It’s time to check in with another winner of this year’s Digital Library Champions contest! Since August, we’ve been highlighting winners and their success stories through a series of Librarian’s Share blog posts. This week, we feature the winner of the “Test Drive” category, Rapid City Public Library in South Dakota, as written by their Public Services Library Associate Sam Slocum.
The Rapid City Public Libraries take pride in providing our patrons with hands-on eReader experiences. We have been actively using unique marketing strategies to promote our OverDrive digital collection. The libraries have seen a huge increase in demand for downloadable materials – over the 2012 year we saw an increase in circulation of electronic materials of 122%, and 2013 is on track to break that record!
Our patrons love mobility, so we’re making our eBooks easier to find than ever by promoting our downloadable collection in creative, innovative and effective ways. The Rapid City Public Libraries are raising awareness for our OverDrive collection by giving our eBooks a physical presence in the libraries. We’ve also been marketing our digital services on our website and social media sites, at community outreach events, during staff trainings, on billboards, in clever library displays and with our 2013 OverDrive Digital Champions Award-Winning Test Drive program.
Before beginning the Test Drive program, the Rapid City Public Libraries expanded their downloadable collection, held staff training and patron drop-in clinics, and increased access to downloadables both in the library and on our website.
To better serve our patrons and attract new users, the library embarked on a new project. A major marketing effort went underway to introduce the Test Drive program with digital displays, handouts and newspaper articles. For those patrons who are still on the fence about purchasing an eReader, this program is perfect. In order to help them make an informed decision, eReader lending was launched in June 2012. Patrons can check out an eReader to test in the comfort of their own home for a two-week “test drive.” Each eReader comes in a canvas library bag with a charger, stylus, charging cable, directions, start-up guide and a survey to fill out when returned.
The Rapid City Public Libraries also offer a homebound delivery service, in which patrons who are unable to travel to the library can have library materials delivered to their homes, including our Sony eReaders from the Test Drive program.
For our patrons that have never downloaded or read an electronic book, our E-Reader Guide helps them through the process. If patrons would like some more hands-on time with a variety of devices, the Rapid City Public Libraries also have “petting zoos,” where patrons can experiment with different tablets and eReaders.
Inside the library, the staff created Shelf Peekers, which interfile with the books on the shelf. The Shelf Peekers are just one way we provide a visual representation of the many titles available in our eBook collection. A QR code printed on each Shelf Peeker links directly to the Overdrive catalog for instant and convenient downloading. We also place, “Available in eBook Format!” stickers on the book covers of titles that the library owns in both print and eBook format. Our grab and go QR cards are basically a business card for a book, which includes a QR code that links to the OverDrive download page for that specific title.
We provide hands-on training for our patrons at Drop-In eReader Clinics. Library staff encourages patrons to bring in their devices, laptops and account login information. Librarians then help attendees learn how to download library materials from OverDrive. We provide a supply of handouts which give step-by-step instructions for the patrons to take home with them. The program has evolved into a Drop-In style event where patrons can casually stop by with their questions about any mobile device and receive one-on-one help. From December 2011 through January 2013, we held 13 drop-in clinics with a total of 397 patrons in attendance.
Our downloadables are highlighted on our major social networking pages. Our Pinterest board, Downloadable Digital Vacations, spotlights downloadable eBooks, provides a little reader’s advisory, and directly links to our downloadable catalog.
These are just a few ways we are making the digital library experience more streamlined and accessible. After planning, testing and implementing these programs, we are now serving more online patrons than ever, and more efficiently.
Sam Slocum is a Public Services Library Associate at Rapid City Public Libraries in South Dakota, winner of the Test Drive category in the 2013 Digital Library Champions contest.