On March 24, Middlesex County College will host the Handhelds in School Libraries NJ -- An Unconference (HHSLNJ) sponsored by LibraryLink NJ, the statewide library cooperative, and the N.J. Association of School Librarians. The event is billed as an “informal, participant-driven day of learning about handheld devices in libraries.” HHSLNJ will explore how e-readers, tablets, smart phones and mini-computers can change and reinvent school library programs, services, collections and learning spaces.

It’s being called an “unconference” because it will be a collaborative learning experience where the attendees create the agenda and new discussions and subgroups form spontaneously as ideas emerge during the day.

Handhelds in School Libraries NJ is not just for school librarians; LibraryLinkNJ Program Coordinator Sophie Brookover says, “We encourage classroom teachers and administrators to participate as well! Conversations about handhelds in the school library -- often the largest classroom in a school -- should include all members of the teaching and learning community.”

David Lisa, project specialist for the N.J. State Library, said in a recent interview for New Jersey radio station 101.5 said, “A great number of people are using technology for information seeking, reading and for writing. Whether you’re reading from a book, a Kindle or another handheld device, the bottom line is people are still reading. They just have more ways of approaching reading than ever before.”

In the Joan Ganz Cooney Center’s “QuickStudy” of children and families usage of e-books at New York Hall of Science's (NYSCI) Preschool Place, researchers discovered that there are actually “different standards developing in the levels of interactivity available among e-books.” While the study found that For Reading and Learning, Kids Prefer E-Books to Print Books, the sample size and length of the study were small. Further study hopes to examine:

  • How do adults and children read e-books compared to print books?
  • Is someone more in charge on one format over another?
  • Does one format encourage more conversation between adults and children?
  • Which design features of e-books appear to support parent-child interaction?
  • Do any features detract from these interactions?

At the American Library Association’s conference last year, one session was titled “Do We Need Books in K-12 School Libraries?” Discussion centered on the implications of a bookless library.  Cushing Academy in Massachusetts made the decision to go bookless as part of its “21st-Century Leadership” curriculum. Dorcas Hand shares pros and cons of print versus digital books in a handout from her presentation, What Kinds of Books Does YOUR School Library Need? Just a few of the advantages to digital books and devices have is that they are:

  • Lightweight.
  • Thousands of books are available in one unit.
  • Easy configuration for different reader preferences.
  • Text-to-speech functionality is included.

 Some of the issues to considering with e-readers are that:

  • Library Loan can be problematic due to DRM (Digital Rights Management).
  • Devices wear out or break.
  • Platforms continue to evolve limiting long-term durability.

You can read details about Cushing’s decision to use a combination of the Sony Reader and Amazon Kindle and the e-books service they chose at The All-Digital Library.

Implementing handhelds in your library

Christopher Harris, writing for School Library Journal in Ready to Go Mobile?  It’s Time for Schools to Leverage Student Devices declares, “This will be the year that schools realize the untapped computing potential that walks through classroom doors each day in the pockets of their students.” He cites statistics from the Pew Internet and American Life Project study on Smartphone Adoption and Usage to encourage schools to take advantage of technologies for handhelds. He recommends the educational apps at Appvaluator.org and iPads in Education: Exploring the Use of iPads and e-Books in Schools and Colleges.

Joe Murphy, librarian, tech trend spotter and Library Journal “Movers and Shakers” awardee, shares several of his presentations and documents on major trends in social and mobile technologies and implementation challenges: “Mobile Technologies – Issues for Libraries,” “Mobile devices for Research,” “Mobile Trends in Libraries.”

Growing an e-Book Library from the library blog “Not So Distant Future” describes how one school created an e-library using Overdrive. The article reviews the steps of:

  • Implementation.
  • Designing the website (to display the Overdrive portal).
  • Collection development (e-books and audio books, e-Pub and Kindle formats).
  • Patron set-up and check-out periods.
  • Staff training.

There is no doubt that handhelds can enhance reading for special needs students. Lend Me A Handheld: Assistive Tech Is As Close As Your Mobile Device discusses how handhelds like the iPad and iPod Touch have replaced more expensive communication tools such as the DynaVox.

Resources for handhelds

Because you never know when you’ll need a cybrarian, the blog “A Media Specialist’s Guide to the Internet” lists 16 Places Where You Can Find FREE Kindle and Nook Downloads.

EBSCOHost® recently announced it was eliminating the legacy NetLibrary fees for e-books. For more information on new title lists for e-books and audio books, see EBSCO’s About E-books and Audio Books webpage and its Digital Historical Archives Collection.

iPad textbooks for iPads are described as full-screen experiences with plenty of interactive diagrams, photos, and videos, with interactive captions and 3-D image rotation.

Apple’s new iTunes U has been called “an entire course in one app.” Apple lists lectures from Stanford, Yale, MIT, Oxford, and University of California at Berkeley, and from institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art and the New York Public Library among its more than 500,000 free resources.

The Handheld Librarian is a blog that covers “computer news, ideas, and opinions from librarians and others interested in libraries.”

Handhelds in School Libraries NJ supports its upcoming unconference with links to news and articles that have impact on school libraries.

Handheld Librarian Online Conference, an online professional development resource for librarians that recently held its sixth conference in February, provides an archive to previous conferences. Past titles include Reading Tectonics: E-books and Libraries, Evaluating Mobile Options for Your Library, and E-books are Elementary.

Patricia Bruder, president of Linchpin Solutions LLC, consults for the Educational Information and Resource Center (EIRC) located at the South Jersey Tech Park at Rowan University, Mullica Hill. EIRC is a public agency specializing in education-related programs and services for teachers, parents, schools, communities, and non-profit organizations throughout New Jersey. Learn more about EIRC at www.eirc.org or call 856-582-7000. Contact Patricia Bruder at linchpinsolutions@gmail.com.

Handhelds in School Libraries NJ UnConference

Date: Saturday, March 24, 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
Cost: $20
CEU Hours: 5.5
Location: Middlesex County College, Crabiel Hall
Register: http://hhslnj.eventbrite.com
For more information: http://handheldschoollibrary.wordpress.com/ or follow #hhslnj on Twitter