News from the Show Floor | ALA Annual 2019

Vendors at this year’s American Library Association annual conference in Washington, DC launched new products, debuted significant updates, and announced winners of grants and awards. Here are a few items that LJ had an opportunity to learn about in person.

Exterior, aerial view of the Washington DC Convention Center, where the ALA annual convention was held in June, 2019Vendors at this year’s American Library Association annual conference in Washington, DC launched new products, debuted significant updates, and announced winners of grants and awards. Here are a few items that LJ had an opportunity to learn about in person.

Findaway, creators of the Playaway line of preloaded audiobooks, videos, and tablets, has launched Wonderbook, a new line of self-contained read-along print books with preloaded audiobook players permanently attached. The Wonderbook launch catalog features picture books, leveled readers, early chapter books, Spanish, and nonfiction titles from major children’s book publishers including Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Hachette, Scholastic, Weston Woods, Simon & Schuster, and Lee & Low, as well as exclusive audiobook productions available only in the Wonderbook format. Citing trends with Playaway device circulation, Mitch Kroll, cofounder and CEO of Findaway, told LJ that “kids have become voracious audiobook listeners,” and that the company viewed read-alongs as a unique way to expand the Playaway concept. The attached audio unit has a ten-hour battery life (rechargeable with a standard micro-USB cord) and includes an external speaker, headphone jack, and simple buttons for playback control. Narration includes page-turn prompts, music, and sound effects, as well as a “Learning Mode” that prompts readers with open-ended, narrator-led questions designed to boost comprehension and give the experience a “story time feel.”

Separately, VOX Books, which was acquired by Library Ideas in 2017, has announced several upgrades to the pre-loaded audiobook players on its own line of all-in-one read-alongs. The new readers include an enlarged speaker capable of playing at 40 percent greater volume than the previous players (a safety feature lowers the volume if headphones are plugged in), a higher-capacity battery designed to last 125 to 150 plays between charges, a micro-USB universal charging port, and an on/off switch to prevent battery discharge during shipping or between loans.

Following a successful year-long pilot program, the Indie Author Project (IAP) announced that IAP ebook collections—curated by LJ’s reviewers, the Black Caucus of ALA, and librarians participating in IAP’s regional indie ebook contests—are now available on OverDrive via a simultaneous use access model. Licensing fees will pay royalties to the selected authors. Mitchell Davis, CEO of IAP creator BiblioBoard, noted that these curated collections, “including winners, finalists, and shortlist ebooks of North American regional contests, represent the cream of the crop.”

The Washington, DC Public Library (DCPL) is seeking libraries interested in becoming part of its second Memory Lab Network cohort. DCPL’s Memory Lab offers personal digital archiving and digital preservation training for the public, and features equipment that enables library staff and patrons to transfer audio and video content from obsolete formats to digital files, as well as scan photographs, documents, slides, and more. In 2017, DCPL received an Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) Leadership Grant to help other libraries create Memory Lab preservation programs across the United States. Following the successful launch of Memory Labs at its first cohort of 12 libraries in 2018, IMLS renewed funding for the program. Applications for the second cohort are due August 16. Successful applicants will become part of the Memory Lab Network, receiving training, mentoring, and financial support to create a Memory Lab at their libraries. Two staff members from each selected cohort member library are expected to dedicate a combined ten hours weekly to the project for one year, beginning in September 2019.

Rakuten OverDrive announced a new “Lucky Day” collection feature, enabling libraries to make select copies of high-demand ebooks available on a first-come, first-served basis without holds lists, and optionally for a shorter lending period. The company also announced that its Libby ebook app is now compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, enabling users to listen to library audiobooks using smartphone integration features common in many newer car consoles. Separately, the company announced that K–12 students using OverDrive’s Sora classroom reading app—launched in September 2018—had increased ebook and audiobook reading by 240 percent when a school partnered with a local public library system and enabled students to access public library ebooks via Sora. The increase was noted in an analysis of systems including Berkeley Public Schools and Berkeley Public Library, CA; Liberty School District 53 and Mid-Continent Public Library, MO; and Spring Branch ISD and Harris County Public Library, TX.

