Blog Archives

E-readers in the Library and Classroom: Kindles? Nooks? iPads? Who knows?

In the May 2011 issue of School Library Journal, the results of the annual technology survey were published.  The survey reflected the rapidly changing role of technology in the school library.  One of the hot topics on the survey was e-books and e-readers.  About one third of the respondents already have e-books as a part of their collection and well over three-fourths of respondents plan to add e-books in the next 5 years. Even with that lofty percentage of libraries who plan to have e-books, almost half of the respondents said they have no plans or priorities for e-books in the next two years. The two main reasons people listed for not having e-books is lack of funding and lack of devices to support e-books.  It’s also confusing and frustrating to compare Kindles, Nooks, iPads, and the many other devices to figure out which one is right for your library and which one supports which e-book format.

I’ll admit it.  For the past three years, I’ve continued to try many technologies in my library and continued to spend the majority of my budget on print materials with little planning going into the e-book realm.  I’ve watched as other librarians (Buffy Hamilton, Jennifer LaGarde, Kathy Parker, and more) have plunged into the unknown to be leaders for the masses on how to implement e-readers and e-books in the library.  Over the past year, I’ve really focused myself on where I might go in an elementary library with e-readers.  I’ve attended webinars, joined the edukindle ning, and extensively read the blogs of educators and librarians giving e-readers a try.  During all of this, I finally started the process of planning for e-books and e-readers in my library.

To tackle the funding issues, I’ve written three grants (awaiting approval), submitted a Donors Choose project (you’re welcome to donate), and asked my PTA for support.  When I started talking to PTA, I was energized by the amount of interest from parents to get e-readers into our library.  They encouraged me to keep applying for grants but also to submit a proposal to PTA.  At the May PTA meeting (which I was not even at), the idea of e-readers was brought up, discussed, and unanimously approved even before my official proposal was in their hands.  However, they needed to spend the money that they allocated in this year’s budget, so my year of thinking had to finally mold into a real plan.

Here are some things I decided:

  • We will start with 6 Nook Colors.  Why Nook Color?  Because it allows me to reach all of my student from preK-5th grade, is user-friendly with its touch screen, is more than just an e-reader, and it’s from a company that I can talk to locally.  Barnes and Noble has been extremely supportive with every question I’ve had and have even offered to come in and help show students how to use the Nooks or let us borrow some Nooks to try out before we buy them.
  • We will start out as book clubs/book groups before Nooks get checked out.  These groups will allow me to show students the full potential of what the Nook can do while at the same time building some confidence and responsibility with the devices.  Once I have several students who know how to use the devices at each grade level, I’ll begin checking them out for use within the school.  At this time, I have no plan for sending Nook Colors home with elementary students, but if the program grows and we get some Wi-fi Nooks, this will probably change.

Here are some problems I had to work through already:

  • Gift cards:  Every person who uses e-readers in school has to work through this problem somehow.  To purchase e-books they must be purchased on a gift card or credit card.  Our district has a “no gift card” policy.  My secretary and I had long conversations with our district’s accounting department and repeated the same information numerous times in different ways until we finally got approved to purchase a gift card.  The key was that I promised I could show detailed receipts for each e-book purchased with the card.  Another key phrase that I used was that the gift card was “strictly for e-book purchases”.
  • Extended warranty/insurance:  If you buy a Nook, Kindle, etc. as a single user, you can purchase an extended 2-year warranty that protects you against drops, spills, etc.  However, Barnes and Noble will not sell you the extended warranty plan if your device is for multiple users.  Their reasoning is that if you are buying 6 Nook Colors and paying $55 each for extended warranty, then you could have just bought another Nook Color.  The manager of the local Barnes and Noble had conversations with the main office about this, but they were firm in their decision.  This is one of the main reasons that I’m not ready to send a Nook Color home with elementary students.
  • Credit Card:  You do have to attach a credit card to your account in order to activate your account.  Some districts use school/district credit cards.  Others us credit card gift cards such as AMEX or VISA.  At the moment, I’m using my own credit card to establish the account.  Before you take a huge gasp at that statement, I’ll point out that another great feature of Nook Color is that you can set a password on the device that must be entered before a purchase can be made.  This password needs to be extremely secure!  Once you establish your account, you load up to 3 gift cards onto your account and e-books are deducted from the gift card first before your card is charged.  It’s important to make sure that you always have a gift card balance before you make a purchase.  The  problem that I ran into right away is that the Nooks are automatically set to buy ebooks with one click.  You have to go into settings and the shop menu to set the device to ask for a password.  When I tested this out at first, I accidentally bought a book without having a gift card loaded yet, so I officially bought the first e-book for the Barrow library.  It was only $6.99, but I won’t make that mistake again!

