The dream team for the cell phone book club concept: Tulare County librarians enter Knight News Challenge

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Anyone care to mass-clone Jeff Scott? He and his people are just what librarians should be in a cash-strapped rural county where thousands can’t read or speak English fluently.

Situated south of Fresno, California, Tulare County has a population of about 450,000, and a quarter live in poverty. Tulare spends just $9.79 per capita on public libraries, and a mere $2 can go for actual books and other collection items.

But Jeff and his staff are giving local taxpayers a lot for their money. A whopping 20 percent or so of the library budget is for content, dwarfing the national average of around 12 percent.

Just as importantly, Jeff and the others understand how much libraries are about people, just not books.

They’ve set up a teen media center, shown in the above video, along with a related teen advisory board; and they also offer kits of paper books for young people and others to use in starting DIY book clubs.

Just think what Jeff could do with the cell phone book club concept and enough money to make it a reality.

With the above mind in mind, Tulare County has entered the Knight News Challenge’s grant competition for libraries. Pro bono, I’ve helped with the application built around the cell phone book club concept.

Seldom have I felt more useful. Would you believe, Tulare’s adult functional illiteracy rate exceeds 40 percent.

Most of the people there are Hispanic—the library’s talented staff reflects that. If we can figure out what works in Tulare, we’ll be closer to a vision for the libraries of the future in an America where nonHispanic whites will be a minority.

Ahead is an expanded version of the Knight application, with more about Tulare’s librarians and the cell phone book club idea—as well as Web links and other documentation missing from the original.

Tulare is asking for half a million dollars, no small amount, but one it deserves, based not just on needs but on Knight’s focus on useful innovation.

Cell Phone Book Clubs: A New Way for Libraries to Promote Learning, Technology, Community and Family

Cell phone book clubs would encourage e-reading and other learning on inexpensive cell phones, with due attention to digital divide issues.

The idea isn’t to use cell phones for all reading. But the phones are constantly on the minds of on-the-go young people and others.

Libraries could reach a new kind of reader-learner and encourage recreational reading, linked to better academic performance.

The clubs would offer simultaneously borrowable e-books and help in accessing and absorbing them.

They could also promote technology, community and family.

In fact, the most ambitious clubs would be digital-era versions of the old Chautauqua self-improvement movement, playing up the social aspects of reading and learning—in libraries and online.

In one sentence, describe your idea as simply as possible.

“If it’s difficult to get students focused on books, then inject books into where they’re focused” (gadgets), says novelist Bertel King.

Briefly describe the need that you’re trying to address.

A new Pew report offers some hope about young people’s reading habits, but Millennials still have a long way to go.

The average 15-19 year-old spends just six minutes reading on a typical day .

Furthermore, many students are growing up in bookless households where the parents themselves are not readers.

And that is especially true in rural counties like ours, Tulare County, California, where a quarter of the estimated 454,143 residents live in poverty.

What progress have you made so far?

The Tulare County Library has already achieved some success with “book club kits” through which readers can organize their own clubs with paper books.

Now imagine how both the DIY clubs and the library-organized ones could take off with ample promotion and a sufficient variety of digital titles for simultaneous access by many readers.

The library already enjoys excellent relations with the Visalia Times-Delta and other local media.

What would be a successful outcome for your project?

Due to financial constraints, Tulare County spends only about $9.79 per capita on public libraries (a mere $2 per capita on materials, about half the dismal U.S. average of $4)—even though the county’s adult functional illiteracy rate is 41 percent.

Not surprisingly, then, library circulation is just 1.5 per capita in the actual service area of 350,000, or far below the national average of 10.32.

Among other things, we would like to show how a mix of additional content, tech-savvy outreach and well-deployed technology could help boost circulation by 15-20 percent within a year–with increases continuing in future years.

Please list your team members and their relevant experiences/skills.

–Amanda Grombly is the Visalia Library Branch Manager with extensive experience in Electronic Resources.

She has performed technology outreach for seniors and was innovative in the implementation of this low-cost, high impact program.

Amanda currently chairs the Electronic Resources Committee for the San Joaquin Valley Library Consortium. She recently established a tech table that provides an example of the latest technology for our patrons.

She is a member of Eureka, a prestigious library leadership program in California.

–Faythe Arrendondo is the Teen Services Librarian for the Tulare County Library.

Within one year of her arrival, the library was awarded a $30,000 California State Library Pitch, an Idea grant intended to help teens, and she began the library’s first Summer Reading Program for that age range.