ProQuest announced the launch of virtual reality (VR) and 360° viewing capability for select videos on the ProQuest search platform, ProQuest One Academic, and the Alexander Street video interface. The initial selection of almost 40 videos includes content produced by CNN and the VR Studio Within, viewable using a mobile phone and VR goggles such as Google Cardboard or Google Daydream. The company also previewed ProQuest One Literature, scheduled for launch this fall. The second entry in the ProQuest One initiative—following the launch of ProQuest One Academic in January—the Literature solution aims to build immersive experience for students and researchers studying a topic by bringing together content from across all ProQuest resources. In a demo during a breakfast event, the company demonstrated how a search for Langston Hughes would introduce users to audio from poetry readings, videos of performances, timelines of criticism, links to relevant topic pages and contemporary authors, and much more.

Innovative Interfaces has debuted Inspire Discovery, the first module of its new Inspire platform. The discovery solution can be used with any integrated library system (ILS). It utilizes native linked data, converting a library’s MARC records into the BIBFRAME data model, thus enabling the system to help users uncover new relationships among existing resources. One unique feature is the Context Wheel interface. When users find an article that is relevant to their research, for example, the Context Wheel can be used to view an interactive list of all of the article’s contributors, as well as a selection of topics related to the article. Clicking on the name of a contributor would then display relevant articles by that contributor, while clicking on a related topic could help a user narrow or expand their search. The Context Wheel works much the same way when users explore fiction collections and other library resources.

Comprise Technologies introduced new features for its Smart Access Manager (SAM) suite. Public computer lock screens can now display series of advertisements for library services and events. Also, prior to using library printers, libraries can now require patrons to view and approve an on-screen preview of their print job. The feature was designed to help reduce patron printing errors leading to lost paper and toner. Comprise is also beta testing a new automated room entry lock feature for its SmartBOOKING event calendar and community services suite. The feature will send a unique, one-time keycode to a patron to unlock a meeting room door when their room reservation is ready.

EBSCO Information Services announced the release of Faculty Select, a new interface designed to facilitate the exploration of Open Educational Resources (OER) and DRM-free ebooks. In addition, Faculty Select enables faculty to communicate curriculum needs to their library, in turn allowing librarians to incorporate these requests into their ebook collection development process via GOBI or EBSCOhost Collection Manager. Separately, EBSCO and the Graphic Novel Committee of the Children’s Book Council announced that Speak: The Graphic Novel, by Laurie Halse Anderson with illustrations by Emily Carroll, was the winner of the 2019 SEE-IT Award. In addition, the company announced its three 2019 EBSCO Solar Grant Winners. Hedgesville Public Library, WV; New Port Richey Public Library, FL; and Medicine Hat College, Alberta, Canada, will each receive $100,000 toward the installation of a solar array.

Following 18 months of testing and feedback from libraries and students, Gale, a Cengage company, announced plans to enhance the user experience across its portfolio of products. As updates roll out beginning this summer, search interfaces and the location of filters, banners (including library branding), and other features will be standardized across all Gale resources, so that students who are familiar with one resource will find others easy to navigate. Gale’s “topic finder” tool, which highlights visual relationships between concepts and terms, will be given more prominence, and new features will include an “explorer panel” that highlights document recommendations and other supporting information relevant to a user’s search. Separately, the company introduced the first installment of its new public health series, Public Health in Modern America, 1890–1970, and previewed Gale In Context: For Educators, a new resource designed to make it easier for teachers to curate classroom curriculum using Gale In Context databases.

FE Technologies, an RFID supplier that provides self-check stations, security gates, return shelves, laptop vending units, sorting modules, and related equipment to more than 250 library systems in Australia, New Zealand, and Southeast Asia, has opened its first U.S.–based office in Dallas, TX. The company’s first U.S. client is Virginia Beach Public Library (VBPL), where FE Technologies installed self-check solutions at 11 locations, including a dual-ILS deployment at a joint-use library, where Tidewater Community College uses the Ex Libris Alma library services platform and VBPL uses the SirsiDynix Symphony ILS.

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