New York Library Association. - The eBulletin

eBook Access and Discovery: Providing Access to “Mega-Hit” Titles

Leah Kraus, Director of Web Services, Fayetteville Free Library

As a librarian, providing timely access to popular new books is always a challenge.  Lately, it seems like there is constantly a new “mega hit” series that every patron is desperately trying to get their hands on, whether it be the Lisbeth Salander series two years ago, the Hunger Games series last year, or the 50 Shades series this year. The extreme popularity of certain titles leaves us in a quandary – do we buy heaps of print copies, only to be left with 20 copies of the same (now outdated) book filling up our shelves in a year’s time? Do we buy additional copies of downloadable eBooks from vendors like Overdrive, at prices many times greater than what a print book would cost?  How do we provide access to the most in-demand titles without making our users wait for 6 months or more, and alienating them in the process?

Patrons are enjoying trying the new technology and getting their hands on the titles they most desire.

At the Fayetteville Free Library (FFL) in upstate New York, we are trying a couple of new solutions to providing access to such hotly desired titles. We are now offering access to 30 circulating eReader devices, including both Nooks and Kindles, which we have pre-loaded with the latest bestsellers. The ability to share titles across devices, and the low price point for basic eReaders, make this an economical solution. Now, when a patron comes into the library looking for 50 Shades of Grey, Gone Girl, or the latest James Patterson, we can tell them that they can access it on any of our 30 eReaders, if a print copy is unavailable.  The devices are loaned for one week at a time, are not renewable, and are mostly non-holdable, which has made it so there is usually at least one available for checkout at our library at any given time. If the device doesn’t have the book the patron is looking for, we offer to purchase and download the title on-demand (so far, this type of request is infrequent because the devices are already loaded with the top titles). Patrons are enjoying trying the new technology and getting their hands on the titles they most desire. 

The FFL has also expanded opportunities for patrons to download popular eBooks to their own devices, by joining the 3M Cloud Library.  Patrons can now download eBooks to their smart phones, tablets or eReaders from either OverDrive or the 3M Cloud Library.  While our OverDrive catalog is shared throughout the county, our local branch patrons exclusively have access to the titles we purchase for the 3M Cloud Library, making for much shorter waiting lists. The 3M Cloud Library also has a very streamlined, intuitive downloading process that is literally one-click once the patron has downloaded the free 3M mobile or desktop app.  Browsing the 3M Cloud Library is also easy for patrons, thanks to Amazon-like “Shelves” and the 3M Discovery Terminal, a touch-screen unit that provides visibility for the digital collection in the physical library space.

Certainly, providing timely access to hot new titles is not a new challenge for librarians. However, with the landscape of libraries and patrons’ expectations in a state of rapid flux, now is the perfect time to experiment with new solutions to this age-old challenge.