July 30, 2009

Traditional Library Services in the 21st Century: A Visit to the Digital Bookmobile

I dropped by the Henry Ford Centennial Library in Dearborn today, to see the OverDrive Digital Bookmobile. OverDrive is one of our vendors of downloadable titles – those audiobooks, ebooks, and videos that you can download directly from our website to your computer, no matter where you are or what time it is, as long as you have an Internet connection and a Troy Library card.

The Digital Bookmobile is a 21st century take on a traditional library service. It is an 18-wheel tractor-trailer that houses interactive exhibits which explain what downloadabes are, and which show how to use them. The company is bringing its Digital Bookmobile to area libraries to promote this popular service.

The Dearborn Library organized a nice event, with a county fair feel. As I approached the area, I could see several tents: cookies and key chains distributed by the Library Friends; a drawing for two Sansa mp3 players held by the Library staff; information provided by OverDrive; and even a trio playing music.

But nothing was as impressive as the Bookmobile itself. It was huge. It is one thing to read about an 18-wheel tractor trailer outfitted with enough electronic equipment for a small library; it is another thing to see it close up, painted in the pastel company colors.

Upon entering, I first encountered a screen – several, in fact – explaining what downloadables are.

After viewing this well-done, introductory explanation, I moved into the next area of the bookmobile that housed about a dozen computers – both PCs and Apples. Here, visitors could sample a selection of audiobooks, ebooks, and video. I listened to a few minutes of The Cat in the Hat. The quality of the recording was sharp, and the presentation was pleasant and user-friendly.

I then moved to the next section of the mobile where there were several portable devices on display – from an Apple iPod to a Sony Reader.

The OverDrive staff helpfully explained to visitors the downloading process, and what the strengths and weaknesses of the various devices were.

After I left the Bookmobile, I spoke for a few minutes with Julie Schaefer, the Library’s Deputy Director. She was very enthusiastic about the public response to the Bookmobile, and to the Library’s downloadable service. Indeed, in the few minutes I was there, a steady stream of Dearborn Library users entered the Bookmobile.

Julie reminded me that several libraries were reporting increases of up to 100% in downloadable use after a visit by the bookmobile. As Dearborn and Troy have been in a friendly competition to see which library could generate the most use of this service, she was please that her library would certainly see a bump in activity. (From January through July, Troy was just edging out Dearborn in total OverDrive use.)

Congratulations to Julie and her staff for a great outreach and public relations event. It will certainly improve the recognition and use of downloadables throughout the area.

We are hoping to have the OverDrive Bookmobile come to Troy within the next several months. In the meantime, if you would like to try this service, go to the Troy OverDrive site, or drop by the Library’s Technology Desk, and we’ll show you why this service is so convenient and popular.

1 comment:

Lauren Henderson said...

I am so jealous that I missed this!