There have been a lot of changes in the last year. Changes to how we educate, where we educate, and what tools we're using to educate. We've had to perform a balancing act between educating in person and from a distance, and it's something none of us were prepared to do on the spot. Even for those who are accustomed to readily available digital content, it's been a whole new challenge to use it on such a wide scale and be responsible to teaching it to others. It's a bit like herding cats, and it's okay to feel overwhelmed!
But the fact of the matter is that digital content will probably be a permanent fixture to the way we educate now. This is why it's so important to take proactive control over it in your library or media center.
Too often, bringing digital materials into the library seems like a monumental task. You feel the need to darn your suit of armor and go up against it like it's a fire-breathing dragon, when it really doesn't need to be all that involved. eBooks are not dragons, they're bookworms - and they are just as much a tool of the library as print books. eBooks are a invaluable for reluctant readers, struggling readers, readers without reliable internet access, readers who are embarrassed by the level they're reading or the subject they need to learn about, and readers who simply find it difficult to keep track of books but always have their phone on them.
Of course, this is not to say ebooks are the only way forward. We at Salmond Library Services are firm believers that there will always be a place for print, but we're all already familiar with the benefits of print. The point of this article is to express how ebooks can be an equally valuable resource for the readers that print leaves behind, and show you how easy it is to incorporate them into your library.
What are eBooks?
I don't mean literally, but it's worth establishing our publishers' ebook features and what makes them different from the ebooks you get through Follett or Overdrive.
All the ebooks we offer through our publishers are multi-user, have no limitations on the time checked out, and have an embedded login and password. What this means is that every student in a school - or every patron at a library - can have the same book checked out at the same time, and the book won't disappear from their device once an arbitrary check-out time has elapsed. No hold queues, no renewals, no trying to find your place again because you had to re-check out the book. This also means that the next time Ms. Jane Doe's class is studying the solar system, or Mr. John Doe's class is reading Pride and Prejudice, everyone in the class can read the same book at the same time without clearing you out of every print book you have on the subject.
The embedded login and password makes it incredibly quick and easy for people to access the ebooks. No one needs to worry about remembering a code, it simply opens right up! I'll demonstrate this in the next section.
Many of our ebooks are also downloadable as a PDF. With the click of a button, a person can download the book onto their device to read without wi-fi, and the book will remain on that device until the person chooses to delete it. This is features is as good as gold for people who don't have reliable internet service at home. And, because they download as a PDF, they can also be uploaded into various apps and readers like Kami and Natural Reader.
Kami is an app that allows you to annotate, highlight, and share notes on a book. Students can use this to digitally mark up their research material, and teachers can use it to draw attention to certain passages and make sure everyone's on the same page (literally and metaphorically).
Natural Reader is a program that can make any document into an audiobook. You can choose from many different voices and even download the new audio as an MP3 to take on the go.
And new to this past year, many of our publishers have included a 'Share' button on their ebooks. This just adds one more - one click - way to distribute ebooks. The 'Share' buttons offer the choice to either copy the URL link to the ebook or to email the link to another person. By making the ebook into a URL link, the 'Share' button essentially makes ebooks attachable to just about anything. You can add it to your learning management system of choice - Google Classroom, Moodle, Canvas, Schoology, etc. - your Padlet page, a newsletter, whatever!
Where to Find eBooks
Once again, not literally. Obviously, you can find the ebooks offered by our publishers in their respective catalogs, conveniently compiled HERE, but what I really mean to do is show you what the ebooks look like in a Destiny catalog. This gives you a practical look at what you can expect if you were to have them in your library. With the help from our friends at Muller Road Middle School, I'll show you how to identify an ebook, how to open it, and where to find it even when you are not logged into the catalog.
I went into Muller Road's catalog and searched for one of the books they bought through us: Quidditch from ABDO's series "The Greater World of Sports." They have both the print and the ebook version of this book, but the first one that comes up is the ebook.
After I click on the title, it opens the record for the ebook. Right off the bat, there's this arrow prompting me to log in to read the ebook. This is misleading because, as I said earlier, our ebooks have an embedded login and passwords. The prompt to login comes from the fact that this is a Destiny Follett catalog. Follett's ebooks do require a login to access.
