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In an October 2011 ITI Newlink article, Nancy K. Herther described a battle between OverDrive, the global provider of digital content,  and the Kansas State Library over the terms of their contract and pricing for eBooks.  One of the fundamental issues for libraries in the provision of eBooks to users, has been the ownership of content that they have purchased from eBook vendors and their right to lend that content —  not just through the duration of their contracts or licenses, but after the contract has ended.  Until recently libraries have assume that they owned the content and vendors have not claimed otherwise.

But with the skyrocketing adoption of eBooks, more and more publishers and vendors have taken a contrary position, claiming that libraries are only buying access and only for the duration of the contract.  In one of the most audacious moves by a publisher, HarperCollins decided to restrict the lending/downloading of eBooks to 26 occurrences on each library website, at which point the library would need to pay again for access to that content.  This caused an uproar and HarperCollins has faced harsh criticism for its announcement.

As Ms. Herther’s article states, the Kansas case raised a variety of important issues and problems in the eBook industry, including competition over platforms, buyers’ rights and the still unstable relationship of eBook vendors with publishers, libraries and consumers.  With the relationships continuing to take shape, libraries are adapting to various methods of providing this form of digital content to users.  However, one well known librarian, Sarah Houghton-Jan (aka the Librarian in Black) feels that the licensing relationship with eBook suppliers has been a huge mistake.  She points to non-profit models such as the Open Library project and Library Renewal and others as one possible way out of the current conundrum.

The story is far from over, but the Kansas State Library’s battle holds lessons for libraries in many other jurisdictions.

Surrey's City Centre Library

The new City Centre Library in Surrey officially opened on Saturday, attracting hundreds of people to the ceremonies and the day’s entertainment.  The iconic 77,000 sq. ft. building is a key element of the city’s new city centre.  Under construction right next door is a new city hall and a performing arts centre.  Just a block away is a busy transit hub and Simon Fraser University’s Surrey campus. The strategic location of the new library will enable all kinds of important partnerships that support learning and innovation in a city that is an emerging powerhouse on the Canadian and global stage.

Photo Credit: San Jose Public Library

The San José Public Library launched an augmented reality site recently and announced it on its blog on September 10th in a very down to earth post  Augmented reality layers information on top of a view of the real world, typically on a mobile device.  In this case historical photos and documents from the library’s local history collection have been chosen to augment three different walking tours near the city’s downtown.  The website for this augmentation has been branded as Scan José, which is cute and memorable.

This site also enables one to view the images in 3D by downloading the appropriate application from iTunes or the Android Marketplace.  Very cool!

With Labour Day now over post-secondary institutions and their libraries are once again welcoming new and returning students on campus. Many of these libraries are discussing and planning services that match the current trends in the field.  What are these trends?  According to a June 2010 report of the Association of College & Research Libraries there are 10 top trends underway in academic libraries.  I’m listing the trends below exactly as they are written in the report, except that I’ve changed the order.  The report has them in alphabetical order, which is oh so librarian-like, don’t you think?

  • The definition of the library space will change as physical space is repurposed and virtual space expands;
  • Changes in higher education will require that librarians possess diverse skill sets;
  • Increased collaboration will expand the role of the library within the institution and beyond;
  • Libraries will continue to lead efforts to develop scholarly communication and intellectual property services;
  • Technology will continue to change services and required skills;
  • Explosive growth of mobile devices and applications will drive new services;
  • Academic library collection growth is driven by patron demand and will include new resource types;
  • Digitization of unique library collections will increase and require a larger share of resources;
  • Demands for accountability and assessment will increase;
  • Budget challenges will continue and libraries will evolve as a result.

I live in Metro Vancouver, so as I discuss trends and issues with colleagues and visit library buildings and websites I see what one would expect, namely that each institution is aware of these trends but is incorporating services that align with them at its own pace.  For example the development of a Learning Commons or Research Commons as a key set of resource for academic success is expanding in local post-secondary institutions, both in terms of physical spaces and virtual content.  This development involves a convergence of a number of the top 10 trends described by ACRL, including collaboration between libraries and other partners, technological shifts, repurposing of physical space, diverse skill sets amongst library staff and assessment of and accountability for the resources invested in these initiatives.

Since 2002 the New Media Consortium’s Horizon Project has issued an annual report describing and predicting the impact of emerging technologies in the coming five years.  Libraries of all kinds, but particularly academic libraries use this report as a guide to planning for investments in new technology, training and initiatives that will help them to better serve their users.

Not surprisingly, the 2011 Horizon Report states that eBooks and mobile devices are moving closer to mainstream adoption for educational institutions in the near term.  In the report’s “second adoption horizon” (two to three years) augmented reality and game-based learning are seen as the two technologies most likely to influence post-secondary education.  Augmented reality layers information on top of a view of the normal world (typically on a mobile device).  For example students walking by a building on campus can sync their device to a positional signal and it will display information about the building (e.g. a directory of offices inside, when it was built, the architect, etc.).  Game based learning for individual students or small groups can be integrated into coursework.  Great potential lies in the ability to stimulate technology-supported collaboration, problem-solving and procedural thinking.

Looking still farther ahead, the report suggests that in four to five years, gesture-based computing and learning analytics will become more commonplace on campuses.  Gesture based computing is essentially “wearable technology” that responds to body motion instead of a keyboard or mouse for computer input.  Learning analytics uses data gathering tools to enable study of student engagement, performance and practice, with the goal of using this data to revise curricula, teaching and assessment in real time.  In other words, this is technology designed to stimulate and support very dynamic learning environments.

Academic libraries will no doubt be watching these trends and collaborating with faculty and instructors to review and evaluate the predictions described in the report, and then plan services around their findings.

The growing City of Surrey, east of Vancouver, Canada is charting a bold new future by investing in new capital projects, the development of a clean energy hub, establishing new business incubators, strengthening partnerships with local post-secondary institutions and the board of trade, and eliminating outdated city regulations and processes.

The centerpiece for Surrey’s new city centre will be a new 77,000 square foot library, next to a new city hall, and just a block away from Simon Fraser University’s local campus and a large hub for public transportation.  The City Centre Library was designed by the award-winning architect, Bing Thom.  An official grand opening ceremony set for September 24th.

This development will be a great example of how the presence of libraries have a positive impact on downtowns, commercial areas and neighborhoods.  Such impact is an important factor described in “Making Cities Stronger: public library contributions to local economic development” a report published by the Urban Libraries Council in 2007.

Even prior to the opening there strong evidence of the benefits of the partnerships emerging from Surrey’s economic investment plan and its new city centre.  For example, SFU’s Continuing Studies program has agreed to offer a wide range of courses at the City Centre Library.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the British Columbia Library Association.  The centenary was celebrated at the association’s annual conference in April.  A well written, beautifully illustrated history of library service in the province called “The Library Book” by Dave Obee was featured at book launch event during the conference.  This past weekend an interview Mr. Obee was aired on CBC radio’s popular weekend program, North by Northwest.  Here’s the podcast from July 17, 2011.

If you think the history of libraries might be kind of boring, well think again.  Obee captures some of the personal sacrifices and drama that occurred over the decades.  In one example, police arrived at a library wanting all the copies of Henry Miller’s “Tropic of Cancer”.  The librarian stood her ground and wouldn’t hand them over.  Thank goodness.  Who knew. . . until now.