Steve Potash

Catching up? Read Digipalooza Day 1 Recap

Day 2 of Digipalooza ‘23 started out bright and early with breakfast and warm welcome (and surprise dance!) from Team OverDrive.  

During his opening remarks, OverDrive founder and CEO Steve Potash spoke on the importance of advancing the science of digital performance and using a variety of data to inform how libraries serve their communities.  

Potash noted that most of the attendees had an advanced degree in library science or library and information science, and that “if there was ever a time when library scientists were needed to help guide the adults, children, and the nation it was now.” He added OverDrive’s mission is to advance the science, and our international user group conference Digipalooza ’23 is a time to share experiences, best practices and, most importantly, listen to librarians as we work towards advancing tools to help our library partners find success.

Special speaker Frank Radell from HarperCollins echoed Steve Potash’s sentiments on the important work of librarians: “Continue the jobs you are doing; Guiding kids, guiding adults to the books they are looking for. It’s not an easy position to be in, especially these days, but thank you and keep doing what you’re doing.” 

Highlights from Digipalooza Day 2 Sessions

Take your collection to the MAX

  • While all panelists spoke highly of the new OverDrive Max (Metered Access Concurrent Use) access model, Elizabeth Thomsen (NOBLE Consortium, MA) said she will buy anything in MACU if possible, adding it was “gratifying” to watch patrons burn through 100 copies.
  • For Diana Platt (Kansas City Public Library, MO), the question is always “How can we make as many people as happy as possible?” with the answer often being the availability that comes with MACU. Being able to visit the digital library and find a title leaves patrons with a positive association with their local library.
  • In addition to MACU, Cost Per Circ (CPC) was discussed. Danielle Stanley (Phoenix Public Library, AZ) said CPC is great for adding titles in languages other than English or diverse groups you are working to reach; because you only pay when a user borrows a CPC, this access model is ideal for trying new things and finding out if there is a need.
  • Kate Mutch (Natrona County Public Library, WY) said levering multiple access models is key for reacting to new reading trends or Netflix adaptations when there will be a sudden spike in interest.
  • All panelists agreed there is so much more social reading happening, whether it’s the titles recommended on #BookTok (TikTok’s reading and book-related hashtag) or popular celebrity book clubs. Purchasing titles across many lending models when available, especially CPC and MACU, allows for greater number of patrons to borrow a book at times of high demand.

Supercharge your Libby Experience with merchandizing and discovery tools

  • When asked about Libby layout tools, Kaitlin Booth (Cuyahoga County Public Library, OH) said she wants patrons to feel as if Libby is another Cuyahoga County Public Library’s branch library. At physical CCPL branches, readers are greeted by abundance, with A-frames featuring new books, prime picks, and staff-curated displays. She works to manage that same energy with what she features at the top of the Libby app.
  • Catherine Royalty (Los Angeles Public Library, CA) said Lucky Day is incredibly popular at her library and she frequently sees it called out on social media. She adds Lucky Day titles on a weekly basis to aid in holds management.
  • Kady Ferris (Multnomah County Library, OR), sees success by keeping collections roughly in the same spot on the Libby layout, such as featuring OverDrive Magazines at the top. She also will move collections around and, thanks to the information in Libby Insights, is able to compare how a collection performs in various spots.

Keynote speaker Sarah Penner

Sarah Penner

In the first Digipalooza ’23 Keynote, author Sarah Penner spoke about her journey to published author of The Lost Apothecary and The London Séance Society. She also spoke of childhood memories of using her hometown library in Kansas and how it felt “full-circle” to be speaking to librarians at Digipalooza ’23.

After 13 years in finance,  Sarah chased her dream of becoming a writer after attending an inspiring event by Elizabeth Gilbert where Gilbert encouraged attendees to think about the personal dream they have tucked away deep in their heart and to ask themselves how they would feel if she came back a year later and asked them if they had made any progress on that dream and the answer was. That was the push Sarah needed to start writing.

(And yes, she is working on her next book!)

