31 December 2007

Barcode information

If you need help filling out the bottom portion of your invoice, which requests barcode information, read on!

In order for patrons to access the Listen Up! Vermont collection at home, they will need to log in using a unique number. Patrons will first choose your library name from a pull-down list, and then will have to type in a number, which should be between 6 and 14 digits long.

The first four digits in that number can either be:
  1. the four numbers that begin your barcodes
  2. a sequence of four numbers of your choosing, which is easy to remember and yet does not begin with 1 or 0. Maybe your zip code, without the zero? The year your library was founded?
Then, OverDrive requires that each library submit a range of barcodes -- really, patron numbers. If you are not automated, look at your patron list and fill in your first number assigned to a patron (maybe that's 1, or 12, or 86) and then the last number. You want room to grow, so add to that last number -- if you have 1500 patrons and the first number assigned to a patron that is still in use is 24, then your barcode range could be 24 to 2100, giving you 600 new patrons until you run out of access.

If you are automated, you probably want your patrons to be able to type in their entire barcode, just to make things easier. Send in your barcode range with your four digit beginning number, the placeholder digits in the middle, and what you think might be the lowest number barcode you've assigned. On Follett, I could find this by going to Reports, choosing Circulation Reports, and then choosing Used/Unused Patron Barcodes. Again, think about how many new patrons you register a year and add 5 years worth of barcodes at the end.

So, for examples -- you could have something like 540112 (maybe you are patron number 12 at the library in Burlington), or you could have something like 22373000230000 (if you are a patron at an automated library submitting a full barcode). As far as I know, both will work just fine, provided you choose the right library!

OverDrive requires this range so that not-just-anyone can access the collection -- that the person trying to use the service will actually be a patron at a library. Make sure your barcode range is something that makes sense for you, your patrons, and your records!

20 December 2007

Calling all designers

Does anyone out there know someone who is good with creating logos -- a friend, or perhaps a teacher who teaches graphic design at your school? Let's try and get a logo for the Green Mountain Library Consortium and for Listen Up! Vermont. I can post the entries, and we could always vote. Not artistically talented? Leave suggestions for what the logo should look like in the comments.

19 December 2007

New members

Welcome to our latest members:
  • Bristol Elementary School
  • Castleton Free Library
  • Dailey Memorial Library, Derby
  • Fletcher Memorial Library, Ludlow
  • Georgia Public Library
  • Green Mountain Union High School
  • Groton Free Library
  • Morristown Centennial Library
  • Tenney Memorial Library, Newbury
Remember, the GMLC wants every library that is interested in participating to be able to do so. Let us know if you think you are interested, what questions we can answer, or if you need to discuss your proposed subscription level.

18 December 2007

FAQ: how can my patrons use this service?

Now that we've chosen a vendor, we can more specifically answer some of the questions libraries have had about the downloadable audio book service.

