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Ereaders and Ebooks Made Easy for Library Patrons and Staff
Dayton Metro LibraryGo to Website
Innovation SummaryEnormous ebook usage caused Dayton Metro Library to develop Ereaders Made Easy programs. These feature individual instruction tailored to specific devices and are offered at libraries and unique locations. The Ereader Incentive program offered staff $50 toward purchasing an ereader device to improve customer service for the ebook collection.
In 2010, library patrons could only download to a limited number of devices and the transfer was difficult to do. Technology advanced quickly, and by the next year users could download in a few clicks to most handheld devices. Usage of ebooks at DML increased by over 364 percent in 2011 compared to 2010, and annual checkouts jumped from 14,422 to 66,978 items. In 2010, the library began offering ereader programs, developed a special ereader webpage, wrote instructional handouts, created ebook publicity, and began work on an ereader lending program. The number of ebooks in the collection grew from 2,888 to 9,749 items between 2010 and 2011, and the amount budgeted for ebooks grew from $6,000 in 2010 to $200,000 in 2012. Staff indicated patrons were asking for help with their ereaders everyday and some brought them still in the box unopened. The amount of technical support needed to answer questions escalated. By mid 2011, library ebook usage was at a tipping point, and the library needed to step up to the challenge of providing excellent ebook customer service. Ereader programming needed to move beyond the lecture and demonstration approach. In fall 2011, Amazon finally allowed library ebooks to be downloaded onto Kindles, and usage skyrocketed. A few staff members at each location were trained to help with ereader and ebook questions, but now all needed to be able to provide excellent ebook and ereader customer service. Though locations had a demonstration ereader and received basic training, staff needed to have their own device where they could learn to download, read ebooks, and develop their own appreciation of ereading to share with patrons. Our public ereader programs needed to evolve and more of our staff needed to learn about ereaders and ebooks.
Ereaders Made Easy programs were launched in the fall 2011. When patrons arrive at the program, they sign up for instruction on their particular device and take their turn getting individual instruction for as long as they want. About six staff members are ready to meet individually with patrons and walk them through the basics of how to use their device. They help them get an Adobe ID, which is required for downloading, and help them install necessary apps or software. Then they connect with the ebook collection to demonstrate how to search for a title and do an actual download to the device. Patrons leave with something they want to read downloaded as well as some instructional handouts. These programs mainly have been hosted in library branches, but many have been hosted wherever an invitation is extended, such as in a government center, wine bar, shopping center, or senior center. These programs began at the same time Amazon allowed downloads of library ebooks to Kindles, and the need for a more informed staff became obvious. The library administration decided to implement the Ereader Incentive to encourage all staff to become familiar with ereaders and ebooks. A downloadable form was placed on the staff internet page that explained the program. The purchase had to take place in November or December of 2011, and the receipt was to be sent in with the form for approval in order to receive the $50 incentive. The device needed to be primarily an ereader or tablet. Every regular staff member was invited to participate, including even those in non-public service departments such as Maintenance and Technical Services.
Since fall 2011, over 20 Ereaders Made Easy programs have taken place and more are planned. Over 500 people have attended. Ebook usage continues to surge in 2012 to 233 percent more checkouts than last year. The programs allowed us to reach out to new users and partners just as interest escalated. Friendly staff helped attendees navigate the latest technology to find a good read. The pool of knowledgeable staff to do Ereaders Made Easy has grown to over 50 people due to the Ereader Incentive. Out of 283 staff, 155 purchased a device in the incentive program. A recent survey showed 63 staff purchased Kindles, 10 purchased iPads, and others purchased a variety of other devices. Forty-two percent indicated they use their device daily; 37 percent use it every few days; and the rest use it monthly or less. The survey indicated that 90 percent of the staff used devices to read ebooks, 49 percent to play games, 43 percent to read email, 35 percent for social networking and other uses. Eighty-seven percent said their new device helped them in working with patrons. They also commented that now they were more confident in helping patrons, and some used their reader in the stacks to help answer questions. Some stated their new device helped them do ereader programs better and became more familiar with the digital collection as well as be better prepared to be ereader ambassadors in the community. What surprised them the most, according to the survey, was how much they enjoyed using their devices, how easy they were to use, and how much more they were reading. Other urban libraries in Ohio replicated the incentive program. Now, DML patrons with ebook questions can find helpful, enthusiastic staff at all locations.