One of the first thing that member often asked when I told them I was the new librarian at the Yale Club was: “When are you going to get ebooks?”
Ebook purchases and platforms can still be a bit thorny for libraries with operating budgets and circulation numbers like ours — we hope to start including them eventually. But the Library Committee and I are committed to expanding the reach of the library. We have over 11,000 members of the Club, and many of them are not residents of New York City. As a library, we wanted a way to really serve those members, even though they might not visit the fourth floor of the Yale Club more than once a year.
For our first foray into the world of digital libraries, we have chosen to offer digital magazines. Starting with digital magazines seemed more flexible than launching into ebooks directly. One magazine subscription price gets us a whole year of regularly updated material, and we could reach members who already have magazines they love, rather than trying to determine a slate of broadly appealing books to test. We decided to work with Zinio ,which I was familiar with from my time working at The Franklin Lakes Public Library in New Jersey. We were especially attracted to offering emagazines because patrons would not have to worry about returns, or not finishing the magazine before it was time to go back to the library. When a patron downloads a magazine, it’s essentially theirs forever. That sense of giving our patrons something they could keep, which could also encourage them to use the library more, was very attractive.
So far, response has been very positive. Since Zinio is web-based, we didn’t have to worry about integrating anything with our systems. There have been a few hiccups – like communicating effectively with our members about how to use their member numbers as their library barcodes (something they are still getting used to with our self-checkout kiosk) – but overall, once a member is signed, up they seem to be returning to the site regularly to check out more magazines. The best part was that when I scanned the list of 45 members who have signed up, I only recognized about half of those names, which means we are reaching members who might not have otherwise been able to or interested in accesing our physical library. And the feeling that we are serving more members than we did before? That’s pretty great.