Academic journal article Journal of Library Innovation

Academic Library Staff and E-Readers: Understanding Adoption, Rejection, and Service Development

Academic journal article Journal of Library Innovation

Academic Library Staff and E-Readers: Understanding Adoption, Rejection, and Service Development

Article excerpt


In August 2011, a cohort of 30 Oregon State University Libraries and Press librarians and staffreceived free e-readers (Kindle Keyboards, Nook Simple Touches, Kobo Touches, and Sony PRS-350 Reader Pocket Editions) to use and adopt as they wished. In return, they were asked to participate in a year-long study exploring factors influencing their decisions to embrace or reject the e-readers.

By removing barriers to trialing e-readers, investigators sought to: 1) understand the difficulties and hurdles encountered when adopting and using an e-reader; 2) explore factors that influenced library faculty and press staffto embrace or reject e-reader technology; and 3) learn if the experience of trialing e-readers would lead to enhanced services. The investigators used Everett M. Rogers' innovation-decision process as a theoretical framework to analyze participants' e-reader adoption. Key findings confirm that trialing new technology is crucial to determining if the technology fits an individual's needs and is necessary to inform the development of library services and professional knowledge.

One must learn by doing the thing; though you think you know it, you have no certainty until you try.

Sophocles, 400 B.C.

While American adults' e-reader ownership has risen from 6% in 2010 to 12% in 2012 and now 26% in 2013 (Pew Internet, 2013), the Oregon State University Libraries and Press (OSULP) did not see an equivalent rise in patron e-reader questions during this same time. This, combined with the realization that OSULP librarians and staffwere not talking about e-readers and their attendant issues, prompted a small group of librarians to investigate this seeming anomaly among their colleagues, a convenient study population. E-reader technology was not new to OSULP staff(or patrons) as they had implemented a heavily-used Kindle e-reader circulation program in 2009.

Beyond exploring adoption or rejection of e-readers, the investigators surmised that study participants would benefit from hands-on, practical knowledge of e-readers which could, in turn, lead to the development of services and support for OSU Libraries patrons and OSU Press customers. Participants' e-reader use over a 12-month period was investigated and findings analyzed using Roger's (2003) innovation-decision process. Previous studies of academic librarian e-reader use have not directly linked the experience to the development of patron services or analyzed data within the theoretical models of innovation adoption or technology use.

Literature Review

While libraries with technology-lending programs often provide e-reader lending to their staff, many offer little or no additional training. Certainly this was the case at OSULP. A likely assumption is that these technologies are intuitive and that participation in a "petting zoo" is sufficient exposure. However, several recent reports and studies highlight the need for training or hands-on experience to fully understand the various hurdles encountered when using an e-reader to access library materials.

In their Pew Internet report, Libraries, Patrons, and E-books, Zickuhr, Rainie, Purcell, Madden, and Brenner (2012) include responses from 2,256 library staffand note that "with so many patrons relying on library staffto troubleshoot their e-reading devices, the issue of training staffmembers themselves on those devices is an important one..." (p. 45). Positive stafftraining experiences involved "extensive" hands-on, including practice time at their homes. Some respondents also cited their personal use of e-readers as useful in helping patrons. Negative responses were tied to disorganized training, out-of-date training materials, fast-changing technology, and training that did not include hands-on experience with e-readers.

In 2011, several Colorado academic institutions and one public library district reviewed the current state of the e-book/e-reader industry; their efforts resulted in specific education recommendations for all stakeholders. …

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