As ebooks rise in popularity and library patrons become more aware of whether their libraries offer ebooks, as shown by a late 2012 Pew Internet study, Texas libraries may be lagging behind the national average in ebook adoption: An ALA study for 2011-2012 reported that, nationwide, 76.3% of libraries offered some sort of ebooks service to patrons, and yet only 60.2% of Texas libraries offered this service.
The publishers and vendors that offer ebooks to libraries continue to use business models that are expensive, difficult for libraries to work with, and confusing for library users. In September 2012, the frustrations of both librarians and publishers showed as the American Association of Publishers (AAP) responded to an open letter from ALA by actually asking the librarians to propose best practices and working models for offering ebooks in libraries.
Faced with a bewildering array of ebook distribution models, some libraries are following the model of Douglas County Libraries (Colorado) by building their own ebook platforms and seeking to purchase digital content direct from publishers. While this is a viable course for large library systems, building a stand-alone ebook lending platform is a technology- and staff-intensive effort that small libraries cannot afford. Moreover, negotiating a separate agreement with each publisher requires more staff time than a small library can commit.
By pooling resources, a consortium of libraries can fund the creation of a shared, centralized ebook lending platform and work through one point of contact to negotiate publisher agreements for all the participating libraries. By choosing an established nonprofit library support organization as the owner-manager of the system, the libraries ensure a resulting system that is responsive to the needs of the libraries with a lower overhead cost, enabling smaller libraries to participate.
As a library ebook lending platform that is responsive to library needs and affordable for small libraries, Geodesity will attract the participation of libraries that have til now been reluctant to subscribe to an ebook vendor. Thus it will expand the availability of digital content to library users.
Geodesity was inspired by the Douglas County Libraries (Colorado) model of purchasing ebooks directly from publishers for library lending with a self-hosted Adobe Content Server, but differs from the DCL model in a few key aspects:
Geodesity will allow many libraries to have separate eBook collections hosted on the same system.
The license model that Geodesity is taking to the publishers specifies that libraries in an ILS consortium that normally share print materials with each others' patrons will also be allowed to share the licensed eBooks.
Geodesity's license model also provides for libraries to purchase perpetual access rights to eBooks (i.e. "own") or to purchase short-term single-use access ("single-use lease"), or a combination or the two ("lease-to-own") so a library can choose its own combination of long-term and short-term investment.
NTLP is developing a custom version of the open-source integrated library system Evergreen to provide Geodesity's circulation, acquisitions, and reporting features, as well as the user interface for library staff and patrons.
December 2011 -
Library Journal Hotline publishes an article about the Douglas County Libraries project, catching the eye of librarians in North Texas.
January 2012 -
Several North Texas libraries encourage NTLP to explore the possibility of a collaborative project based on the Douglas Couny Libraries model.
February 2012 -
NTLP Director of Resource Sharing Paul Waak releases a project outline and timeline. The proposal projects a launch date of October 1, assuming sufficient start-up funding can be committed by April 1 to cover software licensing, hardware, datacenter hosting costs, and hiring of up to 5 dedicated staff members to be phased in over a 6-month period to work on publisher relations, library relations, software development, I.T. support, ebook acquisitions, and cataloging.. NTLP invites North Texas libraries to invest and begins developing relationships with publishers. Paul Waak marries Paula Sallfors on February 29.
March 2012 -
NTLP applies for a TSLAC Cooperation Grant for FY2013.
April 2012 -
With several libraries expressing interest but few firm commitments, NTLP restructures the project to include only the perpetual access licensing model (i.e. "purchasing" ebooks) in the initial release, with the short-term leasing license model deferred to a "phase 2" release. Work continues to progress with only one staff member dedicated to the project. The system with reduced scope is still scheduled for "phase 1" to launch on October 1.
June - August 2012 -
NTLP begins development work with an evaluation copy of Adobe Content Server and makes plans to purchase servers for a production system. Talks are underway with 47 mainstream publishers and over 300 independent publishers.
The financial model for the project is refined to include a provision that founding libraries will receive a return on their investment through "impact fees" to be paid by libraries that join after the initial development is complete. Libraries begin to commit, but not at the level required to fund the projected budget. A deadline of October 31 is set for commitments from founding libraries. The target launch date slides to November 1.
The grant proposal is approved for funding.
Development is underway on modules to partially automate the import of ebooks acquired from publishers and the creation of MARC records from the publishers' ONIX records. Modifications to Evergreen are designed.
September - November 2012 -
TSLAC Cooperation Grant funding becomes available.
Servers are purchased and installed at a datacenter.
Final group of 9 founding libraries is established.
Project is christened Geodesity.
The participating libraries acknowledge that the available funding will not permit the hiring of additional staff members, and they begin to plan for library staff to take on Geodesity tasks such as publisher relations, ebook acquisitions support, cataloging, and I.T. support. Staff training time is added into the project schedule, and -- since the sole NTLP staff member on the project will now have to divide time between software development and staff training -- the target launch date slides to April 1.
Paul and Paula's daughter Paulina is born on November 11, 2012.
December 2012 - January 2013
Paul begins paternity leave and announces plans to leave NTLP. NTLP Director of Internet Services Judy Daniluk is charged with maintaining project continuity as new staff are recruited.
Alicia Holston and Gwyneth Duncan are brought on board as Project Manager and Software Developer, respectively.
February 2013 -
NTLP applies for a second TSLAC Cooperation Grant for FY2014.
Software development and other project activities continue with the new staff in place. A revised project timeline calls for beta test period to begin in May, an evaluation period in June, and a second wave of libraries to join the project in August, with "phase 2" of development scheduled for fall 2013 / winter 2014.
March - April 2013 -
NTLP announces that it must close its doors as of April 20, 2013 due to lack of funding for general operations. An attempt is made to find a new parent entity to take over Geodesity, while the remaining project development funds are used to document the existing work and build an archive for future use.