Academic journal article Collaborative Librarianship

Home Grown Ebooks: North Carolina's Collaborative Ebook Pilot Project

Academic journal article Collaborative Librarianship

Home Grown Ebooks: North Carolina's Collaborative Ebook Pilot Project

Article excerpt


For years, NC LIVE, a large, statewide, multitype library consortium with 200 public and academic member libraries, has called for increased access to ebooks, but there was a great deal of uncertainty about what kind of ebook project would gain the support of the consortium. Typical models offered by aggregators and ebook vendors provided a number of ebook challenges, such as limited simultaneous user access, expensive platform fees or subscriptions, and title lists that were uninspiring. All of these challenges were magnified by the consortium's diverse group-based access. After learning more about ebook models used by other libraries, such as those implemented in Douglas County Libraries (Colorado) and the CALIFA consortium (California), and after experimenting with a number of different approaches, the NC LIVE staff undertook its own ebook project with specific North Carolina-based requirements. In 2014, NC LIVE kicked off the "Home Grown" ebook pilot project that would test the collaborative ebook waters in new ways. The result was a group-funded collection of ebooks published by North Carolina publishers and purchased in perpetuity with unlimited use rights for the duration of the pilot. More than 1,200 ebooks were made available via the BiblioBoard platform and are now available to all North Carolinians.


NC LIVE is an "all-in" consortium whereby all purchases and licensed content are funded centrally and made equally available to all member libraries. Because of this widespread resource sharing across public libraries, community colleges, and public and private universities, NC LIVE's focus is extremely narrow, limited to the intersecting resource needs of its constituent groups. NC LIVE works closely with its Resources Advisory Committee to identify areas of shared need, as well as possible opportunities for new content and formats.

Prior to embarking on the Home Grown ebook pilot project, NC LIVE staff spent approximately six months outlining a number of different models and methods by which the consortium might build its own ebook collection. Ideas ranged from building a locally hosted ebook platform using Adobe Content Server (similar to the operation in Douglas County Libraries), to working with a large aggregator to host content purchased by NC LIVE through local publishers. In its quest to determine the right ebook approach for North Carolina, consortium staff purchased a small collection of ebook titles using Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) funds from the State Library of North Carolina and bought from local publisher, John F. Blair. These titles were purchased in perpetuity and had limitations in terms of the number of simultaneous user accesses (copies available). The John F. Blair collection of ebooks purchased by NC LIVE served as the consortium's ebook test case as staff developed several different proofs of concept for accessing those ebooks.

In testing options for housing the John F. Blair collection, NC LIVE staff discovered certain problems when implementing a system that limited the number of simultaneous user accesses. Creating a system that allowed users to put a book on hold would take more development work than originally planned while, at the same time, systems that lacked the holds "feature" altogether seemed unintuitive and problematic for library patrons. Looking at other traditional ebook models, and even many of the new models piloted by other libraries, NC LIVE noticed that these programs still suffered from libraries' limited ability to offer ebooks to anyone who wanted to read them. These challenges encountered during NC LIVE's exploratory phase drove home the importance of developing an ebook approach that would be welcomed by patrons and result in a good library experience one in which books were available on-demand. This experience, along with NC LIVE's approach to fulfilling shared digital content needs across diverse library types, worked to steer the development of the pilot requirements outlined in the next section. …

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