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eReaders for Seniors

Springfield (MA) City Library
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Innovation Leader: John Ramsay, Assistant Director, jramsay@springfieldlibrary.org

Problem Statement

There is a very large number of seniors in Springfield, MA. Many of these people have trouble reading regular books. This is due to the difficulty of reading regular print, and the weight, bulk and need to turn pages required by regular books.

Innovation

At a Spring 2010 focus group to get input from seniors for the library’s new Strategic Plan, the topic of eBooks was raised. There was a great deal of interest and enthusiasm expressed by this group about trying these relatively new media. Attractive features were the adjustable print and font size, the storing of dozens of titles on a single lightweight unit, and much easier ways to turn pages. After the session, the Director of the Department of Elder Affairs offered to partner with the Library to meet the needs expressed by her clientele. Elder Affairs purchased 10 Sony Readers to enable the Library to provide these readers to seniors. At first there was reluctance by some staff to provide readers specifically for seniors, since most library resources are made available to all the library’s users. This project was therefore undertaken as a pilot project to begin an eReader lending program, to work out any “kinks” that might arise, and to pave the way for the purchase of another group of Readers for use by all Library users. Carefully-worded publicity announced the kick-off of this new service, promising that in a few months units would be made available for use by all residents of the City.

Progress

The response from seniors has been very positive, and the units enjoy brisk circulation activity. The experiences learned from the “test drive” of the senior program led to improvements and more confidence as the general public service got underway. The Library was one of the first in Massachusetts to implement such a service and to develop policies and procedures for circulating eReaders. It was also one of the first to contribute its policies to a statewide website of policies to help other libraries embarking on their own eReader lending programs. We expect the new general public program to be quite popular. It was wonderful to have partnered with another City department to make these resources available, and to have a good pilot test group to determine how best to offer eReaders to not just seniors but to the general public.