Even though it looks like you can't access the ebook without logging in, you still can. Scroll down the page a bit to the tabs 'More Info', 'Reviews', 'Explore', and 'Copies'.
Under the 'Explore' tab, scroll to the bottom under the section 'Links', and voila! There's a button to open the ebook!
Once opened, it's yours to do with as you please. ABDO's buttons to download and share are at the bottom, but each of the publishers' formats look a little different. In the video, we give examples from three of our Publishers: ABDO, Bellwether, and Lerner, so if you're interested in seeing how different ebooks look, give the video a watch.
You probably also noticed the other button next to the ebook access link in the Destiny catalog. This is a button that opens a QR code to the same ebook, and it's a button that's exclusive to ABDO's ebooks. Several of our other publishers offer QR codes that are available on book covers, but so far ABDO is the only one that offers the QR code within the MARC record.
If you click on the button to the QR code, it opens a screen with nothing but the QR code on it. You can then capture the code as an image or simply put it up with a projector so everyone in the room can scan the book at once.
Now, showing you is cool and all, but it's not the same as doing it yourself, which is why we've prepared some free resources for you! Our Padlet page has all the resources mentioned in our video plus more for you to test for yourself.
How to Make eBooks Work for YOU
The biggest challenge with ebooks is that they're invisible. With print books, you can browse the shelves and see what catches your eye, but you can't do that with ebooks. It's hard to get people to read books they don't know you have. Fortunately, librarians are coming up with new ideas everyday to combat this problem.
QR codes, for example, are a great way to make your library mobile. By making bulletin boards or posters with QR codes on them, people can check out books without ever having to step foot in the library. Our favorite example came from librarians who noticed that students who normally weren't allowed to have their phones out at school would use them in the bathrooms, so the librarians put signs with QR codes in the bathroom stalls! Once you start thinking outside the box, you'll find that there's no limit to the ways you can put books in peoples' hands.
Other libraries have created binders filled with scanned book covers and QR codes. Some have separated the binders by subject and put them on the shelf alongside the print books while others just have a giant binder at the desk for people to flip through and scan at their leisure.
But, a big misconception out there is that you have to go above and beyond to broadcast your ebook collection. Creative displays are great, but doing something as simple as separating your catalog into collections can be just as effective! Making collections in your Destiny catalog makes the catalog easier for students to navigate all the materials. If someone needs to do a report on climate change, it's handy to have a collection already available rather than having to conduct a hit-or-miss search. And if you have both print books and ebooks in the collection, it allows the student to choose the format that works best for them. It also gives the student a better idea of what's available. They might not think to search for the ebook at first.
In fact, this has inspired us to begin creating ready-made collections for you. We get just as overwhelmed as you do when we see a stack of catalogs filled with hundreds of books that need to be sorted through in order to find the relevant material you need. So, going forward, we will draft lists of our publisher's newest materials in popular subjects to make it easier for you to find the titles want. At the moment, we have three collections prepared:
Of course, these are broad categories that we see requested the most, but every library is different. We are always available to write up a custom list of exactly the kind of books you're looking for.
For better or worse, there's never only one answer at the library. Though print books are preferred by some, they're not everyone's first choice, and in an increasingly virtual and remote-working world, digital materials are not something we can ignore anymore. The good news is that we're all learning and growing together, and it's through change that our libraries become better and more useful to those who need it.
And we count ourselves as a part of that. We've learned a thing or two ourselves over the past year, and it's our job to pay those lessons forward. We can help you puzzle out how to best incorporate ebooks into your library, we can offer suggestions on popular new series, and - perhaps most importantly - we can work with you to grow your budget in ways you might not expect. Our publishers always offer fantastic special offers, but right now there are particularly great specials out there for ebooks. And don't forget the ebook bundles that save you from having to choose one format - print or digital - over another. Remember: we wouldn't be good publisher representatives if we couldn't offer you more than 3rd party sellers.
In general, we use everything we've learned from our experiences working in libraries and working with libraries to make your library the very best it can be, and that includes bringing the ebook dragon down to size so that digital content feels friendlier, more accessible, even...simple.
Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions you have about ebooks, our publishers, or how we can help your library. You can find all our contact information HERE.