offering computer catalog instruction the same time each morning: no one attends
  • offering computer catalog instruction the same time each morning, but someone shows up later and wants it then
  • inviting several people to a table to let them see the library's new iPad
  • advertising to invite people to let them see the library's new iPad
  • ?
This is just a survey; there are no wrong answers. But since this is about libraries, there are only wrong answers.

Friday, October 12, 2012

They made me a criminal

So I'm guessing that you're looking forward to the day when the only use you'll have for paper is that you wipe your ass with it.  That you'll do and read everything on your iPad or Kindle or Galaxy or Nexus something something.

And before you shout out, "Wipe your, WHAT?" and earn yourself the nickname Skidmarks McGee, let me explain that in most places in the USA, people use paper to wipe their asses after they poop.  You can see cartoon bears give lessons on TV every day.

But if you prefer not to wipe, I can tell you that if you spray your ass with WD-40, you won't have to wipe at all because nothing sticks. And if you spray a generous coating of"butter-flavor" PAM cooking spray, people will smell you and think you just baked cookies.

Here are your differences between paper books and electronic books, in case you forgot, since that's what this post about, and not ass-wiping:

tear it: no penalty
sell it: no penalty (unless it was intended for foreign markets - see below)
lend it: no penalty
wipe your ass with it: the respect of your peers

reverse engineer it: sued, fined, prosecuted
copy it: sued, fined, prosecuted
share it: sued, fined, prosecuted
modify it: sued, fined, prosecuted

But my asshole friends in the library world tell me that they can get around any protections the industry builds into the format.  Well, fuckety-do to you, Mr, Wizard.  What you're doing is illegal or actionable in a court of law.  And considering the desperation within the publishing industry, I'm guessing that someone is getting fucked by them pretty soon.  Probably not you, but maybe that student you showed how to do all your wizardy stuff.  And if you show someone how to do illegal stuff, they might come looking for you, too.
All this shit is illegal.  Everything we've come to expect from paper is now illegal to do with electronic.  They did the same thing with analog and digital music: copy one and you're fine; share the other and you're fined.

But this is the BIG QUESTION:
Why create a system where the only way I can benefit from it makes me a criminal?

And even bigger, WHY don't you care?

In just a few short years, we went from a country of people who value privacy to a group who just doesn't give a fuck.


This country was founded on giving a fuck.  But I see that lately we feel it's not our place.  We just do what we're told.  Because we're just glad to have a job or be out of jail or have a place to shit.

I don't know what happened to us, but I don't like it.  And like many of you, I barely have two fucks to rub together.  But that means I have one fuck, so I'm giving it.

And if that's not bad enough that we get fucked by technology, we're starting to get fucked by geography.  As an example, if Apple releases a limited edition red iPad in China, but you want one so bad, you know, because you're stupid, that you buy one online or have a friend bring you one or whatever, you WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO HAVE YOUR IPAD SERVICED BY APPLE LOCALLY without the very real threat that will confiscate it because it wasn't meant to be sold here.  Unless you can show you currently live in China.

For years, we've had Regions for DVDs.  We live in Region 1.  And if you try to play a DVD from a different Region, the odds are pretty good that your DVD player will reject it and not play it.  But if you can play those DVDs with a "region-free" player, you might have a collection of Korean or wherever DVDs that you got because they were cheaper or of versions of movies never released in the US, and not on Netflix.  So if these were never intended for the US market, can I ever resell them?

So this isn't just about books or music or movies.  This is about corporations publicly encouraging global commerce, while lobbying for legislation to restrict local commerce.  They want the benefits of cheap labor and and economic growth in emerging markets while still controlling prices and supplies in existing markets.

The message to me seems to be: Buy our Product! Now, Go Fuck Yourself.

Why do we put up with that?

Thursday, October 11, 2012


-- these are meant to be signs placed above the shelves near the books. 