She established a Teen Advisory Board as well a Teen Digital Media Lab creating a digital maker space.

Using the equipment from her grant, the teens created their own Summer Reading Program entitled A Summer To Die For. It was completely teen created. The students created the game, the script, acted the parts, filmed the scenes and uploaded them.

Faythe was recently awarded a California State Association of Counties Challenge Award for her work.

The Tulare County Library was the only library to receive the award this year.

She was also awarded the YALSA President’s Award for Excellence in Service to Young Adults.

The project hopes to hire:

1. At least a part-time MSLS, MLS or equivalent (ideally full time in the future, if budget allows) to help expand the library’s collections and assist in promotion and absorption of e-books, which lack the same physical presence of paper books.

This hiring is necessary because the current staff is stretched thin. We do not want to diminish existing services in the collections area or any other.

The candidate should be comfortable in a multicultural county, be fluent in Spanish, and have outstanding familiarity with the content needs of young learners and their parents, especially low-income ones. Also, the applicant should possess good social media skills, as practiced both personally and/or in the workplace.

She should be a discerning evaluator of both fiction and nonfiction at all age levels and care endlessly about early childhood education and beyond and work well with the local school system.

This MSLS librarian might serve as a moderator for the clubs, and she could also share personal opinions on books, as kind of a homegrown Nancy Pearl.

A variety of library personnel, including Jeffrey Scott, the library director, could also take on some moderation duties, but the task really deserves a librarian focused on it.

2. A second MSLS or equivalent or a book-oriented marketing person (at least past time) with the skills to promote the clubs via both online and offline media and also create or oversee the creation of related materials such as posters for both the clubs and individual titles.

The ideal candidate would have extensive experience with blogging, social media and multimedia and also speak and write Spanish well and possess outstanding interpersonal skills and an interest in early childhood education and K-12 matters.

In addition, the candidate should be able to create superior community programming in tandem with other Tulare staffers.

Along with professional recommendations, the hiring committee should value samples of actual online work, especially written items and videos and photographs and other images created without editorial supervision.

3. At least a part-time person to handle the clerical details of people requesting copies of e-books for simultaneous access for their patron-organized clubs.

Very possibly, this job will not be necessary. Perhaps OverDrive’s patron-drive-acquisitions software can accommodate patrons if they ask as individuals for individual books or increases in the numbers of copies available.

4. At least a part-time IT person to help keep up with the increased demand—for technical advice and other assistance—that the promotion will create.

Installation of e-book software on most patrons’ machines should not be complicated, since they tend to run either Android, iOS or Windows. OverDrive offers free client apps for all three operating systems.

This person should also be familiar with cell phone technology and be able to help research the fitness of specific phones for e-book reading and other uses.

The applicant should likewise have good presentational skills—for sharing the latest tech tips with young, tech-savvy club members.

Of course, members themselves can be encouraged to speak on these matters as well as help other members, and ideally the IT person will excel in working with volunteers to leverage her knowledge.

Using canned software, the IT staffer could create a library-oriented online forum, independent of vendors and maybe even in cooperation with other libraries in California and elsewhere.

Participating libraries could create instructional YouTubes linked from the forum. The forum could also point to technical resources elsewhere.

5. A consultant to design a mobile-friendly Web site to promote the clubs and perhaps offer shortcuts to key links within the sites of OverDrive and other e-book vendors.

The site could be simple and run on WordPress open source software.

The MSLS librarian and the promotion specialist would create content for the site and perhaps at times point to the technical forum. The technical expenses of creating the site should be rather minor.

Overseeing the hiring would be Jeff Scott, a member of the board of directors of the California Library Association.

He has extensive experience with both digital material and literacy programs and in 2013 won a Challenge Award for the Tulare library’s Teen Media Lab—from the California State Association of Counties.

Jeff has also won the CSAC Merit Award for “Your Library in More Places.”

Assisting him in hiring would be Deputy Librarian Mike Drake, Amanda Grombly and Faythe Arrendondo.

Location

Tulare County, California, U.S.

Graphics and videos

textgirl31. Girl with cell phone. This teenager is texting now. With a cell phone book club, she could be doing so much more.

2. The start of Around the World in 80 Days, seen on the $20 phone. E-book apps on a $20 smartphone.

3. A description and cover of Twelve Years a Slave, displayed on a $110 phone.

4. Tulare County’s teen digital media lab, which under teen services librarian Faythe Arrendondo, won the library a $30,000 grant in a statewide competition. The librarians in the county are highly skilled at helping teenagers team up in groups. Cell phone book clubs would be a natural in this collaborative environment.  And other systems through the U.S. and elsewhere could learn from Tulare and replicate the successes there.

