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eReader Lending Program

Sacramento Public Library
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Innovation Summary

Sacramento Public Library launched a pilot project with more than 100 circulating pre-loaded eReaders and 28 for branch-level staff training and outreach, which eventually expanded to nearly 300 devices with a total of 500 titles. The library also conducted a thorough assessment and now offers a guide for libraries who seek to replicate this project.

Problem Statement

Sacramento Public Library believes that the rapidly increasing rate of adoption for eBooks and eReaders is a global trend that shows no signs of diminishing and wanted to address this demand in our community. However, none of the current eBook services available to libraries offer a complete solution. Publishers limit the content available through library lending models and the usability of these services is also inferior to their retail counterparts. An eBook lending service also does not address the growing gap between library users that had access to e-content through smart phones, eBook readers, etc. and those that don’t. There are many patrons who do not have the means to purchase their own eReader and patrons who would like to try out an eReader before they commit to purchasing one. The lack of economic rebound both in Sacramento County and California was driving more and more people into library branches, and the Library was looking for solutions to continue forward momentum with emerging technologies and addressing the digital divide.


Sacramento Public Library’s eReader program is now providing our library service communities with nearly 300 circulating eReaders that are pre-loaded by genres (best seller, mystery, romance, science fiction, non-fiction, Spanish language and others) that can be borrowed for a three-week loan period. Across all devices, a total of 500 eBook titles are available. Patrons have embraced the opportunity to use an exciting new format and are being encouraged to become more transliterate. SPL is pleased to help bridge the digital divide by providing those users, who could not otherwise afford this technology, with eReaders. This innovative eReader program consists of two main components- the actual circulation of eReaders by a public library, and, perhaps even more significant, a set of assessment tools that will guide other public library administrators in making decisions regarding digital content and the circulation of eReaders in their own libraries. Pilot project assessment activities gathered detail on a range of benchmarks, patron feedback and expectations to understand device usability, content readability and user adoption, as well as impact on staff to help determine if this pilot project can be implemented in other California libraries. Library Communication Strategies Inc. worked with the pilot project team to establish an assessment model that included feedback mechanisms for eReader borrowers, public services staff and stakeholder, and to gather input on internal procedures and collection development issues. A comprehensive implementation guide, including acquisition and set-up procedures, questionnaires, lending agreements, and support materials are now available for use on the Sacramento Public Library website.


Sacramento Public Library’s circulating eReaders have been in constant high demand since their introduction to the public in April 2011. Not only are all devices always checked out, all genres of eReaders have a waitlist with an average of seven holds per eReader. During the assessment period, all patrons who checked out an eReader were required to complete a survey and over 200 responses were collected. As 77% of survey respondents reported that using the library Nook was their first experience with an eReader, this project appears to help accommodate our patrons that don’t have access to their own device. Even though many of our patrons participating were new to eReaders, 82% of respondents found the eReader easy or very easy to use. In addition to having a positive experience with the eReader, our patrons also enjoyed the pre-loaded eBooks as 69% were satisfied or very satisfied with the selection of titles available on the eReader. The vast majority also said that they would recommend the service to a friend and planned to check out an eReader from the library again. The final report and assessment results have also been well utilized by other library systems implementing similar projects, including Houston Public Library and the Free Library of Philadelphia. The webpage hosting the project guide garners over 200 hits per month. More than just a successful project in its own right, Sacramento’s circulating eReader initiative has assisted multiple libraries across the nation in providing their own communities with eBooks during a time when vendor solutions are lacking.