AlburyCity Library Museum is one of Australia's first public libraries to successfully implement an e-book and e-reader service this year with an overwhelming response from customers.
Based in New South Wales, the library initiated a trial e-book and e-reader service in May and have already found use of digital content at the library has increased, and massive interest from customers in the new service.
"With e-books becoming very popular, our aim with the trial was to evaluate how this technology could help us cater for heavily reserved titles by offering a cheaper and more instantaneous means of acquiring these items," said AlburyCity LibraryMuseum's Library Systems Officer, Sonja Toussaint.
"We also wanted to assess e-readers as an alternative to large-print books. The prospect of being one of the first Australian libraries to start loaning e-readers and e-books was also exciting; this is positive for our image as an innovative library service," she said.
Indeed, the response from AlburyCity LibraryMuseum customers has been overwhelming. Since being made available, the Kindles have always been out on loan and had at least three reservations at any one time.
"The trial has definitely been a success. The amount of reservations on the Kindles speaks for itself in terms of popularity," said Sonja.
AlburyCity Library Museum currently loan six DX Amazon Kindle e-readers with a pre-loaded set of e-book titles, grouped by genre, which may be searched via the library's LIBERO management system and WebOPAC.
"We chose to develop ‘genre' Kindles to make the book selection for the Kindles easier. The selection of titles is customer-driven: books placed on the Kindles are the result of scouring through heavily reserved item lists, purchase suggestions and popular titles, and then seeing if Amazon had these titles available."
"All of this information was readily accessible via reports from LIBERO," she said.
AlburyCity LibraryMuseum currently offers one ‘Hot Titles' Kindle, loaded with new releases and popular titles, two ‘Mystery' Kindles, one ‘Bibliography' Kindle and two ‘Mixed' e-readers with a range of titles – from heavily reserved titles to purchase suggestions and popular titles.
"The "Kindle Committee" chose to focus on popular genres, so consumer demand was more important than the ease of lending and loading – but the only difficulty we faced was that not all titles on our wish-list were available on Amazon," she said.
Since 2009 AlburyCity LibraryMuseum has used LIBERO to facilitate integrated management of the library – from cataloguing and circulation desk processes for staff, to search and discovery tools for customers. Each Kindle and e-book is catalogued using LIBERO, with loaded titles listed on the ‘Notes' section of the catalogue record to make them searchable for library customers.
Customers can use the LIBERO WebOPAC to search the library for titles and find copies of the item in any available format – whether it be a ‘traditional' shelf item, e-book or audio book. The user can then click through to view the item location – either on the shelf, or an e-reader and directly locate, loan, or reserve the item.
AlburyCity Library members can currently borrow e-readers for a two-week period with no renewals. Devices are charged at the library between borrowings and loaned in a protective case with an information leaflet on how to operate the Kindle.
"Customers think it's a great idea – some borrowers are using the Kindles to "test drive" e-readers before they make an e-book reader purchase for themselves," said Sonja.
Most popular with retired adults – particularly women – the new service has successfully made digital content more accessible to AlburyCity LibraryMuseum customers.
"We've found the service has made digital content more accessible for recreational use, rather than just for research - it has become more of a recreational tool for all demographics and all types of technology – e-readers, mobile phones, tablet phones, etcetera."
For the purposes of the trial, the library has restricted items on the Kindles to e-books which are purchased from Amazon and catalogued in LIBERO, however the device also facilitates PDF documents and audio files.
"The materials made available on the Kindles will be reviewed and discussed when the trial ends in early December," said Sonja.
"After the trial, I anticipate the Kindles will adopt the same lending policies as a regular book – two week loans, with two renewals," she said.
"Our experience has taught us that it's best to start simple when looking at an e-reader service – and be prepared to take risks!"
"We also discovered that we needed a ‘Do Not Return Through Returns Chute" sticker on the cover of each Kindle – something we assumed customers wouldn't do!"
"There is no doubt, however, that the trial has successfully generated a lot of interest from customers in our services – particularly now that there are so many choices to make when purchasing an e-reader," said Sonja.
"Circulation of digital content is up and the popularity of the service is overwhelming with almost six issues per-Kindle over a period of twelve weeks."
"We currently have iPads in the library too, but they're currently for staff use only. We're still researching how iPads would be best utilised in a library environment, rather than lending them out," she said.
For more information – including hints'n'tips from AlburyCity LibraryMuseum on how to start an e-reader service at your library, contact Nina Owen. For more information on LIBERO solutions and services, contact Ben Cronin.