Posts filed under ‘Library Classes’
This past year has been a frustrating one for me as an e-book selector and an e-reader trainer. I found that I had to take some time to step back and just calm down. Ranting about the various publishers and their practices did nothing to remedy the situation. This is still true, even as we face another holiday season where our patrons will demand more e-books and need help with new e-readers.
Thinking I’d be ahead of the game this year, I researched and prepared what I thought would be a popular talk on Selecting The Best E-Reader for Your Reading Needs. I prepared endless tables on handouts comparing the latest and greatest offerings from Nook, Kindle, Apple, Samsung, Nexus and several other brands. I was shocked when only eight people signed up to attend the program this past week. I downsized the presentation room and scheduled it for our computer lab, knowing it would comfortably fit a dozen patrons. Then I got another surprise – not only did the eight registered attendees show up, but another eight folks just walked in, ready to participate. I ended up hauling more chairs into the area, but I was delighted that I had a fairly full house.
I took a survey of my attendees and found that only two of them wanted to purchase what I’d call a traditional dedicated e-reader using the e-ink technology. The rest were pretty much sold on one of the various Kindle Fires or a tablet. By far, the iPad Mini was the most popular device of the night. While we all admired the traditional iPad for its retina display, most users were put off by the relative bulk and heft of the device when used as an e-reader. The iPad Mini was judged to be just the right size for holding as a reading device and it weighed less than several of the other tablets. Despite the price difference, it appeared that our patrons were willing to pay quite a bit more just to get the iPad Mini experience.
I have a follow-up program scheduled for the first week in January called Help! I Have a New E-Reader and I Don’t Know How to Use It. It will be interesting to see how many of my folks actually received or purchased an e-reader for Christmas and if they got the one they chose from my program. In addition, I’m holding a small classes for hands-on instruction on downloading to Kindles and Nooks. Hopefully our new device owners will take advantage of these free training opportunities so they can enjoy this new technology.
So while I get discouraged by the lack of progress with publishers, formats and DRM, it’s the new users at our Library that bring me back to reality and keep me excited by this new digital world of e-books.
I’ve been taking a break from posting over the past six weeks, mainly due to the never-ending stream of classes I’ve been teaching on how to download e-books to your e-reader. I’ve also been suffering, I confess, from simply being overwhelmed by the changes by various publishers and the increasing difficulty in trying to unravel the downloading differences in a way that makes sense to our staff and patrons. Frankly, if I get confused by the various scenarios in getting a book from our OverDrive site to a device, I can only imagine how much more challenging it must be for the rest of the staff to remember. I work with this technology each and every day. Other librarians and support staff don’t have that advantage. I’ve done five classes on downloading so far this month. I have another one scheduled for tomorrow. Two classes have been Kindle specific, and the handouts and hands-on demonstrations I gave to these patrons are now out of date due to the Penguin changes. My dilema is how to now get word to these misinformed users that they must now follow a different procedure. I don’t dare prepare anything more than a few days in advance for fear it will again change.
There are days when I simply want to throw in the towel and give up, but in my heart of hearts, I know that the entire e-book/e-reader technology is in its infancy and, by necessity, must go through growing pains. It frustrates me that we’re not getting clearer – and correct – information from our vendor, but they, too, must be pulling their hair out, virtually, of course. At some point, I trust that publishers will come to some sort of agreement with vendors and that libraries will be able to afford to then take their place in the world of digital books. Certainly our patrons have come to expect materials from us in a variety of formats and they are now equipped with e-readers, so they are told by Amazon and Barnes and Noble to come to us as lenders of free e-books.
In the meantime, the best advice I can give other folks in this same situation is to communicate. For staff, I send out emails whenever there is a change of any kind relating to e-books. I write articles for our web page and do instructional handouts that I also post on our web page for use by staff and the public. We continue to do regular classes on downloading for our patrons. Finally, we have an E-reader Users Group that meets on a monthly basis. It’s time consuming, but worth it when we have better informed staff and satisfied patrons. That’s why we are all in the profession!
