(This story has been updated from an earlier version.)
At the 2012 American Library Association (ALA) Midwinter Meeting, held January 20-24 in Dallas, LJ was on the exhibit floor taking a look at library tech companies’ latest wares. Here are a few of the highlights:
Sometimes the simplest ideas gain surprising traction; for example, the MediaSurfer kiosk system, launched at ALA Midwinter by Tech Logic, attracted many interested observers (and was even referred to in passing during the Top Technology Trends panel on January 22). The system, a sort of “vending machine” for iPads, is a self-service option that lets users check out their own iPad with a swipe of a library card (and, if the library chooses, a credit-card swipe for security). Libraries can loan them within the library building, or allow patrons to borrow and take the tablets home. Once the iPad has been returned, whatever content the patron has put on it, including ebooks, is erased and the tablet reset for the next patron.
Though the system is currently configured solely for iPads (which are not provided with the unit), Tech Logic president Gary Kirk told LJ at ALA Midwinter that it will soon be able to handle other types of tablets, ereaders, or even handheld videogames in future iterations. The kiosk connects with a library integrated library system (ILS) via a SIP2 interface, allowing compatibility with several different systems, Kirk said; when tablets are checked out at the kiosk, they are also checked out in the ILS. The company has been taking orders since December. The first units will be rolled out in April.
Social media, ebooks, and more
In the social-media realm, library automation company SirsiDynix showcased its new Facebook app, the SirsiDynix Social Library, which integrates catalog and account features via a library’s Facebook page. The app lets patrons log in directly to their account and browse the catalog via their library’s Facebook page. The company announced that more than 40 libraries have purchased the app so far; those currently live include the Library of Hattiesburg, Petal, and Forrest County, MS; Sutton Central Library, London, England; and Calgary Public Library, Alberta, Canada.
SirsiDynix also gave new information about the roll-out of its eResource Central, which LJ has reported on previously. According to the latest announcement, the product will provide one-click access to electronic resources for patrons and also be integrated into the company’s BookMyne mobile app; it will also simplify electronic resource management for libraries that use SirsiDynix’s Symphony or Horizon ILSs. EResource Central is due for launch in the second quarter of this year.
ProQuest unit ebrary, meanwhile, unveiled [PDF] a new feature in which researchers may use their Facebook username and password to sign into the ebook service. They also announced a new mobile app for iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch, which, among other features, lets users access ebooks and other electronic materials on the ebrary platform, either online of offline.
A breaking story from the ALA Annual Conference in New Orleans last year was the launch of the ebook service Freading by Library Ideas, the Vienna, VA-based company behind the Freegal digital music services used by many libraries nationwide. As with the Freegal service, libraries are charged per download, but unlike Freegal, patrons do not keep the ebook permanently (as they do with Freegal’s music files), but for limited loan periods. During ALA Midwinter, Library Ideas announced that Freading was now live at more than 50 libraries, including Orange County Public Library System, FL; Edmonton Public Library, Alberta, Canada; L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library, Eau Claire, WI; Westport Public Library, CT; and Paris Public Library, TX. The company has made deals with more than 40 publishers to supply ebooks for the service since the launch, including Sterling Publishing, Sourcebooks, Andrews McMeel, and Regnery Publishing.
In another ebook-related development during ALA Midwinter, The Library Corporation (TLC) announced an agreement that in which OverDrive customers may order TLC MARC records and cataloging services for its OverDrive ebooks. (A TLC spokesperson told LJ on January 26 that the service will be available to “all OverDrive customers, regardless of their library system.”) The records are provided via TLC’s BiblioFile OnDemand service, and libraries that opt for the service would have the MARC records within a few days. The service is expected to go live “very soon,” according to the announcement.
Library automation company Innovative Interfaces showed off a new product it had announced just before ALA Midwinter called Decision Center, which will integrate into the company’s Millennium and in-development Sierra ILSs. The hosted product will help libraries with weeding and ordering by analyzing usage statistics for materials using customizable parameters. Only a slideshow of Decision Center was available at the Innovative booth, however, so its usability will be difficult to gauge until closer to rollout. Once it officially launches at the end of the year, it will likely be a competitor to products like CollectionHQ, whose company, Bridgeall, was recently purchased by distributor Baker & Taylor.
Other highlights included Gale’s announcement that it had reached an agreement with National Geographic to provide a searchable online archive of 100 years of the magazine, to be available to libraries this spring; and Ex Libris’s agreement with the HathiTrust digital repository to allow full-text search via Primo Central. One thing is certain: that there will be plenty of intriguing tech in the coming year, as ebooks and other electronic resources proliferate. ALA’s Annual Conference, to be held in Anaheim, CA, in June, will be one to watch.