Monday, December 10, 2007

Article Note: On e-books and the reference desk

Citation for the article:

Bronshteyn, Karen. "Using NetLibrary eBooks at the Reference Desk." Reference Services Review 35.4 (2007): 560-570.

Read via Emerald.

In brief, this was an article pointing out the benefits of using eBooks at the reference desk both for reference transactions and as a collection development tool. It does give some reminders of the features that NetLibrary, the subject of the article, offers in this regard. I have to admit that I have not used eBooks as much as I could. Part of it is because they just lend themselves to quick consulting, which does make them perfect for the reference desk. But reading out of NetLibrary is not exactly my idea of reading, so to speak. In other words, it is not easy to read a complete work in NetLibrary when compared to just having the print version in hand. However, and this is the point of the article, for quick reference work and research, this resource is good. When I was doing more instruction, I always wanted to add e-books to my repertoire for the classes beyond showing them the e-books were available. Usually what happened was that an e-book would come up in a sample catalog search, and I would have to take a few moments to show them the item, which then allowed me to promote them.

I suppose I am one of the librarians with mixed feelings about electronic books. They can be good things, but they are not easy to use. And like any resource, they do have a learning curve (I know because I have used NetLibrary as well as eBRARY), something that I don't think was quite caught in the article.

Anyhow, a couple of points from the article:

  • "Finding them and utilizing them effectively remains problematic for some. Potential users will benefit from front line staff that has developed some type of affinity for the eBook platform" (564). And this was part of the problem, finding the time to really learn the platform inside and out in order to be able to help patrons out. I learned in bits and pieces, and I am still learning. Basically, this is something that probably needs to be taught more formally via training. Possible idea: have one librarian really learn it, then teach it to the others.
  • The idea of using the tool for collection development is based on analyzing use statistics fro the online book in order to make overall decisions about collection development. In part, if the e-book is used more, it's statistics increase. Use this knowledge to supplement the print collection or keep up the electronic one.


Jeff Scott said...

I am surprised on how no one is talking about how to e-book services like NetLibrary or Overdrive. The lack of content is strange. I am working to resolve that so more people know about it. How can we expect our users to know about and use our services if we don't?

Great post! I am really enjoying the analysis I find here.

Angel, librarian and educator said...

I think I have only seen one other article dealing with e-books, and it was a survey of use, if I recall. It was a while back. We are paying for the thing, so we should be using it and promoting it.

Best, and keep on blogging.