Travelers at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport can now download free ebooks from the Broward County Library while they wait to claim their luggage.
The partnership between the library and the airport began during the summer but only recently has begun to attract notice. The airport all together has 36 LCD screens that are reserved for advertisements or public service announcements.
Twelve screens near the baggage claim now also display a QR code that the traveler can scan with a QR code reader app on their smartphone or electronic reading device, and then they can access over 34,000 public domain titles via the library’s OverDrive platform. No library card is required and the titles never expire.
“The library did all the heavy lifting and we just provided them the venue,” said Greg Meyer, the airport’s public information officer. “The airport’s position is that it’s one more customer convenience that we can provide to make the experience better. We have free WiFi and when something comes along like this, where there’s only positive impact for the passengers, why not,” he said.
Meyer said the only caveat was that the airport had to make sure that the service would not take money away from airport concessions.
“We had to be careful not to compete with vendors selling hard bound books,” he said. “The library ensured us that it was older books that would not compete with more current titles being sold,” he said.
Catherine McElrath, the library’s publications specialist manager, approached Meyer about the project.
“Working with the airport was a real pleasure. They were really open to the idea,” McElrath said. “It’s a wonderful way to bring library services to people everywhere,” she said.
There is no charge for displaying the QR code since the airport regards it as a public service announcement.
Stephen Grubb, the library’s e-services manager, said the program is averaging about 20 to 30 downloads a month, but he is expecting that number will grow as people learn about the program.
“People think about books when they think of the library, but they haven’t really made the connection between the library and ebooks yet. This raises their awareness,” he said.
He also said using the QR codes was a quick and easy way to get people to the library’s website and also to appeal to a younger demographic who may not be using the library.
The library is planning to expand the program at the airport and also is working with Broward County Transit to display the QR codes at bus stations and also possibly at Port Everglades, which serves all of south Florida.
“These ebooks are things people could go out and find elsewhere, but what libraries do best is bring information to people, like answering a reference question,” Grubb said. “That’s what we do best and this program is an example of that,” he said.
The library is making a concentrated effort to highlight all its e-services in a program called BCL.WOW, or a library without walls, which will include a mobile app that is scheduled to become available in December.
“We want to broaden the perception of library service,” Grubb said.
Michael Kelley, Digital Shift, November 2011