Looking for Peace and Quiet

KQ_coverAbout a year ago I sat down to research and write an article for Knowledge Quest, the  Journal of the American Association of School Librarians. I was asked by guest editor Pam Harland to contribute a piece on library spaces. Before agreeing, I thought about finding an under-documented angle on the topic. That brings me to the first two sentences of the article, which appear below, along with the full article (but only in a proof version because ALA locks down their content):

Much has been written about the advantages associated with the learning commons model of library design. Less has been written about its drawbacks. The open, technology-rich, and collaborative atmosphere of a commons nicely supports teaching, group work, and digital communication. Yet, for some tasks and for some students, the commons atmosphere might also limit the library’s usefulness.

For tasks requiring concentration, such as reading and problem solving, the social and active nature of a learning commons could be distracting. And for the more introverted student, a loud and busy room might seem uninviting. For these reasons, library design should take into consideration different types of work and different personality types. In a learning commons, therefore, space and resources should be organized and managed in ways that meet 21st-century learning needs but also ensure fairness and ….

Read the proof of the final article here.

For the Library and Classrooms: Chromebooks and “Chromepacks”

DIY “Chromepack” charging cart

Last week, Molly Wood, the NYT’s tech blogger, asked if a Chromebook is all you need. Last year, I asked myself the same question. My library was due for computer replacements and I wanted to use the opportunity to make the room’s workspace more spacious, flexible, and efficient. Chromebooks seemed perfect. I thought that by removing desktops and bringing in a cart of ultra-thin laptops, table space would emerge, as would the ability for students to work in comfortable chairs or even on the floor. Further, it’d be easy to collaborate in small, ad-hoc groupings. And it could be done quickly. The Chromebook’s solid-state structure, with its fast boot-up time, seemed like an excellent way to be “always on.” I wondered, though, how the place would function with a whole new OS and a whole new approach to computing. Would browser-based cloud computing meet the academic requirements of my school?

After a full year of trying it, it’s clear that the answer to this question is, yes. The desktops, along with their slow network connection time, weren’t missed. Initially, more limited printing seemed like a significant loss, but it didn’t take long for teachers and students to become experts at sharing work through Drive. Similarly, my school’s adoption of Google Apps for Education seemed to be accelerated by the Chromebooks’ single sign-on for multiple integrated services, like mail, calendar, Docs, and add-ons like EasyBib. Now, many students can’t even imagine working with clunky software on a big, bulky machine. In short, as a result of abandoning desktop (and laptop) computing for a mobile approach to schoolwork, my library has become a more modern, more collaborative, and more productive workspace.

We also chose to deliver this new computing throughout the building. By using cushioned camera cases for five Chromebooks, we created what we call “Chromepacks” — kind of like field packs, but for computers. The library has a total of 41 Chromebooks, 25 of which are in Chromepacks available for use in the library or for classroom check-out. At the end of the day the camera cases are simply opened and placed alongside a DIY charging cart. The charging system, like the use of the Chromebooks themselves, is fast and easy.

“Chromepacks” charging
Camera case holds five Chromebooks
Charging cart for library
Tables free of desktops and cables


Quiet in the Library

lamp_and_bookSince reading Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, I’ve been thinking about creating more quiet spaces within my library. In the book, Cain says, “We also need to create settings in which people are free to … disappear into their private workspaces when they want to focus….” She lists people like Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak who “need extra quiet … to do their best work.” I think trying to meet such needs by providing isolated areas for concentration and independent work makes sense. It seems like the right thing to do.

My Ideas for Quiet
But, because carving out private workspace is difficult, especially in small school libraries and within those designed as an open and collaborative learning commons, I wonder what other librarians might have done. I’ve thought of a couple ideas that I’ll be working on this summer: My desktops are up for replacement and I’m taking that opportunity to substitute Chromebooks, which will allow computer users to move around more freely and find more isolation. I’m also converting a small virtual learning room within the library to a silent room, where all students will be able to work.

Other Ideas for Quiet
While I count myself among those who consider noise to be part of the new normal in a school library, I appreciate the message of Susan Cain’s Quiet. If you value quiet and have made changes to your library, I’d be interested in learning what you’ve done. Or, if you’re just considering change, I’d also like your ideas. Please share by leaving a reply.

eBooks, Print Books, and Library Space

ebook_surveyWhile this recent BBC story about the San Antonio Library’s all-digital branch describes an eBook advantage for underserved and rural patrons, some reader comments highlight a persistent attachment to print. Even as large urban libraries embrace digital collections and even as digital check-outs increase, print doesn’t seem to be losing. In fact, as the story points out, in one remodeled New York Public Library branch, “far more books will be visible than ever in the past.”

