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eBooks at Hennepin County Library Turning a New Format into the New Normal

Hennepin County Library, MN
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Innovation Summary

Over the past three years Hennepin County Library (HCL) has created a process that addresses implementing and integrating eBooks into the collection. This process is so successful that it will be expanded to other new formats the Library considers adding to its collection.

Problem Statement

HCLHCL first added eBooks to the collection in July 2010. The challenges the library faced include: the need to provide technical solutions to add eBooks to the collection and catalog; how patrons are provided access; monitor use and gather statistics; provide support for staff and patrons for this new format and the new technology used to access eBooks. Also, the number of eBook formats available and the number of devices on the market added to all of the challenges listed above. The greatest opportunity was for HCL to enhance customer service and create a consistent, sustainable process for adding increasingly complex formats to the collection. Because the addition of eBooks to the collection affected collection management, IT, public service staff and patrons there was also an opportunity to bring together a cross-functional team to work on a solution. By inviting more stakeholders in to address the challenges it allowed more people to participate in creating change from across the organization.


Key elements to the process had to address all aspects of implementation of the new format. Parameters for eBook selection initially included the requirement of the ePUB format. Other key elements include: tools used for collection acquisition and maintenance; how and when the format will be represented in the Library’s catalog is considered, for example, will MARC records be provided or will HCL create records for the items?; Is there an API available from the vendor that will allow us to integrate information from the vendor into the Library’s catalog?; ease of patron experience; how will the library validate patrons. Based on experience HCL learned that a discovery phase needed to be included in the process of adding new formats to the collection. Some questions we ask vendors include: What tools are available from the vendor to help the patron use the product is also investigated in detail. What instructional materials are available? In what formats: print, video, audio? What “live” help is available? Does it need to be mediated by Library staff or can patrons connect with the vendor directly? What is the vendor’s typical response time? HCL spent several months analyzing eBook and eReader questions from patrons. Based on that analysis, a new process was developed for managing these questions. All patron questions are now answered by the same group of staff. Scripts for common questions were developed and given to staff so patrons receive both a high and consistent level of service from HCL. Also, frontline staff were trained to assist patrons in libraries with the most common questions and training is revised and repeated several times throughout the year.


Our achievements include the revamp and new look to a landing page for eBooks http://www.hclib.org/pub/bookspace/eBooks.cfm The eBooks page was redesigned to be a one-stop-shop for patrons. Incorporating links to content (the vendor’s site as well as suggested lists) and help. Patrons are able to direct themselves to assistance at the level they need: videos; FAQs; information on eBook classes. eBook classes are presented by HCL staff and curriculum is developed based on patron questions and feedback. Additional support for the one-stop shop are attractive business cards available at all HCL libraries with the http://www.hclib.org/pub/bookspace/eBooks.cfm address. Our achievements can also be measured by use of HCL’s eBook collection. HCL currently has over 48,000 ebook titles with more being added weekly. On average, close to half of all eBook titles are checked out at any one time. OverDrive highlighted our circulation citing HCL as the public library having the 5th highest circulation of OverDrive eBook circulation in the US in 2012. HCL is still averaging 100 new patrons each day signing up to use HCL’s eBook collection. Our achievements are empowering HCL replicate the eBook implementation process to other formats. We are continuing to integrate collection management, IT, public service staff and patrons concerns and questions when we launch new formats or collection services. We believe we have established a sustainable, expandable, flexible process that will serve HCL years into the future.