Brooklyn Public Library


Learning Express Library: Filling a Need

Jun 15, 2011 1:56 PM | 0 comments

This post comes from Eric, a librarian here at Brooklyn Public Library.

One of the more difficult aspects of being a public librarian at a time when libraries are facing constant budget cuts is that we often can't order enough copies of books or provide enough classes to keep up with demand. At the Education & Job Information Center, we field dozens of requests per day for review books for the GED exam, tutoring in math and writing skills, and classes that can help build computer skills. I hate to say no to anyone, and having to say "No, we don’t have any GED books available for checkout" or "Sorry, we don’t offer classes in Microsoft Excel" to someone who is ready and willing to learn is a rotten feeling. Thankfully, Brooklyn Public Library subscribes to a terrific database called Learning Express Library:

Learning Express Library is accessible to any BPL cardholder from any computer with Internet access. It has practice tests, online courses and downloadable eBooks available 24 hours per day, seven days per week. Learning Express offers a wealth of review material for standardized tests and entrance exams, civil service exams and basic skill building (reading, writing, math and more) for adults and children. It also has an entire page of popular software tutorials, and not just for the "biggies" such as Microsoft Word and Excel, either. You can also learn more specialized programs such as Photoshop, Illustrator and Visio, among numerous others.

We’ve been demonstrating Learning Express Library more and more over the past months, and many patrons have obtained tremendous help from this easy-to-use and completely free resource. We encourage you to check it out, too.

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Digital Public Library of America Wants Your Help!

Jun 7, 2011 11:40 AM | 0 comments

This post was written by Michael, Electronic Resources Analyst at Brooklyn Public Library.

Whether it is the overtaking of the sales of hardcovers and paperbacks by
eBooks at Amazon, or the announcement by Harper Collins concerning a new model of selling eBooks to libraries, some exciting, overwhelming, or disheartening news item is recently always popping up about eBooks. Well, the latest big eBook news item is both wonderful and daunting and it concerns the development of the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA). We are bringing this to your attention as the people behind the DPLA are seeking your input on what a virtual nationwide library of free online resources should look like. Don’t miss this opportunity to be heard!

The Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, with backing from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, has commenced a research initiative into the design, feasibility and logistical requirements necessary for the creation of the Digital Public Library of America. The initiative was launched in December and consists of a steering committee of representatives of libraries, archives and museums. 

The steering committee is seeking to bring together “the educational community, public and research libraries, cultural organizations, state and local government, publishers, authors, and private industry” to identify ways to better improve the public’s access to “comprehensive online resources.” They have scheduled some activities to draw attention to the project and to get as wide a cross section of people involved.

One of the first activities of the steering committee is a Beta Sprint, in which anyone can submit statements of interest with regards to the "ideas, models, prototypes, technical tools, user interfaces, etc. – put forth as a written statement, a visual display, code, or a combination of forms – that demonstrate how the DPLA might index and provide access to a wide range of broadly distributed content." 

Basically, they are asking how you think it should look and work. These statements are due to the steering committee by June 15. Final submissions of videos, pure code, prototypes, slide presentations, web site, etc. are due by September 1. Check out the press release for the Beta Sprint for more information.

So let your voice be heard on this important issue and add to the vision of a digital library for all the people.

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Additional Resources for Your Research Needs

May 18, 2011 10:22 AM | 0 comments

This post comes from Melissa, a librarian here at Brooklyn Public Library.

I have this friend who, among other pursuits, is a writer. When she needs to do research for an article or other work, she's dependent on free online content and public library resources. Yes, we have books on our shelves, and can even get my friend needed titles that we don't own via interlibrary loan. Let's also assume that she can navigate effectively around the internet.

But I would also urge her to take a look at our latest video tutorial to see how useful JSTOR can be:

Despite the obvious benefits of Google and library books, there's still a big category of content that my friend could miss. How will she be able to get to academic explorations of the incarceration of women? Where could she find in-depth analysis of welfare reform and the feminization of poverty? What if she needs some scholarly context for her work with community projects on the Lower East Side?

Perhaps these sorts of situations sound familiar to you? Well, in addition to the newspaper and magazine articles, encyclopedias, test preparation materials and other tools that are covered in BPL's digital resources, we also have subscriptions of a more scholarly nature. One of these is JSTOR, a database that indexes over a thousand academic journals and includes articles, images, book reviews and other content.

Although most of BPL's subscription databases are available remotely, the license we have with JSTOR allows for access only from within Central Library. In order to use it you need to plan ahead and come in when we're open.

