Saturday, August 10, 2013

Integrating eBooks into Your Library Program

Are you ready to delve into the digital age with adding eBooks to your collection? Have you already purchased some eBooks only to find no one checked them out? Are your students still stuck in the stacks while you are stumped with strategies on how to manage the digital transition? These are all scenarios that I have pondered over the past few years.

My first eBook experience occurred roughly 8 years ago in a large high school in South Carolina when Follett offered a package of free eBooks. I eagerly ordered and downloaded the records of these awesome classic titles provided by this introductory free offer and waited as no one seemed interested in our digital books. I had eBooks but why wasn't everyone flocking to the library for the newest technology? As with many other librarians,  I put the digital eBooks on hold due to little interest, unfriendly accessing software, and students with few portable devices. Let's be honest, who wants to sit in front of a computer and read a book?

My next eBook encounter came in 2010 in a small school district in Texas with the release of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Although our students had few devices for eBooks the interest to read this series proved strong and some adapted with any accessible device.

The 2012-2013 school year proved to be the defining year when I realized eBooks were here to stay and my approach in the process needed to changed. In December 2012 I set a personal goal to take on eBook usage with tenacity and enthusiasm. I needed to devise a proactive plan so I approached and scheduled all English classes to visit the library for an eBook presentation 2 weeks prior to the winter holiday. I advertised the library as a totally device friendly environment and requested that students bring any device that might be used to access our small 106 eBook collection. This one step began a progression of spectacular eBook successes for the remainder of the school year. As you can see from the graph our eBook usage spiked in Decemeber and May.  During both of these months I hosted an eBook demonstration to classes and invited everyone to participate in a BYOD.  The chart should have been labeled eBook Transactions instead of eBook Circulation.  The June data was for only a few days in June so when I return to school a new graph including the summer months needs to be produced. The biggest lesson learned on my part is if you show your students how to use they will follow.

Here are a few components to my success.

Set Goals - Take some time to analyze your collection, circulation statistics, and set short term goals. Stating that you want students and faculty to checkout eBooks is too vague. I started with setting a goal of 100 patrons accessing eBooks by the end of the school year. Statistics showed only 2 eBooks were checked out in the prior school year so this was a tangible goal as far as I was concerned. I am more relaxed and stress-free when I set goals that I feel I may accomplish.

Demonstrate - This might sound like common sense but take quality time to show your students and faculty how to access your eBook collection. Make sure you fully understand the process. I actually began with my faculty and was amazed they were immediately interested. It just proved to me that my teachers were as eager as my students to embrace new practices in the digital age.

Come up with a Gimmick - As with any lesson, program, or presentation you need to grab their interest from the beginning. I didn't plan that my gimmick was BYOD (Bring Your Own Device Day) but it just fell into place. I've also used the term "Device Petting Zoo" since every imaginable device came in on Device Days. It was awesome to watch student on student teaching and learning with the menagerie of devices.

Empower your students with the teaching process - I had great student aides and volunteers but no adult assistant. With 1 librarian and 670 students I have become quite creative in using others to help manage the library program. I coined the phrase "eBook Expert" and when an eBook question was asked I called for an "expert". In the beginning my student aides would step up to assistant but by the end of the school year students that I barely knew were volunteering their time and knowledge in accessing our eBook collection. I need to take note that many students want to help so I need to encourage a process with more student driven assistance.

Promotion - As with any program, your successes need to be promoted and advertised. The more enthusiastic you become in letting everyone know your statistical accomplishments; the more contagious this phenomenon will spread. I probably went overboard since I became ecstatic when my goal of 100 eBook checkouts was met in December before the Christmas holiday began. As our vacation continued, I watched the eBook reports and sent text messages to my principal with news of eBook usage over the holidays. I also posted on our school Facebook and Twitter feeds with the exciting news. As the eBooks circulation reports climbed I included this data in faculty emails, the school news, the library online newsletter, in leadership meetings, faculty gatherings, district library PLCs, wrote blog articles, brought in donuts for faculty celebrating mini accomplishments, and virtually told everyone whom I came in contact with during our 2nd semester. I am a believer in self promoting your programs.

Inclusion - As I watched my school embrace our library eBooks I also noticed peaks and valleys in the circulation reports. The students and faculty checked out our digital eBooks as long as I promoted the collection. Thus I referenced our eBooks when book-talking, included a quick title eBook list for my patrons, put stickers on books indicating it was also available in eBook format, provided demonstration screencast videos for the school news, and included promotion of eBooks in every facet of programming. Sadly enough our lowest month for eBook circulation occurred in April during STAAR testing. Students are only allowed to read regular books during the entire testing process.

Reflection - Analyzing and reflecting on the eBook data is very important. The library had 106 eBooks when I began this endeavor in early December and I quickly realized I needed more eBooks added to our collection. I delved into TitleWave looking for high interest titles and added roughly 300 more eBooks by early February. I must add the process of ordering and receiving eBooks was a pleasant surprise. I ordered online on Tuesday and was thrilled to see on the following Saturday the books seamlessly appeared on our FolletShelf. That in turn created more text messages, Facebook and Twitter posts, and emails over the weekend.

I am proud to announce that our students and faculty have enthusiastically continued to checkout and access our eBook collection. We have surpassed 1,200 eBook transactions since the beginning of this campaign. I have added audio eBooks to our collection and have embedded our digital collection use in a summer reading campaign. After the dismal history of my eBook promotion, I am ecstatic with the latest results. Factors that may have contributed to our success may include our district providing 1:1 devices, students having access to many types of devices, the school's policy for allowing student devices, and the library's device friendly environment.

I'm not ready to eliminate regular books but I welcome the opportunity to blend choices for my patrons in our library program.  This coming year will be interesting since our district has adapted Dell tablets as the 1:1 device for our students.  I'm assuming accessing our eBook collection will be simplified with the new devices.  The announcement that Follett is working with Random House to offer popular titles in eBook format will also add new exciting titles to our collection.  Due to a special offer from Follett last year, I received a $750 coupon for free eBooks that I'm eager to spend.  I believe eBooks are here to stay and I'm ready to embrace the use of our digital collection and assist my faculty and students in accessing their reading choices.

This is the full article that I wrote as a guest blogger for Follett titled eBooks: Delve Into Digital.  


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