Last Saturday at ALA, the committee I’m on, Technology for YAs, sponsored “Downloadable Technology: Current and Future Trends,” a fantastic panel discussion featuring three speakers: Beth Gallaway on downloadable gaming, Kate Pritchard on downloadable and streaming music, and Karen Potash on OverDrive. If you weren’t able to attend, here’s an overview of how the panel gave librarians some great ideas about how to save money and keep on top of music, gaming, and ebook trends.

For the presenters’ slides, click here.

Karen from Overdrive:

The digital audiobook market is growing, and publishers are responding to this. And among all Overdrive titles in all genres, the Twilight series are the four most checked-out books. So, publishers are paying attention to teen books when it comes to downloadable content. Overdrive is working on their mobile initiative, which would allow users to download books directly to their phones via a virtual branch–a mobile version of the website.

For some examples of libraries that are using Overdrive in cool ways, check out the Burlington County Library System (NJ), which features scrolling digital bookshelves that link directly to digital title checkout page, and the’  Salem-South Lyon District Library (MI), which uses downloadable audiobooks in its summer reading program.

Beth Gallaway, Youth Services Consultant:

Beth talked a lot about GameTap, a subscription service for video games that can be installed on library computers. It costs between $4.95-9.95 a month, depending on the package you select. Users have access to over 1000 games, including older console games and PC games. Using a subscription service like this means there’s no storing, damage, theft, or compatibility issues. The disadvantages? These games can only be played in the library, plus the games require a ton of memory on the PCs you’re using. GameTap also offers a download to own service where users can buy digital versions of games and store them on PCs for roughly $10-$30.

Check out the Westmont (IL) Public Library for a model of how to use GameTap.

Also look at PlayFirst – direct to drive services; ERSB privacy certified—personal information not stored or shared; Free 1-hour trial of all games, then pruchase digital downloads for $10-20; Made Diner Dash; Some content is rated.

You can get downloadable strategy guides from Prima Games. They have an electronic database and charge $20-25 for PDF versions, which can be printed out.

For online games, try Games for Change, which offers “serious” games – there’s an underlying educational concept to the games, leading to that “learn by accident” phenomenon. I can personally attest that The Cost of Life is really fun and interesting.

One really cool resource is the Ben 10 Alien Force Game Creator, which allows teens to not just play but create—they drag and drop characters, settings, weapons, and strategy. What a great framework for a program. Ben 10 has an internet safety feature built in.

For early adopter gaming info, try: Joistiq, Escapistmagazine, and Boingboing.

Kate Pritchard, Wilbraham (MA) Public Library

Streaming music is growing; teens are using it more often. Streaming music is music that you listen to online and don’t download. There are two kinds of streaming music: a radio station, which plays a continuous stream of music and could have a theme, and a playlist, where the user chooses specific songs or artists. Some good streaming sites:

  • MySpace Music offers a playlist option.
  • The Live Music Archive through has a huge catalog of live music concerts.
  • Pandora: this is a great place to discover new music as it plays songs that are similar to artists you like.
  • you can create themed radio stations, and it’s also a social networking site. You can post link to your radio station, but you can’t embed streaming content.
  • Finetune: you can create your own playlists with specific songs. Use this to promote the library’s new music purchases! You can also embed your playlists on the library website.

A great idea is to link playlists to library programs and events.

For legal downloads, Kate says that iTunes is the most popular. Also. some artists offer free music downloads. You can use download sites to see which bands and artists are most popular; use this information for collection development. In addition to iTunes, the RIAA lists legal websites where you can download music. On good legal site is The Hype Machine, which is great for teens into indie music.

Also, please see Kate’s note re: Finetune, posted after the presentation: Finetune has recently stopped allowing users to create their own playlists. They have not deleted any of the existing playlists. However, if you are looking for another way to create your own playlists to share at your library, you may want to look at imeem or is newer, and doesn’t yet have the RIAA’s stamp of approval (see here for a list of RIAA-approved music websites), although it looks easier to set up and use. imeem has been around for longer, starting out as a video-sharing website, and it does appear on the RIAA’s approved list.

About Sarah Ludwig

I am the Academic Technology Coordinator at Hamden Hall Country Day School in Hamden, CT. Prior to that, I was the head of teen, technology, and reference services at the Darien Library in Darien, CT. I started my library career as a school librarian at a small boarding school in Western Massachusetts.

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