Apps for Content Creation

Chicago Public Library makerspace visualization (Katie Day on Flickr)
Chicago Public Library makerspace visualization (Katie Day on Flickr)

Why libraries are helping their users create

As the world goes digital, some are questioning the future of libraries. If you think of a library as only a storehouse of books, you might wonder: who will need libraries when most of our reading is available digitally, on a computer, or on mobile devices?

When you think about the reason libraries have become storehouses of books, and think about the underlying reasons why libraries exist, you end up with a mission statement like the one proposed by R. David Lankes: “The Mission of Librarians Is to Improve Society through Facilitating Knowledge Creation in Their Communities.” That’s the reason people needed books, and still need information (in any format) — to facilitate their own knowledge creation activities.

Libraries maintain relevancy by offering programs and services that help users create content — services, such as helping local authors write books, offering co-working spaces, and helping people make interesting objects using 3D printing.  This is an expansion of the roles libraries have already been involved in for some time, such as offering public computing, assistance with job searching, and serving as community gathering places. Library users have long valued these services, as described in the Pew Internet report, “How Americans Value Public Libraries in Their Communities.”

Best mobile apps for creative projects

Since libraries are getting involved in different ways with helping their users create, it’s good for librarians to know some of the best mobile apps to recommend to users as tools for their creative projects. Below is a sample of the many apps available that can be used for content creation and curation. Apps for working with photos, video, art, and music, may be the topic of a future post.

For those who want an easy way to start creating interactive books

Book Creator for iPad – Android, iOS. An easy-to-use app for creating multi-media ebooks, which include text, images, video, music, and narration. Great for working with kids.
iBooks Author – Mac OS. Although it is not a mobile app (it runs on Macs), iBooks Author enables you to create interactive ebooks for Apple’s iBookstore with multimedia features for viewing on iPads. It’s easy-to-learn, easy-to-use, and free. Some libraries are using it to create interactive ebooks from special collections. For example, see the New York Public Library’s NYPL Point: John Cage’s Prepared Piano.

For people who want to make non-boring presentations

Keynote – iOS. An easy-to-use presentation app similar to PowerPoint that enables users to design beautiful presentations. It comes with a set of well-designed themes. Pro themes are available from several publishers as well.
Slideshark – iOS. Present PowerPoint slides on your iPad.
Haiku Deck – iOS (iPad only). Create presentations with an elegant, minimalist look. One unique and useful feature of Haiku Deck is its ability to search Creative Commons-licensed images to use in your slides.
Prezi– iOS. Create presentations on a zooming, virtual canvas. People either love or hate Prezi.

For those who want to use shared whiteboards for demonstrations and teaching 

Explain Everything – Android, iOS (iPad only). Create screencasts or live demos of annotated documents, drawings, photos, or videos on your iPad.
Doceri – iOS (iPad only). Another popular and useful interactive whiteboard app.

For those who want to create designs for 3D printing

123D Design – iOS (iPad only). Autodesk makes several apps in this area. 123D Design is a good place to start. Designs can be initiated on an iPad, saved in the cloud, and finished on the desktop with 123D Design for Mac or Windows.
Makies Doll Factory – iOS (iPad only). Build fully-customizable digital dolls. See “Libby, the librarian.”
Blokify 3D Printing & Modeling – iOS. 3D modeling software that enables kids to create toys they can play with virtually or physically via 3D printing.
Thingiverse – Android, iOS. Share and browse user-created digital design files for 3D printing.

For those who want to curate and share content on the web

Flipboard – Android, iOS. A visual news reading app that provides an appealing way to browse, read, and share stories from a variety of sources. Use it to create “magazines” on topics of your choice. Here’s an example: “Book as App – Interactive, Multi-Touch.” – Android, iOS. Collect stories on a topic to share via a “magazine” on the web. – iOS. A curation app for the creation of virtual newspapers on specific topics.

Additional information about what libraries are doing to facilitate content creation in their communities

Batykefer, Erinn, Laura Damon-Moore, and Christina Jones. Library as Incubator Project.” A site that advocates for libraries as incubators of the arts.

Chant, Ian. “Opening Up: Next Steps for MOOCs and Libraries.” Library Journal. Discusses an academic library offering its own MOOCs and a public library using a MOOC as the foundation of a summer reading program. Makes the case that libraries are well-placed to be part of experiments with MOOCs.

