The Westerville Public Library, serving a small suburban town near Columbus, Ohio, is consistently ranked as one of the top public libraries in the United States. Named a five-star library by Library Journal for the last four years in a row, Westerville Public is in very special company as one of only 82 public libraries (out of more than 9,000) to receive this rating in 2013.
How does Westerville Public stay on top? Librarians who work there, like Steve Owley, Manager of Support Services, stay in close touch with the needs of the community and constantly look for ways to improve the library user experience. One example involves eBook usage, which has been steadily climbing in the last few years. However, Steve and his colleagues recognized that the online process for finding, checking out, and using an eBook was far from seamless. In early 2013, they started looking for ways to make it better.
The outlook for eBook usage at Westerville Public at the beginning of 2013 was already a positive one. A member of the 150-library Ohio eBook project, Westerville was the third heaviest user in the group with more than 50,000 checkouts in 2012. For the second year in a row, eBook usage had jumped by 125%, and Westerville was one of the first libraries nationwide to offer the 3M™ Cloud Library to their community.
Westerville patrons were enthusiastic users of the 3M™ Cloud Library, which allows them to easily browse, borrow, and read fiction and non-fiction eBooks. Users were also pleased with Innovative’s Encore discovery platform, which presents Westerville’s full range of resources—articles, local digital collections, books, eBooks and more—in a real-time environment.
But the integration of the two systems was not complete. Requiring users to go from one system to another to check on book availability was far from ideal. At about this time, the product managers at both Innovative and 3M™ were hearing from users that seamless integration of eBooks with discovery was fast emerging as a requirement; they began talking about how to collaborate to make it happen. When Steve and his colleagues at Westerville learned that Innovative and 3M™ had forged a partnership to integrate the 3M™ Cloud Library into Encore, they were ready to sign on as early adopters.
The new integration eliminates the need to leave Westerville Public’s search screen, powered by Encore, to go into the 3M™ Library to check on the availability of an eBook. Instead, the information on eBook availability and tools for checkout and placing holds is included on the search results screen, right there with all other print and electronic results. The user only goes into the 3M™ library to actually read the book. According to Steve, “The Encore/3M Cloud integration allowed us to meet our goal – we are now providing customers with convenient, integrated access to all print and electronic library materials in the library through an easy-to-use, easy-to-learn interface.”
Steve reports that the impact of the Encore/3M Cloud Library eBook integration was almost immediate at Westerville. The average number of active 3M Cloud Library users jumped 32% in the first six months and checkouts rose 27%. The following year Westerville added Encore/OverDrive ebook integration. Bringing both services into the Encore discovery process contributed to a rise in eBook circulation of 60% over two years.
“The big winner for us with integration is the ease of getting new users onto the 3M system—it really drove initial adoption. We couldn’t be more pleased with the integration,” says Steve. “It’s very gratifying to see companies like Innovative and 3M™ collaborating to improve the user experience. The result reflects well on all of us.”