As always, the American Library Association’s 2016 annual convention included many announcements and product launches from library vendors. Here’s a roundup of some of the news from this year’s show floor.
The New York Public Library (NYPL) on July 12 announced the launch of SimplyE, a new app for tablets and smartphones that employs a single interface for browsing, borrowing, and reading ebooks from multiple different vendors, as well as public domain ebooks. Enabling patrons to discover and start reading library ebooks with as few as three clicks, this initial version of the app is the fulfillment of a goal set two and a half years ago by the NYPL-led Library Simplified project.
The discussion at this year’s Library Information Technology Association’s (LITA) Top Technology Trends panel at the American Library Association’s (ALA) annual conference in Orlando, FL spanned topics ranging from online privacy to “superfast application development” on the near horizon. LITA revamped the session format this year to be more interactive: rather than offering individual trend presentations each panelist quickly summarized one trend they’ve been following, and then participated in discussions sparked by questions from moderator Maurice Coleman, technical trainer, Harford County Public Library, MD, and host of the long-running “T is for Training” podcast, with debates emerging on how long libraries should support old devices, and which tech trends may be overhyped within the library field.
In a June 25 session at the ALA Annual conference in Orlando, John Bracken, VP of media innovation for the Knight Foundation, said that the foundation has been focused on three key questions when working with libraries: What can be done to foster cross-discipline collaboration, possibly learning from projects in other civic sectors such as Code for America, 18F, or the Knight-Mozilla OpenNews collaboration; how can community be put “even more robustly” at the center of the foundation’s work; and how can the foundation help libraries tell their stories to wider audiences? “To succeed, particularly in a time of reduced public investment, it is vital to tell our stories in ways that people can understand the breadth of our work, and on platforms” where the public is present and listening, Bracken said.
ProQuest subsidiary R.R. Bowker today announced the acquisition of Alexander Street, a leading provider of streaming video and music, as well as primary source collections, to almost 4,000 library customers in over 60 countries. The business will be known as “Alexander Street, a ProQuest Company,” and will continue to be led by Stephen Rhind-Tutt, its current president, and its current management team, including Eileen Lawrence, David Parker and Andrea Eastman-Mullins, from its current headquarters in Alexandria, VA.
Digital signage has become a familiar sight in retail stores, restaurants, hotels, and other businesses. With large flat-panel televisions now relatively inexpensive, many libraries have jumped on board with this trend as well, using digital signs to display a rotating series of regularly updated images, such as announcements, book covers, or information about upcoming events.
Connecticut’s Darien Library on June 1 debuted its new online catalog system, SOPAC3, along with a mobile-friendly responsive design website that integrates seamlessly with the new catalog. Features include linked accounts, allowing parents to see what their children have checked out without a separate login, patron control over checkout histories and “wish lists” of items from the catalog stored with their profile, the ability to register and RSVP for library events from their profile screen, and full integration with the Envisionware eCommerce system used by Darien. Eventually, the library plans to release the source code for the entire suite, making it available for free to other interested libraries.
Last month, Yale University hosted “Terror on Tape: An Interdisciplinary Symposium on the History of Horror on Video.” Cheap slasher flicks from a bygone era may seem a bit lowbrow for the Ivy League, but David Gary, Yale’s Kaplanoff Librarian for American History, writing for the Atlantic last summer, made a compelling case for the university’s collection of 3,000 VHS horror movies from the 1970s and 1980s.
Academic profile platform SelectedWorks has been redesigned and was recently relaunched as a librarian-facing faculty support tool, enabling academic libraries to manage the creation and organization of consistent, institution-branded faculty profiles that showcase open access articles and other scholarly work. The redesign was the result of “a change in understanding” of how the platform was being used, according to Jean-Gabriel Bankier, president and CEO of bepress, developer of SelectedWorks, as well as the Digital Commons institutional repository software suite and other academic publishing and communication products.