Over the summer, Broward County Library, located in in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, had the inspired idea to make the collection of more than 34,000 public domain titles featured on their ‘Virtual Branch’ website directly available and visible in one of the busiest centers of their community – the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. Broward County Library’s innovative partnership with the airport has resulted in lots of positive attention from users of the service and the media, including a feature article on The Digital Shift.

Catherine McElrath, publications specialist for Broward County Library, was kind enough to answer a few questions and share more details on the library’s successful airport promotion.

How did you come up with the idea to make eBooks available at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport?
The idea was inspired by a sign that Jacob Benjamin, systems analyst with Broward County Library (BCL), saw while traveling. A bank had a poster in a public place (an airport) offering two free downloadable eBooks. If a bank could offer two free eBooks, why couldn’t Broward County Library offer thousands? The Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) was targeted as a perfect fit for this project, as more than 60,000 travelers pass through their four terminals daily. It would offer the airport an additional, free amenity to travelers while promoting Broward County Library and its electronic services on a local, national and international level.

What was the process for getting the initiative going?
Our partners at the airport, particularly Greg Meyer, the public information officer, were extremely receptive to the idea from the beginning. I contacted him to discuss the project and he was immediately interested in working with us, as it was a win-win situation for both BCL and FLL.

Dwayne Webbe, BCL’s digital media designer, created a colorful poster with a QR code and instructions set against a background of blue sky, a design that worked well within the airport environment. The poster is displayed in a public service announcement (PSA) slot on the LCD screens in the airport’s baggage claim areas. Because it is a PSA, there were no advertising costs for either BCL or the FLL. It was as simple as emailing the artwork to them. Once we sent that over, it was placed in rotation as one of the PSAs.

As far as the content for the posters, we chose to offer the free domain books, as they are available without a Broward County Library card. We are working on future projects with the QR codes in local bus terminals the future posters will most likely offer more features that BCL cardholders can use, as they will be targeted to Broward County residents.

What has the response been like and how do you expect it to grow?
The response has been wonderful! In addition to positive feedback from users, we have also received a tremendous amount of local, national and even international media attention. It is a simple idea—access to free eBooks in a busy location such as the airport—but it turned out to be quite popular. We are thrilled with the response we’ve received so far, and are exploring other transit venues within Broward County in which to partner with soon.

Our goal is to bring Broward County Library’s electronic services to where our customers and the community are, which is the basis of our newest promotional campaign, Broward County Library BCL WoW (Without Walls). BCL WoW is also the name of Broward County Library’s new mobile app, set to debut December 2011, which allows you to access your library account, search the catalog, place holds, find your nearest library and more. It is all about giving our customers what they need and want, outside of the conventional brick-and-mortar library. Libraries are about free access to information for everyone, and what better way to provide that than through BCL WoW?

How has the initiative affected Broward County Library’s eBook service?
The increased attention, particularly by the media, has definitely raised awareness of BCL’s eBook service. There is always a segment of the population that might not know just how much the library offers, and this project has given our eBook service a higher profile, not just with our customers but with the community and beyond.

Anything else other libraries should know about the initiative?
As mentioned previously, we are expecting to grow this project and reach more people by placing the QR code posters in unexpected places that you wouldn’t ordinarily associate with library services. As such, it is an important part of BCL WoW, and our commitment to providing innovative service to our customers and community.

Heather Valentine-Gold  is an account associate at OverDrive.

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