After working like a mad woman to get the Library’s Joomla site launched, it was time for a bit of R&R for yours truly, so I took off to Las Vegas for a long weekend.
The reason for the trip was the annual Mr. Olympia Expo and competition at the Las Vegas Convention Center and my son asked us to go along with him. I must admit, being a “well-rounded” person, I was a bit embarrassed to be seen in a sea of bronzed, muscular young people, but how could I refuse! Once I got there, I tried my best to act like I actually knew something about the nutritional “supplements” that the young beauties were handing to me as freebies, but I was pretty clueless. My attention was drawn instead to the technology employed by the various nutrition companies to garner prospective buyers. Rather than have potential customers fill out paper forms, I saw dozens of iPads and other mobile devices in use for gathering email addresses. In order to obtain a free tee-shirt, nutritional sample or supplement shaker, each person first had to input information including name and email. Thankfully, I have three or four different addreses, so I used the one I created just for marketing spam. At one booth, I felt rather insulted when a barely 20-ish woman asked me if I knew how to use an iPad. When I replied that indeed I did, she looked at me and said “Well, good for you!” Was it because I’m over 60 that I got that response? Who knows, but I then explained to her that I owned not one but two different iPads and used them regularly.
At another vendor station I whipped out my iPhone and used my QR scanner to “like” the company on Facebook and thus claim my shaker bottle. A young woman nearby watched me intently and then proceeded to use her phone to take a photo of the QR code. I quietly explained to her that it really wasn’t going to work unless she had a scanner app loaded on her device. It took the salesman working at the booth to back me up before she looked convinced that I knew what I was talking about.
Both of these incidents made me feel both sad and a bit angry at the same time. Just because I’m a woman of a certain age, am I assumed to be computer illiterate? Stepping back, I then examined my own attitude in arranging our Library’s computer training classes for patrons. I schedule our computer basics classes during the daytime for the convenience of seniors who don’t like to drive at night and then run the Excel classes in the evening for the younger, working patrons. Perhaps I’m guilty of the same attitudes that I dislike in others! Along with gaining a small amount of knowledge regarding bodybuilding this past weekend, I came back home with a new eye to scheduling our computer literacy classes at the Library. Now it’s back to work…
Last night we had our third “informal” e-reader program at the Library. About twenty patrons spent time asking questions and examining the six different devices. One of the most frequent questions I’ve been asked over the past five months, last night included, is “Which e-reader do you recommend for me to buy.” Each time I tactfully tell the patron that it’s their decision and I am not there to push any particular product. Last night, one man said he’d have to go to Consumer Reports for help since I was unwilling to rank devices. I told him that was a good option, but to remember that they wouldn’t be able to discuss the whole downloading OverDrive books, only compare devices. At that point, he got a bit angry and wanted to know why I wouldn’t help him. It got me thinking about our role in providing information to the public. It seems like those of us who research the e-readers, use them regularly, and know the OverDrive interface, are among the best ones to give recommendations – and yet we either can’t or won’t. How crazy is that?? Rationally, I can say that Consumer Reports reviewers are paid to research and then give written rankings. We’re not. We give unbiased information based on a number of sources and experience. Last night I ended up conducting a mini interview with the “Consumer Reports patron”, leading him through his needs and expectations from an e-reader and then showing him the different devices that might best meet his criteria. Naturally, my personal experience had a part in this discussion. When asked which product I owned, I told him which ones and why I chose them. In the end, I felt like I had favored one brand over another, but our gentleman went away satisfied and not feeling like I was stonewalling him. It is an uncomfortable position for me and one that too many of us face when we give information but not recommendations. On the Reader’s Advisory Desk we give book recommendations based on our expertise. Should it be any different with technology?
We had an “informal” hands-on evening (90 minutes) for patrons to get up close and personal with six different brands of e-readers scheduled for last night. At least that’s what I thought we had promoted in our newsletter. In my original plans, I anticipated having patrons drop by our table set up in the middle of our DVD browsing area and spending a few minutes talking with them about the differences in the devices and then showing them how to download e-books from Overdrive. I felt like we’d be lucky to see twenty patrons over the course of the evening. What happened in reality was far different!