There is already a buzz of interest at the school about the e-readers.  Teachers are asking what my plan is and are eager to send students to me.  The special education teacher has started researching how these devices can support her students.  The family engagement specialist is brainstorming how these devices might be used with parents in family engagement meetings.  Teachers and staff are wanting to check out the devices to tryout for themselves too.  When you launch into the e-book and e-reader world, it’s a huge plunge and many doors start to open that are unknown.  Just know that when you make the decision, there are many people to network with, many conversations being made public online, and many resources to reference.  It’s important for us to make all of our work public for one another to learn from, but with e-readers and e-books it’s even more important.  When we are transparent about our work, we support the learning of our global community.

Andy Plemmons
School Librarian
David C. Barrow Elementary
Athens, GA

Free Webinars 11/17: Open Source Software and Ebooks/DRM

The Georgia Library Association and Georgia Public Library Service are pleased to announce the November sessions of the Wednesday Webinar series, which highlights trends, innovation, and best practices in Georgia Libraries. The webinars feature Georgia speakers, but registration is open to anyone, anywhere. Topics are chosen to be of interest to employees of all library types, and each session is approved for one Georgia Continuing Education (CE) contact hour.

Open Source Software in Georgia Libraries
Presented by Jason Puckett

* Wednesday, November 17, 2010, 10:00am – 11:00am Eastern Time
* Separate registration is required for each hour-long session.

What is open source software? Why should it matter to you, and how are Georgia librarians using it to their advantage? You don’t have to be a programmer to understand how the open source software movement can benefit you and your library, from the web browser to media production, research tools and the ILS. This session will cover the advantages and disadvantages of using open source software in libraries with practical examples and ideas you can use.

How Ebooks, File Types, and DRM Affect your Library
Presented by Brian Hulsey

* Wednesday, November 17, 2010, 11:15am – 12:15pm Eastern Time
* Separate registration is required for each hour-long session.

As more library patrons are obtaining eReaders, many libraries have questions about why some of the devices work with our services and some don’t, and why the books won’t work on the different devices. The eReader market is confusing and this session will explain the differences of format, device, and their overall importance to your library and how they affect all facets of service.

Please contact a member of the Wednesday Webinar planning team with questions or ideas:
Sarah Steiner, Georgia Library Association, PACE Chair,
Pat Carterette, Georgia Public Library Service,
Buffy Hamilton, Wednesday Webinars Steering Committee,

Bookless Libraries

Cushing Academy in Massachusetts has set off a firestorm with the decision to remove all print copies of books from its school library.  James Tracy, headmaster of Cushing, says, “When I look at books, I see an outdated technology, like scrolls before books.”

Headmaster Tracy believes that the purchase of 18 eReaders and additional computers will meet the reading needs of their student body; others, however, do not share that optimism.   The school is spending over $500,000 to create a “learning center” in place of a library; while the official name for this new conceptual space is not yet finalized, it will feature three large screen televisions, study carrels designed to facilitate laptop use,  and a $50,000 coffee shop.    It is not clear which school stakeholders other than Tracy were involved in this decision or how this decision was made other than Tracy’s concern that the books were taking up too much space for the current library facility.

In a May 14 speech to the Noble and Greenough School,  Headmaster Tracy stated:

“I no longer see the point of maintaining this huge warehouse of underutilized space that we call a library.  Better to free up that space while at the same time expanding by many orders of magnitude the school community’s access to information, literature, art, music via terminals that I term “Portals to Civilization.”  Rather than libraries becoming obsolete, we can transform them into vibrant centers of learning, giving ready access to everything humans have achieved, from every civilization, across an ever-expanding universe of culture.  At the same time, we can use the space now freed up from books to build convivial areas where students and teachers are encouraged to interact – yes, even talk –  about ideas, so it becomes a place of interaction…”

Apparently, Headmaster Tracy doesn’t realize that school libraries are more than a “warehouse” and that they can indeed be places of authentic learning, interaction, and conversations; in fact, they already are in schools across our country!  While I respect and applaud  his desire to incorporate 21st century learning tools and to increase access to more books,  Tracy lacks a fundamental understanding of how school libraries should function  and that they can reflect all the qualities he desires without creating an “either/or ” situation on his campus.   Why not weed outdated or little used titles and keep the print copies that are essential, popular, and supportive of the school curriculum while adding the ebook options instead of making ereading the only option?

What is especially troubling to me is the absence of any discussion in the article about the role school librarians play in cultivating information literacy skills.   People like Headmaster Tracy assume that all one has to do is present access to the information, and that is enough.   No mention is made in the Boston Globe article of who will facilitate this space or how this “learning center” will enhance students’ information literacy skills.   If the certified school librarian is not to be leading this “learning center” how will students master the skills set forth in the AASL Standards for 21st Century Learners or NETS for Students ?

As you can imagine, the blogosphere is abuzz with debate over the pros and cons of this radical decision.  Here are a few blog posts (and ensuing comments) to consider for reading:

What are your thoughts on this issue?   Please share your ideas here!

Buffy Hamilton
Creekview High School, Canton, GA

*crossposted from the AASL blog*