OverDrive , a major provider of digital media services for libraries, has launched OverDrive Hub, a set of tools designed to provide new channels of communication with library patrons, along with additional analytics to measure use and engagement.
Well established as the leading provider of digital content for libraries, OverDrive continues to enhance its products to emphasis library branding and content and to enable channels for communications and engagement with library patrons using its services. The popularity of the Libby app opens a fertile opportunity to reach library users with additional content and messaging on behalf of the library. The popularity of Libby among library users can be tapped as a marketing channel for libraries. Each time that a patron launches Libby on their mobile device the library gains an important opportunity to promote itself.
Steve Potash, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of OverDrive, described the ongoing work to enhance Libby and to provide a new portal called the OverDrive Hub. This new staff management portal extends beyond collection development to also provide new tools for delivering library marketing content through Libby and an expanding assortment of analytics. Libraries can take advantage of popularity of Libby and its associated digital titles to highlight other library programs and services. These new capabilities were announced at the Public Library Association conference in Portland and are expected to be released in phases beginning in June 2022.
Libby as a library marketing opportunity
The Libby app has evolved to be much more than a simple ebook reader. The presentation of the app is highly customized for each of OverDrive's customer libraries. The library controls what their patrons see when they launch Libby, featuring the library's logos or other branding and highlighted collection items. The library has many options for the design and layout presented through Libby to their patrons.
OverDrive is extending the customization of Libby even further. In addition to featuring collection items, Libby will also be able to present additional types of content to library patrons. In the same way that a library uses a content management system to populate its web site, OverDrive is adding capabilities to deliver other types of information and tools through Libby.
Sunset of the legacy OverDrive app
OverDrive offers two apps for library customers. Libby serves the public library community and Sora provides a customized experience for students in K-12 schools. Libby and Sora use the same underlying technologies and content resources. The company decommissioned its legacy OverDrive app in February 2022. Libby was introduced in 2017, giving libraries and their users five years to transition away from the original app, which served primarily as an ebook reader and lacks the modern design and capabilities of Libby. Though no longer availalbe through the app stores, support for existng users will continue through the end of 2022.
OverDrive Hub: an expanded management portal for library staff
The OverDrive Hub provides a new staff portal for library workers to perform an extended set of activities. One set of tasks continues to relate to collection management. Librarians log in to their OverDrive account to select items that will be made available to their patrons through the Marketplace. Related activities include the reports and visualizations that describe how patrons make use of the library's collection materials. Libraries require detailed information on use patterns to inform ongoing selection and deselection of materials to optimize their investments.
Newsroom to manage communications channels
To manage these new areas of content, the new OverDrive Hub includes a section called the Newsroom. Currently the Marketplace includes some limited tools for managing the presentation of Libby through features offered for “Layout Flows” centered on highlighting selected collection items or a new “Shelf Talker” option for librarians to add notes to specific titles. The vision of the Newsroom greatly expands these capabilities into a broader set of promotional content channels.
Newsroom section of the staff portal does not focus on collection management, but rather on the other content to be featured on Libby. The Newsroom would be of particular interest to library staff members involved in marketing and outreach, who would develop content campaigns to promote library services, programs, or other activities. Some campaigns might involve featured content titles or lists; others may promote programs such as author talks or outreach events. Libraries can also use the Newsroom to invite their patrons to participate in surveys, to click through to fundraising initiatives, or other marketing activities. OverDrive sees the Newsroom as allowing the library to imagine Libby as much more than an ebook reading utility, but as a key destination for their patrons that might include a rich variety of content promoting the library, reading, and literature.
The Loop for assessing usage trends and analytics
The OverDrive Hub will also include a new set of analytics and visualizations for decision makers called The Loop. The Marketplace currently includes a Director's Dashboard that presents high-level analysis of the performance of the library's OverDrive collection. This dashboard will move into The Loop, which will be the home for a growing set of analytical tools. Some of these new capabilities include metrics on the interest in items that the library has not selected for its collection, including titles patrons suggest through Libby's Notify Me feature. Reports and visualizations will be available for the most searched titles, lists that generate the highest numbers of circulation, and other trends that can be derived from patron use of Libby.
Potash notes that OverDrive carefully protects the privacy of patrons in the way that it manages user data. Besides the Library, no entity outside of OverDrive gets access to any identifiable patron data and none of this data is ever shared or sold to a third party. Although detailed use data resides within the Overdrive platform to power usage analytics, access to this data is strictly controlled.
Aligned with trends for library marketing initiatives
The extension of Libby and the OverDrive Hub fit well into the ongoing trend for public libraries to invest in tools and technologies able to strengthen patron engagement. Many libraries are implementing marketing automation products such as Patron Point, BiblioCommons BiblioEmail, OCLC Wise or are using other marketing tools such as MailChimp. The library's website serves as a vehicle for providing access to its collections and services and is increasingly optimized for outreach and marketing.
The connections between the promotional components of the Newsroom and other marketing tools or technologies that a library may have implemented are indirect. Additional mechanisms may be developed in the future that enable more direct coordination between the OverDrive tools and other automated marketing solutions.
These new capabilities of Libby and the OverDrive Hub emphasis the visibility of the library as the provider of digital content. Conspicuous presentation of the library brand and marketing content strengthens the perception that those that use Libby are patrons of the library rather than customers of Overdrive, a longstanding concern. As patrons access digital titles from Overdrive collections through Libby or Sora, it is important for them to recognize the library's role in providing these resources.
OverDrive corporate background
OverDrive is owned by KKR, a major investment firm that acquired the company from Rakuten in December 2019. OverDrive acquired Kanopy in September 2021. KKR also owns RBmedia .