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Hennepin County Library’s “eBooks & More” Team

Hennepin County Library
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Innovation Summary

To address a rapidly-changing environment in the production, access, and demand for eBooks and other downloadable content, we established a cross-functional team with staff from across Hennepin County Library to develop scope of service, expectations for staff and a communication plan for what patrons could expect.

Problem Statement

Changes to library collections and services related to downloadable materials (eBooks, downloadable and streaming media, etc.) require inventive strategies for coordinating and delivering services. Collection Management Services staff was facing significant changes in materials selection with regard to eBooks. Staff needed to revise workflows to integrate new formats and vendors into the selection process, and needed to begin developing new ways to address questions about patron access to downloadable collections. Our in-person and online Information Services staff were getting questions about formats and devices that were new to them. Helping a patron find something to read was became a much more complex transaction when it included knowing which device or format the patron wanted to use, especially when patrons weren’t always comfortable with the new technologies. And since most of the new formats weren’t available to download within library buildings, there was a new twist to the way they needed to provide the service. Our Help Desk staff needed to learn about the ever-changing array of devices so they could respond to staff and patron questions, as well as help library staff build the skills to understand the best ways to support patrons with their technical and collection access questions. And our online resources, especially our website and catalog, needed to expand to include these new formats, and to ensure that patrons who were accessing these resources were able to be successful. The “eBooks & More” team was charged with establishing a framework to support the growth of collections and services, setting precedents and best practices in the face of fluid industry changes and high patron demand.


Staff in each of these areas listed above were attempting to address the changes happening in their respective areas. The need for developing a more collaborative strategy to support acquisition, delivery of services, and continued patron satisfaction was recognized. Building on the strong cooperative working relationships and respect for expertise in each area, the staff on the team collectively took a step back to assess realignment of work processes. The review of process also provided an opportunity to eliminate duplication of effort. Formats selected by Collections staff had an impact on the Help Desk; questions coming to the Information Services staff led to new website content and ILS access points. And the speed and complexity of the changes meant staff and patrons didn’t have time to wait for the existing processes to implement changes and maintain clear communication. The team started by having a focus group of interested staff share their impressions about the changes they were seeing. This led to a list of items to address (website content, ILS access, staff training, ease of access for remote patrons, etc.) to both move the service ahead and to begin building a framework that could be used as new downloadable formats were added to the collection. The team also worked on a number of service recommendations, focusing on building a sustainable model that supported 24/7 access and that focused more on service and collections than on devices. While there is still much work to be done in this area, bringing together a strategic, cross-functional team to meet these changes head-on has led to both internal operating efficiency and a stronger, more long-term service model for patron access and support.


Hennepin County Library eBook circulation increased over 120% in 2011. While part of this is due to both collection growth and a greater number of patrons with eReaders, aspects of this increase are also due to the eBooks Team’s focus on strategic service improvements. Within web content and ILS access, we created an eBooks page on BookSpace and a direct link on the public homepage; created eBook content on BookSpace, our online readers’ advisory tool; integrated eContent onto other hclib.org Web pages; added eBook and other format search options in ILS; and integrated “My Digital Account” on the ILS “My Account” page. New collection launches resulted in an expanded eBooks collection, a downloadable music service and an expanded downloadable audiobooks collection. Patron support was enhanced by trend analysis of Ask Us (online Information Services) and Help Desk questions. Staff training included hands on workshops for public service staff and development of curriculum needs for ongoing staff training around downloadables, including changes to training and web content based on review of patron questions. There are several initiatives underway in 2012 that expand on the work of this team, including expanding the integration of Ask Us and Help Desk support to better track patron questions and improve service; a system-wide survey of Information Requests that will include questions on eBooks to better understand how in-building patrons can best be supported, and the development of new Information Services guidelines that will include information about providing service to patrons using downloadable collections.