eResource Challenge Wrap-Up: Week 1 & 2 Summaries

CONGRATULATIONS to everyone who completed the ACLA eResource Challenge!  For those of you who didn’t manage to complete all of the challenges, we applaud your participation and effort as well.  It was really exciting to have the level of engagement you all generated.  We can’t wait to announce the winners later this week!

For now, hopefully you’ll be satisfied with a summary of the responses from the Week One and Week Two challenges.  It’s a LOT of text, but may be almost as useful as completing the challenges!

Week One Database Challenge

The Scenario:  A college student approaches you and says, “We’re studying Willa Cather in my Lit class. Our teacher said she lived in Pittsburgh for a while and offered extra credit if we can find the following:  10 points for finding a street she lived on in Pittsburgh and 10 points for finding an article that talks about Cather’s literary development while in Pittsburgh.   

Using the literature and genealogy resources on the Find Articles (or, for CLP folks, the CLP database page, help this student earn 20 extra credit points.  

Did you run into any problems finding the requested information?  Do you have any tips for making either search easier or more successful?  Did you discover anything new about either database?  Is there anything else you’d like to share about your experience?    

Well, straight out of the gate it was clear that Google is a go-to starting point for many staff across Allegheny County.  Several participants noted that it was faster than using the databases.  Many quickly found a Post-Gazette article that discussed Cather’s time in Pittsburgh and included specific addresses for her.  Luckily, the teacher who assigned the extra credit would probably find a Post-Gazette article to be a reliable source.

Of the literature databases searched, the overwhelming favorite was Literature Resource Center.  Several people commented that the interface, organization, and search functions were easy to use and understand, including the advanced searching.  Multiple responses mentioned combining a keyword search for Pittsburgh with a “Person By or About” search on Cather.

Searching the genealogy databases for a specific street address for Cather proved to be a true challenge for many participants.  Some of those who did have success in using the genealogy resources mentioned the difficulty of reading the handwriting on the old census records.  Multiple responses included a plea for more training on Ancestry Library Edition, so stay tuned for that!  One fun discovery, from Cathy L. at CLP, was that she once lived on one of the same streets as Cather (Marchand).

Week One Downloadables Challenge

The Challenge: In the NGC, search for your favorite genre then limit to the OverDrive READ format and available copies. Pick a title and go through the checkout process. Once the book is checked out, go through the process of returning the book, but don’t leave the NGC!

Tell us, did you have any trouble completing this challenge? What is one advantage of using the NGC for ebooks?

There was practically universal praise for the ease of using the NGC to locate and check out ebooks, with the words “quick,” “easy,” and “straightforward” coming up over and over.  The top benefits listed were the “one-stop shopping” experience, with all formats (e, print, media, etc.) accessible from a single interface, and the fact that, as David K. from CLP stated, the “NGC keeps track of checked out ebooks and other materials all in one place.”

Bob M. from Wilkinsburg liked that using the NGC “minimizes the number of steps in the check out process,” and Pam. F, from Pleasant Hills said, “It’s nice to be able to see from the initial results list which ebook formats are available, as well as how many copies are available for checkout, and if they are already checked out, how many people are on the waitlist.”  An anonymous respondent noted that patrons only have to learn one interface if they check out ebooks through the NGC.

There were a few glitches, however.  Several people ran into trouble because the NGC or OverDrive was experiencing problems when they attempted their search.  The main stumbling block participants encountered, though, was from the automatic location filtering in the NGC when searching from within a library.  Many people recommended that e-content appear in the results regardless of location filters.  In the meantime, be sure to turn the location filter off if searching from within a library.

Another frequently cited problem was difficulty limiting to available items.  Sometimes the limit just didn’t want to stick!

The challenge creators also took note that our question was misleading.  We asked you to search for your favorite genre, implying that a specific genre search was available in the NGC.  Instead, participants had to figure out that a keyword search using genre was the way to start.  Everyone figured it out, but we apologize for the confusion!

LaMonica W. from CLP discovered something worth noting: “I could not return all of my ebook items through NGC. I had previously checked out an epub item using the overdrive app and the option to return the book was not available in the NGC. I needed to return to the overdrive app in order to return the item.” Indeed, returns through the NGC (or directly from a patron’s bookshelf on the OverDrive site), are only possible if it’s the READ format or, in the case of the other formats, if they have not yet been downloaded.  For more information about how to return already downloaded titles early, visit this OverDrive help page.

