Access models, community reading programs and librarian curation help meet surge in demand during COVID-19 shutdown



CLEVELAND – June 24, 2021 OverDrive annually reports on the growth of circulation as public libraries enable more readers to discover and borrow digital books from their lending collections. During the 12 months from March 2020 through February 2021 this growth trend continued, as digital circulation surged when libraries closed their doors due to COVID-19. To understand the impact of this growth on library budgets, OverDrive reported that record-breaking patron demand combined with high librarian engagement resulted in decreased overall cost per checkout, enabling more readers to be served at a lower cost.

Before COVID-19, the average cost-per-checkout across U.S. OverDrive public library partners dropped an average of 5 percent year-over-year for the 4-year period of 2016 – 2019 (compounded). In the March 2020-February 2021 timeframe, this trend continued, decreasing another 2 percent. In addition, many library partners that utilized key OverDrive features such as Public Library CONNECT, digital magazines, or the CPC access model are seeing approximately 26-29% lower cost-per-checkout than the average library partner which doesn’t use any of those features.

“Working with customer-oriented OverDrive librarians, our consortia has provided access to more digital titles to our readers at a reduced cost per loan,“ stated Grace Riario, Executive Director, Ramapo Catskill Library System (NY). “All our diverse patrons benefit from how we manage the increased usage of our collection development funds for both higher-priced titles in balance with cost-per-circ, simultaneous use, and unlimited access to over 3,400 digital magazines.”

Contributing to this trend of increasing access and lowering overall costs during the past year, OverDrive worked with partner libraries and schools to develop the following efficiency-enhancing collection development features and access models:

  • OverDrive donated thousands of no-cost Simultaneous Use titles which has so far resulted in 10 million checkouts. Donated titles include Community Read collections – Social and Emotional Learning, Spanish Titles for Young Readers, Adult Fiction and Nonfiction, Diverse Reads for Kids and Teens, Kids & Teens – and Simultaneous Use titles for digital book clubs like Big Library Read.
  • During the past year, OverDrive created tools and resources to guide libraries with using government relief funds, such as American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to purchase digital books. This includes modifying existing lending models to fall within time limits for ARPA funding. For schools, OverDrive created the K-12 Funding Champion Toolkit to aid educators in navigating Education Stabilization Funds (ESF).
  • Public Library CONNECT enables students to access both their school’s and local public library’s digital books using the Sora student reading app. More than 13 million students borrowed over 3.9 million ebooks and audiobooks from their local public library through Sora during the ’20-’21 school year, a 488 percent increase YoY.
  • Other key features: An increase in the availability of on-demand titles (cost-per-circ, or CPC) and simultaneous use digital magazines, the use of “Lucky Day” lending plans for high-demand materials, and librarian curation of backlist and long tail materials.


On August 3-5, 2021, Digipalooza ‘21 will bring together virtually a global community of librarians, educators, publishers and technologists sharing insights, trends and best practices for expanding access for all communities and readers. Panelists will share how data-driven decisions are shaping their planning and budgets in support of their mission to maximize the number of readers served and ROI of service delivery. Keynote speakers include Librarian of Congress Dr. Carla Hayden, author and advocate for equality Anita Hill, Crosby Kemper, director of IMLS, and Dominique Raccah, CEO of Sourcebooks.

OverDrive will present updates at the American Library Association’s Annual Conference & Exhibition virtual conference from June 23-26, 2021. Register for the session here. The recording of this session will be available to view for one year.

For more information about OverDrive, visit



About OverDrive

OverDrive strives to create “a world enlightened by reading.” Serving a growing network of 73,000 libraries and schools in 88 countries, OverDrive delivers the industry’s largest digital catalog of ebooks, audiobooks, magazines and other content through award-winning apps. The Libby reading app for libraries is one of Popular Mechanics’ 20 Best Apps of the Decade, while the student reading app Sora is one of TIME’s Best Inventions of 2019. Founded in 1986, OverDrive is based in Cleveland, Ohio USA and was named a Certified B Corp in 2017.

David Burleigh
Director of Brand Marketing & Communications