But it's not so bad! Take the 2/3 train or get on the B41 bus and disembark by the plaza. And if you bike, your reward for your research jaunt can be a leisurely ride through an increasingly verdant Prospect Park.

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Managing eResources at BPL

May 4, 2011 12:05 PM | 0 comments

This post comes from Melissa, a librarian here at Brooklyn Public Library.

Lots of people read eBooks. The 2010 winter holiday season provided the perfect opportunity for many of us to give our loved ones eReading devices, and the number of eReaders (both human and machine) will only keep growing. BPL, of course, is among many libraries that offer downloadable media for borrowing. (Fun fact: our vendor’s server actually shut down because of the volume of requests right after Christmas!)

Library collections already represent a tangle of business relationships, decisions for which are made to take into account efficiency, community benefit, financial constraints and research needs. But when it comes to print materials, the public (you!) doesn't really need to be affected by all that. The book or magazine is borrowable according to library loan rulesthat's it. Even access to the subscription databases requires only the use of an Internet-connected computer. 

But successful use of eBooks and other digital content through the library means that you need not only a valid library account but probably two personal devices (unless you're going to be reading all your eBooks on your computer). Let's not even get into the economic and environmental implications of needing so much hardware to keep up with the new horizons in publishing and reading. Let's instead talk about why today has been designated a Day Against DRM.

DRM stands for Digital Rights Management or in the glass-half-empty view, Digital Restrictions ManagementThere's a batch of lay-readers' definitions (part of an informal survey of e-reading habits) that are a rather enjoyable read themselves. Bear in mind that DRM is separate from copyright, but the one usually ends up being discussed in conjunction with the other.

Libraries are rather interestingly positioned on this issue (of course, I'm biased) because we might, as BPL does, subscribe to digital media collections that almost inevitably use DRM. However, given that access is something paramount to our values as well as our basic operations, we also have a responsibility to the public (again, you!) to proceed with care.

The book- (and other tangible item) lending that public libraries have done for decades gets its legal backing from the doctrine of first sale, but the world of lending materials is a more complicated place now. Copyright law, never known for its simplicity, adds to the general confusion over DRM. I have heard it said more than once that the reason most people end up pirating content is because it's easier than the alternatives. 

If DRM is not effective against piracy, what might it be good for? On the reader's side, is the language of "rights" applicable here, in the sense that there could be an eBook User's Bill of Rights or a Reader's Bill of Rights for Digital Books (and note that the latter brings up important points about privacy)?

Of course, the codexor, as you may refer to it, bookis still a vital format. BPL continues to add paper books to the collection, and we make booklists and other recommendations for readers regardless of the technology involved.

You may not want to celebrate a Day Against DRM, but do think about what you as a reader could do to make electronic texts accessible and ownable in ways that fairly compensate authors and publishers. 

What new developments will the next few years bring?

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The New York Times Paywall

Apr 12, 2011 9:55 AM | 0 comments

This post comes from Melissa, a librarian here at Brooklyn Public Library.

You've probably heard of the system that the New York Times has recently put in place for digital subscriptions: the paywall.

There has been an outpouring of opinion after opinion on the subject, as well as analysis of the initiative. Here at BPL, we've put together our own response: a tutorial to show how you can access the full text of the New York Times through library resources.



Comment #33 on the BoingBoing post about the Times paywall is one of the few places in the non-librarian blogosphere where I've seen an acknowledgment that many public libraries subscribe to databases that contain the full text of newspapers, magazines and journals. BPL, for one, pays for access to dozens of databases (not just ones with articles) so that we can make them freely available to you, our public. In other words, it's your tax dollars at work. Just as we use Brooklyites' money to purchase books, DVDs and other borrowable materials, we also put these funds toward online access to resources of all kinds. In the case of the New York Times, you can go through BPL's website and read articles dating from the newspaper's founding in 1851 through the current day. Full-page images are provided for content dating from 1851 through 2007.

So, take a look at the range of database access BPL offers and consider it part of your information ecosystem. As for the New York Times paywall, workarounds will emerge, but these won't resolve the greater question of how journalists can be compensated and how publications (in either their digital or paper forms) can stay alive in the twenty-first-century.


Needless to say, lots of smart people are thinking about the big picture. And for those interested in libraries and journalism, the first-ever Beyond Books conferenceNews, Literacy and Democracy for America's Librariesjust wrapped. Take a look for some ideas about what the future of community and democracy could hold.



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