So I'm faced with an outdated audio collection in my new elementary library. I know that audio books are important on so many different levels, such as building fluency, opening books on a higher reading level for struggling readers, and pure and simple enjoyment. Yet I'm faced with an unattractive and aging audio collection. Most of it is cassettes hung in tacky plastic folders behind the circulation desk.
I've kicked around the idea of circulating some old cassette players we've got in the AV room gathering dust. It's kinda funny, because I show a cassette to kids, and most of them don't know what it is or how to play it. But it's sad too, because so much of my collection is simply extinct. So, I could circulate a book, cassette player, and cassette bundle. But should I even be promoting that type of technology? Or should I take the attitude that at least it will get some use? And if the cassettes come back eaten up, then oh well? If the players get beaten up and broken, oh well? Honestly, half of them are probably already on their last leg anyway.
Or should I pay $2.50 each plus the cost of a CD, and have the district convert them to CDs? Then kids could check them out. But really do most of their parents have a CD player that they could use? The kids probably don't. There may be a CD player in their parents car. But is it convenient to use? Or, maybe parents have a CD player in the living room, but do the kids want to sit in the living room while the whole house listens to the book on "tape"? Somehow I don't see that happening much either. The kids may check out the CDs for the novelty of it, but I suspect most of them will be returned unopened.
Or, I could invest a lot of money in playaways, which are expensive. For $35-$60 each, they are essentially preloaded mp3 players with a book, or a few shorter books. But that is so expensive... At my last school, the kids raised $700 with a magazine fundraiser. Guess how many playaways I could purchase with that money? A whopping 15. Wow. Not a whole lot. Plus I've heard they break within a year. Oh, and did I mention batteries?
So what's a librarian to do? Audio content is in such a transition period right now, and technology is advancing at such a rapid pace. I hesitate to spend money on CD's. Cassettes are just laughable. Preloaded mp3 players are so expensive.
So then I kicked around another idea... How about buying some iPods, purchasing some audio books through iTunes, and then loading them up myself? Then the audio books would have an undeniable cool factor, they would be portable, and they would be convenient to use. The down sides? They would be expensive, time consuming to load new content, and what if they break or get lost? How many parents would be willing to pay to replace them? I am lucky and work in a school that could probably afford this type of program. I realize that for other librarians, this would not even be an option. Then I started re-thinking this solution. I'm not even sure that this would be legal, due to DRM issues. Yeah, so maybe I shouldn't open that can of worms.
For now, I'm researching, dreaming, and trying to think big for a good solution to this dilemma. Anyone else have any ideas? Feel free to comment below.
~The Square Librarian