Improving service with cloudLibrary in West Palm Beach
The Mandel Public Library of West Palm Beach welcomes over half a million visitors every year, loaning over 800,000 items to 100,000+ library cardholders, and providing a plethora of programs including art, music, and exercise classes, lectures, literacy programs, and free summer meals for students.
The library maintains a robust digital collection and in 2015, transferred their entire digital collection to cloudLibrary. In 2016, the library joined Florida’s digital-sharing cloudLink group. In partnership with Sarasota County, Palm Beach County and 13 additional libraries, Florida library users can access over 100,000 shared eBooks and eAudiobooks. cloudLink allows individual libraries like Mandel to provide their patrons with priority access to private digital collections while still enjoying the benefit of thousands of shared titles.
The search for a better solution
When Mandel first began offering digital content to users, the library used the OverDrive platform. Over time, however, Chris Murray, Library Director at Mandel, became progressively concerned about the contract terms and unhappy with the user experience offered by the platform.
“OverDrive was the only game in town when we started. I began to hear about other libraries having issues and being unable to take their purchased content with them when they tried to leave. I decided I didn’t want to buy any more content that I couldn’t take with me,” he says.
Mandel was already a bibliotheca customer. When they were introduced to cloudLibrary, bibliotheca’s digital lending platform, they decided to not only implement the app but acquire new titles solely through the cloudLibrary platform. cloudLibrary was infinitely easier for patrons to use than OverDrive, and Mandel appreciated the transparent purchasing agreement – all titles purchased through cloudLibrary belonged to the library and would travel with them, should they decide to migrate to another vendor.
“The cloudLibrary contract says you can take your content with you if you decide to go, and I thought, ‘Here’s an open, honest company that’s not trying to slide something into the contract that you obviously wouldn’t want,’” says Murray.
All around, bibliotheca’s platform outperformed OverDrive for users and library staff alike, but Murray was hesitant to drop OD entirely for fear of angering Kindle users. The cloudLibrary app is compatible with any tablet or smartphone but is not available in the proprietary Kindle format. The library decided to move to a one-year OverDrive contract and offered both platforms to its library users.
Simplifying for better service
At the end of that year, it was time to reevaluate. Though all new titles were available only in the cloudLibrary app, many patrons were missing them. Used to the old platform, they didn’t even realize that cloudLibrary was available.
“70% of our use was still on OverDrive even though we hadn’t bought anything in a year. The staff decided that patrons probably still just used OverDrive because it was on their device. They didn’t know that all the new content was on cloudLibrary, and even if they knew we had both platforms, how would they know which to use to find the right titles? It just made more sense to have everything in one place,” says Murray.
He spoke with several libraries who’d decided to make the switch to cloudLibrary as their sole provider of digital content and was surprised to hear that they’d experienced very few complaints about the loss of the Kindle format. Mandel decided to make the switch.
“We stressed out about it for a whole year, and in the end, it was essentially painless. It really is true that if you don’t get rid of the old platform, you have a lot of people who will never use the new platform. We had 70% of people who didn’t know to move,” says Murray.
The bibliotheca team helped Mandel transfer all content to cloudLibrary.
“The cloudLibrary team was very helpful during the transition,” says Tina Maura, Mandel Public Library Collection Development Coordinator. “They were with me throughout. It was an effective and efficient process.”
To ensure that library users knew about the transition, Mandel embarked on a large-scale marketing campaign. They requested a list of users from OverDrive and sent emails or letters to each explaining that they were making the switch to provide easier access and better service. They posted the information on their website and included it in their digital newsletter. They even ran a contest for a chance to win a Kindle Fire. The more titles patrons borrowed from cloudLibrary, the more likely they’d be to win.
The staff were thoroughly educated about how to talk with patrons about why the library was making the switch, as well as what to say if someone was concerned about the lack of Kindle compatibility.
“If someone had a Kindle and was concerned, we’d ask if they had a smartphone or a tablet. If so, we’d give them instructions about how to access cloudLibrary on that device. Tablets are really ubiquitous, and most people have smartphones. I think I had maybe three people who complained about not being able to access the app with their Kindle,” says Murray.
Easier to use = used more often
“I really love cloudLibrary,” says Maura. “From the customer’s perspective, it’s just really easy to use, and that’s the best thing. The great Indian librarian Ranganathan said that we should save the time of the reader, and you can truly say that the ease with which you can use cloudLibrary satisfies that law. It’s really easy to sign up; it’s really easy to read or listen to books.”
Murray continues, “cloudLibrary is so much easier for our patrons to use, and we got that feedback from our patrons once they made the switch. You don’t have to know anything to use the app. Back in the day, you had to download Adobe reader and have all kinds of passwords. Now, it’s just download the app, and you’re good to go.”
Within the first three months, Mandel’s digital circulation was up by 10% over the previous year when the library was offering both cloudLibrary and OverDrive. Within six months, it had risen 36%.
A stellar experience for patrons and staff alike
The cloudLibrary app is not only easy for library users, it’s also simple for staff, and Maura says the customer service is unbeatable.
“I’m on CAT every day of my work life. It’s extremely intuitive. I didn’t need any training, I just got on it one day and started using it. If I was ever in any doubt, I’d ask a question and get an answer.
“No matter what kind of question I have about anything cloudLibrary related I have no hesitation in contacting the bibliotheca team. I always get a prompt response, whether they immediately provide the answer or refer me to another person. I’ve had such an incredible response experience with them.”
As the Collections Coordinator, Maura says she loves using CAT to make her own shelves to showcase and market books, but she’s particularly excited by cloudLibrary’s association with Heather McCormick.
“I think we know that she is the queen of collection development. That was a big plus for me. She’s on top of things; she has a great attitude about books and libraries; she knows everything about publishers. It’s just great to deal with that. You have a lot of great suggested purchased lists. It’s very helpful.”
Mandel is a busy library committed to engaging its community and providing its users with a remarkable experience. Whether it’s book clubs or Tai Chi, there is always something happening at the library.
Murray says, “This is the coolest library I’ve ever been associated with. We’ve got the best staff I’ve ever known, and we do more things here in a given day than I’ve seen before.”
Maura says cloudLibrary matches that mission perfectly.
“The primary thing we had in mind when we went with cloudLibrary was making it better for our patrons. It’s really all about them having a wonderful experience.”