Farkas, Meredith. “Libraries as Publishers: Our Push to Change the Publishing Landscape.” American Libraries. Exploring the role of libraries in enabling publishing, through publishing the work of the library’s constituencies (public libraries), and through publishing open-access work (academic libraries).

Four Local Libraries Honored for Offering Cutting-edge Services.” Digital Book World. ALA honored four libraries offering cutting-edge technology services, including services for easy video creation by faculty and students, and using Instagram’s API to capture photos tagged with the library’s hashtag and display them online and in the library.

Godin, Seth. “The future of the Library.” Seth Godin’s blog. Describes librarians as people who can bring domain knowledge and access to information, helping users create and invent.

Morozov, Evgeny. “Making It: Pick up a Spot Welder and Join the Revolution.” The New Yorker. Essay about the “maker movement,” its history, and where it could go.

Nawotka, Edward. “A Visit to BiblioTech: The 21st Century All-Digital Library.” Publishing Perspectives. The story of an all-digital public library in San Antonio, Texas. They loan out e-readers for home use. Discusses how economical it was to build, compared to other public libraries with print collections.

Peterson, Andrea. “Need to use a 3-D printer? Try your local library.” The Washington Post. A story on library 3D printing services, focusing on the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library in Washington, D.C.

Peterson, Andrea. “Digital age is forcing libraries to change.” Washington Post. . All about the “digital commons” at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library in Washington, D.C. Try out e-book readers, use a 3D printer, use the Skype station, a co-working space, and more.

Rendon, Frankie. “The Changing Landscape for Libraries & Librarians in the Digital Age.” TeachThought. Discusses why libraries are more relevant than ever, with librarians offering digital services, technology training, and serving as key partners in community relations.

Resnick, Brian. “The Library of the Future is Here.” Business Insider. Describes libraries not as warehouses of books, but as services and tools for the commons.

Sipley, Gina. “Surprise! It’s the Golden Age of Libraries.” PolicyMic. On re-imagining the library as digital space, with books no longer the focal point.

Stinson, Susan. “Writers in residence at Forbes Library: Three Programs.” Library as Incubator Project. Local writer describes her experience as writer-in-residence at Forbes Library in Northampton, Massachusetts.

“Symposium: Creative making for libraries & museums.” Dysart & Jones. A symposium held in July 2013 that focused on creative making in libraries and museums, with examples of makerspaces, fab labs, and more.

Tennant, Roy. “The Mission of Librarians is to Empower.” The Digital Shift. Many of the ways we empower our users and communities — increasing knowledge, providing access to tools, and more.

Apps for Librarians All of these apps and many more are discussed in my forthcoming book, Apps for Librarians: Using the Best Mobile Technology to Educate, Create, and Engage. Libraries Unlimited, Fall 2014. Sign up for my newsletter, “Mobile Apps News,” and receive useful tips twice a month, and a notification when the book is released.
By Nicole Hennig ’82LSSubscribe

Why Do Makerspaces Belong in Libraries?

Makerspaces are a hot topic now. In addition to talking with several public and academic librarians that are considering integrating such spaces, I also oversaw a student’s independent study about several case studies of established makerspaces at area libraries. One question that arises repeatedly whenever a community considers launching a makerspace is “Why do it in the library?” My answer: Why not?

The question of including a makerspace in a library seems to be predicated on misconceptions about what a library is and what people do there. People will argue that makerspaces, which are about exploring new skills and often involve an array of digital and mechanical tools, are noisy and messy. Libraries are sometimes perceived to be quiet spaces, conjuring up the stereotypical old lady librarian shushing people. Yet libraries everywhere have been smashing such stereotypes for years. While libraries still offer spaces that lend themselves to quiet study and reflection, they have also been creating spaces that are active, vibrant and, yes, noisy to host events, such as movie nights, musical performances, and baby storytimes. Libraries now offer spaces for people to meet as groups to collaborate on projects, practice presentations, or to have conversations. Many libraries run programs and workshops, and have set aside space for group instruction, author readings, and other interactive events.

