A Publication of the Public Library Association Public Libraries Online

New Product News – November/December 2014

by Heather Teysko and Tanya Novak on February 2, 2015

RefTracker Express For Small and Medium-Sized Libraries

RefTracker Express is a pared down version of Altarama’s RefTracker. It is designed for small to medium-sized libraries that want a way to manage and track their information request services whether it is via in person, phone, email, Internet, chat, or text. After completing a short planning guide, Altarama will provide you with a ready-to-use system that requires minimal staff setup time and training and no IT involvement.

It is a cloud-based (no software to download) product. It is hosted and administered by Altarama so library staff members do not have to worry about upgrades or periodic system tuning. It comes with three preconfigured forms: (1) a customized request form for a variety of request types that can be adjusted to your needs at no additional cost; (2) a comments and suggestions form: and (3) a standard simple request form that can be inserted into library webpages.

A built-in report writer helps analyze the statistics. More than a hundred different reports can be created based on the requests submitted to the system, and the reports can be broadcast to screen or exported.

One license allows for an unlimited number of staff login accounts with 1-5 concurrent users for one institution. Staff can access RefTracker Express at their desk, at a service point, on a mobile phone, or with a tablet. The entry level cost for set up and one license is $2,500. If you find you need additional features Altarama can upgrade the system to meet your needs.

More Self-Publishing Options for Libraries

In our last column, we talked about some of the new self-publishing tools for libraries; including SELF-e from Bibliolabs and Library Journal, and the new partnership between FastPencil and Recorded Books.

There is another option that we chose to go with for the enki Library, our own hosted e-book platform built in partnership with Contra Costa (Calif.) County Library. California-based self-publishing platform leader, Smashwords, will set up free, branded publishing portal sites for any library that wants one. Patrons will be prompted to create a free Smashwords account and upload their book with cover art.

Items that come through the branded link may be tagged as originating from your library. The titles may then become available through the distributors with whom Smashwords has partnerships such as OverDrive, 3M, and Baker & Taylor, so if you use any of those, you are able to make the titles available via those platforms. You simply need to send Smashwords some text and cover art/logo for the portal page.

See how Los Gatos (Calif.) Library publicizes its partnership with Smashwords and see the library’s branded portal page.

Contact Jim Azevedo of Smashwords at jim@smashwords.com to get the setup information.

Foreign Films and Documentaries

If you are looking for foreign language films and documentaries, or providing access to classic films, there are two new streaming video services, Digitalia and Criterion Films, from Alexander Street Press.

Digitalia Film Library

Digitalia, a provider of Hispanic e-books, journals, and educational multimedia programs, has introduced a film library of Spanish and other European language films.

The library currently includes more than 500 films and documentaries from 1919 to 2013 with more titles to be added as they become available. There are a number of award-winning feature films such as Zona Sur (2009) from Bolivia and Todos Tus Muertos (2011) from Columbia and films that are difficult to obtain in the United States.

The film library is divided into seven collections: (1) Argentine Cinema, (2) European Cinema, (3) History, (4) Latin American, (5) Nature and Wildlife, (6) North American Classic Cinema, and (7) Travel Documentary. The collections are subscription-based; a library may subscribe to the full collection or to individual or multiple collections.

There is unlimited access to content and unlimited concurrent users. The films can be accessed remotely and can be viewed on mobile devices. The subscription also includes Public Performance Rights (PPR).

Criterion Films

Alexander Street Press is offering the Criterion Collection, an online streaming collection of 300 of Criterion’s most important and influential films.

The Criterion Collection covers the history of cinema throughout the twentieth century, from early silent films such as Charlie Chaplin’s The Gold Rush (1925) to releases from contemporary filmmakers such as Gus Van Sant and Guillermo del Toro. It also includes films from directors such as Federico Fellini, Alfred Hitchcock, Akira Kurosawa, and Orson Welles. In addition to feature films, the collection includes documentaries and popular subgenres such as French New Wave, Italian Neorealism, and New German Cinema. Some films include audio commentaries by filmmakers and scholars, restored director’s cuts, deleted scenes, documentaries, shooting scripts, early shorts, and storyboards.

The collection is available in full or in the following micro-collections: American Documentaries, American Independents, American Mid-Century, Art Cinema of the 1980s and 1990s, The British Collection, Cult Classics, The Eastern European and Russian Collection, The Films of Ingmar Bergman, French New Wave Collection, the German Collection, the Golden Age of French Cinema: Volumes 1 and 2, Italian Cinema, Internal Silent Cinema, The Japanese Collection: Volumes 1 and 2, Modern French Cinema, Silent Films from Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd, World Documentaries.

This is a subscription-based service with 24/7 access to unlimited users whether in the library or not, so your patrons always have access to the content. A library’s authentication options are via IP, referrer URL, username/password, library card, or Shibboleth, and they are offering a thirty-day trial if you’d like to test it out.

Comics Plus: Library Edition

Mobile app creator Boopsie is entering into new territory with a digital comics and graphic books products in partnership with Comics Plus: Library Edition. Comics Plus offers more than 10,000 digital comics to libraries, accessible via the Boopsie mobile app or the traditional library website.

Comics Plus: Library Edition is an online streaming service that provides libraries with access to thousands of digital graphic novels, comic books, and manga at a per-checkout price with simultaneous circulation to virtually any mobile device, tablet, or PC. They currently have a number of active libraries, including Kitchener (Ontario) Public Library, York County (Pa.) Libraries, and Houston (Tex.) Public Library.

“So far this year thousands of graphic novels, manga, and comic books have been checked out via Comics Plus: Library Edition,” said Josh Elder, account director at Comics Plus: Library Edition and founder of Reading With Pictures. “Boopsie is the perfect partner to help expand this even
further, and we couldn’t be more excited to be partnering with them.”1

Library-branded mobile apps from Boopsie work on all major mobile operating systems and are used by more than 2,500 libraries worldwide. Boopsie will be selling subscriptions to Comics Plus: Library Edition to all libraries, regardless of whether they have a Boopsie app since the subscription can be delivered through desktop browsers as well.

Libraries purchase 2,500 credits that are metered out to library users uniformly over a twelve-month period. One credit allows patrons to check out a comic, and two credits enable access to a graphic novel. These digital items are available on an easy-to-access digital bookshelf and automatically returned after seven days. Most libraries buy multiple blocks of credits and add additional blocks as demand for digital comics and graphic novels grows.

“Libraries are excited about being able to meet the needs of the Kids, Teens, and Young Adult markets in innovative, easy-to-use ways with content that generates excitement about the library,” said Bryan Murray, director of accounts at Boopsie. “Our team will be helping libraries market this new service directly to library patrons in order to further help libraries reach new users and get the word out to their communities about digital comics.”2


1. “Comics Plus: Library Edition,” accessed Dec. 19, 2014.

2. “Boopsie Partners with Comics Plus:Library Edition to Provide Enhanced Access to Digital Comics and Graphic Novels to Libraries,” accessed Dec. 19, 2014.