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Downloadable Media: Exploring Your Virtual Library

Forsyth County Public Library
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Innovation Leader: Mary McAfee, Associate Director, mcafeema@forsythlibrary.org

Problem Statement

In Spring 2010, Forsyth County Public Library (FCPL) anticipated a significant increase in customer usage of downloadable audiobooks and eBooks in the coming year. Staff was concerned that they would be ill-prepared to provide quality customer service and to handle the onset of “how-to” questions specifically related to various devices.

Innovation

To best meet this anticipated need, FCPL developed and implemented a strategic plan offering tools and programming to help familiarize customers with their devices and the library’s downloadable media options. This plan was designed from the onset to evolve with customers’ needs, including demand for classes and class content and to be flexible in the devices customers may bring. The Downloadable Media: Exploring Your Virtual Library program focuses on the following areas of user experience:

1) EQUIPMENT: A public Downloadable Station was installed in the downtown Central Library and eReader devices were purchased for all locations for training and circulation (Winter 2010-2011).

2) CIRCULATION OF MATERIALS: The “Virtual Library” was created as part of the online catalog for browsing and checking out books (Summer 2010) with downloadable titles continuing to be added to the collection. eReader devices started circulating (Spring 2011).

3) TRAINING: Extensive training options for both staff and customers were integral for this plan’s success. Public training began in August 2010 and focuses on hands-on use of personal downloading devices. Customers who do not currently own a device are also welcome. Public classes are offered at a variety of locations, days and times to respect all schedules. Customers register online or by phone, and walk-ins are accommodated.

Progress

The anticipated need came true. After experiencing constant growth in accessing downloadable material, customer demand spiked in January 2011. In fact, the number of checkouts has already doubled over last fiscal year and in January/February 2011 FCPL experienced a 33% increase in new Virtual Library users. Twenty-seven public classes have been held with 249 customers. The response by users is positive with an overwhelming appreciation of the staff’s ability to answer a wide range of questions and provide resources both in person and over the web. In response to a class, one customer noted, “Digital media is the wave of the future. I'd like to see more classes like this one. Thanks a lot.” Resources continue to evolve to meet the demand including Drop-In Downloading Labs and on-line video tutorials.