This situation–the growth of both digital and traditional book collections–is ongoing in school libraries, too, and mine is no exception. In my library Kindles are circulated and a digital book-on-demand approach has been in place for two years. Yet, circulation records show that students prefer print. Clearly confirmed in a 2013 survey I conducted, where two-thirds of respondents showed a fondness for print books, it seems that my students mirror others around the nation. In a broad-based January 2013 survey, the Scholastic company found that kids read electronically, but when possible they grab old-fashioned books.

For me, because my library is small, the idea of scaling back space dedicated to print in order to expand student work space is attractive. Given student preferences, though, this seems impossible. Are other libraries in the same situation or are some school libraries experiencing a different trend? What are other librarians doing regarding space needs and book needs?

Unauthorized Kindle Purchases: Amazon Responds

There is an increased risk of unauthorized purchases being made on my school library’s Amazon account. Here’s why: My library has increased its collection of Kindles from two to six. You see, more Kindles mean more possible visits to the Kindle Store and more possible buying. Because Amazon chooses to allow one-click purchasing from all Kindles, it is quite easy for any Kindle user to navigate to the Kindle Store and choose new titles. Although some libraries are beginning to embrace patron-driven acquisition, for others unfettered one-click purchasing represents a serious problem. Besides the risk of inappropriate content being transferred to the device, there’s the potential of having to contend with a big bill.  In an effort to thwart this threat, I recently attempted to cap potential loss by attaching a gift card to my library’s Amazon account. This didn’t work. The credit card that’s associated with the account, the card that was necessary to first open the account, is still exposed to potential buying sprees. Deauthorizing each Kindle before checkout could solve my problem, but at this point the Kindles cannot connect to my school’s wifi. To make certain that I wasn’t overlooking another solution to the problem, I instant messaged Amazon’s customer service. The attention and courteousness of the customer service rep was commendable, but the recommended solutions were of no help.  Here’s the transcript of the chat, which occurred on Wednesday, June 8, 2011:

You are now connected to Amit from Amazon.com.
Me: I work in a library. I have six kindles regsitered with my account and I have a corporate credit card associated with the account. I would like to be able to prevent purchases on the kindles or I would like to be able to remove the credit card and strictly use gift card balances for purchases. Can you help? 10:24:16 AM
Amit: Hello, my name is Amit. I will be happy to help you. 10:24:33 AM

Amit: I need to transfer you to kindle team. 10:24:52 AM
Me: ok 10:25:12 AM
A Customer Service Associate will be with you in a moment.You are now connected to Amazon from Amazon.com.
Amazon: Hello, my name is Swathi. I’ll be happy to help you today. 10:27:29 AM

Me: I work in a library. I have six kindles regsitered with my account and I have a corporate credit card associated with the account. I would like to be able to prevent purchases on the kindles or I would like to be able to remove the credit card and strictly use gift card balances for purchases. Can you help? 10:28:11 AM
Amazon: Thanks for the information provided. I will be glad to assist you. 10:29:43 AM
Amazon: I have checked your account and see that the current gift card balance is $25. 10:30:29 AM
Amazon: I understand that you want to use the gift certificate balance to your Kindle purchases. 10:31:19 AM
Me: Yes, but I also want to prevent buying on the credit card in the event the gift card balance were to be depleted. I want to minimize the potential loss from unauthorized purchases. 10:32:25 AM
Amazon: To ensure that no one else can use 1-Click purchasing on your account, you’ll just need to sign out of your account when you’re done using it. Click the “Sign out” link above the Self Service Tools box in the right-hand column of our Help pages at any time to exit your Amazon.com account. 10:34:09 AM
Me: I am worried about purchasing made from the kindle itself, not from within my amazon.com account. Can you help with that issue? 10:35:45 AM
Amazon: Thanks for the confirmation. I will help you out with this. 10:36:42 AM
Amazon: Can I have 2 minutes while I do a research on this matter. 10:37:16 AM

Me: Yes, of course. Thank you. 10:37:30 AM
Amazon: Sorry to have kept you on wait. 10:38:47 AM
Amazon: I am sorry currently we do not have an option to avoid unauthorized purchases from your Kindle Devices. 10:39:37 AM
Amazon: However, as an alternative you can set a password on the Settings screen. 10:40:26 AM
Me: Could you please explain that option? 10:41:04 AM
Amazon: Sure. 10:41:15 AM
Amazon: I will guide you through the steps to do so? 10:41:57 AM
Me: ok 10:42:06 AM
Amazon:Thank you. 10:42:17 AM