  1. How will my patrons get to the collection? The Listen Up! Vermont project will have its own web site, similar to what New Hampshire has (http://nh.lib.overdrive.com). Patrons can access the web site from anywhere they have access to a computer -- such as home, at 2am, if they wish! They will choose their library name from a list and enter their library card number (which the GMLC will get from each library before the service begins). No automation necessary.
  2. What mp3 players are compatible? As we have said before in a post about iPods, iPods are unfortunately not able to be used at this time with any of the companies providing this service to libraries. However, a wide range of Windows-based mp3 players are; you can access the list on OverDrive's web site at http://overdrive.com/resources/drc/compatibledevices.asp. Patrons may want to purchase an inexpensive device, or your library may want to purchase a few to circulate.
  3. What should I look for in an mp3 player? Of course, make sure it is compatible. You should look for the memory size of the device: 512MB is more than sufficient for the average book, and a 1GB device should fit even the longest one. If you have the ability to go to a store and look at the models, you might want to think about the size of the device (is it too small?), or, more importantly, the size of the buttons (which might be pretty small). I circulate mine in an empty book-on-cd vinyl case, with the instructions tucked into a cd pocket -- and I leave the headphones out (patrons must provide their own).
  4. Do I need to use an mp3 player? No. You can listen to the book on a computer, or, if allowed (as it is with approximately, by OverDrive's estimates, 85% of titles)burn the title to cd and listen in your stereo, your car, etc.
  5. What about listening to a title in the car? Well, if a title cannot be burned to cd or you don't have a cd player, you can hook your mp3 player up to the car stereo. Newer stereos may have a plug built right in; otherwise, patrons can purchase a special FM transmitter cord that will play the mp3 player contents over the stereo.
  6. What about my patrons on dialup? A plus to OverDrive is that the audio books are broken up into parts, so that the individual parts are able to be downloaded in a reasonable amount of time -- 10 to 15 minutes a part, perhaps -- on dialup. Just as a book on cd might have 8 cds, your audio book might have 8 parts, but a patron does not have to download the parts all at once. They can go back and download a part at a time during the checkout period.
  7. How much time does it take for a patron for a patron to download an item? That, of course, varies by the length of the audio book and the connection speed. As a test, I just downloaded all 15 hours of Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible on a DSL connection in approximately 20 minutes -- about 1 minute a part. On dialup, that would be slower, and on a cable modem, faster.
  8. What about at the Library? Do I have to allow patrons to download there? What if I don't have enough computer time or enough computers? In NH, when I used OverDrive, I had only two patrons come in to the Library to download in the first six months -- and that was in a town where everyone "up in the hills" was still on dialup. It is up to you what level of service you want to provide at your library. If you have DSL, or even better, a cable modem at your library, patrons should easily be able to download a book in the typical 30-minute computer time slot.
  9. What do I have to do to "check in" a book? Nothing. The downloaded audio book comes with a built-in expiration date, so the file will become unusable at the "check in" date. Patrons will have to manually delete the file from their computer. Files will not expire on the mp3 player or on the cd.
More questions? Let us know! Contact Stephanie Chase, coordinator, at schase[at]stowelibrary.org.

17 December 2007

OverDrive it is!

The votes are in, and the Green Mountain Library Consortium selection committee has chosen OverDrive (http://www.overdrive.com/products/dlr/) to provide downloadable audio book service to member libraries.

OverDrive has an excellent selection of titles from a wide variety of publishers, including a group of "Always Available" (i.e., unlimited simultaneous user) titles. Approximately 85% of the titles can be burned to cd, allowing for additional portability.

Importantly, OverDrive also offers a series of excellent online courses to help librarians wrap their heads around downloadable audio book service, and be able to answer basic patron questions.

Keep an eye on the posts labeled "FAQ" for more answers to specific questions about the service. And, if the choice of vendor has helped change your mind, let the committee know by emailing coordinator Stephanie Chase at schase[at]stowelibrary.org to sign up.

14 December 2007

The deadline approaches...

We're giving you another week to sign up for the Green Mountain Library Consortium's Listen Up! Vermont project. The original deadline was December 15; we're extending that to December 21, as it has taken longer than we envisioned to choose our vendor.

We expect to announce at the beginning of next week who the vendor providing the downloadable audio book service will be, and we know that announcement will probably make a difference to some libraries on the fence. We'll also be able to answer more specifically some questions libraries have asked us. So stay tuned for that!

13 December 2007

Try out our vendors

Don't forget -- you can give the two vendors we are looking at a try. Email the GMLC coordinator, Stephanie Chase, at schase[at]stowelibrary.org to get a login and password for a netLibrary trial (good until 12/18/07) or to try out OverDrive using New Hampshire's program.

Also, welcome our newest members:
  • Carpenter-Carse Library, Hinesburg
  • Fletcher Elementary School
  • Moretown Elementary School
  • Proctor Library
  • Rochester School
  • St Albans Free Library
That makes 1 community library, 37 public libraries, and 19 schools.

10 December 2007

Our newest members

The list keeps growing, and it is wonderful:
  • Essex Free Library
  • Hancock Town Library
  • Jericho Town Library
  • Poultney Public Library
  • Windsor Public Library

07 December 2007

Welcome!

I love that I get to do so many posts welcoming libraries to the Listen Up! Vermont project. Here are our newest members:
  • North Country Union Jr High School, Newport
  • Pettee Memorial Library, Wilmington
  • Putney Public Library
  • Rutland Free Library
  • Springfield Town Library
  • Tunbridge Public Library
  • Twinfield Union School
This brings the total number of participating libraries to 44.

05 December 2007

Vermont Edition

Have you listened to the Vermont Edition from 11/29 featuring Sybil McShane and Lisa von Kann? Give it a listen:

http://www.vpr.net/episode/42259/

FAQ: How much is available, and when?

