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“Lives change @ your Library” is the official theme for this year’s National Library Week. To kick off the event, on Monday, April 14, the American Library Association (ALA) released its “2014 State of America’s Libraries Report.” The 79-page report covers all things “library,” including politics, technology, laws, and even architecture.

But maybe the most important news – and a top priority of the ALA – is how libraries are transforming in order to remain vital and integral to their communities. Many of today’s public libraries are more than just warehouses of books and information. They are focusing on how to serve and provide for the ever-changing needs of society.

Before the Affordable Healthcare Act rolled out last fall, the federal government enlisted 17,000 public libraries across the country to help provide information to the public concerning the new health insurance options. Librarians were instructed on how to help patrons find the resources they needed to sign up for coverage. The Westchester Library system in New York held meetings to explain the new laws to small business owners.

Public libraries provide assistance where it is needed in other ways as well. Public libraries in San Francisco are serving their homeless population with an outreach program. The staff is comprised of a psychiatric social worker (employed full-time) and five peer counselors – who were all once homeless themselves. New York Public Library branches in underserved neighborhoods have installed programs to combat poverty and promote education by providing social and academic support to at-risk children in grades 8 through 12.

At the Lopez Island Library in Washington, students can check out musical instruments, while the Northern Onondaga library in New York actually lends plots of land to patrons for the purpose of learning organic gardening techniques.

Family Place Libraries is a national organization that is now in about 435 libraries across 25 states with the goal of turning libraries into early learning environments for young children. In addition to helping to build a foundation for learning, the program also provides resources and community support for educators, family services providers, and community agencies.

As the popularity of ebooks has increased, the US library system has seen its share of obstacles in its path to catering to the new trend. The good news is that in 2013, all five major publishers are onboard with library ebook lending for the first time. While there are still issues with availability and prices, this is a huge step in the right direction for libraries.

Another breakthrough on the technology front was made for the benefit of the blind and disabled. A service provided by the Library of Congress will enable them to download braille and audio books to their electronic device. It is a free service through local cooperating libraries.

Today’s libraries must be proactive and responsive to the unique needs and changes of the communities that they serve. They are an active partner in community development, unity, and quality of life.


Are ebooks better with sound effects?

by Public Libraries on April 11, 2014

Headphones Books

Booktrack is a company which has produced a platform enabling sound to be added to an ebook. Some do not see the point of this, calling it gimmicky, but CEO Paul Cameron strongly disagrees with such assessments. He believes there is great potential to having sound playing while reading. Booktrack has already released one version of adding music to an ebook and has been working on another version that is about to be released.

The first platform released was the Booktrack Studio. This application allows anybody to create ebooks with sound. This is also called adding a soundtrack since it functions much like the soundtrack to a movie. Although Booktrack Studio has only been around five months, users have created over 3,600 of the booktracks in 30 different languages. This proves that people are enjoying adding music to what they read.

The new application being released is Booktrack Classroom. Booktrack has worked hard to get this made and ready to be released. A huge player was Sparkbox Ventures who helped Booktrack to raise $3 million in Series A funding, to get this new version completed. Sparkbox led this round of funding but donors from the first round, like Peter Jackson’s Park Road Post Productions, contributed to this second round as well. Although functionally the same, Booktrack Classroom will enable students to build, listen, and share soundtracks for ebooks for free.

Booktrack Classroom was aggressively pursued due to studies made on the effects of reading with music. Studies have found that when reading a booktrack, a student spends 30% more time engrossed in the material while comprehension also rose by 17%. The study was repeated, using adults instead of children, and nearly identical results were received. This demonstrates that booktracks could help make reading a more dynamic experience which gets the reader to feel a greater sense of involvement.

Booktrack’s ability to add sound, from music to ambient noise, is simple but powerful. When reading a story normally, we engage but there is some detachment there. When music helps set the mood or the sound of animals is heard in the bushes, then total immersion in the reading occurs. It is this immersion that Paul Cameron was hoping for with booktracks.

The process of adding sound or music to an ebook isn’t all that difficult. Simply select the text you want to work with and add sound from the library. The library currently consists of 20,000 tracks which can be used with half of them being owned directly by Booktrack. The other half are licensed and those cost an extra fee to use. Plus, the soundtrack plays along to your reading speed rather than being played at a static speed, which would cause some to hear the audio in the wrong places.

Not everyone that reads will enjoy booktracks, but you can see how it can appeal to a broad audience. It is fun to set up the ebook with music and sounds that appeal to you; and hearing other peoples’ soundtrack experiments is entertaining as well. The success of booktracks in getting students more engaged in reading, and the increased comprehension could prove invaluable. This is a fascinating new technology which has the potential to drastically change reading in the classroom.


Class action suit filed against Apple over ebook price fixing

April 4, 2014
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Apple, the world tech super-company, is facing a whirlwind of backlash and bad news. On Friday, March 28, a group of New York consumers sued the tech giant for violating antitrust laws by fixing ebook prices. Five major book publishers are accused of being in cahoots with Apple’s price fixing conspiracy. A U.S. district judge noted that the plaintiffs had met the standards to file the lawsuit. The explosive lawsuit […]

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Libraries show their support for World Book Night

March 28, 2014
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For the past few years, there has been a strong effort to get books to be a more important part of everyone’s life. One of the most successful ideas in recent years is World Book Night. Throughout one day, usually April 23rd, people from all over the world pass out free books to anyone and everyone. This April, many of us are taking to the streets to hand out some […]

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Did you know that public libraries offer technology classes?

March 21, 2014
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When you think of the public library, what image comes to your mind? Is it a quiet room filled with shelves, all lined with seemingly endless books waiting to be read? Of course, books have always been the backbone of libraries, but in today’s world, libraries offer so much more than just story time. Libraries give the members of the community a place to come and take classes in which […]

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Do we still need libraries?

March 14, 2014
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Once upon a time, a library was just about the only place that someone could go to get a book or go to read for free. Librarians knew their turf inside and out. Card catalogs were an essential part of stock organization. After this became outdated, the Dewey Decimal System reigned supreme. Libraries all over the country thrived as one of the main providers of free books and education. Then […]

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12 Years a Slave joins list of Oscar winning films based on books

March 7, 2014
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When 12 Years a Slave won the Academy Award for Best Picture on March 2, 2014, it made history as the first film about slavery, or the black experience in America, to be given this award. The film is based on the memoir written by Solomon Northrup, a free black man who was drugged and sold into slavery in 1841. Therefore, it also joined the ranks of Academy Award-winning movies […]

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Are ebooks good or bad for public libraries?

February 28, 2014
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The topic of ebooks has been a hot-button issue for libraries for as long as electronic formats have been available. The transition to ebooks and the digital world certainly presents challenges that libraries must face. Many worry that ebooks will be the end of public libraries as we know them. The fear many public libraries have is that access to ereaders and ebooks might discourage people from borrowing and purchasing […]

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Policies that keep people from visiting their local library

February 17, 2014
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All the people who were involved with the amazing physical transformation of the library at Wilmington should be commended for the outstanding results, as well as the near lack of service interruption throughout the renovation. There were standards of historic preservation that were adhered to while the modernizing updates were going on. For example, the disability access should be lauded. Sadly, though, in just about every other way, restricted access […]

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Would you like to make a donation to support your local libraries?

February 14, 2014
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Sharon Furgason is the director of the McCowan Memorial Library, and it has been a stable fixture on Pitman Avenue since the early 1960s. However, since the economic downturn in 2008, Furgason has had to watch the public funding for her library dwindle, in tandem with the library funding law in the state, which links support to the average property values in the community. The issue is that Pitman’s property […]

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