E-textbooks technology: BiblioBoard

This blog post was written by Alison Welsby, Editorial Director, Liverpool University Press.

For the University of Liverpool’s e-textbook Using Primary Sources, we chose BiblioBoard, a ‘community engagement software for libraries’ which helps libraries, universities and museums curate digital collections of books, images, articles, audio and video for either the public or their patrons.

Before the call for bids from Jisc was made, the University of Liverpool Library had acquired BiblioBoard to provide students and academics with material curated by other libraries and institutions (including The British Library), as well as to encourage academics to create their own collections for their teaching and research needs. As Using Primary Sources is an e-textbook containing a wide variety of material from the University of Liverpool Library’s Special Collections and Archives department, it made perfect sense to use BiblioBoard on this project, especially as additional software would not be required and the BiblioBoard team had already demonstrated the software and its features to members of the library and Liverpool University Press. Another factor in choosing BiblioBoard was the fact there were various ‘exposure levels’: we could curate a collection and make it available to only students at the university, or we could share with our own students yet sell to others. We could also make it available Open Access, which was always our intention for Using Primary Sources and what made BiblioBoard particularly appealing. Design is very important to BiblioBoard, which ensured the collections always looked professional and were user friendly with clear sign-posting. In addition to this, accessibility was of utmost importance and BiblioBoard’s collections can be viewed online both on and off campus on computers, iPhones, iPads, Kindles, Nexus tablets, Android tablets and phones. We knew that if the resource was easy for students to access on whatever device they had and looked modern and professional, then there would be more engagement. From the beginning, BiblioBoard seemed perfect for this project and with the e-textbook now complete (although more chapters are continuously being added as this is a living e-textbook), we are delighted with the result.

Like many things, once you have done something a few times, it does become easier, and this is the same with BiblioBoard. The first few pieces uploaded and placed on BiblioBoard were part of a steep learning curve in terms of understanding the process and terminology of the software. However, as we worked on the project further it did become easier. A major plus to working on BiblioBoard was BiblioBoard themselves, who were very approachable, answering our many questions during the curation of our e-textbook and supporting us through the process. In fact, the BIblioBoard team worked hard on developing new features in the software to ensure we created the e-textbook we envisaged (such as linking out from the epub chapters to the documents within the collection).

A major feature of BiblioBoard is the zoom-in facility on the documents and chapters, allowing students to analyse primary source material such as fragile hand-written letters and rare medieval manuscripts in exceptional detail. This not only ensures students have invaluable access to primary material at easy reach but crucially supports visually impaired students. If an institution isn’t subscribed to BiblioBoard, then their students would still have access to the collections that have been made available on an Open Access licence, such as Using Primary Sources. However, if an institution has purchased BiblioBoard, then additional features are available to students and academics such as their own login, saved favourites, bookmarking, personal notes feature and a download content feature.

As previously mentioned, we would certainly choose BiblioBoard again for Using Primary Sources and our aim is to curate more e-textbooks on the site for other courses at the University of Liverpool. Why not have a look at Using Primary Sources and let us know what you think? Send any feedback and comments to ups@liverpool.ac.uk

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