We are delighted to announce that our Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant proposal has been approved for funding by the Arizona State Library. The project, entitled “Let’s Get Digital” will help us establish eBook service for patrons across the county.
Despite the marketplace turmoil over downloadable content, we want to provide our patrons the best possible service and stay relevant with changing technology. Publishers are struggling to determine the best business models, and libraries are often finding that we are challenged to provide access. Some publishers have instituted steep increases in prices for libraries, while a few have decided not to sell to libraries at all.
All our libraries have noticed the increase in demand for downloadable eBooks. Requests have been increasing steadily for the last two years, and it is apparent that the trend will continue.
Earlier this year, we completed surveys to determine the level of interest in eBooks and what patron expectations are. We learned that all library staff answers questions about eBooks and eReaders weekly, with some staff reporting answering more than 20 questions a week. From two patron-focused surveys we learned that even though more than half of the respondents did not own an eReader or tablet, they were still interested in having eBooks available at their library. Some respondents even stated that if their local library offered eBooks, they would use it more often.
Both surveys showed that Amazon’s Kindle brand series are the most popular eReaders among our residents with Barnes & Noble’s Nook series and Apple devices following close behind.
The first step is to select a vendor and establish the contract. We will purchase devices for training purposes so that staff can become comfortable with helping patrons with downloads. In order to get the word out, we will be developing marketing materials and news releases. It is hoped that we can build a starting collection of approximately 1,000 titles that can be downloaded to computers, eReaders, smartphones, or tablets.
Apache Junction Public Library and Casa Grande Public Library have both been members of the Greater Phoenix Digital Library for several years. Since the grant stipulates that only new services can be established with grant funds, those two libraries will not participate in the initial year of the grant. The ten affiliate libraries benefiting from this project serve approximately 96,400 Pinal County residents with approximately 40,000 cardholders.
We are hoping that this project will attract a sizable number of readers using digital devices, and also bring back patrons that could not get digital content. Future plans are to continue adding to the collection and exploring new ways to provide services to county residents.