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Nonfiction Matters
Inside Nonfiction Matters

Digital Decisions

This week has been Spring Break at Rutgers and so I have been awash in the world of print — finishing one books, getting another through production. But at the very same time I am thinking about e-books from both a personal perspective and in terms of what they mean, and will mean, for all of us who work with younger readers. In the fall I will be teaching a course about just this — how the whole world of e-books, apps, and other digital options effects youth service librarians. The good news is that creating the syllabus for the class gives me the opportunity to research and think about these questions. The challenge is that I have to figure all of this out on the fly, starting from knowing very little and in a time of rapid change. This is intellectual white water rafting — easy to tip over but a blast to experience.

The first thing I am noticing — and do all feel free to jump in, comment, suggest links or readings or contacts — is what a splintered field this is. Adult consumers have to deal with one set of issues and choices — Ipad v Kindle; keep Ipad1 or sell it on ebay to get Ipad2; 4G phone or 3. These are daunting choices — not wanting to miss out, but not wanting to waste money (or not being able to afford one more electronic toy). Libraries for young people (school and public) have a different set of isses. Technology, as the always bright Anita Beaman said to be, is now a collection development choice. Before you even decide which non-compatible apps or ebooks your library should have you need to see which platform it can afford — or afford in numbers that allow enough readers, or a full class, to use the material. And even if you have a budget for technology — or a way to start a campaign to get one — age comes into the picture. Which platforms and apps fit each age group that uses your library? All of these choices then return you to the acres of print already on your shelves — there is so much value, both in aesthetic/pedagogical terms, and in pure money spent, there as against the library’s limited ability to purchase the equipment necessary to play new features, what should you do? Keep your print collection weeded and current, or add non-print resources?

Or, of course, some form of both. For some patrons you can, and already do, provide the files, leaving it to them to have the necessary devices. Betsy Bird blogged about evaluating apps at the beginning of this year, I have not looked carefully but surely there are sites that this on an ongoing basis. But my interest in this whole area is larger than providing ideas for how to make budget choices or tips on selecting the best new materials. To me the digital youth service library is the youth service librarian’s golden opportunity. You are going to be the cross between the ring master, the Consumer Reports evaluator, the florist — because you will have a sense of how print and digital fit together to serve the range of needs you already now, from 0-18. You become indispensible because while the parent, the care-giver, the teacher, the child will have a sense of parts of this expanding universe, you will have some sense of how those parts can fit together, can add up. Adults are choosing between print and e-experience. You will be the offering young people the best of both. That leaves the challenge of figuring out how to figure that out.


  1. I blogged about this as well and gave some links to good review resources:

  2. Marc Aronson says:


  3. Wow,
    What you’ve discussed here is just what I’ve been grappling with this week. I’ve spent some time in my book stacks, looking at valuable print resources (weed?, keep (in case the power grid is interruped indefinitely?), and knowing that today’s students will be invariably looking for their info via their electronic access devices. I’ve also dialogued with a teacher about use of Kindles, and we’ve been experimenting and exploring their use with visually or hearing challenged students–looking at writing grants (for the e-readers? for the titles? for class groups???). And, I’ve read a recently published article given me by a colleague on “Digital Readers” by Lotta C. Larson (The Reading Teacher, Sept. 2010) in which regular students responded and interacted with e-readers. So, decision-making has become a stressor and art within itself. I’ll be interested in others’ input into this challenge.

  4. Marc Aronson says:

    Thanks, keep us posted and I will look for the Larson article.