Category Archives: Publishing

New Media Tools for Play by Dorothy Stoltz & Marisa Conner

We (Dorothy Stoltz & Marisa Conner) have the honor of sitting on the advisory board. This past year – as part of our research for an upcoming book – we have enjoyed talking with many of you about how libraries incorporate play into the environment. Your work prompted us to write a chapter on young children and new media in our upcoming book, The Power of Play: Designing Early Learning Spaces. Thank you!! Here are excerpts featuring how to define play and our thoughts on new media as an avenue for play.

Although play is important, it is not an end in itself, or a time for avoiding chores or ignoring others. Play is “a jumping-off place” that can set in motion the possibility of learning. Socrates set the tone for this kind of play in his debate on the virtues of citizenship in The Republic. He asks Adeimantus to reflect on how the serious play of philosophical leaders who encourage original thought compares to the common play among certain tyrannical political leaders who are interested in manipulating and controlling the crowd. Socrates guides his student to think about how a city or society pursuing noble virtues compares to the individual doing the same—that unless play from earliest childhood is noble a man will never become good.  Plato likewise engages in noble play through his dialogues with his fellow readers to pursue the knowledge of the “Good.” He distinguishes between good play—that which leads to the good—and bad play—that which diverts the learner from this goal.

Does a computer program undercut the ability of a child to play, by reducing him or her to a mere spectator? Many electronic media applications (apps) are designed for a certain level of interaction. Does an app or computer program become an avenue for play that uses imagination and thinking skills? Does it offer an open-ended activity to engage the child and lead them to higher thinking—or a closed-ended activity that where, once the button is pushed and the red dot gets bigger, there’s no more thinking involved? Can Toca Tea Party, or a similar app, occupy young visitors during busy times in the library until the play kitchen is free for their use?

A computer or a tablet or a smartphone is—when all is said and done—a tool.  As with any tool, children must be introduced to computer technology with caution.  The key is two-fold – to offer e-books and apps that are age appropriate and high quality, and that appeal to children, and – to enhance the child’s play and learning experience through interactions between grown-ups and young children using technology.

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Excerpts from an upcoming ALA Editions book to be released in December 2014.   The Power of Play: Designing Early Learning Spaces © Copyright 2014 by Dorothy Stoltz, Marisa Conner, and James Bradberry.  All Rights Reserved.


iPads in the Library: a book review, by Claudia Haines

51pDQpTlxnL._SY300_iPads in the Library: Using Tablet Technology to Enhance Programs for All Ages.
by Joel A. Nichols
Libraries Unlimited
136 pp
Paper: 978-1-61069-347-9
Ebook: 978-1-61069-348-6
(Paper edition reviewed)

For librarians looking to integrate iPads and apps (also known as new media) into their library’s programming, there are no how-to guides. Most librarians getting started with iPads scour blog posts, presentations, and listserv comments, or rely on word of mouth for advice. Many librarians are forced to “reinvent the wheel” over and over again or decide to postpone their tablet-inclusive plans, not knowing where to start.

With the publication of his recent book, iPads in the Library, Joel Nichols is filling the void. Nichols, manager of the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Techmobile, draws on his experience to effectively make the case for iPads and other tablets in the library, and he provides tested recipes for successful programs.

The essence of the book is the number of detailed program plans designed for a variety of group sizes and ages including children under five, elementary age children, teens, and adults. These plans, and many of the technical details, provide the necessary tips to empower librarians getting started with iPads in their library programs. The 48 fully adaptable program plans, with names like LEGO Self-Portrait, Afterschool Research Orientation, English Conversation Practice, and Interview Workshop, vary in complexity, and each feature:

  • Goals
  • Specific apps (and app substitutions) which are also included in an annotated list of the book’s 100 apps in two appendices
  • Planning notes
  • Suggested complimentary materials (new media and traditional)
  • Step-by-step instructions for using each app in the specific program
  • Images (some of low quality)
  • Suggestions for program series

Librarians looking to move beyond Nichols’ suggestions, however, may struggle to identify quality apps on their own as they expand their program offerings. The chapter on “App Selection Criteria” lacks detailed guidance on how to select apps beyond what’s offered in the program plans. As Nichols’ acknowledges reviewing apps in professional literature is “in its infancy,” so this reflects more the nature of ”apps in libraries” rather than his book. Unlike other media with long histories of evaluation by prestigious committees like the Newbery and Caldecott, for apps and new media there is little agreement on what makes a good app or book app, for program use or use anytime. As with other media, librarians need evaluation criteria that they can apply as they review apps and develop additional programming.

iPads in the Library also includes only a limited list of current review sources, making the search for other program-appropriate apps daunting for some. Without an online element to the book that can be easily updated, readers will have to rely on their own research for other review sources as they come available.

