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Preparing for the Day of the eBook

Pierce County Library System
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Innovation Summary

PCLS was able to successfully met community needs for access to downloadable books and support for customers embracing a new technology – eReaders ) by determining in advance, through environmental scanning and developing a vision, the infrastructure and skills to be ready for customers with the right stuff at the right time.

Problem Statement

We have known for years that eBooks were coming. But when they would arrive, when the public would embrace them, and how and on what they would work – all just a guess until recently. In 2006, Pierce County Library assessed the risk, and decided that in a reasonable period of time eBooks would become a significant service that the community would expect to receive from the Pierce County Library. Our problem? How will PCLS prepare help customers have a successful experience with a new format … that was an unknown to us both in technical details, use and the timeline. We needed to be ready when it became important to them. What did “ready” look like and how could we be “there” at the right time, with the right “stuff”. Our ultimate goal was to position the Library as the “go to” source for downloadable eBooks and eAudiobooks, and as a place to learn about the new technology and get assistance. To achieve this we needed: • a robust collection available and ready at the right time, • staff prepared to be guides and partners for customers exploring a new reading tool and format • clear, useful, up-to-date resources to support customers beginning to use this service


Preparing staff: The ICE-TT (Improving Customer Experience Through Technology) team provided leadership for staff in learning about eReaders and accessing the eCollection. • Created eReader Learning Kits, circulating the most popular eReaders used in our service area to staff with this advice: “get your hands on these machines, try them out, don’t be afraid, and learn”. Staff had hands-on learning at their own speed. • Developed eReading related training and information for staff and customers • Continually monitor the eReading landscape to ensure the Library, staff and resources are up-to-date in service and support for customers. Building the collection: In 2006, the Library decided eBooks were on the horizon and began to build the collection despite initial low use. The collection needed variety and enough size so when a customer had their first experience with an eBook there would be plenty of choices available to immediately checkout. (We wanted to avoid 1000 enthusiastic readers trying to share 100 titles and being disappointed.) This was critical to ensure the customer’s enjoyable first experience, and in positioning the Library as a committed leader in providing this resource. Getting customers started: We needed a multiple ways to help customers exploring this new service and technology: • Staff developed curriculum on using various eReaders and the eCollection and offer regular classes throughout the system. • eReaders available in branches o staff can demonstrate with the appropriate eReader when a customer has questions on how to use or download the Library’s eBooks. • eReader comparison chart helps consumers determine the right eReader for them, bringing together key information related to eReaders that work with the Library’s eCollections. • Staff create and maintain up-to-date tip sheets to help customers use their eReaders and download and use the Library’s eCollections.


PCLS: • Was prepared to meet customer needs and expectations BEFORE customers knew they had a need. • Was positioned as the community’s resource and leader in eReading • Established new collaborative partnership with Barnes & Noble to introduce eReading and create resources to helping both our customers. • Has a collection that provides convenient access for residents in isolated areas of our 1900 square mile service district such as those living on islands or behind Mount Rainier. • Provide books to our large military population from Joint Base Lewis McChord that are deployed overseas. December 25, 2011. Five years of preparation paid off when eReaders became the gift of the season. 576 people unwrapped eReaders, thought of PCLS as the place to get their first eBooks, signing up for new accounts and checking out 1,200 eBooks. To date, 597 students have attended eReading classes, and uncounted are by individual “computer coach” sessions. Today PCLS’s eCollection has 26,500 titles (60,000 volumes) on a broad swath of topics and genres, and for all ages. Growth in use over the past three years: Titles Volumes Unique users Checkouts 2009 7,500 14,500 4,100 54,800 2010 16,800 32,600 6,700 105,200 2011 23,000 52,700 15,300 256,400 2006 to date 26,600 571,300 In the first four months of 2012, 4,900 unique users have checked out 18,100 items. Tip sheets, and the eReading webpage are visited by an average of 25,500 unique users monthly since November 2011 (the high was 32,600 in January). Branch staff report that they are familiar and comfortable supporting and encouraging customers’ first (and return) experience with eReaders and eBooks. Customers report that staff are able to answer and help them with their individual needs, and ensure they are successful at searching and downloading from the eCollection.