Re: [Videolib] Audio Books and Academic Libraries

From: Ciara Healy <>
Date: Thu Jul 02 2009 - 07:04:13 PDT

  As a former media librarian I too, was in charge of audio books. We
sometimes got them as donations (on cassette, naturally) and they were
not a collection priority. But I really liked them and got permission to
start collecting some popular titles on CD that people actually might
like to listen to, e.g. the complete collection of David Sedaris reading
his own essays. The reasons I offered included ADA offerings, that we
were entirely a commuter school, that we served faculty and staff who
wanted them and because we already had a digital collection that was
woefully underutilized. We used NetLibrary's downloadable audio
collection that came as part of a consortial purchasing agreement.
NetLibrary, serving academic libraries mostly, had a collection that was
mostly non-fiction, language lessons (Pimsleur, mostly) and for their
fiction selections they used Recorded Books Inc. which is a reputable
audio book company. They downloaded their audio on a check-out model
where you could only have said title for a set amount of time, say three
weeks. You could listen to it on the computer you downloaded it to (not
very portable) or download it to an MP3 player, e.g., Creative Zen, Zune
etc. NOT an ipod at all.

 So, as the media librarian, I thought, "How can I get my patrons to
take advantage of this content that they almost never use and that is
just sitting here in a popular format?" and "How can I get them to like
me even more?" so I set up a series of workshops to show folks how to
select and download audio, both music via iTunes and RealPlayer and also
search audio books via NetLibrary. It was a great way to be all
technology-y and cover the audio portion of my media job. It was also a
great way to spread the word about copyright (e.g. LimeWire) and Digital
Rights Management. The workshops were full and people liked them a lot.
But still they didn't use the NetLibrary as much as I'd like. So I got
a $45.00 commitment form the library director to buy a Creative Zen
Nano and offered the service of downloading the NetLibrary audio for
patrons so that I was essentially creating play aways for them. They
checked out a fully loaded MP3 player, earphones (with those squishy
little ear bud covers new each time & a fresh battery) and a directions
sheet. I think I may have also offered a cassette converter for the car.
This was pretty popular but mostly used by those folks who took the
audio device & download workshop where they were supposed to learn how
to do it themselves. My idea was that they would love to listen but get
sick of the custom play away being checked out and this would force them
to get their own MP3 player and really learn how to use the FREE
NetLibrary audio book collection. Or check out audio books from our new
titles on CD recently added to the collection. Yeah, I like to work the
angles like that.

I can't tell you more about how it turned out since I left the job a
few months later. I do know that the state of North Carolina consortium
my college was in stopped NetLibrary audio books this past January.
Maybe some patrons got the hang of it though and use the public library
to check out CDs or use Overdrive*.

In general, one big problem with downloading is that the services are
often device specific due to DRM which is an unfortunate limitation that
really angers patrons who don't have the right portable device.
Invariably people want what you don't have, either by format or title.
The NetLibrary collection was way better with its non-fiction offerings,
which is good for an academic collection, but the fun of audio books is
really great fiction. Also, unless you load all of those NetLibrary MARC
records into your catalog, patrons find it difficult to figure out where
the audio books are and NetLibrary's interface is, uh, utilitarian at
best. Also, the records on NetLibrary mostly do not offer summaries or
any reviews which I think is a big lack in a browsable fiction
collection. But you can make up for that by browsing other audio book
sites for info and then based on that, bring your choices back to
NetLibrary once you find one you like. So, while it's not a deal
breaker, it is definitely a buzz kill.

Audio books on CD are indeed a big pain. Discs get lost and it is hard
to replace just one. The containers that you put them in are often both
unwieldy and flimsy, which is a terrible combination. Processing a big
set like the Audie Award winning audio book of the bible (like 42 discs
or something like that) is a big pain and patrons always want them
packaged differently - like, not just the whole Old Testament or the
Gospels but Psalms and Ruth and then Revelations, without having to
check out all 40 discs, which is understandable. But frustrating none
the less. And it was hard to catalog that way, too. And I didn't know
enough about the bible to chunk the discs into sets people might want to
check out so I was often one or two discs "off". This title was a big
draw and ha, ha that audio book bible became my cross to bear.

I would go downloadable via NetLibrary if I could, over CDs or
downloadable plus just Audie Award winners/best sellers on CD, both
fiction and non-fiction.


* My public library uses Overdrive and I don't like it at all, as much
as I love audio books. I find it difficult to navigate and the delay
between finding a title to download and waiting for it to be available
is annoying since I don't always then remember to download if I get the
message and I am not in front of my computer with my MP3 player (not
iPod here either, mostly) at that moment. Then I only have a day to
download it and I almost never remember. So I pay more than I really
should each month for Audible which is a delight in every way but not
really scaled for institutional use.

VIDEOLIB is intended to encourage the broad and lively discussion of issues relating to the selection, evaluation, acquisition,bibliographic control, preservation, and use of current and evolving video formats in libraries and related institutions. It is hoped that the list will serve as an effective working tool for video librarians, as well as a channel of communication between libraries,educational institutions, and video producers and distributors.
Received on Thu Jul 2 07:05:32 2009

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