299.7 CAS

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

the Age of Digital Illiteracy

Did you know that the ability to "Like" something is not a sign of digital literacy?  I feel it's a sign of the Apocalypse, but that's beside the point.

So I'm reading the "Digital Literacy, Libraries, and Public Policy: Report of the American Library Association Digital Literacy Task Force," Sept 18, 2012 Draft... and I'm feeling less and less literate as I try to understand it.

Right off, while reading "DEFINING DIGITAL LITERACY," I realize that I can't think of anyone who might make the cut for being digitally literate.  The (draft) definition is, "Digital Literacy is the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills."

Okay, on second reading, I can see that there is no actual level or evaluation of literacy included in the definition.  And I guess that's good for the definition to survive the draft phase.  Because my brain inserts words where none had been:  "Digital Literacy is the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills without jabbing yourself in the groin with something pointy; or spilling very hot liquid in your crotch: your choice; tomato, tomahto."

When I think of digital literacy, I feel that there should be some positive outcome from the use of those informational tools.  And by positive, I exclude giving your Social Security Number to online criminals.  Because this draft definition doesn't try to make anyone feel bad for how well or poorly they use information or communication technologies.  In fact, I would guess that this definition could probably make a baboon feel included since about any monkey has the ability to find something, regardless of whether it was the intended or desired material; to evaluate in some form of feces throwing; to create in some other form of feces tossing; and communicate however evolution saw fit to endow them through natural selection; probably something involving feces.

I'm guessing maybe only mollusks might feel some sense of failure.

But that's not what the definition says, so screw you, baboons.  You're not so looking so superior next to those clams, now because they've added this: "It also is important to note that digital literacy *must* include mastery of traditional literacy,..."

Holy crap!  'Mastery of traditional literacy'??  In America?  What the hell is the drop-out rate?  And if that's not bad enough, now they further refine the definition to mean, "...high-level cognitive skills on finding, evaluating, ethically using, creating, and sharing information also are required..."  Really? 'Ethically using'?  Does that include looking at porn?  Too bad. Because I would guess that if you can view porn, masturbate, and not drop your iPad, you've mastered digital literacy.

But the good news is that libraries are already pioneers in developing programs that teach high-level cognitive skill, as the report notes: "libraries have shared that they offer Internet basics taught through searching for and 'clipping' coupons. Librarians report that these classes provide learners with transferable skills in a personally relevant framework." Huh? Clipping coupons?  Maybe my expectations for 'high-level cognitive training' were set way too high.

What really pisses me off about this is that we've had 60 years of television and 100 years of telephones and no librarian seemed to care whether anyone was literate enough to use these information and communications technologies.  No one cared how often you abused the telephone by calling someone at 2:00 A.M. to ask them if their refrigerator was running.  And no one bothered to teach anyone how to evaluate a television commercial that claimed some product or candidate was so much better than the other or that any product promoted in any infomercial was even worth calling that toll-free number to buy.  No one has ever cared whether anyone was literate before now.  Did someone finally notice that telephones and television have made us so stupid that we needed this intervention? 

I teach computer classes at my library.  But if I were required to wait until my students had developed any above-average level (or mastery) of traditional literacy before I allowed them to sit in my classes, my classes would be empty.  Yes, I see students who are prepared to learn, but they sit next to some other guy who has plucked the Q off the keyboard and swallowed it.

I don't know how you can define something which is dependent upon something else: banana, definition: delicious fruit so long as spiders haven't poisoned them. So how can you train someone to be digitally literate if you can't be sure he's mastered traditional literacy?  And that your tools don't present a choking hazard? (Damn you, Q!)

But the truly good news from this "Digital Literacy, Libraries, and Public Policy" is this: "Libraries can capitalize on the current interest in digital literacy and at the same time educate stakeholders as to the broader concepts involved in becoming truly digitally literate over a lifetime."

Become literate, then die.  Awesome.

(posted, as usual, without proofreading - don't say I didn't warn you if it doesn't make sense)