Most importantly, the question seems to imply that libraries are for passive consumption of information, not for creating. In reality, people have always been involved in creating things at the library, although some of the products are intangible. Certainly, many children’s departments run arts-and-crafts projects, and many others host knitting clubs, gardening clubs, and other gatherings that use library spaces to meet. These groups often rely on library resources to acquire or improve the skills they need for whatever products they are making. In addition, how many novelists have used library resources to check facts, gather inspiration, or learn more about specific time periods, events, or processes? Students and scholars rely on library resources to write papers, and job hunters use the library to write their resumes and cover letters. When people are reading books, watching videos, or listening to music for pleasure, they are adding to their overall knowledge and experience of the world. It is the mission behind almost every library: to enable library users to create new knowledge.

The difference with makerspaces is that they bring together the tools for creating products, the materials to learn about the tools and to inform those creations, and the experts to support the use of the tools and materials into a single space. It is not a novel idea for libraries. Many academic libraries have organized around information commons models, where they provide patrons with a range of technology tools. Students are encouraged to use the space to produce videos, webcasts, and other multimedia presentations. Librarians and technologists are available to help with research or equipment/software questions that may arise. Makerspaces allow for a ‘one-stop shopping’ experience for users. They reflect people’s preferences and expectations to have tools available, and work on multiple tasks at once. With makerspaces in libraries, people will have the information and educational resources to learn a new skill and apply those skills in one place, along with a friendly librarian guide them through the process.

By Associate Professor Laura Saunders

A Librarian’s Perspective about the Misleading “Let Me Google That for You” Act

When Senators Tom Coburn [R-OK] and Claire McCaskill [D-MO] introduced the “Let Me Google That for You” Act to the Senate in April 2014, the bill seemed to have good intentions. It plans to consolidate government information and resources by determining if the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) is critical to the economy of the United States. In sum, the bill encourages eliminating a government agency because it assumes Google can find the information you need for free.

According to the NTIS website, the organization is “the largest central resource for government-funded scientific, technical, engineering, and business related information available today,” and provides access to businesses, universities, and the public. Over the past 60 years, NTIS has provided resources to approximately three million publications covering over 350 subject areas. While many of the resources provided by the NTIS are available elsewhere at no cost, NTIS offers information access and retrieval services, in addition to content.

Despite the bill’s good intentions to streamline services and save taxpayers money, the name of the bill’s title, “Let Me Google That For You Act” indicates a remarkable lack of knowledge about the collection and distribution of information in an electronic environment. While Google is a used by patrons and librarians countless times every day, it cannot predict what information will be relevant to an individual. Other reports suggest that areas of the Internet accessible to Google comprise about 1% of the total information available. While Google may be the latest and greatest search engine among a long line of existing ones, librarians know that just because information exists somewhere, in some form, it does not mean the information is accessible to users.

Librarians and information providers assist people in finding information relevant to them. Anyone can type a phrase into Google (or any other search engine) and expect to receive a few million “hits” of information. Yet knowing whether any of it is useful, relevant, or correct is becoming increasingly complicated. In the case of the NTIS, the information it collects is focused on specific audiences. The NTIS Bibliographic Database is a repository of specialized information which is not easily collected or understood without assistance. According to the NTIS website, “contents include research reports, computer products, software, video cassettes, audio cassettes and more. The complete electronic file dates back to 1964. On average, NTIS adds over 30,000 new records per year to the database. Most records include abstracts.” The fee-for-service involves retrieval, evaluation, and analysis of an individual’s request and a time-efficient search strategy, as well as translation services into 25 foreign languages from English. “The cost is based on the level of effort required. Because the research and analysis is carried out by specialists, the information you receive will be on target and on time. The minimum fee is $500.” The cost in time saved in not requiring people to search through every branch of the federal government for crucial information could be enormous.

While the bill may be an appropriate way to save taxpayer money with the elimination of a government agency, it is not clear yet that this is the case. As a librarian, I support a thoughtful evaluation of the NTIS to recognize its value to its patrons. It would be shortsighted to eliminate a still-useful source of information. More importantly, the flippant dismissal of information professionals’ work evidenced in this bill reinforces the need for additional advocacy by the library and information science profession. It is our responsibility to reach out to our patrons and to the communities we serve, and to tell them about the value of our work. Clearly, we cannot leave it to others to intuit the value of the materials and services we provide. Without a change in the way we work as professionals, the assumption that all of us can be replaced with Google is likely to have a terrible impact on the profession.

By Assistant Professor Mary Wilkins Jordan and Dean’s Editorial Fellow Jennifer Moyer