And finally, Rita B. from CLP asked if there is still a delay in what appears in the catalog and what’s available in OverDrive.  Great question, Rita!  That’s another advantage of the NGC.  All titles in our OverDrive collection appear in the NCG without delay.

Week Two Database Challenge

The Scenario:  A middle schooler approaches the reference desk and asks for resources on Roberto Clemente. He has been assigned to write a paper on a figure from Pittsburgh’s history and is looking for age-appropriate information on Clemente’s life, baseball career, and death.

Search for information in SIRS DiscovererMiddle Search Plus, and Biography in Context.  Which database(s) would you recommend to this student, and why? (Consider multiple factors such as the search interfaces, ease of use, your results, etc.)

Biography in Context and SIRS Discoverer won out in this contest.  Many participants praised their simple layout and presentation of information.  The more traditional database look of Middle Search Plus didn’t appeal as much and, as Tracy O. from Brentwood pointed out, the initial search screen might intimidate a middle school student.  Several folks made note of the ability to listen to the full text in Middle Search Plus, but as Natalie E. of CLP discovered, “the machine reading is not very fluid and has some funny interpretations of words and abbreviation.”

The inclusion of reading/lexile levels in all the databases was something lots of people noted, with the caveat that it would be important to conduct a reference interview to determine the correct reading level for this patron.

Despite being one of the top picks, several people noted that SIRS Discoverer becomes much more text heavy once you move past the starting page.  Another common criticism, as pointed out by Dana J. at Mt. Lebanon, was that attempting a search by navigating the “Browse Subject Tree” was cumbersome and ineffective.  That being said, SIRS was also praised for its “easy-to-navigate avenues for both beginning and refining a search (the knowledge tree, keyword searching, reading levels, lexiles, etc.” (Cathy L., CLP).  Whitney W. from Northland also liked SIRS, eventually!  She said, “I was unimpressed with the content and quality of the results that appeared after I typed “Roberto Clemente” in the keyword box… Before I moved on to a different database, I noticed that one of the articles had a link to “Roberto Clemente” listed as a Descriptor. I decided to click on that link next. I was very impressed with the “WebFind Site” result that appeared after I clicked on the link. The “WebFind SIte” link sent me to an online Smithsonian Exhibition about Roberto Clemente. The amount of information and the quality of the content on that site was very impressive. I think it would be very helpful for a middle school report.”

Abby H. from CLP, summed up the appeal of Biography in Context, stating, “Personally, I always advise students in middle and high school to use the ‘In Context’ products.  I find them to be visually pleasing, well organized, and easy to search and use.  All the facts are immediately available once you do a simple search- really as simple as using google.  I like that results are split up into categories- reference, images, magazines, newspaper articles, etc.  The students always love that citations are already provided, even for the images.”

Week Two Downloadables Challenge:

This week’s challenge included three parts.  We’ll look at each one separately.

Explain how to read OverDrive READ eBooks offline.

Kris M from CLP summed it up nicely: “You can download (cache) an OverDrive Read eBook on your computer or device so you can read it later without an internet connection using your web browser. At the bottom of the OverDrive Read menu, there’s a box labeled, ‘Your book, everywhere.’ Click Download to save a book for offline reading. To read offline, you’ll need to open your web browser and go to the URL of the OverDrive Read eBook to keep reading it. This can be done without an internet connection.” Elizabeth S. from Mt. Lebanon added, “if you add to favorites it is ever easier to bring up.”  And finally, Amy S. from Northland pointed out that clearing the cache will remove the ebook, which could be frustrating to users.

What solutions can you offer to a patron who isn’t using a compatible browser?

Jackie M. from CLP responded, “OverDrive Read is a browser-based eBook reader that works on most tablets, phones, and computers running web browsers with HTML5 support. If you’re using Internet Explorer, you may be prompted with the option to install the free ‘Chrome Frame plug-in’ or use an alternative browser when opening an eBook. If you prefer, you can also choose to use OverDrive Read Basic, a reduced-feature version of OverDrive Read.”  Terry L., also from CLP, included a helpful link to the OverDrive help pages on the topic.

Try out a READ book and tell us one thing you either like or don’t like about the experience.

Let’s start with the negatives:

  • Several people mentioned they would like more lighting options (though people did appreciate that there were some)
  • Several people noted that it’s potentially frustrating that it isn’t compatible with more browsers.
  • Lots of people commented that they don’t particularly like reading on a computer, but don’t forget, this works on any device with an HTML5 browser, so tablet users can take advantage of this option also.
  • Caralee from CLP discovered that some of the illustrations and text in picture books don’t fit the same way on a page as with a print book.
  • A couple of people experienced a delay when trying to turn pages.
  • Matt B. from Dormont discovered the potentially frustrating fact that the scroll wheel is not supported for turning pages.
  • Mary P. from CLP mentioned that she found the “Download” vs. “Read” option confusing at first.  First she “Downloaded” the item, thinking that was the caching process, instead of tapping “Read,” and then, in the book’s menu, tapping “Download”.  She wasn’t the only one!

