Since our opening in 1983, Hoover Public Library has focused on offering innovative and popular programs, services and materials. Our goal has always been to revolutionize the way our citizens see libraries and to instill in them a sense that the library is essential to the health and happiness of our community. “All is not quiet at the library!” was one of our early mottos.

When it came to promoting one of our newest services, OverDrive downloadable audiobooks and ebooks, we knew we wanted to do it big and do it loud. We were thrilled to be chosen as the grand prize winner of the OverDrive 2011 Outreach Program Contest!

I’d like to tell you about just a few of our most successful outreach activities mentioned in our presentation. You can see our entire presentation, built with Prezi, here.

(By the way, Prezi is a wonderful tool for anyone who usually builds a presentation around a PowerPoint slideshow. It’s free and online, so the finished product is easy to share, and because of its dynamic and interactive elements, its potential is mind-boggling. Please check it out.)

Some highlights from our outreach activities:

The OverDrive Digital Bookmobile

After years of success with OverDrive downloadable audiobooks, we started our eBook service at the end of August 2010. We promoted the service early on with in-library signage and social media, but decided to take advantage of the visit from the Digital Bookmobile in October to really get the word out. This visit was the spark that ignited OverDrive’s popularity in our community and is where all of our hardcore outreach started. We decided to make this a huge event with a speech from the mayor, free food, prizes, music provided by a local radio station, device demonstrations and plenty of staff to answer questions. More than 500 people toured the Digital Bookmobile, one of the largest turnouts according to OverDrive staff.

If the Digital Bookmobile is coming to your town, take advantage of the built-in “wow!” factor of a 18-wheel tractor-trailer sized library and really make it a big event! Yes, it takes advanced planning, lots of phone calls and staff time, but the payoff is worth it. Many people who normally do not visit our library stopped to see what the fuss was about, visited the bookmobile and then continued into the library to see what else we offer.

Community Partnership

One of the best things we did in anticipation of the Digital Bookmobile’s visit was to partner with our local Barnes & Noble. NOOKs have been one of the more popular eReaders in our community and having their staff on hand to demo the device and answer questions was invaluable. They were also able to sell a few at the event! This partnership has continued as they teach free NOOK and NOOKcolor classes each month, as well as promote our OverDrive downloadable service to their in-store customers. We talked to other businesses in our area about similar partnerships, but Barnes & Noble was the only one to respond. This type of relationship is mutually beneficial and we encourage other libraries to try it in their own communities.

Building Staff Enthusiasm

Staff training for a new service is essential to its success. We decided early on that training and building enthusiasm for the new service within our library family was a top priority. Instead of having just one or two people trained to be the library “experts,” we have done our best to train as many employees as possible on the basics of the OverDrive service, as well as in troubleshooting. We purchased NOOK and Sony Readers so everyone would have hands on experience. Staff may check out these devices and try them at home. Many of us attended OverDrive’s Outreach Training classes in September 2010 and met regularly with other libraries in the Jefferson County Library Cooperative to discuss problems and solutions and our patron service experiences.

After exploring different ways of offering tech support, we created an Ebook Troubleshooting Desk that is staffed on a rotating basis by staff from every department in the library. This has helped staff to better balance their overall workloads and keeps more of the staff up-to-date on OverDrive changes and tech support techniques. All walk-up or call-in eBook questions are routed to this desk.

Online OverDrive F.A.Q.

An effort that goes hand-in-hand with our focus on making troubleshooting as easy as possible for our staff is our online troubleshooting guide that we make available to the public. We offer screenshot tutorials that walk our patrons, and anyone in the world, through the process of downloading eBooks and audiobooks, provide resources for interpreting error messages, and much more. We never imagined that these tools, targeted to our own patrons, would help people from as far away as Australia and New York, but they have!

Once again, we are so excited to be the Grand Prize Winner of the 2011 Outreach Contest and are looking forward, as always, to what great things the future will bring.

Deni Owens is an adult nonfiction librarian and eBook liaison at the Hoover Public Library in Hoover, Alabama. Hoover Public Library is a member of the Jefferson County Library Cooperative and the grand prize winner in the 2011 Outreach Program Contest.

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