Thankfully, I set up my table with chairs for two of us earlier in the afternoon. There were aleady several comfortable chairs in this browsing area of the Library for anyone who wanted to sit and experience reading a book on a device. When my fellow librarian and I arrived at ten minutes before the scheduled start of this program, the area was already packed with patrons who had brought additional chairs from surrounding parts of the main level and were waiting patiently for us to arrive. I immediately realized that my plans for a casual person-to-person approach was out of the question. I was totally blown away by the number of folks who continue to be interested in e-readers!
I had already given a formal presentation in January, complete with a PowerPoint presentation, so I simply “winged it” and went through my original talk to this new group of potential users. Unfortunately, I had neither notes nor slides to guide me, so I pretty much spoke off the top of my head. Thankfully, we had a lively group – by this time numbering over 40 – and they had lots of questions. I was able to pass around each device after I took a few minutes extolling its positive and negative points. By the time we were ready to take down our table and put away our e-readers, almost two hours had passed. I think our attendees went away with valuable information and I certainly learned a few things as well -
1. Never under-estimate the popularity of e-books and e-readers in your community.
2. See if public meeting rooms are available for the next two scheduled “informal” hands-on demonstrations. We pretty much disrupted life for the patrons who wanted to browse our DVD collection in our current setting.
3. Don’t forget to introduce yourself and your co-presenter, no matter how rattled you are!!
4. Always have notes ready for those “just in case” situations.
5. Remember that it’s only a program and no matter how badly you think you may have done, your audience appreciates your efforts.
Stay tuned for results from our next adventure with e-readers…
Even though I did a lot of research for my first talk to our Library patrons regarding e-readers, I was still worried that I had missed something important or that I’d be asked a question for which I had no answer. I think all of us who give presentations have similiar fears up to the moment the program starts. Certainly I was impressed by the number of library patrons who showed up on a cold night in January to listen to what I had to say about this topic – somewhere between 55 and 60 is my guesstimate. Before I began the formal talk, I asked for a show of hands as to how many folks already owned an e-reader and then found out which brand they used. The majority of attendees already owned a device, as I discovered, and most of them had a Kindle. Second in popularity was the Nook, followed by the Kobo (a surprise to me) and then one Sony Reader, one Nook Color, one iPad and one Pandigital. Those who didn’t already own an e-reader were prepared to purchase one in the near future.
I started my presentation with a brief description of each of six different devices (Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Sony Reader, Nook Color and iPad), highlighting the strong points and the downsides of each. I demonstrated the “Read to Me” feature on the Nook Color with Kipling’s How the Elephant Got Its Trunk. My audience seemed as impressed with my X-Mini red speaker plugged directly into the Nook Color as with the demonstration itself. In fact, after the talk was over, several asked for information on where they could buy one!
Since things were going so smoothly at that point, I got brave and went live for the next portion of the program. I attached the Sony Reader to my laptop and accessed our MCLS website and went through all of the steps to select and download an ebook. This is where I started to see my audience really become glued to the screen. I showed them how to choose a particular format (EPUB) and then limit their search to only those titles that were available to download immediately. Several patrons actually made comments like “Wow, I’ve been trying to do that for days” and “Now I won’t be so frustrated going through the long list of books that are already checked out.” For them, the program was already a success. There were also vocal responses to my explanation of how and why Adobe Digital Editions must be downloaded and registered on their computers as well as their devices. The whole process was finally starting to make sense!
I ended the talk fifteen minutes prior to the Library closing, but there were a lot of folks who just wanted to hang around to ask additional questions or hold the e-readers. I consider this first attempt an overwhelming success in that our patrons seemed a lot happier and more comfortable in their understanding of how their devices worked. Several folks told me they were going to “upgrade” their existing e-readers to another one, and a few more told me that they had decided to make the plunge and try this new technology. We’ll be holding three informal “Touch and Feel” sessions over the next few months at the Library and my program has been videoed and is now on YouTube. My Powerpoint presentation is located on Slideshare – http://www.slideshare.net/kpetlewski/getting-to-know-your-kindle-nook .
