Thursday, June 18, 2015

Stock Your Digital Suitcase: A Family Tech Program

Summer usually means two main things at the library: summer reading and vacations. As youth librarians, we want those two things to go hand in hand; we want kids to include reading as part of their summer vacations. For many libraries, this intended connection has long led to heightened promotion of audiobooks in the summertime. After all, what better way to pass the time of a long family car trip than with a great book that's performed for you? With this summer ethos in mind, I decided to offer a program to highlight the particular value of the library's eresources during the summer. And so the concept for "Stock Your Digital Suitcase" was born.

My idea for "Stock Your Digital Suitcase" was to allow my target audience--school-age children and their caregivers--the opportunity to learn about the different downloadable and streaming eresources my library offers, then give them time to start trying them out while I was in the program to help with questions and troubleshooting.

Because I knew I wanted families who attended the program to be able to get hands-on and actually download a resource, I clearly stated in the published event description that attendees should bring an ereader and/or wi-fi-connected device (smartphone, tablet), their library card, and any password they might need to download the free eresource apps. I asked people to register for the program so I could gauge the general level of interest in this topic--if only one or two signed up, I was prepared to scrap the program and instead set up one-on-one appointments with the would-be registrants. While the program roster didn't fill up as quickly as some of our summer program offerings, I was pleasantly surprised that, come program day, I only had one slot left in my 20-person roster. Eresources is obviously a topic of interest for many of our patrons.

I spent the first half of the program--about 30 minutes--giving an overview of the basics of my library's eresources. I presented these basics with the visual aid of some simple slides, which I had on my iPad mini and projected via Apple TV. We talked about what is required to use ersources: library card in good standing; device; and internet connection. And, because my library has eresources available for both download and streaming, we talked about the difference between those two models. The big takeaway: if you're going on vacation to a place where you don't know if you'll have wi-fi access, make sure to download everything before you leave!


In this introduction to our eresources, I also explained that each of the platforms--in our case, 3M Cloud Library, OverDrive, OneClick Digital, Hoopla, and Zinio--requires users to set up an account with them. I emphasize that, while this initial setup process can feel a bit tedious, it is a one-time process. From there, I touted what each resource offers, running the gamut from downloadable and streaming ebooks and eaudio, to downloadable magazines and streaming comics, to streaming movies, tv shows, and music. To say that the attendees were flabbergasted at the breadth of content available who be accurate.

I had created a little half-page handout for attendees to use in the second half of the program, which was hands-on trial time. The handout listed the web address of where to find the list of the library's eresources as well as the names and types of content offered by our different platforms. I included images of each platform's app icon as well to make locating them in the app marketplace easier.

I moved about the room as the kids and their caregivers got down to business downloading a first app and setting up an account. The account creation aspect is the reason I specified this program was for families, including the caregiver: creating an account on each platform requires an email address (which many kids either don't have or don't know), and most ask you to check a box saying you are over 13 or have a parents' permission to proceed. 

Once the desired apps were downloaded and required accounts created, kids searched and browsed for the books and other materials (but primarily books, which made me so happy!) they found interesting, then tried their hands at downloading and/or streaming. At this point, we talked a bit about how eresources return themselves (no late fees!), how best to browse for kids' materials, and how to put an eresource on hold. All of the questions were outstanding ones that really helped kids and their caregivers understand how to use these resources in the same ways they would the library stacks. After the end of the program--which I ended with a reminder to add all ereading to kids' summer reading logs--lots of families left with smiles and statements that they couldn't wait to "pack" for their summer vacations.


I'm thrilled that this program was such a success. As the staff member who purchases all the children's and teen content for our ebook/eaudiobook platforms, I know that we've upped our budgets for eresources in past years. The fact that there's a sizable audience of library cardholders eager to put these materials to use makes me happy. When I shared the success with my colleagues, they recommended possible times to repeat this type of program: perhaps after the holidays when devices have been received as gifts, or in advance of spring breaks. I'll figure out the logistics of when, but I think it's safe to say this program deserves some repeats to highlight a great pocket of our collections.

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