18 December 2007

FAQ: how can my patrons use this service?

Now that we've chosen a vendor, we can more specifically answer some of the questions libraries have had about the downloadable audio book service.

  1. How will my patrons get to the collection? The Listen Up! Vermont project will have its own web site, similar to what New Hampshire has (http://nh.lib.overdrive.com). Patrons can access the web site from anywhere they have access to a computer -- such as home, at 2am, if they wish! They will choose their library name from a list and enter their library card number (which the GMLC will get from each library before the service begins). No automation necessary.
  2. What mp3 players are compatible? As we have said before in a post about iPods, iPods are unfortunately not able to be used at this time with any of the companies providing this service to libraries. However, a wide range of Windows-based mp3 players are; you can access the list on OverDrive's web site at http://overdrive.com/resources/drc/compatibledevices.asp. Patrons may want to purchase an inexpensive device, or your library may want to purchase a few to circulate.
  3. What should I look for in an mp3 player? Of course, make sure it is compatible. You should look for the memory size of the device: 512MB is more than sufficient for the average book, and a 1GB device should fit even the longest one. If you have the ability to go to a store and look at the models, you might want to think about the size of the device (is it too small?), or, more importantly, the size of the buttons (which might be pretty small). I circulate mine in an empty book-on-cd vinyl case, with the instructions tucked into a cd pocket -- and I leave the headphones out (patrons must provide their own).
  4. Do I need to use an mp3 player? No. You can listen to the book on a computer, or, if allowed (as it is with approximately, by OverDrive's estimates, 85% of titles)burn the title to cd and listen in your stereo, your car, etc.
  5. What about listening to a title in the car? Well, if a title cannot be burned to cd or you don't have a cd player, you can hook your mp3 player up to the car stereo. Newer stereos may have a plug built right in; otherwise, patrons can purchase a special FM transmitter cord that will play the mp3 player contents over the stereo.
  6. What about my patrons on dialup? A plus to OverDrive is that the audio books are broken up into parts, so that the individual parts are able to be downloaded in a reasonable amount of time -- 10 to 15 minutes a part, perhaps -- on dialup. Just as a book on cd might have 8 cds, your audio book might have 8 parts, but a patron does not have to download the parts all at once. They can go back and download a part at a time during the checkout period.
  7. How much time does it take for a patron for a patron to download an item? That, of course, varies by the length of the audio book and the connection speed. As a test, I just downloaded all 15 hours of Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible on a DSL connection in approximately 20 minutes -- about 1 minute a part. On dialup, that would be slower, and on a cable modem, faster.
  8. What about at the Library? Do I have to allow patrons to download there? What if I don't have enough computer time or enough computers? In NH, when I used OverDrive, I had only two patrons come in to the Library to download in the first six months -- and that was in a town where everyone "up in the hills" was still on dialup. It is up to you what level of service you want to provide at your library. If you have DSL, or even better, a cable modem at your library, patrons should easily be able to download a book in the typical 30-minute computer time slot.
  9. What do I have to do to "check in" a book? Nothing. The downloaded audio book comes with a built-in expiration date, so the file will become unusable at the "check in" date. Patrons will have to manually delete the file from their computer. Files will not expire on the mp3 player or on the cd.
More questions? Let us know! Contact Stephanie Chase, coordinator, at schase[at]stowelibrary.org.

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