Give Away some Ebooks

A couple weeks ago, I saw a pretty cool idea at the Denver International Airport, and thought it could be adapted to libraries.

1st Bank had some large advertisements up in the airport, giving away free ebooks (see the pic in this post – this was one of two signs I saw). All you needed was a smartphone with a QR Code reader – aim and read the code, and you were directed to download a free ebook (there was also a button to open a new banking account).

Pretty ingenious, if you ask me. Just guessing here, but I’m pretty sure the only books I saw were “free” out-of-print classics. For most people – people who are stuck at the airport with nothing much to do – what a cool idea! Give em a book (even if it’s freely available online), and brand it as your business.

How can this work for a library?

Why not copy this idea? Use a QR Code, put up a sign at the mall or the grocery store, and offer a “free” ebook (maybe something legally free from Project Gutenberg). Send the user to a mobile webpage, branded as your library – with a link to the ebook, and some info about your other cool services.

In essence, it looks like the library is giving away a free ebook – that works with multiple ereaders! Even those pesky Amazon Kindles that don’t play well with libraries.

No Snow Days for the Digital Branch

So – who uses your website? Are they your “regulars” – those customers you see in the building every day? Or are they people you don’t normally see?

Ask that with no data behind it, and I’m sure you’ll get a variety of responses. But add in a bit of data, and it gets interesting.

For example, the above graphic is from my library’s Google analytics info – it’s showing the number of website visits we received in February. And it shows a normal arc of use – those dips you see are Friday – Sunday. Nothing looks out-of-the ordinary.

But guess what? We were closed one of those days because of snow. Can you guess which one from the graph? Probably not – it was the far left dot – Tuesday, February 1.

We had 1714 website visits that day. It was actually the website’s busiest Tuesday in February. On a snow day.

So what’s that mean? Hard to say, really – but here are some thoughts [update – just added/edited some points]:

  • your website users and your in the building users are two different user groups.
  • Customers inside our building aren’t our primary catalog users. Which makes sense – inside the building, customers can browse the shelves (on Feb 1, we had 793 visits to the catalog – 587 were referrals from our main website).
  • Perhaps we need to actually promote our catalog and our website … inside our building???
  • Said another way – Your primary website users are your online customers.
  • How are you supporting those online customers?

One thing it does show – there are no snow days for the digital branch. Your customers are visiting you, and using your primary services … whether you are open or closed.

How are you reaching out to, and supporting, those customers?

Our Website Redesign is Live!

My library – Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library – just released our redesigned website. Check it out!

Our new main page has three main sections that are easily seen in the graphic accompanying this post:

1. Featured Stuff. The top section is reserved for our featured stuff. We have one large featured area that can rotate with multiple . The goal there is to highlight on our 1-2 “Big, Important Things.” That could mean a library event, or it could be some new database we purchased.

There are also three smaller featured boxes that we’ll change up a bit more often. They’ll point to other cool stuff we’re doing.

And of course, the nav bar is in the top section. We went with a top horizonal nav bar this time around. It actually drops down and expands for more links (pretty much a copy of NPR‘s nav bar).

2. What’s Happening Now. The middle section highlights our content that changes often, namely our blog content and our programs. Most of this stuff, especially the blog posts, will disappear off the main page pretty fast, and that’s ok. it’s meant to hightlight “what’s happening now.”

3. Social Media. This is where we highlight our latest Twitter tweets, Youtube videos, flickr and Facebook Page.

Process:

This took us us a little over a year to complete – I started meeting with staff in February of 2010. I met with most of the library, and held some patron focus groups, too – then turned the notes from those meetings into a huge list of stuff we needed to change.

Then, we had quite a few decisions to make:

  • We had to decide how to handle content (more on that in a future post)
  • We needed to assign staff to content (still working on this one)
  • We needed to choose a CMS (we’re using WordPress this time around)
  • Visual design and navigation took awhile to get right, too

Our Creative Group (a team made up of our marketing department and our web developers) did most of this work … but the whole library helped in some way, too.

So yeah – it was a LOT of work … and it never really stops. We’re still cleaning stuff up, and will probably start tweaking pages in another week or so!