Amazon: Firstly, I request you to Navigate the Kindle’s Home screen and press the Menu button. 10:42:54 AM
Amazon: Then, Select “Settings” from the Home screen menu. 10:43:28 AM
Me: ok 10:43:32 AM
Amazon: Once you’re done with that, Select the “turn on” option next to Device Password on the Settings page.10:44:03 AM

Me: I don’t see that. 10:45:09 AM
Amazon: Is it clear till here? Can I proceed further? 10:45:09 AM
Me: I see Registration and Device Info. 10:45:30 AM
Amazon: Are you trying this on your 2G kindle? 10:45:53 AM
Me: Yes, but I can get a newer kindle. Please hold on. 10:46:36 AM
Amazon: Sure. 10:46:45 AM
Me: On the Settings screen I now see Registration, Device Name, Wi-Fi Settings, and Device Info. 10:48:13 AM
Amazon: Do you see a device password? 10:48:54 AM
Amazon: You can see this on the second page 10:50:01 AM
Me: No, I do not. In order to get to the Settings screen, I have to go through the Menu button, correct? 10:50:14 AM
Amazon: Yes, Correct. 10:50:34 AM
Me: Oh yes, my mistake. I do see it on the second page. 10:50:44 AM
Amazon: Okay. Now can you please select the “turn on” option next to Device Password on the Settings page. 10:51:27 AM
Me: Wouldn’t this prevent a library patron from reading as well as purchasing? 10:51:52 AM
Amazon: Yes, It prevents from reading as well as purchasing. 10:53:00 AM
Amazon: Can we proceed for the further steps? 10:53:18 AM
Me: I’m not sure how this begins to solve the problem that I have. I’m wondering why amazon couldn’t simply password-protect accounts, like the iTunes Store does. 10:54:21 AM
Me: Is there another way that I could handle the issue? 10:54:37 AM
You are now reconnected with Amazon.
Amazon: Are you there? 10:55:25 AM

Me: Yes. 10:55:32 AM
Amazon: Thanks for confirmation 10:55:40 AM
Amazon: Can we proceed with the steps? 10:55:57 AM
Me: Sure, if you think that they’re going to address my problem. Thank you. 10:56:29 AM
Amazon: Yes, surly it will be of help. 10:57:21 AM
Amazon: Enter your new password twice and also enter a hint to help you remember the password. 10:57:39 AM
Me: Ok, but will this option prevent the patron from reading? Will I have to share the password in order for the patron to read? And, if so, wouldn’t the patron then be able to navigate to the kindle store and make purchases on my account? 10:59:06 AM
Amazon: Yes, if you share your password with the patron, then they will get an option to read and purchase. However, we do no have any specific security option to restrict from Kindle purchases. 11:01:38 AM
Me: Ok. Thank you for your assistance. 11:02:13 AM
Amazon: So, you do not prefer to create a security password on your Kindle screen? 11:02:43 AM
Me: No. That does not help in this situation. Thank you. 11:03:19 AM
Amazon: Okay, I will take this as a feedback and forward to our improvement team. 11:03:54 AM
Amazon: However, just for you to know gift certificates will be directly credited from your account for any kind of Kindle content purchases upto you Gift certificate balance in your account. 11:05:10 AM
Me: Ok, but will purchases then be made on the credit card? In other words, If there’s $25 on my gift balance, could someone be able to make $500 worth of purchases? 11:07:16 AM
Amazon: As an alternative to restrict anyone else purchase from your Kindle you can remove the Payment method associated with “1 Click settings in your account. 11:11:30 AM
Amazon: Whenever you would want to purchase content, you can add the payment method again to 1-Click settings. 11:12:46 AM
Me: That seems impractical, unless I can replace the credit card as the primary payment and make a gift card the primary method. That doesn’t seem to be possible, however. The only change that I can make is to add a different credit card or debit card. 11:13:22 AM
Amazon: I am sorry as of now this is the only alternative option we have to restrict the purchases. 11:15:06 AM
Me: Ok. Thank you. I will sign off now. 11:15:27 AM

Amazon: Is there anything else that I can help you with?11:16:16 AM
Me: No. Thank you. 11:16:26 AM
Amazon: We hope to see you again soon! Please click the “End Chat” link to close this window. 11:16:51 AM
Me: Ok. 11:17:09 AM