Access for All: Digital reading campaigns designed to reach underserved audiences

  • Kelvin Watson (Las Vegas-Clark County Library District, NV) presented on their two recent Library of the Future award-winning programs: Cell Phone Lending Program and Bringing the Library to Transit Riders Program. Since starting the Transit Rider Program, the library has seen 295,000 digital checkouts on the buses alone from over 20,000 unique users. After seeing the success of the bus program, LVCCLD has started expanding outside the physical library by allowing users to access library services at bus shelters via QR codes.
  • Amber Seely (Harris County Public Library, TX) spoke on her library’s phenomenal work reaching out to students through Public Library CONNECT. She spoke of “digital equity” and, thanks to a grant, has been able to distribute devices and provide connectivity to schools to support students.
  • Jennifer Lawson (San Diego County Library, CA) presented on reaching even more in their community with expanded access though Instant Digital Cards. Part of their IDC program involved working with OverDrive to find a solution to verify certain members of their community, including college students, military, new residents, and people who may move frequently or don’t have permanent addresses. 
  • Kacie Armstong (Euclid Public Library, OH) discussed the innovative partnership program CuyahogaReads. Directed toward students impacted by Covid Learning Loss, the program is made possible thanks to a grant from the Ohio Department of Education. (She also mentioned being inspired by Kelvin Watson’s Bringing the Library to Transit Riders Program!)
  • Lisa Wells (Pioneer Library System, OK) shared they are expanding Access to All with solar powered Wi-Fi benches and accessible digital collections in open spaces out in their community. During a time when some of the community was without power, the Solar Benches provided charging stations and reintroduced many people to the library. 
A person hands a passport with exhibitor logos over a table. Another person "stamps" the passport
During lunch (sponsored by Sourcebooks), attendees visited the exhibitor booths to have their ‘passports’ stamped

KAPOW! Harness the Power of Comics, Graphic Novels and Manga to Supercharge your Digital Catalog

  • Comics, graphic novels, and manga are more popular than ever. This includes screen adaptations from big names to indie comics. The popularity of indie and creator-owned content from Western publishers has seen steady growth but manga dominates worldwide. Physical editions are king, but advanced viewing technology has helped digital editions gain footing.
  • Valentino Zullo (Ursuline College, OH) addressed one of the biggest myths, which is that comics and mangas are only for kids. There is also a continued belief that these formats only contain superhero stories, but they are so much more and for readers of all ages.
  • Frederick L. Jones (Saturday AM) discussed the extremely diverse audiences drawn to comics and manga. For many readers, young adult comics and graphic novels are a place where they can see themselves in the pages. Graphic memoirs are also a great way to introduce more “serious readers” to the format.
  • Eden Julia Sugay (VIZ Media) says one benefit of manga is it shows mental health in new ways and helps readers find the words to describe some of their internal experiences and struggles. They echoed that comic books, manga, and graphic novels can provide a mirror for underrepresented audiences.

How Fast-Growing Libraries Reach More Readers

  • Hope Harms (Johnson County Library, KS) shared one of her library’s super powers, which are staff ambassadors. Johnson County Library trains staff so all frontline staff are comfortable talking about Libby. Staff ambassadors began incorporating Libby into their Senior Outreach visits and created a custom handout with granular step-by-step instructions and exact wording in big, clear font to suit the older audience.
  • Janette Noe’ (Martin County Library System, FL)  has a very active book club community. She uses Also Available as an Ebook [or] Audiobook stickers on physical copies of books included in book clubs so readers know all the formats available. After promoting Libby during a local BookMania! event, Martin County Library System saw a 415% increase in circulation.
  • When Joy Testa Cinquino (Buffalo & Erie County Public Library, NY) added OverDrive Magazines, promotion became key in the success of their magazine launch. In addition to internal training for staff, library cardholders were sent emails announcing magazines were coming soon, signs were placed in physical branches, and magazines were shared on social media.
  • Jeff Sterling (OverDrive) gave attendees an exclusive sneak peek of the upcoming OverDrive Magazine One-Tap and Magazine Rack.

