talking paper

One of the coolest things our library is doing now is circulating books on mp3 players. Through the collaberative program Listen Illinois we have access to many, many titles. Eventually 1800, I’m told. There are new books, fiction and nonfiction, mysteries, kids books, classics, and more. You can go to the site and browse for yourself.

Jenny did most of the hard work setting up this project, and the few member libraries that chose to participate are reaping the rewards. To get going, all I need to do was the following:

-attend an instructional session on how to load software on to computers, register the players, etc…

-get some small plastic boxes for the circulating package ($3 @ The Container Store)

-Make some promotional materials

-Get Tech Services to slap some stickers on the players

After that were were ready to go, except for that one small factor: staff. I had trained 2 people in the library way before we went live, and they had forgotten quite a bit. I made sure the docs I drew up were readily available and retrained them. Er, one of them. (I’d better get on that.)

We made an announcement on the website (still need something permanent), made an announcement in the newsletter, and got the local paper to write write a story. This is an exciting new offering, and they were happy to write a column about it. Whether it be my movie group, or this book on mp3 program, I’ve found getting a library service into the local paper is key. Besides this, I made a poster to be housed by the other audiobooks. I’m contented, for now, with the amount of attention that has come to the project. As I type this there are 6 holds on the players, and they’ve been in circulation to various patrons since the project went live. Every repeat user I’ve spoken with about the project has been tremendously excited about the program, and impressed with the library. These people will be the main users of the mp3 players. Maybe they will tell their friends, but the library might have to wait for the commercial sector to push the format more before more people become interested. I’m not happy about it, but I think the reality is that the private sector has more influence than us.

The overall reception amongst the staff was positive. Because it would be a fairly large scale effort, I have not yet trained Circ staff to do anything with the program. For now, this is handled by Reference, mainly me. If I could have two or three hours with the Circ and Reference people, they would have no problem learning. And as trite as it may seem, I think role playing might be very useful for them. I suppose I would first demonstrate downloading titles, and putting them on the players. Next they would be walked through the process, and lastly they would try it themselves. The problem is that there are many part timers who might not be asked to do this in a real situations for months. Would they be able to recall the process?

It is people who have already made mp3 players an integral part of their lives that libraries are most likely to lose to the world of fun, glitzy, and useful technology. We need to reel them back in to our world or rich content.

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