And now to the positives:

  • the ability to change font styles for ease on the eyes
  • the ability to highlight, take notes and use the dictionary
  • when you open your ebook to continue reading, it automatically goes right to where you left off, even if you haven’t placed a bookmark on that page.
  • you can search the content of the ebook and also that a contents box is always within reach
  • the tutorial at the beginning explaining how to navigate the book
  • the ability to change line-spacing
  • the delightful cloud that turns into an anchor (from Mary P. at CLP)
  • Hannah S. from CLP suggested READ might be great for novice eBook readers because they don’t have to install any apps or download anything.
  • Natalie E. from CLP was pleased to discover that in the download section of the menu, she was given the suggestion to add the book as an app on her phone’s home screen as a way to get to it easily. She clicked on the suggestion, and it gave her steps on how to do it.
  • Karen M. from CLP stated, “The ease of downloading a library e-Book is finally close to buying an ebook.” But, as Jill M. from Cooper-Siegel pointed out, “not all the ebooks are available in the READ format,” so libraries and library patrons still face limitations.

If you’ve stuck with us for this entire post you deserve another congratulations!  We’ll post summaries of weeks three and four tomorrow.

Continue ReadingeResource Challenge Wrap-Up: Week 1 & 2 Summaries

eResource Challenge Week 6 – Downloadables

This is it!  The final challenge of the 2013 ACLA eResource Challenge!

Congratulations to those of you who have stayed on top of all the challenges. (Impressive!)  For those of you who have remaining challenges, there’s still time!  All responses received by midnight on Sunday, November 3 will count towards team participation and, for those of you on a team, prize entries (if you submit your contact info).

Let’s finish out the Challenge with Zinio, the digital magazine service we offer.

The Challenge:

Zinio has recently made some upgrades.  These include the ability to:

  • browse before logging in
  • checkout back issues (back to the beginning of our subscriptions)
  • checkout multiple issues before viewing (rather than checking one out, going back to the site for another, and back again for a third, etc.)

All of these are great improvements, but there are a couple of things we still get asked about regularly.

First, if you recall, patrons are required to have two Zinio accounts.  The first is a library Zinio account and the second is a consumer Zinio account.  They can use the exact same email address and password.  In fact, we strongly recommend that they do.  We’re hoping most of you have already gone through this process, but if you haven’t, please do so now.  Really.  It’s worth it.

Now that everyone is all set with their Zinio accounts, let’s get to the tricky questions:

The Scenario:

A patron calls because they have just checked out some magazines but are taken to a screen that says their cart is empty and prompting them to purchase magazines.  Help them find their free checked out magazines!  (The screen shot below may help you.  You might also try to recreate the experience.  Here’s a tip: be sure you are logged out of your consumer Zinio account before checking out magazines.)

zinio screen capture

The patron also mentions that they would like to stop receiving advertising from Zinio, but they would like to receive notification when a new issue of their checked out magazines becomes available.  What can you tell them?

Follow this link to complete the challenge.

Continue ReadingeResource Challenge Week 6 – Downloadables

eResource Challenge Week 6 – Databases

This is the final database challenge of the competition!

Congratulations to those of you who have stayed on top of all the challenges. (Impressive!)  For those of you who have remaining challenges, there’s still time!  All responses received by midnight on Sunday, November 3 will count towards team participation and, for those of you on a team, prize entries (if you submit your contact info).

The Scenario:

A patron stops in and says, “I was walking downtown this summer and there were what seemed like hundreds of people walking around in animal costumes!  There was a sign that said “Welcome Furries!” What are Furries and why were so many in Pittsburgh?”

Follow this link to complete the challenge.

Continue ReadingeResource Challenge Week 6 – Databases

eResource Challenge Week 5 – Downloadables

The first four challenges all involved ebooks.  Now let’s take some time to explore e-audio.

The Scenario:

A patron is looking for downloadable audio books for a  short road trip.  He wants one fast-paced title for each leg of the trip.  It will take him between 4 and 5 hours each way.

Follow this link to complete the challenge.

Continue ReadingeResource Challenge Week 5 – Downloadables