You might be wondering just how big a collection the Consortium is going to be sharing, and when people can access them.

At this point, we should have between 400 and 500 titles for the Consortium to share, and all of those titles will be available all the time -- except when they are checked out by one of our patrons. That might seem like not enough titles to share amongst our (as of today) 41 member libraries, but when New Hampshire started their program, the consortium had about 1,000 titles -- perhaps double ours, with double the population, and it was very successful, with wait times for popular titles with holds averaging three days or less and most titles having no wait time.

Naturally, the more libraries that participate and the more pledge money the GMLC receives, the more content we can purchase.

What about those popular titles? Naturally, one of the tasks the Selection Committee has is to purchase titles according to demand. It is most likely that our popular titles will have more than one copy in the collection. These guidelines will be set out in the Selection Policy, which must be approved by the GMLC members.

As for access, once patrons sign up, they will be able to access the collection at any time, since they will just have to go online. Schools may choose to limit their access as they see fit -- many school librarians have asked about this topic, and those libraries could certainly have the librarian or their teaching staff serve as the access point to the collection, rather than having students create accounts.

FAQ: What about statistics?

It is important to know that regardless of which company we choose, netLibrary or OverDrive, individual GMLC member libraries will be able to see their user statistics, and perhaps the titles your patrons are checking out too. You will have to check a report and add those statistics back into your total circulation statistics.

04 December 2007

netLibrary trial

Until 12/18/07, members of the Green Mountain Library Consortium have access to the netLibrary through a trial subscription. Want to see what titles are available? What the layout looks like? Email Stephanie Chase at schase[at]stowelibrary.org for the user name and password.

Remember, we are still in the process of choosing between netLibrary and OverDrive to provide this service to the state.

03 December 2007

More new members

Welcome!
  • Brownell Library, Essex Jct.
  • Chelsea School
  • Cutler Memorial Library, Plainfield
  • Hartford Library
  • Kellogg-Hubbard Library, Montpelier
  • Lincoln Community School
  • Proctor Jr/Sr High School
  • Quechee Public Library
  • Stamford Community Library

29 November 2007

Newest Members

Welcome to the following libraries:
  • Aldrich Public Library, Barre
  • Bethel Elementary School, Bethel
  • Flood Brook Union School, Londonderry
  • Hartland Public Library
  • The Lyndon Institute
  • North Country Union High School, Newport
  • Whitcomb Jr/Sr High School, Bethel

FAQ: What about iPods?

Unfortunately, none of the companies providing downloadable audio book service to libraries can provide a service compatible with iPods. Sure, you can buy audiobooks through iTunes for your iPod, and you can subscribe to Audible and pay to download a certain number of titles per month, but neither of these services allow for items to be checked in or out. It's just like the difference between a bookstore and your library.

The technology that allows for electronic items to be checked in and out is governed by digital rights management, or DRM. You've probably heard this term in relation to music mp3s. Windows has its own DRM software, and so does Apple -- and never the twain shall meet, at least for now. All of the providers of check-in-and-out-able downloadable audio books use Windows-based DRM, which requires Windows Media Player (version 9.0 or greater).

So what to do?
  • Offer a quick-access computer station in your library so people can stop in and download (helps folks with slow Internet connections or those with Macs, as well as all those who just need to quickly check their email).
  • Purchase a few portable mp3 players to circulate. Generally, players made by Archos, Creative Labs, Samsung, and Toshiba are compatible with the service and can be purchased for as little as $30 from major retailers such as Staples, Circuit City, etc. That's less than almost any traditional audio book, and can be used for any title. Patrons can check these out for however long you determine (two weeks? three?) and either load a book at the library or bring it home.
  • There are workarounds. Ask your favorite techie or Google and you'll find many ways that your patrons can get audio onto their iPods.
As many states and libraries around the country are doing, we will continue to pressure vendors to offer access to both platforms. It's not likely in the next year -- but eventually, it will become reality.

28 November 2007

FAQ: When can I access the collection?

This is really two questions, perhaps:
  • When will the collection be available? Well, we're aiming for January. Individual libraries will obviously want to think about when to promote the service to patrons -- how much time will you want to test the service yourself, etc.
  • What if I can't pay until July? You'll still have access to the collection in January. Subscriptions run on a calendar year basis, but we know that many libraries in this first year cannot pay their fee until the new fiscal year.

