Circulating Digital Content

This weekend the South Bend Tribune reported that my hometown library has jumped into the digital content arena by aligning with Recorded Books in a $10,000 contract.

The service, the paper reports, gives patrons access to 500 titles. “Patrons will be able to download the books to their home computers and then load them into any of the small media players that are Windows-based. Patrons also will be able to go to the library and download books onto their MP3’s or similar players.”

Here’s their site:

There are choices now for this type of content: Audible, Recorded, OverDrive.

My questions, then, for any library tech planning folk considering this type of service are these:

How does this new service impact other collections?

What type of training will staff need? Will the public need?

Will every reference/help point in the library have to be knowledgable in the ways of the service — whatever it may be — to field questions and complaints?

If it’s a download service, do enough folks in the community have broadband? (Don’t forget we are user-centered technology planners people!)

What hardware/software/troubleshooting expertise will library staff have to have? (Patron: “Excuse me, I can’t seem to get The DaVinci Code to play on my WizzyWig MP3 player..can you help? Staff person: Huh? What? What’s MP3?)

What unintended consequences might appear? (Maybe a staff brainstorming session would make these clear if there are any…)

AND what hardware is needed to assist patrons?

(On a personal note: I’m sad to see my hometown’s library’s service will not support my iPods. What’s the marketshare right now of the iPod? Is it a DRM issue..I think so…Someone is going to have to give in this battle: Apple? The vendor? I have purchased books from Audible and it was a joy to use them on my iPod!)

Finally, as with any new service, have a plan, a well-trained, comfortable staff, some promotion and a policy to stand on.