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Tech Savvy Staff Now — eReader Rebate and Training Program

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Tech Savvy Staff Now — eReader Rebate and Training Program

Sacramento Public Library

Library Operations & Management |

Innovation Synopsis

In order to quickly bring staff up to a level of proficiency with the numerous and varied eReaders our patrons are using, Sacramento Public Library offered an eReader rebate program for staff with an accompanying training session and a travelling eReader Petting Zoo kit for hosting public events.


Sacramento Public Library had offered multiple training sessions on our Overdrive eBook service, but the vast majority of staff still felt uncomfortable answering patrons' questions about eReaders. A high-level of specific device knowledge is necessary to fully assist patrons with using Overdrive, and SPL determined that the training sessions were too short and infrequent to impart and sustain this level of knowledge. Without being able to regularly practice on a device, many staff were not able to develop and retain the skills taught in the trainings. Branch staff frequently referred eBook inquiries to an “expert” staff person at the Central location. Many of these inquiries were not technical problems, but patrons who needed basic help with setting up Overdrive for the first time. As new users to our Overdrive service continue to rapidly increase, it is neither realistic nor good customer service to continue redirecting patrons from their local branch to a single staff person at the Central Library. Furthermore, we don’t want to discriminate against our eBook users, since we do offer help at the branch level for all of our other collections. A solution was needed to improve system-wide customer service for eBook inquiries.

Key Elements of Innovation

Inspired by the Douglas County Library eReader rebate program, Sacramento Public Library sought to implement and expand this initiative. By offering a $50 rebate on the personal purchase of an eReader of a staff person’s choice, SPL quickly improved the ability of our staff to provide great customer service and assistance to eBook users. In order to participate in the program, staff were asked to use their eReader to check out and download at least three Overdrive eBooks, as well as share what they learned with their coworkers. The Friends of the Library generously funded this program for up to 100 rebates and 80 staff are participating. At the same time, we launched an eReader Petting Zoo kit so that staff would have the tools to host trainings and classes for the public. The eReader Petting Zoo contains the latest and greatest models of eReaders and tablets, including a Kindle Fire, Nook Tablet, iPad and Samsung Galaxy Tab, with a total of eight devices. This kit is bookable through an online calendar and travels to all library branches. A new Train the Trainer class on how to host eReader Help Sessions was conducted and at least one representative from every branch attended. The class covered frequently-asked-questions, eReader troubleshooting, when to seek the next level of help, and an overview of the main types of eReaders available. The rebate program was officially announced at this class to generate enthusiasm for the various eReaders and for offering more eReader help to the public.

Achieved Outcomes

Outcomes have been wholly positive, with 94% of staff reporting an increased ability to assist patrons with library eBooks. Even staff who encountered difficulties using Overdrive found the process to be a learning experience that ultimately helped them to provide better customer service. Those who did not take advantage of the rebate were still able to learn from their coworkers who participated, as sharing eReader tips and tricks with colleagues was also a grant requirement. Staff is now notably more comfortable working with eReader technology, and more opportunities for the public to get excellent eReader help now exist system-wide. This includes both formal and informal opportunities, ranging from drop-in help, to scheduled one-on-one appointments and Spanish-language workshops. Seven locations now offer one-on-one eReader help sessions instead of only one location and every branch is now able to assist with basic questions about ebooks and eReaders. The eReader Petting Zoo is constantly in use for public events, supporting hands-on learning for both staff and the public. The program has proved to be effective, in that staff quickly became proficient with eReaders and familiar with our eBook lending service, and efficient, in that the program was funded at the low cost of $5,000, especially when compared with the cost of sending trainers to every location and with the low retention rate for skills covered during a two-hour class. The advantages of the eReader rebate program are clear. Asking staff to take an ownership role in the learning process led to genuine individual enthusiasm for and embracing of the new technology that was not seen in previous training efforts. Staff Quotes: “Just repeating the process several times over makes it easier to guide others in the same process; before, it was very abstract to read through the instructions.” “Although not everyone got involved in the incentive, I think the program did increase enthusiasm and interest at my branch. I notice that employees don't RUN from every eReader question now.”