5. A hip, youth-oriented video of the kind that the Tulare County Library and its cell phone clubs could produce to promote the clubs. San Antonio high school students created this particular YouTube to promote the all-digital BiblioTech library.

6. Tulare County Librarian Jeff Scott, demonstrating a book vending machine, inspired by Red Box. The machine are a huge hit. But they offer only 300 titles each.  With e-books and due attention to digital divide issues, Tulare could multiply the number of books available to poor families living many miles from libraries. And via cell phone book clubs–many started by neighbors, with  help from Jeff and colleagues–the library system could help take the book culture to places it’s never been before.

Fill in the details

Cell phone book clubs would offer more sizzle than existing book clubs do.

Funds would be available for pizza and other refreshments, and on occasions there might even be free live music donated by local performers, contributing to the festive atmosphere.

There would also be book-related movies at club meetings, especially adaptations of public domain classics. Anecdotal evidence suggests that, yes, movies can help get the young reading.

Besides the sizzle during the club sessions, there would be more promotion ahead of time, and the cell phone clubs would aim for a broader audience than is possible now.

The library would offer some extra digital content for schoolwork—with the expectation that it would also be consumed on desktops and tablets (needed for proper display of books with charts or detailed illustrations).

But the cell phone book clubs would especially focus on recreational reading, and not just for the young.

A study from the United Kingdom documents the close connection between reading for fun and academic success.

By offering more content serving the exact needs of individual readers and by saving them time through e-books downloadable everywhere, the library system would help honor the Five Laws of Library Science in this and other ways. And students would be among the biggest beneficiaries. What’s more, along the way, as their technological skills grew, they could build their self-esteem by sharing their knowledge with senior citizens, in line with another Knight Challenge entry.

In addition, the clubs could take advantage of peer influence to make it “cool” to read.  What’s more, they would encourage parents to read and act as healthy role models.

The whole community could join the effort.

The clubs’ librarians and patron-members could suggest books to well-known local coaches and athletes—for example, sports biographies—and encourage them to review these titles for the clubs. Imagine all the sports fans the library could reach.

Also, business people and government officials could discuss books on topics meaningful to them, including those with local angles. So could county employees and others with interesting jobs. A veteran police detective, for example, could review crime books, both novels and nonfiction.

The face-to-face discussions would not just enlighten in-person audiences. They could also go on YouTube and even be broadcast live via Google+ Hangouts.

Remote access matters. Rural areas like ours present special challenges.

Our county’s land area is 4,824 square miles, and the population density is just 92 per square more, compared to the state average of 239. Residents may live miles from the nearest library branch—hence, the attractiveness of clubs offering participation both virtually and in person.

High school civics classes could attend club sessions in person or remotely, as could parents. Anyone could ask questions in person or online. This could happen directly or through a moderator.

Both do-it-yourself clubs and library-founded ones could be organized not only by neighborhood but also by interests in topics—everything from animal husbandry to science fiction, romance novels and popular classics (especially California-related ones, such as The Grapes of Wrath and others by John Steinbeck).

Some clubs might even be formed within companies, with the library supplying the content.

Library-nurtured clubs could also exist at retirement homes and in hospitals. E-books can be everywhere.

As is evident, promotion for the clubs could take a number of forms ranging from hip videos on YouTube (ideally also shown on local TV) to posters in public places advertising not just the clubs and the library in general, but also individual titles.

The posters could include QR codes for cell phone owners to scan in to locate the e-books online. Maybe the posters could even feature endorsements from local celebrities. The posters would be demographically appropriate for their surroundings.

Perhaps the posters for teenagers might show a circle of close friends in conversation while also glancing at cell phones and other e-book-capable devices. They would be snacking, too. The caption would carry a message in the vein of, “Start your own e-book club…free pizza!”

The “public places” displaying the posters would not just include social service agencies. Among them, also, could be commercial establishments likely to be frequented by low-income people, such as cooperating pawnshops and check cashing stores.

The clubs’ outreach efforts would encourage cashiers at the establishments to talk up the clubs and the library in general to young parents.

Schools would be obvious possibilities as places for promotion through posters and otherwise. PTAs could help. The students’ role models—parents—could of course read off phones and otherwise.

