Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Lending Kindles at the Library

by: SB Sarah

I admit, I’m terribly curious to find out what the Kindle on-device library lending will look like, whenever it arrives this fall. But I learned recently of another library lending program that totally knocked my socks off. At the Cudahy Family Library in Cudahy, Wisconsin - where is that, you ask? It’s right here - the librarians have the Most Interesting Lending Program.

They lend Kindles.

No, really, they lend Kindles. Preloaded with a ton of books, each device devoted to a different genre.

I will let Michelle Gibbs, the Adult & Administrative Services Librarian (or, as I called her, Superpowered Librarian), explain the program.

Michelle Gibbs: We’ve got 6 Kindles that we loan out for 3 weeks at a time, and each is pre-loaded with 30-50 titles within a particular theme: Mystery and Suspense, Romance, Book Club Favorites, Nonfiction and Memoir and two Young Adult (different titles on each one).

Each Kindle has unique content; we made sure that we only loaded one copy of each book that we purchased, and if we had wanted the same book on more than one Kindle, we would have purchased a second copy. We put them out at 9:00 on a Saturday morning with no previous publicity, and they were all claimed by 10:00. We’re quite pleased with the program, as are our customers!

We were the first library in Milwaukee County to offer Kindles to check out, but not the first in Wisconsin – that honor goes to the Frank L. Weyenberg Public Library in Mequon. And there were other libraries in the U.S. before that.

The library buys the digital books from Amazon using a library credit card? Or do you have a different purchase method? All the Kindles are registered to the library on one account?

Gibbs: We use a credit card.

All the Kindles are registered to the library on one account?

Gibbs: Each Kindle has its own account, to make things easier for us to track and to prevent the books from being automatically shared from one Kindle to another.

Did you know that multiple Kindles on the same account can access the same books? It’s totally allowable under the Kindle terms of service - or did you want to make sure you bought individual copies of each book for other reasons?

Gibbs: We’re following the one book/one circulation at a time policy because that’s in line with what we do with both our print books and our eBooks. Since Amazon hasn’t explicitly said that it’s o.k. for us to be loaning Kindles (although they’ve danced around it enough that we’re confident that it won’t be an issue), we thought we’d better err on the side of caution.

How do you decide which content to load? Are there books that are requested or that are very popular?

Gibbs: Once we figured out the genre or theme for each Kindle, we chose mostly new releases or enduring works in the field. We figured that would be another way for people who were searching the catalog to find the Kindles – if they were looking for the newest James Patterson book and saw it listed on a Kindle, they might be interested enough to request one. You can see what titles are on each one if you’re interested by following the links on our homepage,

[SB Sarah says: Click “More Details” on this page to see the list of romances on the Romance Kindle.]

We’ll certainly add new books and books that people have requested when the demand dies down enough that we can get our hands on them for a few hours to load the new titles.

How many patrons have gone on to purchase their own? Do you know?

Gibbs: Unknown at this point. Many people wanted to try out a Kindle before they purchased one, so we were happy to be able to help them out. Since the beginning of the year, we’ve had a tremendous amount of people in with their own e-readers trying to figure out how to download library books onto them – which can be rather cumbersome, especially if they aren’t terribly tech-savvy.

What made you choose Kindles, since Kindles aren’t (yet!) compatible with digital library lending?

Gibbs: They’re very easy to de-register, which would prevent people from loading them up with titles that may (or may not) be appropriate. Of course people can still register them to their personal Amazon accounts and load books onto them that way, but it’s definitely a deterrent. We do check to make sure that nothing has been added or removed before we check them back in. It will be interesting to see how people will use them once Amazon and Overdrive are working with each other. We are restricting patron downloading to the Kindles at this point for a couple of reasons. 1. The catalog record for the Kindles lists what books are on each of the devices, so any changes would not be accurately reflected in our library catalog. 2. The materials that people load onto them may not be appropriate for our customers, especially the teen Kindles.

HOLY SMOKE is that not COOL? I love this idea! Jennifer Lohmann, RWA’s Librarian of the Year 2010 and general purveyor of awesome, told me that her library in Durham, NC, has Barnes & Noble nooks that they lend out as well to book clubs - though they aren’t very strict on how many people constitutes a “book club.” The nooks are pre-loaded with titles that are common selections for book club discussion groups.

So what do you think? Does your library lend digital reading devices? If they did, would you be tempted to borrow one and try it out? I think this is a brilliant program, and it gives me epic giddypants to ponder the possibilities of setting up digital device lending programs in my local public library. Thank you to Ms. Gibbs and to Kate Fellowes for their time in answering my nosy questions, and to Angela James for connecting us.

And to the board at the Cudahy Family Library: Your librarians are made of awesome! Way to go!

From: Smart Bitches, Trashy Books

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