I began my investigation with the Massachusetts State E-book project. According to Library Journal, the Massachusetts State e-book project was “conceived by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioner's (MBLC) Statewide Resource Sharing Committee and the Massachusetts Library System (MLS) with funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS)” (Enis 16). The e-book project, according to Advanced Technology Library, “is a direct response to “the demand for more e-content” that “libraries throughout Massachusetts” have concluded is “a statewide imperative” (Massachusetts Launches E-Book Pilot Project 2); the intention of this program is to provide that much needed e-content.
The Dartmouth Middle School Library currently uses the MackinVia e-Resource management system and Follet Shelf to access e-content. Neither of these systems are a part of the Massachusetts State e-book project. Dartmouth Middle School has purchased 112 titles (only four of which are digital audiobooks) for MackinVia. The app allows for unlimited and simultaneous use (depending on the book and license), of the library’s previously acquired e-books and database content. The library’s Follett Shelf Brytewave k–12 has 180 titles available; 73 digital audiobooks and 107 e-books. Ms. Gardner gave me my own MackinVia and BryteWave k-12 edition app logins, and I was able to explore the iOS apps for myself.
With MackinVia, the e-book titles are categorized by subjects and are easily searchable by things like author, genre, number of pages, and even Lexile Level. There is a feature called “my backpack,” which I really enjoyed. It allows users to save their favorite e-book titles for easy accessibility at another time. Once an e-book has been checked-out, MackinVia allows the user to download it to their device, so that they may read later it without an internet connection. With the “open now” option, the user can choose to read a book without checking it out, or downloading it; they would simply click “open now,” and then click the X button to close it out once they have finished.
As I’ve previously mentioned, MackinVia has the option to integrate the titles found within Follet Shelf, therefore eliminating the need for multiple apps. However, Ms. Gardner has not yet had the opportunity to do this, and so students must use both apps to locate books. The BryteWave k-12 edition app allows the user to search by “most recent,” “A-Z,” and also “Z-A.” Follet does not allow for simultaneous e-book usage. Once an e-book is checked-out, a student must place a hold and wait, or they have the option to search MackinVia. I did not enjoy the BryteWave k-12 edition app as much. I found it to be a bit slow, and slightly more difficult to navigate in comparison to MackinVia. I can see this being a potential source of frustration for students attempting to locate a book. While the e-content is great, the app may prevent it from being accessed. Schools that have access to both Follett Shelf and MackinVia should make integration of the two a priority.
After becoming familiarized with MackinVia and Follet Shelf, I began my exploration of the Commonwealth e-book collection platforms. Currently, Baker & Taylor's Axis 360 platform has nearly 10,000 popular fiction books and general interest ebooks under a standard one-ebook, one-user, two-week lending model, while its counterpart, BiblioLabs offers more than 25,000 (775,000) public domain e-books, library special collections, and other content with an unlimited simultaneous use model.
When the opportunity to attend a Massachusetts State Library Association EdCamp presented itself to me, I leapt at the chance. After a brief introduction to the MSLA EdCamp model, I selected one of the large, orange post-it notes and wrote: “Axis 360/BiblioBoard” on it, and posted it to the corresponding white board schedule. Not long after that I headed into my first un-conference with actual school librarians who had real-life experience with, not only Baker & Taylor’s platform, but others, as well. It was at EdCamp where I learned that Overdrive is the most loved e-book platform, as far as content and ease of use goes. I use Overdrive through my public library and I love the quality of its mobile app, which also offers many controls for the user to customize their experience, such as a bookmark feature, sleep timer, and the ability to manipulate the playback speed. However, as many of my fellow EdCampers pointed out, Overdrive’s exceptionally high pricing keeps it out of range of most school libraries. MackinVia was the second crowd favorite, for many of the reason previously mentioned.
When we arrived at Axis 360, opinions seemed to vary. I learned that Axis 360 does not allow simultaneous use, nor does it easily synch with certain library management systems, such as Destiny. Like MackinVia’s “my backpack,” Axis 360 has a feature they call “My Stuff,” which houses your preferred digital content. The platform can be accessed by students with or without passwords; however, the librarian must first request that students have access without passwords, otherwise they will be required. Librarians should be aware of, and consider all setup options carefully before enrolling.
