October 2018 Library Tech Newsbytes

A hand pulling a page out of a book

What's new in library tech! Library tech newsbytes is a collection of fun news items from pretty much anywhere we find them. We cover handy things like some new truth-seeking civics apps from the Library of Congress, the ilovelibraries free What's Your Library Worth Calculator, the free tech training resource Gail's Toolkit, now hosted in PLA, the latest on the Amazon vs. public libraries controversy, and TechSoup's own Marnie Webb on open data and how libraries serve as conduits between users and technologies. We hope you enjoy our batch for this month!

Library of Congress Launches Educational Apps for Primary Source Investigations

Naturally we want to lead with some political education news. THE Journal reports that the Library of Congress has released two educational apps to teach students about Congress and civics.

  • DBQuest, developed by iCivics, enables teachers to educate students on history and civics through primary-based documents and evidence-based learning.
  • Case Maker, developed by Bean Creative, is a customizable system for inquiry-based learning for students using primary sources from the Library of Congress. The app guides students on how to challenge a question, collect evidence, and make a case under a framework developed by the Teaching with Primary Resources program.

Each of these projects is designed to take different approaches to the primary sources that are provided for free through the Library of Congress website. The Library of Congress also released three other apps — Eagle Eye Citizen, Engaging Congress, and KidCitizen — in 2016.

ilovelibraries Free What's Your Library Worth Calculator

Need to make the case for your library in plain dollars and cents to policymakers or critics or your patrons? Check out the ilovelibraries What's Your Library Worth online calculator. Spend a few minutes to input some stats on the number of books borrowed, DVDs, CDs and other media checked out, and attendance to various programs, and voila! Get the answer to how much your library is worth to your community. This handy calculator is compliments of the Massachusetts Library Association and Chelmsford Library.

Data Collection and Privacy — Balancing Information Needs with Patron Protection

Greg Landgraf of Greene County Public Library in Ohio has a nice think piece in American Libraries on examples of libraries using patron data to do learning analytics projects to understand and forecast patron behavior. The data has been collected, so why not use it? He makes the case that it is possible to do analytics projects in such a way as to prevent personally identifiable information from making its way into such projects.

Gail's Toolkit on the Public Library Association Website

A couple years ago we featured Gail's Toolkit on TechSoup for Libraries. It is a free resource that originated at the Gail Borden Public Library in Elgin, Illinois. It offers free, downloadable, and customizable tech classes in things like computer basics, Microsoft and Google applications, using social media, and using tablets. PLA has taken over the project and has made it a part of DigitalLearn.org. You can now access all the previous Gail's Toolkit resources and more by clicking Tools and Resources for Trainers in the top right corner of that web page.

Should We Replace Libraries with Amazon? I Don't Think So

Forbes generated a spirited controversy last summer by publishing an opinion piece: Amazon Should Replace Local Libraries to Save Taxpayers Money. It's a fairly short editorial by Panos Mourdoukoutas that makes the case that "Amazon has provided something better than a local library without the tax fees. This is why Amazon should replace local libraries." The fuss got so hot and heavy that Forbes took down the piece. You may notice that I linked to the story using the handy Internet Archive Wayback Machine.

Before Forbes was able to remove the piece, there were a number of great rebuttals. Here are a few of them.

Where to Find Free Books for Amazon Kindles

While we're on the subject of Amazon … These days there are great options for getting free e-books for any version of Kindle e-readers. They include Project Gutenberg, OverDrive (no surprise here), and sharing your Kindle books with friends or family through Amazon. Author Séamus Bellamy on TechConnect describes the steps in how to get free e-books from each of those sources.

On Libraries, Communities, and Open Data

TechSoup's Marnie Webb's love of libraries is no secret. And her commitment to collaborating with libraries is longstanding. Her particular interest is the intersection of data and libraries. In her recent piece on Medium, On libraries, communities, and open data, Marnie cites examples of how libraries serve as a conduit between users and technologies. She describes how this is being done in Brazil, where librarians in Porto Alegre and Belo Horizonte learned to do "extreme listening" about the issues their community members care most about. She cites additional examples of data that is aggregated by libraries and used to guide community inquiry.

Frequently, public data is limited to what governments collect or businesses share. This provides a view of people who, by and large, are receiving services. Marnie says that we can all look around and see why that is insufficient. With libraries as collaborators, we can provide opportunities for community members, including some of our most vulnerable, to tell the story of their lives. Those stories are data that can be translated to understand needs and gaps in services.

Do you have a fun library tech newsbyte? Tell us about it in the comments section below.