The other area not completely addressed in Nichols’ book is device management. While the chapter “Device Management Best Practices” does well to give specifics about using iTunes with several devices and setting up an umbrella iTunes account, librarians, especially those with limited IT staff or those proposing new iPad programs to supervisors or grantors, may have more questions about managing fleets of iPads. Information about how to manage multiple devices with Configurator or other software and how to purchase apps using the Apple Volume App Purchasing Program is not included.

The publication of Nichols’ valuable how-to guide is a welcome addition to the librarian’s toolbox. It is written at a time when the new media landscape is rapidly evolving and librarians need resources like this one to get started. Because of the dynamic nature of new media and use of iPads, Nichols’ book will hopefully be the first of many resources for librarians using new media in the library.

Claudia Haines, Little eLit Curation Coordinator
Youth Services Coordinator
Homer Public Library

The e-Future

I am revisiting the Horn Book Magazine’s March/April issue and I’m gleefully making a list of apps we’re going to download, review and add to the app collection. There are such great sound bites in here to support the whys and wherefores of why we’re playing with apps in libraries anyway.  Here are some of the good quotes from The e-Future by Stephen Roxburgh.

My favourite quote from this article:

(it gets to be first and purple because it’s REALLY important)


Let me quickly say that I’m not worried about librarians. Librarians have always understood that their job is to provide content. For a long time content was stored in codex-form books, so librarians became inextricably associated with them. But whatever emotional attachment librarians have to the codex format, delivering content is their job. They are in the vanguard of people who are figuring out how to accommodate the digital transformation. We may not need buildings full of books, but we’ll always need librarians to organize, track, and deliver content.


For five hundred years ink-on-paper has defined the business of publishing. It no longer does. We are witnessing and participating in a radical transformation of publishing.


What we really love about books is the content, which is unique and eternal, not the format, which is mass-produced and perishable.


The kids learning to read on screens now will be the first generation to slough off the emotional attachment to printed books. I don’t see this as a good thing. But in and of itself, it is not bad. It is what it is. It’s change. It’s different.


If cell phones were guns, and e-books were bullets, we’d be appalled. Cell phones are more powerful than guns, and books are more powerful than bullets. We should be ecstatic. But most of the publishing industry isn’t. Why is that? The issue is distribution. Distribution is the game changer. Because of digital technology, books are available to virtually anyone, anywhere, at any time. And the incremental cost of distribution is approaching zero. Universal access at low cost matters… Simply and crudely stated, publishers are screwed, and libraries are screwed.


You go to a library to get a book. If they have a copy, you go away happy; if not, you go away sad. In cyberspace, everywhere is local… When transmission effectively becomes duplication—a copy—the need to store local copies goes away. Hence, libraries are screwed.


What writers and artists do hasn’t changed. They create art with words and pictures. The tools don’t matter: charcoal on the wall of a cave, pixels on a screen. The format or platform doesn’t matter. If it’s done well, the reader or viewer will quickly lose any awareness of the medium as they immerse themselves in the content.

The Future:

So, folks, it is, indeed, a brave new world. The future? Well, strap yourself down. We are in for a ride and it may get bumpy! … Opportunities are accessible and endless. The old order is changing, making way for the new. When the new world was discovered, most people stayed put, enjoying the security and comfort of their established order. But a lot of people got on boats and ventured out of their comfort zone. For those of you whose comfort zone isn’t all that comfortable, be adventurers. You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Open Road Media/Annick Press

Open Road Integrated Media and Annick Press are teaming up to get some of Robert Munsch’s books out in eBook format! Annick also publishes Roslyn Schwartz’s Mole Sisters books, and they will be included in the project a well. Munsch’s books are available digitally via Tumblebooks, but I get the sense from this article that the new eBooks are going to be interactive apps, not just the digitized versions of print books.

A great quote from the PW article is as follows:

Studies I’ve read show that e-books do not cannibalize print editions – they enhance them. So this will really promote our print books as well.  -Rick Wilks, Annick Press

Here is the post from Open Road’s blog and the Publisher’s Weekly article.

eArticle: Chris Stevens on Alice for the iPad

Check out Chris Stevens on Alice for the iPad, Book Apps, and Toronto: a Q & A to hear the story of the phenomenon that knocked publishers on their patoots in 2010.  Stevens shares how a fortuitous combination of unemployment, hard work and technical skills resulted in the development of a new, interactive format that sparked a mad rush to get on the interactive eBook bandwagon.  He gives a scathing overview of the eBook industry:

What’s happening at the moment is that most publishers are handing their major titles over to app developers who are ruining these titles with rushed, unprofessional layout and design. There is this weird situation where programmers are suddenly being given free rein to design books. We watch as publishers like Random House outsource the design of cherished titles to programmers who—despite their excellence at programming—are not designers. The complete lack of care and attention paid to the production of digital books is genuinely mystifying.

He does, however, give props to Nursery Rhymes with StoryTime (which we will review shortly), and tells about some new projects he has been working on.  I can’t wait to read Alice in New York!