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.