The Technology Promotion Aspects

1. Young people would grow more familiar not only with e-books applications but also with other cell phone apps, and be directed to resources to learn to code.

Yes, some of the cell phone book clubs could focus on technical topics, and not just prosaic how-tos. Students could read a Steve Jobs biography, for example, and draw inspiration, as well as learn from the positive and negative sides of his character and personality.

2. By raising the literacy rate and technical expertise of local residents, the project would be one of many ways in which Tulare County is striving to make itself more attractive to employers requiring high-tech skills.

3. The library could deal with digital divide issues by way of borrowable e-book-capable hardware and other means (and of course members would still be welcome to read from paper books).

One at least partial solution to the challenge of hardware for low-income patrons would be to establish relationships with reliable sellers of low-cost hardware and steer patrons to these devices.

E-book-capable cell phones sell for as little as $20 on Amazon, and the clubs could help patrons learn to use them for reading.

Detailed documentation exists online for use of the $20 phones as e-book readers that could work with free library WiFi to avoid charges from phone companies.

The library could offer econo-phones as a learning opportunity, a chance to familiarize the patrons with both e-reading technology and the basics of the Android operating system. That would build patrons’ confidence in their ability to master technology in general.

If low-income patrons could afford more expensive models, some might be interested in six-inch “phablets” selling for $120.

In addition, since the e-book files would be accessible in a variety of formats, including those for Kindles, people could use nonphone hardware.

Used Kindles go for as little as $25-$30, and a just-announced new model with a touch screen will sell for $79. And a Fire tablet—no phone capabilities—sells for $99.

The community aspects

The clubs would increase the library’s community engagement and offer related benefits in more than half a dozen ways:

1. The clubs would encourage neighbors to read together and make use of social media such as Twitter, Facebook and NextDoor (nextdoor.com) to become more neighborly.

2. Compared to most library book clubs, the cell phone variety would bring in more minority people and more low-income people, as well as more males of all ages. This would happen not only through outreach but also through choices of books reviewed and discussed.

3. Decision-makers could take part in club discussions on local issues and relate them to the contents of books, both fiction and nonfiction. The clubs would elevate the level of civic discourse.

4. County officials would gain a new appreciation of the library and books. This would increase the chances of the library receiving funding in the future for the extra staff. A constituency could develop for the new services.

Successful clubs, of course, would also make the library more attractive for funding from government agencies and from local private donors.

5. The clubs could create an audience for county-related apps, which could be promoted along with library-specific software.

6. This initiative could even help fight crime, and not just by encouraging the use of cell phones in Neighborhood Watch-style activities.

Among other things, they could promote and engage in Neighbor Watch-style activities, perhaps in partnership with police departments and other organizations. Also, what if police-related organizations used the cell phone book club concept to reach out to at-risk youth—with discussions of crime fiction?

Other possibilities exist. Note the existence of programs in Fairfax County, Virginia, and other places to expose adult offenders to great literature, one way to increase their empathy toward others. Recidivism rates, in fact, have dropped.

7. Well-deserved national publicity would result for Tulare, and this would help economic development.

Both corporations and brilliant entrepreneurs would see the county as more tech-friendly than they would otherwise, and the latter would be at least a little more likely to put down roots here.

The family aspects

Here is how the cell phone book clubs would strengthen families and family literacy:

1. Clubs would encourage parents to read to children and participate in the Tulare County Library’s literacy program, which, in reaching out to parents, is very similar in philosophy to efforts described in a New York Times article.

Like the other efforts, Tulare’s recognizes the importance of parentally encouraged summer reading for disadvantaged families, as documented in academic studies. Parent-child reading is the ultimate social medium.

And solo reading by the students themselves is likewise important. The library would offer not only more e-books but also paper books toward these goals. The p-books could serve as gateways to electronic books when the younger children were ready. The more parent-child interaction of any positive kind, the more likely families are to thrive.

Simply put, in a variety of ways, the clubs would bring parents and young children together to become more book centered. Popular public domain classics of appeal to all ages could be offered along the related movies. Not every club or meeting of one would be for families, but this would be a major component.

2. There would be an emphasis on parental role models, starting at an early age—before it was too late.

One must remember that it is not enough to spread around books of interest to children. Their parents also must be able to borrow titles they want to read, so they are indeed genuine role models.

This is a mission that public libraries, intended for all ages, can perform especially well, as opposed to the county relying just on school libraries. Both kinds of libraries are essential.

