One interesting feature of the Kindle loaner program at North Carolina State University is the way that books are selected for download to the 18 Kindles that are available for checkout. Patrons (including students and faculty) recommend titles through an online submission form (see screen shot) that is then vetted by library staff. More from the interview:
EduKindle: How are title requests submitted and processed?
NCSU: The collection of titles on our Kindles is totally patron driven. Patrons request titles and we purchase them and download them to the unit. This has resulted in a collection of mostly popular titles, although we also have the occasional reference work, such as the Handbook of Wood Chemistry and Wood Composites. It’s not all pop-fiction like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Twilight, but also serious non-fiction authors like Thomas L. Friedman, Fareed Zakaria and Michael Pollan.
You can view our Kindle Request Page here. When patrons click the ‘Submit’ button an email is generated with the data and sent to a handful of people who have authorization to purchase titles and prepare units for circulation. Patrons have to authenticate with their NCSU id and password to get to this page. They enter name and email and the titleauthor of the book they want. Clicking the ‘Add Another…’ button gives additional title/author boxes so several titles can be requested at once. A space for comments is a ‘just-in-case’ kinda thing, such as a patron wishing to clarify their priority order of texts. Just below the patron email field is the pickup location. In addition to D.H.Hill Library on the main campus, we have 4 branch library locations. We manage the Kindles centrally, but we’ll courier a unit to a patron at a branch library so they can pick it up at their own location.
The aforementioned form-generated email of the request is handled primarily by one person in my department. In her absence I’ll handle it, and at times when neither she nor I are present a progression of ‘next-in-line’ folks step up. This gives us coverage of Kindle requests for about 20 hours a day.
We have limited the Kindle content to books for now. We will at some point experiment with newspapers and magazines, but issues with simultaneously keeping that content current and our accounts secure have kept that expansion on the back burner for now.
EduKindle: Who manages the pool of books?
NCSU: It takes a village’ to manage the pool of titles purchased for our Kindles. Amazon notifies us of each title purchased by sending an email to a listserv we’ve created with folks from Acquisitions, Collection Management, Cataloging Metadata, and Research and Information Services (my department). Acquisitions set up the Amazon accounts we use to purchase titles, and they keep track of the money spent. (Their attention to detail allowed one Acquisitions staffer to catch a mistake Amazon made that allowed us to purchase accidentally a title twice on the same account, something that shouldn’t be possible. We got our money back!) Catalogers enter purchased titles into our OPAC. A collection manager keeps track of data such as how often a title purchased for the Kindle exists in our physical collection, whether a physical copy of a text is checked out when the Kindle version is purchased, and which of our Kindles hold which texts.
This process reminds me of the Kindles that Kathy Schrock describes in her school library from a post she made in June:
We have just purchased two Kindles for our high school library as a pilot, and I found out a couple of things. First, you can have up to 6 Kindles tied to one Amazon account, and, if you buy a single title, you are allowed to put it on all 6 of them.
Secondly, since any user of the Kindle can purchase a new title from the Kindle store from the Kindle itself, we did not know how we were going to control students from purchasing books on a whim. We are solving the problem by putting a gift certificate on the Amazon account with no other method of payment on the account. The teachers will spend the gift certificate funds to purchase a bunch of titles, so there will be no payment method available to purchase new titles by the users. We will just load the books up with the purchased titles.
These models show us the value of a reading device that can hold many titles, and that can involve students actively in building the library’s collection. It is kind of a “suggestion box 2.0” for schools. And the fact that the titles you purchase can be downloaded to six different Kindles means that student choice and self-determination as readers is enhanced.
Next time: What are the lessons learned at NCSU for Kindle loaner programs?