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July 2021 Library Tech Newsbytes

What's new in library tech! Welcome to our monthly collection of fun and hopefully useful news items from our admittedly great twitter feed and wherever else we find them.

July is both Family Fun Month and Family Meal Month! What are the chances of that? OK, granted. It's not a huge coincidence. This month we offer you news on the Range app for locating summer meals for kids, a new bill in Congress to fund Internet hotspots and computer training for seniors, plus a slew of news about e-books. There's also the lowdown on Marshall Breeding's new Library Systems Report and — perhaps most importantly — how your young patrons can discover which dinosaurs roamed your neighborhood. All that in one issue of newsbytes? You betcha. That and more …

Here's our full roster of news this month:

  • The Range App
  • Emergency Connectivity Fund Reimbursements
  • The Digital Equity Act
  • The New Maryland and New York Library E-Book Laws
  • OverDrive Acquires Kanopy
  • The National E-Book Collaboration
  • The American Libraries Magazine 2021 Library Systems Report
  • Circulating a Local History Collection?
  • Which Dinosaurs Were in Your Neighborhood?
  • Human Libraries

Here's your library tech newsbytes for July 2021.

The Range App

In keeping with Family Meal Month we humbly suggest to your patrons TechSoup's Range app. Range is a free mobile app created by TechSoup's Caravan Studios. It helps low-income families find where free USDA Summer Food Service Program meals are being served to kids and youth during the summer months at different local sites in communities, like public libraries, community centers, public pools, parks and recreation facilities, and more. Using data from the USDA, people can find sites near them, learn what meals are served and when, and get contact information for each site.

Emergency Connectivity Fund Reimbursements

The Emergency Connectivity Fund is a $7.17 billion program funded by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 to help schools and libraries support remote learning. Applications for the program went live on June 29, and they will close August 13, 2021. That's a pretty short window. If your library is eligible for the E-rate program, you are encouraged to apply to the fund.

It reimburses libraries and schools for the purchase of laptops, tablets, Wi-Fi hotspots, and other networking equipment you purchase between July 1, 2021, and June 30, 2022. Reimbursements will be up to $400 per connected device (laptop or tablet) and $250 per Wi-Fi hotspot. Reimbursement is available for Wi-Fi hotspot service plans covering until June 30, 2022. There is no cap to the reimbursement amount for the Wi-Fi hotspot's service plan.

The reimbursed equipment is intended for loan to students or patrons who would not have reliable connectivity at home otherwise. Purchases made through TechSoup's Dell Technologies for Nonprofits, HP.com for Nonprofits, and Lenovo for Nonprofits should qualify for reimbursement under the Emergency Connectivity Fund rules. Libraries are eligible for all three offerings.

The Digital Equity Act

NBC News reports that there's a new promising looking bipartisan digital equity bill in the U.S. Senate. It is called the Digital Equity Act. This new legislation would send $1.4 billion over five years to states, localities, and community groups for projects such as Internet hotspots or computer training for seniors. The money would represent a small down payment on the billions of dollars the U.S. would need to spend to close the technological divide between people with a fast broadband connection and those without one.

The New Maryland and New York Library E-Book Laws

In June, Maryland passed a law requiring publishers to license e-books to libraries under "reasonable terms." The law prohibits publishers from instituting embargo periods during which e-book and electronic audiobook licenses are available for sale to the public but not to libraries. The law takes effect in January 2022. Later in the month, New York became the second state to pass a bill that would ensure public libraries the right to license and lend e-books that are available to consumers. New York's legislation goes into effect 19 days after it is signed into law by Governor Cuomo. Passage of both bills was not surprisingly opposed by the Association of American Publishers, which filed testimony in Maryland in March claiming its library e-book law violates federal copyright law. What do you want to bet that we haven't heard the last of this?

OverDrive Acquires Kanopy

This is an interesting business story as well as library tech news because both streaming media companies, OverDrive and Kanopy, have been owned by private equity firms interested in maximizing profitability. OverDrive is the leading e-book and audiobook lending service in public libraries and is owned by the investment firm KKR. Kanopy is the on-demand streaming video platform that serves the public and academic library market with a huge library of documentary and entertainment film content. It was just sold to KKR by L Squared Capital. The pricing models for both Kanopy and OverDrive are very expensive for libraries. These concerns have driven a number of leading library organizations, such as DPLA, LYRASIS, NYPL, and funding agencies including IMLS, to create the community-controlled SimplyE e-book platform and reader. Danielle Cooper and Roger C. Schonfeld of Scholarly Kitchen opine that OverDrive's growing public library media empire could eventually be a viable public offering or an attractive property for sale to another company.

The National E-Book Collaboration

Speaking of the New York Public Library and LYRASIS collaboration, this project is called the National E-Book Collaboration. As mentioned above, its intent is to give public libraries more control over e-book delivery platforms. New York Public Library has announced the next steps in developing this project.

The American Libraries Magazine 2021 Library Systems Report

The American Libraries magazine 2021 Library Systems Report is the latest annual library systems software report by library tech expert Marshall Breeding. He reports that almost all vendors made sharp turns during the past year to expand access to digital collections and services in order to compensate for diminished access to physical materials. Only a few minor acquisitions took place in the already deeply consolidated library systems industry last year. EBSCO Information Services, Follett, OCLC, and ProQuest remain the major players. Breeding goes into considerable detail in his long report on what's going on with specific companies, including some lower-tier ones.

For public libraries, a pervasive trend in software development in this sector involves the transition from Windows-based ILS clients to fully web-based interfaces. Breeding maintains that "patron-facing interfaces must be continually improved to meet the rapidly evolving expectations set by consumer destinations and social networks, both in presentational style and personalization." Despite all the consolidation in the industry, Breeding concludes that the field still offers diverse options, including nonprofit and for-profit businesses and proprietary and open-source software products.

Circulating a Local History Collection?

Yep. That's right. The Anne Arundel County Public Library in Annapolis, Maryland, has decided to offer its local history collection for checkout. The collection includes rare books, photographs, maps, church records — the works. Here's a bit more on how they plan to do this.

Which Dinosaurs Were In Your Neighborhood?

Wouldn't you love to be able to show your young patrons which dinosaurs roamed your neighborhood millions of years ago? You can now do that. The nonprofit dinosaurpictures.org has created a clever interactive map that allows you to enter your location name and up pops the names of dinosaur fossils that have been found nearby. Click on the dinosaur name and up pops a picture of it and lots of information about it including where else it is known to have roamed, what geological period it lived in and what other dinosaurs lived back them. Such a good site.

Human Libraries

Move over, library of things. Meet human libraries. What is a human library you ask? The Salt Lake Tribune reports that they were started in Copenhagen, Denmark, and are spaces in which patrons enter and are matched with someone who is called a "book." Each book has a specific set of lived experiences, for instance ranging from being Lebanese to having had an abortion. Visitors can check out a human book and ask them questions they wouldn't necessarily feel comfortable asking a stranger. According to Ronni Abergel, who co-founded the Human Library based in Denmark, the program is built on the assumption that humans don't naturally ask other humans questions about "taboo" subjects. The tagline is "unjudged someone." Find out more about all this, including a new study on the impact of the human library at the nonprofit humanlibrary.org.

Speaking of library of things offerings. What's the latest? Free E-bike libraries are coming soon to Buffalo and Niagara Falls, compliments of the nonprofit Shared Mobility.

We hope you like our latest batch of newsbytes this month!

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