4. How long do I keep titles?

Patrons can set their own default lending period on a format-by-format basis. Click here to set your default lending period. You will be prompted to login. However, if you do not set any lending period, the system-wide default for all formats will continue to be 7 days. You have the following options:

3, 7, or 14 days (for WMV Video)
7, 14, or 21 days (for Adobe EPUB and PDF eBooks)
7 or 14 days (for WMA Audiobooks and MP3 Audiobooks)
Additionally, at the time of checkout, you can select a lending period on a title-by-title basis.

What a blasted mess.

Good on Multnomah County Library for helping patrons through this quagmire. See the rest of their FAQs: E-books and Downloadable Audiobooks: Frequently Asked Questions. Pima County Public Library has an attractive and succinct explanation at their Downloadable Media Online page.

As nice as those pages are, they serve as evidence of a totally broken process. A process that we’re expecting our users to endure in order for our digital content to have relevance. This isn’t a recipe for success.

Our are audiobook offerings something that we can be proud of? If not, why are we representing ourselves like this?

7 thoughts on “4. How long do I keep titles?”

  1. Because that is the only way our vendors will give us electronic content.

    If the choice is present it like that, or don’t have electronic books (audio or otherwise)…. are you suggesting boycotting em until the vendors give us something reasonable?

    Not an unreasonable suggestion. You might be waiting a long time though, current publisher insistence on DRM is at the root of much of this.

    One could think if another libraries boycotted, eventually they’d realize they had to provide something better… unless the publishers actually don’t mind if the library market disappears entirely, because they’d rather get rid of library ‘file sharing’ and have every customer buy their own individually.

  2. I’m not even sure why this is categorized as a mess. What’s wrong with a model where patrons can specify their own circulation period? If a library was offering this model for traditional collections, it would probably be communicated by other bloggers and commentators as an innovative idea worth emulating. I’m not a lover of current ebook circulation and availability models, especially not in my library, but as Johnathon notes above, publishers could give a s*** about what they perceive as diluting direct sales by making it easy for libraries, so we do the best we can with the resources we have, like always. Anyway, like the traditional models have worked so well- you could apply the same “if we can’t do it well why do it at all” argument to bestsellers: if we’re making people wait 2-3 months for ‘Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest’ (like we are in our libraries in Delaware, due to diminishing collections $$), why even bother stocking bestsellers?
    The answer to that is as obvious as it is to the question about offering e-collections, even in a bunk and rickety framework.

  3. @Jonathan
    Yes, that’s my suggestion. Or at least I think it is an idea worth exploring. Why do something that isn’t really getting us anywhere?

    @richard
    Choices aren’t always a good thing. Especially when they confuse patrons and require such explanations.

    I could draw some distinctions between the brokeness of circulating print material and digital material. But. I think I’d rather take it in the other direction. I definitely question why we’re bothering to stock bestsellers. There are much more interesting things that libraries can be doing instead of (or in addition to) being places to check books in and out. I’d rather see a library full of people gathering around a limited amount of relevant, curated content, with an emphasis on creating content and housing *that* in the library, than libraries being book mausoleums.

  4. I had a thought a while ago (perhaps inspired by a blog post of yours, can’t remember), for a really interesting and unique thing municipal public libraries could be doing, that nobody else is going to do.

    Community archiving. Bring in all your old family photos in shoeboxes, for free we will scan them and put them in the library hosted digital city archive, for current access and future research. Could apply to other old non-digital content like VHS tapes or even old reel-to-reel film home movies (I’ve got some of those filmed by grandparents of family when parents were kids).

    And of course could potentially be applied to current digital materials too, the library hosting them in preservation-quality archives with web access, although there are many existing free web hosts for digital content (although not with any expectation of long-term preservation).

    In general, I think this is something in keeping with libraries missions (not redefining them as generic community centers, something that annoys some librarians about public libraries); something that is totally technologically do-able, no serious invention has to happen to make it possible; something that is awfully interesting and would be incredibly useful to patrons right now, as well as fulfilling a mission to preserve community content for future scholars as well as recreational uses. It just makes an awesome amount of sense.

    But it ain’t free, or even cheap. And in general, public libraries seem sadly not that interested in creating new programs around content (rather than simply community center type programs) that aren’t exactly what they’ve always been doing.

  5. Aaron- in principle, you’re absolutely right. In practice, implementing the kind of reframing of library purpose that you’re suggesting would be the death-knell for public libraries. Whether or not that is in itself a bad thing, it’s a whole different set of outcomes- libraries that are supported by the local tax base are able to offer extended services that are socially and ethically meaningful only because they are in addition to a general entertainment utility that is widely used.

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