Over the past decade, libraries and books have made many positive changes, especially concerning universities, but for those of us who have been away from school and the library for a while, these changes have forced us to learn new technologies. Take for example my first semester returning to college; I went to the community college’s library to conduct research for a paper. I walked around the entire first floor of the library, then the second floor, and repeated the process; I was looking for the card catalogue. I approached a librarian and asked her where I could find the card catalogue. The librarian paused several seconds before answering, “Oh dear. How old are you sweetie? Libraries don’t have card catalogues anymore; everything is on the computer now”. While I look back on this moment and laugh, I am also reminded of how quickly technology can change. A few years ago, technology introduced another massive change: eBooks.
EBooks have instituted many changes in the book world, including how we converse about books, the introduction of eBook readers (now sold by numerous companies), how we purchase books, and the establishment of eBook lending through public libraries. The latter was an especially welcome addition for those of us who would rather borrow books than buy them; however, figuring out how to borrow eBooks is not always easy and depending upon which eBook reader you have, the process can be fairly quick and easy to understand or it can be quite difficult and frustrating. Oftentimes, libraries have instructions on their websites that can help you with the process, but following the instructions is not always a walk in the park. In Brendan O’Connell and Dana Haven’s article, eBooks as a Collection and a Service: Developing a Public Library Instruction Program to Support eBook Use, the pair offers a solution to this problem: teaching eBook instruction classes.
Using Chatham Community Library in Pittsboro, North Carolina as the “guinea pig” for teaching eBook instruction classes, O’Connell and Haven (2013) found that
Many of the eBooks classes we offered were fully enrolled at fifteen participants per class. Between November 2011 and July 2012, we taught 20 classes to 197 patrons. The total number of Chatham County patrons registered for e-iNC is currently 885, meaning we have reached approximately 22% of the e-iNC patrons in our county. (p. 62).
The results of O’Connell and Haven’s experiment have clearly revealed the demand for eBook instruction classes. The success of the classes include several key factors, such as having different classes for different eBook readers instead of trying to pack all readers in the same class, having several different eBook readers on hand at the library so that all librarians were trained on the different kinds, PowerPoint instructions that patrons could access from home, taking all students through a step by step process and ensuring that they were able to download a book before leaving class, and allowing patrons to have their questions answered both in person with the reference librarians and over the phone. By integrating all of these factors, Chatham Community Library is “[treating] eBooks not just as a collection, but also as a service supported by librarians” (O’Connell & Haven, 2013, pp. 58-59).
I found Chatham Community Library’s introduction of eBook classes to be a welcome addition to a public library. I began wondering if Richmond, Virginia’s public libraries offer the same type of service, I looked into it. First, I called Richmond Public Library (RPL) and spoke with the reference librarian who told me that they do not offer classes and she was not familiar enough with eBooks to answer my questions. She did, however, comment that she believed it was a much-needed service that she wished the library offered. Next, I called Henrico County Public Library (HCPL) and spoke with their reference librarian who informed me that they do not offer classes either, but she did walk me through the process of setting up the library’s eBook site on my iPad. While I appreciated that she was able to walk me through the process, it was still confusing, which I commented to her; she responded by offering to help me in person if I came into the library. Of course, I already had their eBook site on my iPad, but had I not I would have taken advantage of her offer of assistance. This led me to wonder exactly how many people ask reference librarians for assistance with eBooks. As O’Connell and Haven stated, eBooks are a service not just a collection, but why haven’t libraries jumped on the eBook instruction class bandwagon? Is it because libraries feel that eBook readers are a technology that does not belong in the library world or is it because libraries are ignorant of the demand for these types of classes? No matter the reason, the demand for these classes, as made apparent by Chatham County Library, is clearly there.
O’Connell, B., & Haven, D. (2013). EBooks as a collection and a service: Developing a public library instruction program to support eBook use. Journal of Library Innovation, 4(1), 53-66. Retrieved from http://www.libraryinnovation.org/article/view/235