Making E-Books Visible


The small-to-medium sized undergraduate library I work for has been making the move to e-books. New orders are generally purchased as e-books, older volumes are avoiding the bindery, and lost titles are replaced with e-books. E-books in general, and specifically order-on-demand, have allowed the library’s collection to grow and stretch in new ways: additions to the catalog include (very) contemporary poetry, a growth in fiction and subject specific academic works. For a commuter school the opportunity for students to borrow books from home at anytime and to read them on their phones, tablets and computers is huge. In almost all ways e-books are ideal for this school’s student population, and yet they are mostly still invisible. The library’s homepage does have a scroll bar of recent e-book acquisitions, but after finding out that some students thought the scroll bar of 15 books was the entire collection, it was decided that e-books would have to be made visible in a new way.

As someone who has always gravitated to physical objects I was eager to find a way to give e-books a physical and tactile presence in the library. From prior experience I knew that QR codes were generally unsuccessful in the library and the library does not have space or a budget for a computer or tablet that could be devoted to displaying the e-book catalog in order to allow for browsing. Additionally, as much as I love physical books and the concept of browsing, very little browsing for pleasure reading occurs for most patrons in the library: books are stored two flights down in the cellar, except new books on display and reference titles which are on the main floor of the library.

Ebook header

My approach ended up being two fold. First, I created posters to hang around the school encouraging students to download e-books with a pull-tab (like a street flyer) that included a link to a LibGuide tutorial on how to access e-books. The pull-tab was an attempt to avoid the QR codes, which have been unpopular with students so far, and to act as a physical reminder once they get home that e-books are available online.

The next step was to create a physical (IRL) display for the e-books. Using the cover images and blurbs provided by ebrary, I made posters like the one at the top of this post to give the titles a presence in the library. Creating posters for individual titles meant that they could be displayed on a shelf on the main floor and also be incorporated into other themed displays. The main e-book display also has take-away flyers on how to download an e-book as well as guides to the library catalog.

As the semester is ending, I’m yet to be able to quantify the impact of these attempts, but I hope that they allow students new access points to materials that interest them and that e-books can allow for commutes to be shorter!

I should also mention that icons in this post came from, an amazing resource for CC licensed images.

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