#UniteAgainstBookBans: Advocate for your community’s right to read

L-R: Lisa Varga, Sara Gold, Emily Drabinski
  • Lisa Varga (Virginia Library Association) said one of the things VLA has been doing to help their association members is through the creation of Book Resumes. These documents are put together by librarians and are full of useful information including awards and reviews of a title, which can be used by librarians when a challenge comes through.
  • After sharing a recent example of a book challenge faced by her consortium, Sara Gold (Wisconsin Public Library Consortium & Wisconsin Schools Digital Library Consortium) said key factors to working through challenges is education of library members, strong policies, and a close working relationship with your OverDrive Team. She also recommends annually reviewing your collection development policies and to create a Selection Advisory Committee to review challenges and make recommendations for actions.
  • Current ALA President Emily Drabinski (City University of New York) said that as the field continues to fight back against challenges, it is vital to remember you are not alone. Look for people who are already organized and invite them in, connect with professional and activity organizations and associations, and find a friend and bring someone with you. In large numbers, librarians are able to move the needle in ways they cannot do when by themselves.
  • Key takeaway from everyone is book challenges is only one part of the story of libraries, as librarians continue to do amazing things every single day addressing the needs of their communities from Library of Things, building new branches, and providing books for all readers.

Proven Tools and Strategies to Maximize the Diversity of Your Collection

  • Alicia Gunther (Monroe County Library System) shared that OverDrive’s Diversity Audit has been helpful in identifying opportunities for her library and collection development. One great thing is all of their consortium member libraries have been able to benefit from the audit. Since its inception in 2021, MCLS has run the diversity audit three times and continues to diversify their collection in response. Running it annually allows them to see which areas of their collection need more attention.
  • Hilary Lewis (Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh) shared the Diversity Audit her library developed in 2019 for an audit of their adult fiction print books. Since the audit, their collection development department continues to make improved purchasing decisions based on the results. In 2021, they ran a similar audit of the titles they were promoting online to make sure they highlight titles of diverse authors and characters. She pointed out it’s not enough that libraries are purchasing diverse titles, it’s also important to make sure those titles are visible to readers. Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh will be running another audit soon to see how far they’ve come since their last audit.
  • Nick Glass (TeachingBooks) showcased the Collection Analysis tool available for young adult and children’s books. By importing a list of titles into the TeachingBooks Collection Analysis tool, librarians can get real-time analysis of the diversity of the list. This tool can be applied to lists of all sizes, such as physical displays in a library to make sure the visible books feature diverse characters and stories.

The Big Business of Audiobooks: Fastest growing book category may be the most important form of reading for your community

  • Moderator Michelle Cobb (AudioFile Magazine) started the session off with data, including the audiobook industry has seen 11 years of double-digit year-over-year growth. In 2023, 53%of consumers reported they have listened to an audiobook, which is up from 2022 (45%). In terms of who is listening to audiobooks, 57% of listeners are 18-44 and listeners of audiobooks are more diverse than the general population of the United States.
  • Amanda D’Acierno (Penguin Random House Audio) said that while 53% of consumers have listened to an audiobook, that leaves 47 percent who have not which provides an opportunity for the industry to continue to grow in listeners.
  • Anthony Goff (Blackstone Audio) said Blackstone likes to mine the backlist of titles to find gems of titles in addition to experimenting and trying different things with audiobooks. The growth in children and teenagers becoming audiobook listeners is encouraging, as younger readers transition from YouTube videos and podcasts to audiobooks.
  • Karyn Goodwillie (Parkland Regional Library System) discussed the challenges of balancing a limited budget with increased demand in audiobooks. Her library focuses on best sellers and #BookTok. Since so many audiobook listeners are younger audience, they are getting so many recommendations from TikTok and turning to the library.
  • Scarlett Fisher-Herreman (Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library) said her library has already seen a 17% increase in audiobook circulation in just the first six months of 2023 compared to last year. Audiobook listeners at her library are highly engaged, perhaps more than any other group.
  • Troy Juliar (RBMedia) discussed the changing trends of audiobooks and that many books that had previously been considered “unviable” as a title to turn into audiobooks are now considered viable as audiobook popularity grows.

Looking ahead to Digipalooza ’23 Day 3

Tomorrow is the last day of Digipalooza ’23, but we still have so many sessions to look forward to including a closing note keynote from author and actor Eriq La Salle, how libraries can maximize patron engagement with streaming video, and Steve Potash’s Crystal Ball Report.

Read Digipalooza Day 3 Recap