Why this initiative would work

The people are reason number one (and if we succeed, we’ll gladly show other librarians how to replicate our results).

Also, we have tried for a well-integrated approach, with the following working in our favor:

1. Demand. Watch moving videos from educator Rob Isquierdo Jr. on the need for library services in London, California, (pop. about 2,000) within Tulare County (go here and use the search term “library london”).

2. More material for legal, simultaneous borrowing, making it easier for books to go viral (without breaking copyright law).

3. Additional resources to help patrons discover and absorb e-books—both in general and in terms of appropriate individual titles.

E-books come with many advantages such as convenience and the ability to be displayed in ways helpful to students with learning disabilities. But, especially in low-income communities, they can be invisible to typical residents.

The cell phone book club initiative and related efforts could make e-book use more “social” so the books became far more visible.

4. A higher profile for the library within the community, such as through posters advertising the clubs and individual books—again, with special emphasis on reaching the disadvantaged.

5. Positive reinforcement for young readers from peers. This would be particularly helpful to the insecure, especially those who are the targets of bullying (something that the clubs, especially those at the neighborhood level, could fight against).

6. Better WiFi (and more of it) and other technical assistance, including instruction in e-book literacy.

Even many academic specialists do not appreciate the difference between reading a paper book and an electronic one, as well as the complexities of the latter.

Some readers, for example, may be more comfortable with the backlights of their phones’ displays set at a lower level of brightness. If need be, they could use OverDrive’s all-bolding capability to keep the words visible with the background dimmer.

Certain readers may even want to experiment with white text against a dark background.

Unfortunately, many e-book readers do not even know how to vary margin widths or line spacing for optimal reading speed and comprehension.

Especially if the clubs reach out beyond the usual techies, they must not neglect the nuts and bolts of e-reading.

“One Minute Technical Tips” could be casually shared during meetings and cover tech-related topics of widespread interest, such as how to read more comfortably.

7. The ability of the cell phone book club approach, bridging the divide between the physical and the virtual, to reach time-stapped families. So often, both parents work and do not always have the time or energy to take their children to the library.

Via the phones and perhaps neighbor clubs, the library system would still be at least some part of their lives. And ideally in time the families would make it to the library in person. But meanwhile this initiative would increase the chances of young parents and young people in general seeing libraries as essential.

Background reading

Librarian Jeff Scott blogs on library, management and technology issues at Gather No Dust. Some items of interest:

Your Library in More Places. Includes mention of the Tulare library system’s popular book-dispensing machines facilitating the availability of books in remote locations.

The system would like to offer WiFi at some and eventually all of the book machine sites—and decorate the machines with promotion for cell phone book clubs.

The machines are a wonderful alternative when students lack others, and they are such a hit that staffers must replenish them several times a week. But the number of titles per machine, 300, is tiny compared what e-book technology could make available once it is in the students’ hands.

A Future of Reading: The Barnes and Noble Nook Checkout Project.

Great Press Coverage, Great Success—about the county’s e-book-reading program, for which promotion has helped (suggesting the need for resources for more of it, as well as experimentation with different forms of it).

David H. Rothman, founder of the TeleRead e-book site and a former poverty beat reporter, has been writing for two decades about e-books, libraries and the digital divide. We have learned from him and vice versa—he follows Tulare County with great interest and has assisted pro bono in the preparation of this proposal. He will not benefit financially from the possible grant.

Concerning the cell phone book club concept, here are items from LibraryCity, another site David created:

How cell phone book clubs could get young people reading and change their lives. By Bertel King, the young novelist who crisply summed up the cell phone book club concept with the main audience in mind: “If it’s difficult to get students focused on books, then inject books into where they’re focused” (gadgets).

Cell phone book cubs: A new way for libraries to promote literacy, technology, family and community. The cell phone book club concept was developed with advice from Aixa Dengate, a veteran Hispanic teacher of special education and a former California resident, who urged a focus on the social and community aspects of the club.

How to start a cell phone book club—for your library, school, neighborhood, workplace or other purposes.

How to read books on a $20 cell phone: Tips for the cash-strapped and plain adventurous. Slashdotted.

Why library e-book posters should go on the walls of check cashing stores.

Also of interest might be Lisa’s Kiplinger’s USA Today story: Millennials LOVE their smartphones: Deal with it. Excerpt:

“Almost 90% of Millennials say their phones never leave their sides. The first thing that 80% of Millennials do every morning is reach for their smartphones, and 78% spend more than two hours a day texting, surfing, talking, tweeting and—more importantly for businesses—shopping, banking and more.”

