If imitation really is the purest form of flattery, then Buffy Hamilton and Kathy Parker should feel extremely flattered right about now. Their eReader journey, involving the Amazon Kindle, has provided a framework that has proven invaluable to me as I start my own foray into the digital book world.
At the beginning of the school year, I purchased 30 Nook eReaders for my middle school library. These posts will chronicle that journey.
First of all, I think it's only fair that I come clean and admit that I used to work for Barnes & Noble. Back in the day, I was a bookseller at the big box store helping people find copies of The DaVinci Code part-time during both the holiday and summer breaks from school. However, I received absolutely no discount on the Nooks I purchased for our school and I received no monies or incentives whatsoever to promote their products. In fact, when I first decided to take the leap into digital content for our library, I explored both Kindles and iPads as possible options. Once I came to terms with the fact that I couldn't afford iPads, I used the Edukindle Ning as well as the plethora of reviews that are out there to explore my remaining options.
In the end, I chose the Nook for one reason alone: support. Barnes & Noble has provided 3 separate trainings for my staff, will come to my school for hands on support if I ever need them and if a Nook goes bad, I can take it over to the store for replacement. This is the basic service they provide to all customers and has nothing to do with my relationship with them. To be frank, I think the Kindle is a better device (the speech to text option is something I desperately wish the Nook had and hope will be included in future upgrades). However, because of the learning curve that exists for everyone involved in this project, I wanted the safety net of a *real* person who could walk me through any process I couldn't understand on my own and/or help me out when things (inevitably) go wrong. One last thing, and then I will move on, I promise. And perhaps this really goes without saying, but... these posts are not designed to convince you to buy Nooks for your library. Rather, their purpose is simply to share our experiences. Implementing eReader programs is something many school libraries are grappling with right now and I firmly believe that all of our practices are elevated when we share stories, resources and ideas.
Ok. Moving on.... :)
Show Me The Money:
Although we did not use a purchase order to buy our Nooks, Barnes & Noble did give us that option. Because we had raised enough discretionary monies, through fundraisers, etc., we were able to request a quote from B&N, mail them a check, and within about a week 30 Nooks arrived at our door. Purchasing the eBooks themselve proved to be a bit more challenging. B&N does not accept purchase orders for this process, so we had to work out some procedures for buying content that would work for B&N and satisfy the requirements of our district's finance department. More on that later.
They're here! Now what do we do?
Unpacking: Like others going through this process have suggested, we kept the boxes so that wewould have them if we ever needed to return a Nook. The boxes are labeled with each Nook's serial #. You can also find it on the menu bar by going to settings: it will appear on the first screen displayed.
Charging: According to the set up instructions, the Nooks needed to charge for 30 minutes prior to use.
Physical Processing: It was easy for us to do this while the Nooks were charging, and since we were all very anxious to get the digital ball rolling, we started labeling them right away. The information that we wanted clearly visible on each Nook was:
The Serial #The Barcode
The Nook Name**: This relates to the B&N account associated with each Nook. Because B&N eBooks can be shared among 6 Nooks, we wanted to make sure we knew which Nooks were associated with which account.
We also made sure we labeled our Nook cart to correspond with all of the Nook Names. This will just make it easier for us to keep track of which Nooks are in, which Nooks are out and which ones we've completed certain processes with.
Finally, we made a spreadsheet of all of this information for our equipment inventory.
Registering the Nooks: In order to load content on the Nooks, we had to create accounts with Barnes & Noble. One B&N account can be shared by up to six Nooks. Since we have 30 Nooks(for now!) we created five Barnes & Noble accounts. The advantage of a limited number of accounts is not simply that it's... well, a limited number to keep up with, but more significantly, the content purchased on one account can be shared among the six Nooks - which of course, leads to savings down the road. This kind of grouping also has many of our teachers excited about the possibility of using the Nooks for Literature Circles. Anyway, like anything worth doing, registering Nooks takes a little work. Here are the steps:
Create email accounts for your Nooks - these accounts will be used to register your Nooks with Barnes & Noble. We used gmail to create these accounts. We chose account names that were easy to remember and were all the same except that they ended with Nook1, Nook 2, Nook 3, etc.
Create an account with B&N at BN.com. To do this select "My Account" in the upper left corner of the site, and then select "Create an Account." Note: You do not have to enter a credit card at the time you create your account - however, you will need one on file when you go to make a purchase - EVEN free material (Attn B&N: This is really irritating!) More on making purchases later.
Turn on the Nook and register it by typing in your B&N account email and password. Note: you will need access to WiFi in order to do this.
Now you're ready to shop! figure out how to catalog these things! (Shopping is more fun, but first things first!) So... while we figured how to make our new toys library friendly, we offered our teachers the chance to request content.
**One final note about Nook Names: Based on the fact that we ended up with five accounts, we organized our Nooks into five groups. (Nooks 1, 2, 3 etc.) From there our Nook Names became Nook 1a, Nook 1b, 1c... you get the picture.
One thing that makes our situation a little unusual is that, for now, our district technology department is unwilling to let us send the Nooks home. This makes me a little grumpy, but the bottom line is that they have concerns and it is my job now to collect the data needed to ease them. Until then, we're rolling out our Nooks for in-house use, both in our library and in classrooms.
Anyway, in keeping with my ever diligent efforts to be the solution to my stakeholders problems, I solicited imput from teachers regarding the content to be purchased for the Nooks using this Google form. Many of the questions are directly related to our school improvement goals. (A quick aside: just today, my principal asked me how I thought the Nooks could be as a tool for impacting whole family literacy. After sharing my thoughts, she gave me an additional $500 to buy eBooks. I can't stress this enough: if you are offering solutions to the things that keep your principal up at night, he/she will do the best they can to provide you with the resources to fund your requests).
All the while, my thoughts about why I'm doing this have been further informed by the student reactions to the arrival of the Nooks and their appearance in our library. Even though they've yet to make their big debut, the big gray and red cart is tough to miss and the kids have been quick to gather 'round as I explore and prod and process. Their reactions have been interesting -- ranging from giddy excitement, to questions about how books would be purchased for them (more on that later!) to having no clue what an eReader even is. Our school has a very diverse population made up of kids from all sorts of backgrounds - both cultural and economic. The diversity in their reaction to these new devices brings questions about the digital divide to the forefront of my thinking. I'm not sure where all of these ruminations are headed, but I'm confident that they're an important component of this journey and to my evolution as a librarian.
Anyway, that's all for tonight, I think.
Next up? Cataloging/Circulation procedures. Stay tuned!