In a past life, over 30 years ago, I spent a few years working for a now-defunct computer learning school. You know the kind I mean – you see their ads on the channels that show re-runs of Bonanza and Gunsmoke. I was in charge of filing VA forms for the veterans who were taking classes there but still had much interaction with the instructors who taught programming languages. We had many heated discussions regarding the possibility of using the computer for teaching classes online. While I’m now ashamed to admit it, I was the person who argued against this ever happening. I said that a machine could never replace a live person in a classroom setting. Those programming instructors would certainly be laughing at me now!
Last week I taught two sessions of my Intro to RSS class to a group of librarians from two different states using Centra software and VOIP technology. My first few years of using this technology were hard since I didn’t teach frequently enough to become comfortable with its features. I think I’m finally at ease switching between text chat and live talk while running my web presentation. My students are unfailingly patient when a new window doesn’t show up on their own computer monitors. I always have lots of interaction during the course of the two hours. I’ve asked myself if this would be better done in person – and I’m not sure of the answer. Certainly, seeing people face to face leads to a natural exchange of ideas and comments, but we had a pretty lively conversation online last week. The over-riding feature in teaching online is that a librarian from the U.P. in Michigan and two librarians from western Indiana could join with other librarians from the metro Detroit area in discussing the advantages of using RSS without leaving their desks. That alone makes a huge difference to me in judging the merits of on-line vs. in person classes.
With the threat of widespread H1N1 flu in the upcoming months, colleges are requesting their professors to plan ahead and put their lectures online so that students may view them from home or dorms. I wonder how many of these teachers have the skills and/or desire to do this. The image I’ll always carry with me from the various universities I’ve attended is that of an older professor either pointing to something on the board, reading out of a book, or sitting on a lecture desk earnestly discussing a topic. Other than actually watching my teachers waving their arms in the air to get across their point of view, most of these other activities will easily lend themselves to the on-line technology. My mother and my brother were both college professors. If they were still alive, I wonder what they would think of this shift in the method of educating their students. Personally, I love it!!
It’s time again for me to update my web page for the Blogging for Librarians Class that I teach for Michigan Library Consortium. I felt it was time to add a small segment on Twitter since it’s defined as a “micro-blogging” service. In doing research for this update, I was amazed at the number of libraries already having a presence on Twitter. The Library of Congress is using it as well as Penn State and Yale. I feel humbled that Plymouth District Library has joined such noble ranks.
I had a full house for my first Sharing Photos Online class last Thursday evening. Not even the snow nor the cold kept folks away. No one brought any personal photos in digital format, so I spent the entire class doing a “show and tell” with my own pictures. I was glad that I thought to bring a card reader, several different cameras with different memory sticks, and a flash drive for demonstration purposes. My students seemed as interested in this aspect of the session as in the various web sites I showed them. I was able to upload photos on all four photo-sharing sites in a respectable amount of time. The class was also interested in my use of Photoshop Elements to resize and crop my photos.
If I had to critique myself, I’d be pretty happy with the results. Of course I’ll change the class a bit the next time I do it in March, but folks left after 90 minutes telling me how much they enjoyed the class and how much they learned. I may provide a few more handouts, but that’s about it for now. I had about as much fun as my students did, and that makes for a successful program.
I’ve always loved photography, perhaps because my grandfather was a photographer and my parents always had a camera close at hand while we were children. When I was a museum curator in North Carolina, the first exhibit I created was one on the history of photography. So, with that in mind, when digital photos became popular, I jumped in with both feet! I’ve spend hours on Flickr uploading both videos and pictures. I’ve created beautiful scrapbooks on Kodak, and printed photos from Shutterbug. Now I’m hoping to share my knowledge with our Library patrons in a new class called Sharing Photos Online. I plan to discuss the sites I’ve already mentioned as well as Photobucket. Since I only have 90 minutes, I can’t predict how much “hands on” we’ll actually get to, but I hope folks will leave the Library having had some fun and taking home a bit of expertise.