The City of Hume in Victoria sits on the fringes of Melbourne, one of the country’s fastest-growing cities. Three growth corridors are located within Hume City Council itself, making it one of Australia’s fastest growing and culturally diverse communities. Hume City Council Libraries operates five branches and a mobile library across 504 square kilometres. The libraries serve nearly 650,000 visitors a year, with an annual circulation of 910,000.
At an epicentre of exploding growth, Hume City Council welcomes 10,000 new residents every year. These new community members come from 160 countries and speak 140 different languages. Serving such an influx of people is a major challenge for any library service, particularly one that covers a vast geographical area, as Hume City Council does.
“Our three major branches are about 30 minutes apart by car,” says Adam Cooper, Coordinator of Library Collections and Promotions at Hume City Council. “We have community members working two jobs who don’t have time to go to the library. Digital is a great solution, particularly in communities that are growing faster than we can build physical libraries.”
Improved experience = improved useIn 2016, digital lending made up only 1.5% of total loans at Hume City Council. In 2017, the library transferred all of its digital content from Axis 360 to cloudLibrary
“It was a decision based on what we saw as a superior user experience for our customers with cloudLibrary,” says Cooper.
cloudLibrary content offers one-click downloads and an intuitive user experience. The new Cirrus reader is the first outside of Amazon to provide a scroll reading option as well as the traditional swipe/page turn. Cirrus allows readers to customize reading preferences such as spacing, dark and sepia mode, and margin size. Six font options are available– including Open Dyslexic and Large Font for the visually impaired. The horizontal view offers a two-page spread perfect for children’s books while providing support for interactive read-alongs
Library members appreciated the move. Hume City Council saw a 50% increase in digital usage within a month of the transfer.
A growing collection drives a growing readership
By 2019, Hume City Council’s digital loans made up 6% of total circulation, but the library service knew they could attract more readers by offering more titles. However, eBooks and are expensive. Costly publishing contracts make it difficult for libraries to build broad and deep collections, particularly when many titles expire within two years.
“A big challenge is being able to build a collection that caters to all of these diverse people,” says Cooper.
Bibliotheca provides a solution to this persistent problem. With cloudLink, neighbouring library services can share digital content, vastly increasing the number of titles available to customers while providing priority access to their own materials for their own users. cloudLink is currently available in 30 regions in four countries. Most libraries see a 50% – 150% increase in circulation within a year of joining a cloudLink group.
Hume City Council joined the Victoria cloudLink group in August 2019 and doubled circulation within six months.
“It’s absolutely invaluable to be able to say Hume City Council Libraries can offer access to 30,000 titles on cloudLibrary, rather than just the 7,000 we own,” says Cooper. “Without a doubt, cloudLink has been the biggest driver of digital uptake for the residents of Hume City Council.”
Cooper says that as important as increased circulation is, cloudLink offers libraries a way to serve more people, particularly recent immigrants and non-English speakers.
“cloudLink offers the opportunity to expand Languages Other Than English collections. While there might not be a lot of demand for Arabic titles within a specific council, if it’s opened up statewide, those titles will get a lot more use, make it worth the investment, and transition a lot of people into digital reading.”
Digital by default: meeting the challenge of Covid-19 with cloudLink
Hume City Council’s digital circulation had been steadily climbing, but the pandemic and associated lockdowns increased digital lending exponentially. Many libraries experienced this surge, but not all libraries were as prepared to meet the increasing demand.
“Because of cloudLibrary and cloudLink, we knew we had enough content to be able to meet demand. Had we just gone along and purchased content based on current usage, we may not have been ready,” says Cooper.
To promote their robust digital catalogue, Hume City Council ramped up their marketing efforts. During traditional times, libraries can offer cloudLibrary titles at checkout, right on the selfCheck kiosk. However, the Covid-19 lockdown eliminated this possibility. The library was able to set up a materials delivery program within a week of library closure. They included a flyer advertising the cloudLibrary collection in each delivery.
This worked well enough for current library users, but Hume City Council wanted to reach non-library members as well. To do this, the library turned to social media. They coupled one Facebook campaign with a new digital membership. The goal: allowing new library users to sign up for a library card and download a digital title within five minutes.
“We invested $100 in targeted Facebook ads and were able to sign up 100 new members, 35 of whom immediately became cloudLibrary readers,” says Cooper.
With the spike in digital lending, Hume City Council was on track to lend in excess of 100,000 digital titles by the end of 2021. One look at the data eliminated any reservations Hume City Council had about whether their members would be disadvantaged by the high demand of the high-usage libraries in their cloudLink group. Nearly half of Hume City Council’s digital loans during lockdown came from cloudLink libraries, and usage by customers from other library services on Hume City Council’s content went up by 200%.
Australia’s libraries are reopening, but Cooper doesn’t see the demand for high-quality digital content dwindling soon.
“As difficult as the period of closures was, there were certainly some positives. The challenge now is for us is to continue to offer that gold standard digital experience for our existing customers and our new customers as well,” says Cooper.
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