BiblioBoard was favored among high school librarians for it exceptional literary criticism resources and simultaneous use of e-books. According to an article published in American Libraries, the main benefits of BiblioBoard are “the depth of the Core content (more than 20,000 items); the flexibility of the service provider to respond to our needs for incorporating new ebook content; the additional aspect of moderated content creation with BiblioBoard Creator; and the ability for us to provide ebooks that can be owned outright” (Biblioboard Brings Ebooks And Publishing To Libraries 79). As I continued to research BiblioBoard, I found that they would be hosting a webinar to introduce BiblioBoard’s new look and discuss its current features.
Through a one hour webinar, I learned that I learned that BiblioBoard now allows librarians to customize their BiblioBoard home page by adding their own logo to it. Libraries are also allowed access to collections created by state, public, and school libraries. They even offer Common Core support and guides. BiblioBoard has a feature called “My board,” which is also very similar to MackinVia’s “My backpack” feature, in that favorited tiles can be placed there for quicker access at another time. Much like MackinVia, BiblioBoard allows titles to be downloaded, making them available offline, as well. “An ebook published in open format could be accessed from any device, rather than one requiring proprietary software” (Collette 30), and with BiblioBoard’s native app, students would have the opportunity to access their accounts on all electronic devices, such as tablets or smart phones. The simulations action feature is fantastic, and bear mentioning once more. However, it is also important to note that, at this time, neither Axis 360 or BiblioBoard can be filtered for content easily. School librarians in lower grade levels should remain on their toes.
While I was hoping to use my research to incorporate Axis 360 and BiblioBoard into Dartmouth Middle’s library as part of my practicum experience, unforeseen circumstances beyond my control prevented this from happening. However, I did not see this bump in the road as a loss. Instead, I saw it as an opportunity to promote and encourage the students of Dartmouth Middle to utilize the two e-book apps already available to them. I switched gears and began to focus on promoting the MackinVia and Follett Shelf Brytewave k–12 apps. I created a flyer in PhotoShop that featured screenshots of the two e-book app log-in screens with instructions on how to access the apps from a personal device. At the bottom of the flyer I added perforated tear off strips, so students could grab one as a reminder of the app names, should they want to download them at another time. These flyers were hung all around the school, including inside the student’s bathrooms, which many students told me was hilarious; i.e, effective.
Since both MackinVia and Follet Shelf can be accessed using ones home computer, I created two screencasts to help students learn how to better navigate these two platforms when at home. My intention in making the screencasts was to showcase how easy it is to use both websites, in hopes that this would result in more students using them, as well as the device apps, to check-out more e-content. In addition to the flyer and screencasts, I created iPad mock-ups in PhotoShop highlighting six popular print books available at Dartmouth Middle that could also be found on the MackinVia and Follet Shelf apps. I mounted the mock-ups on colored construction paper, secured them to the library’s bulletin board, placed an additional e-book flyer on the board, and titled the display “ebook apps.”
When I reviewed the check-out statistics for both Follet/BryteWave and MackinVia I saw amazing growth. In the month of September only two students had accessed Follet for e-content. By the end of October over fifty students were accessing Follet from either their home computers of electronic devices. MackinVia was similar, with only two students having accessed it in September, while over thirty students were using it to check-out books by the end of October, and this was after only a few weeks of promoting the two platforms. I’m happy to report that, since my practicum’s conclusion, Ms. Gardner has successfully set-up Axis 360 and BiblioBoard. Students can easily set up their own accounts without passwords.
While I may not be in love with the idea of e-books, I recognize that they are here to stay, and that some students (and teachers) genuinely love having access to them, and I am happy to help facilitate that access. That being said, I really did enjoy being able to explore MackinVia and Follet Shelf’s BryteWave k-12 edition apps, as well as being able to briefly examine Axis 360 and BiblioBoard. I encourage all librarians to do the same (if you haven’t already). Investigate different e-book platforms before committing to a new one, and talk with other librarians in your district! You may be surprised to learn that some platforms better meet the needs of your particular district than others.
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Collette, Matt. "Getting to E: the State of the School Ebook Market." School Library Journal 2015: 28. Academic OneFile.
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Enis, Matt. "Technology: MA Ebook Pilot Offers Insights." Library Journal 139.17 (2014): 16. Library & Information Science
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"Massachusetts Launches E-Book Pilot Project." Advanced Technology Libraries 43.1 (2014): 2. Library & Information
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