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Library Technology Buzz – A Look At Overdrive’s Local Content Module

by Amy Terlaga -- terlaga@biblio.org on May 13, 2014

Library Technology Buzz is an occasional article written by the PLA Technology Committee, on hot topics in the library technology world.  In this piece, PLA Technology Committee member Amy Terlaga (Director of User Services, Bibliomation, Inc.) discusses using Overdrive’s Local Content module with Craig Haggit, Manager, Adult Services, Lancaster (Pennsylvania) Public Library. The interview was conducted in early February, 2014.

Public Libraries:  What is OverDrive’s Local Content?  How are you using it at Lancaster Public Library?

Craig Haggit: Hard to believe we haven’t used this before! The Local Content module is included ‘free’ with our OverDrive subscription — just required a special request to our account rep to get it activated on Marketplace (formerly Content Reserve). It allows us to upload our own digital content, whether purchased or created. You can set up basic metadata, description and DRM on the admin side.  The amount of included storage and monthly bandwidth is limited, so any participating library should carefully prioritize what they want to upload. There are plenty of ways to get your digital content out there but this is one of the lowest-barrier ways to incorporate it into your OverDrive catalog. Note that if you currently are showing your OverDrive titles in your main catalog, you’ll need to create your own MARC records to upload before it shows up there.

Initially we’ll be using the platform to support our programs. We’re hosting a 3-part short story writing course at the library offered through a local college beginning in late March, and if the spirit so moves the writers to complete some short stories we’ll publish an ebook compilation of their work. Right now we’re still in the testing phase but it’s working perfectly. One down side is that Kindle format is not supported.

PL: How long have you been using it?  How easy is it to maintain?  How many staff are involved?  What are their roles?

CH: The module was switched on for us early in January, 2014, so not long. It’s ridiculously easy to maintain, though we’d prefer to have more granular control over the content regarding number of copies available and more options for including reviews, for example. Also, we can add material using the admin console on Marketplace, but removing that material requires a special request to our account rep.  I have no reason to think it will take a long time to remove a title but I’d prefer more immediate control over that function.

Right now I’m the primary person involved, responsible for creating the ebook (I use Sigil) and for testing the platform. Our county Library System IT department hasn’t needed to do anything on their end. Our Collection Development librarian will need to be involved as we decide collectively how to incorporate the new platform and digital content generally into our overall policy. Additionally, we’re one part of a federated countywide system with 14 independent libraries, so ultimately how the resource is parceled out is a question for the various library directors to take up collectively.

The other critical component of this is rights management. Pulling together the necessary legal documents for content creators (aka, authors) to sign and what terms we should include is a beast we have yet to slay. Others have slain this beast so we’ll be looking for examples as soon as possible. We’re just getting going.

PL: Do you have plans to expand the content?

CH: In my head, yes! We hope to broaden the scope beyond just programs at some point, but we’ll first need to develop our collection development and copyright approach. For example, what materials do we select, when would we want to purchase a title for permanent retention and what selection criteria would we use.

Beyond our own content we run into problems. Although we can choose how many copies of our content are to be made available for checkout, that number gets applied to every item in Local Content. This might cause a problem if we want to circulate 50 copies of our Short Story compilation, but an ebook we buy from a local publisher requires only one copy to circulate at a time.

I’ve made a request to OverDrive to allow more control over that so we’re hoping. Until then our options will probably be limited to only that content we own outright.

PL: What has been the patron reaction to the published material?  Any good anecdotes you have to share?

CH: Although our test book is uploaded it’s still only a test and isn’t yet being publicized.  However, as a “new ebook” it came up front and center as soon as it went live.  A friend of mine at a nearby library was doing a series of ebook classes for patrons that week and started using it as a harmless download that wouldn’t unnecessarily remove the ‘real’ ebooks from circulation, so now this dummy ebook has close to 20 copies currently checked out!

If I had known it’d get that many checkouts I would’ve learned what all that lorem ipsum text actually meant. I’ll probably use baconipsum.com for the next test. Local fare is pretty hearty here in Lancaster County so the content might resonate better.

PL: What’s next on Lancaster Public’s horizon?  What’s your next big project?

CH: We have an extensive local oral history collection dating back to the 1970s that I’d like to see offered as well. Most of them are still on cassette tapes so that remains a work in progress. Feel free to send me money to throw at this project! For now, Local Content only supports EPUB2 so mixing the transcript with the recording in the same publication will require a workaround if we use this platform. At the recent ALA Midwinter conference OverDrive indicated that this may change but not until 2015 at the earliest for Local Content materials.


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