She based her article on a Zogby Analytics study (sponsored by Mitek Systems) which reports that “60 percent believe that in the next five years, everything will be done on mobile.” The complete Zogby report is available via this address.

Major expenditures

The News Challenge does not require budgeting initially. However, we presently believe that $500,000 would be appropriate for this request—given the huge unmet needs of Tulare County, as well as opportunities to blaze new paths with the cell phone book club concept and related ideas.

Debate may rage on about paper books vs. e-books in terms of readability and popularity. But when push comes to shove, the real issue is access to any kind of book. And e-books could greatly increase the options available in a rural county where many residents either lack automobiles or live miles from the nearest library branch.

If the club concept works in Tulare, countless other localities could benefit. Tulare is also significant in that three-fifths of residents are Hispanic—one of America’s fastest-growing ethnic groups—and cultural factors count. Many do not want their daughters out very late at night, one reason why the clubs should be virtual as well as “in person” in a county where so many residents lack library access within a quick drive.

Currently—this may change—here is how we envision the spending of the $500,000:

–$125,000 would go to help pay for expansion of WiFi and related technologies in various forms, including LibraryBoxes stocked with public domain content and Creative Commons materials and usable with smartphones. We also will investigate partnerships with Internet services providers.

Comcast is in Tulare County and offers “Internet Essentials” for $10 a month as long as people have children qualifying for school lunch programs.

We will see if Comcast will promote the cell phone book clubs in local cable spots (and perhaps even experiment with discounts on e-book-friendly cell phones in place of or in addition to the usual low-cost desktops and laptops), while we in turn alert people about the possibilities of Internet Essentials.

However, Comcast’s Internet Essentials program still leaves out many residents such as the elderly living alone or residents who are already receiving Comcast Internet service and worry about the continuing costs.

What’s more, given the physical size of the county, Comcast may have large gaps in its coverage area. We also would like to investigate other alternatives including take-home WiFi hotspots funded by Knight and others.

Also, we will approach technical people who have experimented with community mesh networks in rural areas. And we will also look into TV White Space, the technology that Gigabits Libraries Network discusses in its News Challenge entry. We would like much or most of the $150,000 to be invested in ways that will continue to benefit the community even after the expiration of the grant.

While e-books can be used without WiFi, its expanded availability will considerably simplify matters. Also, with good enough WiFi, people will be able to watch the cell phone book clubs in real time. Even without the best of connections, they can view them on YouTube.

–$125,000 would be for experimentation with and purchase of cell phone hardware for those otherwise left behind. We will survey residents to determine the kind and extent of cell phone use and also consult with our Teen Advisory Board (also a source of advice on digital content matters).

We believe that many residents own phones but that most or at least many are “feature phones” without the ability to display e-books very well.

So we would like to experiment with a variety of phones and business models—even giving away $20 phones to patrons who have taken classes and demonstrated a clear-cut interest in e-books, even on a small screens.

Also, we want to see if Chinese manufacturers of inexpensive phones would be willing to configure them with e-book apps and other software best suited for library applications.

We will investigate procurement partnerships in this regard with other library systems concerned about the high prices of brand-name smartphones.

The same low-cost phones could also include common commercial e-reading applications from Amazon, Kobo and other major vendors.

Our goal is to encourage reading of books from all sources, not just libraries (even though our low-income residents will tend to favor “free”).

A possibility to investigate would be for libraries to buy just hardware from the Chinese manufacturers and hire contractors to provide optimized versions of Android for the devices.

Reading-related apps could be pre-installed and prominent on the home screen–one way to speed up the creation of a true library eco-system.

In addition, while cell phones rather than tablets are the focus of this projects, we would like to experiment with both brand-name and non-brand-name tablets, including the new $99 ones from Amazon.

–The remaining $250,000 would go for simultaneous accessible content (the kind fit for book clubs), staffing and promotional activities and materials.

No, Knight’s funding would not be ongoing. But as noted, a successful demonstration project could increase the chances of more county money for the library, given the greater value per tax dollar that the library would be able to offer.

Questions for the News Challenge community

The term “cell phone book club” by itself can be vague, so we have taken space here for explanations. But we do not claim to have addressed all questions.

We’ll appreciate both suggestions and questions, whether about the nature of services offered through the clubs, or about the execution of the idea.

Help us produce the very strongest proposal and chip away at our 41 percent adult functional illiteracy rate! Thank you!

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