Finally, a name

After much deliberation, we've come up with a name. Our group of libraries banding together will be called the Green Mountain Library Consortium -- if this group continues to grow, this name will allow us to become a legal entity, and is broad enough to cover future endeavors.

As for this particular project, the winner was Listen Up! Vermont, which also happened to be the favorite of the Selection Committee. Thanks David Clark of Ilsley for the catchy name.

All participating libraries will be receiving an invoice from the Green Mountain Library Consortium, so checks can be written to the consortium, rather than the vendor.

27 November 2007

Welcome Members!

Welcome to our first members of the "Downloadable Audiobook Project," still in search of the perfect name:
  • Brooks Memorial Library, Brattleboro
  • Brown Public Library, Northfield
  • Burnham Memorial Library, Colchester
  • Charlotte Library
  • Dorothy Alling Memorial Library, Williston
  • Ilsley Public Library, Middlebury
  • Kimball Public Library, Randolph
  • The Long Trail School, Dorset
  • Montpelier High School
  • Mt. Abraham Union High School, Bristol
  • Norwich Public Library
  • The Putney School
  • Richmond Public Library
  • Stowe Free Library
  • Vernon Public Library
  • Warren Public Library

26 November 2007

FAQ: What kinds of books will there be?

The consortium is committed to providing a variety of content for patrons to download: New York Times best sellers and other popular titles; any available Dorothy Canfield Fisher titles; classics; language study; and, of course, the collection will try to include at least a few of those quirky titles libraries otherwise might not try. There will be a balance of children's, young adult, and adult titles, and both fiction and non-fiction will be purchased. Students, teachers, and patrons of all ages should be able to find something to listen to!

The titles in the collection will be chosen by a Selection Committee that is made up of five members: three public library representatives, one academic library representative, and one school library representative. If we have a large response from school or academic libraries, the Committee will add another representative from that kind of library, for a maximum of seven members. From the Committee members, a Coordinator will be chosen.

The members of the Committee will purchase according to a Selection Policy that has been approved by a majority of the participating libraries. This policy will cover not only what kinds of audio books to purchase, but give percentage guidelines and what kind of demand an item may have before an additional copy is purchased.

FAQ: What do I get for my money?

You might be wondering why to sign up for downloadable audio book service. What is the benefit to an individual library?

First, and importantly, for your subscription fee, you have access to the entire collection of online audiobooks. Provided we raise our target amount, the consortium should be able to purchase approximately 500 audio books. Even at the $1,000 level, it is as if you are paying $2 a book -- significantly less than what we pay for books on cd! Our collection will only continue to grow as people pledge their subscription fees.

Second, this method for delivering content is where libraries are headed, and what many patrons look for. Patrons will be able to search and download at the library, of course, but they also can download a book to take on a trip at 6am the morning they leave, or access a book on school vacation -- the service is not dependent upon your catalog (or lack thereof) or your hours. Offering this service to your patrons moves Vermont and your library to the forefront.

Offering this service can dramatically expand your audio book offerings, without taking up an inch of space and without having to repair any pesky cds!

Finally, the more libraries that band together to provide the service, the more titles we can provide. Your library taking part -- and perhaps at the beginning, paying slightly more -- helps other libraries see the value in the service and provide it to their patrons.

See what New Hampshire has thought about the service at http://nhaudiobooks.blogspot.com/.

21 November 2007

A new venture

A group of approximately 25 libraries in the state have gotten together to organize providing downloadable audio book service on a statewide level here in Vermont.

Downloadable audio books allow your patrons to access titles through the Internet (or, if you are automated, through your catalog as well) and download them onto their computer or an approved mp3 player. Some titles may be allowed to be burned to cd. Libraries of any size, regardless of whether or not they are automated, can provide this service, and libraries of any type – public, school, and academic, may join the consortium.

Service will be provided by either netLibrary, which provides content from Recorded Books, Random House, Listening Library, and Blackstone, or OverDrive, which provides content from BBC Audiobooks America, Blackstone Audio, Books on Tape, Brilliance Audio, Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Listening Library, and McGraw-Hill.


Interested? Contact Stephanie Chase at the Stowe Free Library: schase[at]stowelibrary.org.