(Ed. Note: At the beginning of this year Harris Country Public Library set a goal of surpassing one million checkouts on their OverDrive digital collection. This potential increase in circulation would lead to additional funding and more content for their users. They created Project Mill-E to get their community on board. The results were outstanding. What follows is an interview with the staff of HCPL about Project Mill-E)


Project Mill EHow did the Project Mill-E idea come about?

Michael Saperstein, who was our Multimedia Selection Librarian, had an idea for a contest to encourage digital library customers to explore Harris County Public Library’s collection and increase use of our resources. We set a goal of raising awareness of everything the library has to offer in digital format and to reach one million checkouts in a year.

How was the campaign executed?

We had no additional budget to put towards this campaign, so we used our creativity. Our Digital Content Specialist David Cherry created targeted posts and videos for social media. It was really important to add content specifically for this project and to let customers know when new items were available. We sent out press releases and were picked up by local newspapers and we were interviewed on Houston Public Media radio. We created a digital media postcard to hand out in the library and wherever we were doing outreach in the community to start a conversation about what customers might be missing if they weren’t using all of the digital products we have available. The graphic for this project was created by our Digital Services Librarian, Grace Lillevig and used throughout the campaign in posters for the libraries and as a web banner. We have continued to update our featured titles and curated collections on the Overdrive site, which were promoted on social media.

What has the response been like from your community?

The result has been phenomenal! Not only did we hit our goal, we reached it 49 days ahead of schedule. As the year went on, customers became more and more invested in Project Mill-E. We received many comments on our periodic updates on social media saying things like, “I’m doing my part.” Similarly, we got enthusiastic response both on our original hcpl.net blog post announcing Project Mill-e, and on an Ask the eXperts blog that we posted mid-year soliciting questions on all things digital media—from collection development to tech support.

Have there been any unexpected benefits from this promotion?

When customers email to ask for troubleshooting assistance, they invariably gush about how much they love our OverDrive collection and thank us for offering free eBooks and audiobooks. We received additional funding to support this project which has allowed us the freedom to purchase most of our patrons’ OverDrive requests. We love making our customers happy!

What were the results overall?

We increased our circulation by 131,400 checkouts and increased our unique users by 2.487!

Will you be doing a similar project in 2017?

We’re still deciding on the number, but next year’s goal will be at least 2 million!

Any advice for other library systems looking to execute similar campaigns?

Don’t assume your customers are aware of everything you have to offer.  Even if they use one format, they don’t always know about others. Get staff from all areas of service involved and working across departments. Word of mouth is still very effective!