BiblioTech All-Digital Library

Bexar Customer story
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Ride & Read initiative brings BiblioTech to the riders of San Antonio.

BiblioTech All-Digital Library is the first all-digital public library in the US and has been open since 2013.  BiblioTech selected cloudLibrary™ by bibliotheca for a partner to provide quality digital content when launching this unique community hub.  Laura Cole, BiblioTech Administrator, took some time to discuss how BiblioTech is using the unique features of cloudLibrary to reach more people in the community.

Tell us about the Ride&Read program.

BiblioTech and VIA Metro Transit partnered to bring Bexar County’s all-digital public library to the traveling public with the new Ride&Read program. This new partnership brings VIA on board with BiblioTech’s mission to enhance education and literacy, promote reading as recreation, and equip residents with necessary tools to thrive in our modern landscape. cloudLibrary IOS kiosks were first installed at six VIA transit and information centers throughout 2016. Now, in 2019, there are cloudLibrary kiosks installed in 12 unique VIA transit stations. The on-board Wi-Fi access on the buses allows riders to easily download and read on-the-go, without the need to visit the physical library. VIA determined which stations were most heavily trafficked and had the best space for the service. VIA knew the areas where they wanted to increase and encourage ridership and benefited from this partnership with press attention within the community as well as inside the transit world. Ride&Read is exciting because it transforms the notion of a bookmobile. You don’t sit around and wait for the bookmobile, the bookmobile becomes a part of your everyday commute. Think about how transformative that can be for a community, when they do not have to go anywhere for an education. Education is in front of them all the time.

“The concept for BiblioTech has always been to get the library out to where the people are instead of getting people into the library.”

-Laura Cole, BiblioTech Administrator

Hard work and communication brought it all together.

Having cloudLibrary discoveryTerminals installed in many locations throughout the community, Laura and her team knew one of the hindrances of spreading more kiosks across the county was that people needed to be able to sign up for immediate access. Fortunately, at the same time they were talking with VIA about the Ride&Read program, bibliotheca was rolling out the patron self-registration functionality directly from the cloudLibrary app.

“The overarching goal for BiblioTech is to make the library inescapable. We want to make the library part of people’s everyday experience – something they use so frequently, they start to take it for granted, such as a quick visit to Starbucks.”

-Laura Cole, BiblioTech Administrator

This now opened many more opportunities, because the library could attract and instantly serve new users on-the-go. bibliotheca was also working on the iOS kiosk license that could keep the app opened in full screen on an iPad and allowed for registration, browsing and downloading on the spot. BiblioTech collaborated with a vendor named Armodilo to select a highly secure iPad kiosk that would be ideal for well trafficked public transit stations. The timing was perfect.

What has the outcome been so far?

BiblioTech installed the first three iOS cloudLibrary kiosks in transit stations in September 2016 and an additional three in December 2016. In the first four months, they had over 328 new patrons sign-up for a library card, not including patrons who registered through the cloudLibrary app. This accounted for 8% of new BiblioTech user, which was very exciting to see early in the program adoption. Laura expected those numbers to build exponentially as they started to roll out more kiosks in the community. These numbers indicated huge potential in this program.

I’m so grateful to bibliotheca for the design of the cloudLibrary platform. The process to download books and to access materials is so easy and seamless. We even had a patron call the branch from the bus because he was so excited to be able to check out books from the library while he was on his morning commute. Stories and experiences like that warm my heart. That’s exactly what we want. We want to make it easy for people to read. That’s going to build up and change who we are as a community.

-Laura Cole, BiblioTech Administrator

What challenges or hiccups did you encounter?

This solution is not a set-it-and-forget-it project. They do require regular maintenance and service checks for the iPads. Some of the factors are out of our control and are down to the Wi-Fi service inside the transit stations, but an interruption in service has been very minimal as we ventured into this new service offering.

What advice would you give to other libraries considering this type of partnership?

  • Make sure that you have a good relationship with your community partner.
  • Be sure to have a clear understanding of who you’re dealing and what you want to achieve through the partnership.
  • Make sure you both have something to gain, so when you put some skin in the game, you’re prepared to invest in this partnership because you know the outcome is going to be beneficial.
  • We executed an informal letter of agreement on the partnership to make sure we both understood our mutual responsibilities and that we’d both be able to back out if we didn’t feel it was working out.

What do you look for in a partnership?

BiblioTBiblioTech has the tendency to look at unlikely partners. They might look unlikely at first, but the fact of the matter is that there are a lot of different entities in our community that have an interest in having a well-read population. They continue to look for those partnerships and find the right people; this forward-thinking library does not need to do everything all by themselves. Because Bexar County’s all-digital public library does not have a lot of extra money floating around to achieve some of their goals, they perused partnerships with other organizations with similar goals in mind. While the library might have the manpower and infrastructure to provide these digital services, other organizations may have a way to get the money to invest. With so many partnership opportunities out there, it’s just a matter of taking them on one at a time.

How BiblioTech got started.

My team and I were charged with exploring what an all-digital public library might look like. When I started investigating the public use of digital resources at libraries around the country, I heard similar responses. They would say that people really like the digital services, but they just don’t know they are there or that their digital collections and services were not promoted heavily enough. Realizing that these were things that could be addressed, we moved forward.

Laura and her team were charged with exploring what an all-digital public library might look like. When they started investigating the public use of digital resources at libraries around the country, the team found some similar responses. People in the city would say that they like the digital services, but just don’t know they are there. Realizing that these were things that could be addressed, Laura moved forward.

She made calls to library vendors to see who would be interested in building the first all-digital public library in the US. Some eBook vendor responses were not helpful and questioned our ability to pull this off, but luckily the cloudLibrary team responded to this challenge with enthusiasm and genuine interest. After going through the RFP process, cloudLibrary was a clear fit for BiblioTech’s mission.

BiblioTech opened their first branch in 2013 in a low-income section of San Antonio where digital access was very limited. Their second branch opened in 2015 and a third branch in 2018. Given the versatile nature of digital resources, they’ve partnered with key players in the community to connect with users in new ways. Now, you can access the BiblioTech digital collection at 3 military based libraries, and the central jury room of the courthouse. Additionally, BiblioTech has outreach programs at 58 middle and high schools, as well as the county jail and the juvenile detention center. In 2013, BiblioTech circulated close to 350,000 eBooks and we had more than 100,000 patrons. Over the years, this number has grown! Circulating an impressive 797,618 eBooks and captivating over 150,000 registered users in 2019, this all-digital public library is a gift that keeps on giving.

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