I’ve posted on and off about the awareness campaign we began in June for downloadable audiobooks.  In June we ran some classes which were not widely attended,  had an electronic bulletin board campaign, some additional posters, etc. Got a little blip, but nothing to write home about.

I contacted users who had signed up with netLibrary over the last six months or so but hadn’t used the service (or used it much) and asked them why. The overwhelming answer was that they wanted to use the books on an iPod and that if they couldn’t, it was of no use to them. The next largest group said they didn’t find the selections very interesting.

(Note this doesn’t include our ListenNJ patrons, which is powered by Overdrive. Overdrive won’t let us know who our own users are. I have a problem with that, but that’s fodder for another post.)

I’m starting to come to the reluctant conclusion that until the downloadable services reach some sort of rapprochement with Apple, or Audible decides they want to get back into the library market and offers us something we can subscribe to, we have plateaued with this service. I still have some plans – seed my audio CDs with cards advertising downloadables (always good for a temporary upsurge in circ to cheer me up), revamping our web page, and maybe another limited class offering – but I’m not pinning my hopes on this any more.

I hate to say that, because we’ll be a baaaaad library if we get out of this service, right?  Plus, it has its constituancy.  It would be so much better if it would take off or just tank completely….


Just another comment…of the 26 individuals who registered to use downloadable audiobooks from April – July 2008 who stopped using the service, 24 of them (92%) were active, in-person library users during the same period. WOW.

Of the 12 patrons who are registered for downloadable books and who are either active users or who have registered within the last 30 days,  10 or them (83%) are active users. I can’t determine the status of two others because their names don’t match what’s in our files.

So what does this mean? It seems trying or using downloadable books is an extension of the services already used by our active user base. The service doesn’t seem to be connecting with the theoretical “people who want to use their library a different way.” And while most of our marketing has been pitched to people who come in to the library (Electronic bulletin board slides and postcards handed out to advertise June’s classes) there’s also a notice on our home page, so it is accessible to people who never set foot in here.


Numbers are in for July downloadable audiobook usage…holding steady in the mid 130s, which is what we bumped up to after our late Spring advertising campaign and classes.

Time to delve into this a little further. We have two downloadable subscriptions, one of which registers patrons like a regular library. We had 47 registrations for that service from April 1 – July 31. Of those 47, 19 (or 40%) were staffmembers, test accounts for the classes we offered, or are people who are actively using the service.

I’m going to contact the other 60% by email and ask them why they haven’t used the service much or at all since they signed up. I did this a couple of years ago and found that most people dropped off when they realized you couldn’t use the service with an iPod. Unfortunately that hasn’t changed much, although Overdrive is finally taking baby steps toward the iPod crowd. Unfortunately, with iPod marketshare estimated around 70% (that low? see here) what we really need are giant leaps.

Keep an eye on this space for results.

We began our campaign to increase registration and circulation in our two downloadable audiobook collections (ListenNJ and netLibrary) in the middle of May. So far we have publicized the service on our electronic bulletin board above the circ desk, and offered classes on the two services.

The classes didn’t attract many attendees.  We did, however, increase our registration numbers, which had never been more than 12 in a month, to 36 in May and 26 in June.

I was hoping that would translate into greater circ in June, but it really didn’t – we did hit a high of 144 circs for the two services combined, but that’s still just eight higher than last month, and about 20 higher than our average for the rest of this year.

For the next couple of months we’ll concentrate on revamping the service’s web page and reaching out to those already registered, to see if some one-to-one contact can improve circulation.

A librarian from the Carleton Place Public Library posted a thoughtful comment on yesterday’s blog post, mentioning that marketing often seems like it’s “preaching to the choir,” and that the people who are already using the library are the ones paying the most attention to our marketing efforts.

Reaching people who aren’t “part of the choir,” i.e., part of our existing user base, is the heart of what we’re all interested in when it comes to marketing and libraries. We want to raise awareness of our brand and the services we have to offer; we want to get those services into the hands of our community members as passionately as Coca-Cola wants to sell soft drinks, and we want our funders and stakeholders to recognize that we’re providing a valuable and worthwhile service.

I think that’s the fundamental challenge facing libraries with regard to marketing today. We used to lived in a world where we didn’t have to do anything to be valued: there was mom, apple pie, and the library. Today our competition isn’t just big box bookstores and NetFlix, it’s every other thing that our patrons could be doing with their time instead of coming to the library – and they have lots of possibilities. We need research to find out where they are, advertising to reach them, and great service to keep them as part of the family.

Our library began a marketing campaign to raise awareness – and circulation – of downloadable audiobooks. We have two services: a standard netLibrary subscription, and an Overdrive subscription as part of the ListenNJ program.

We set up a series of classes for each service, promoted the classes in our e-mail newsletter, on the electronic bulletin board we have hanging over the circulation desk, and by handing out cards to anyone who came to the check out an item. May saw a tremendous boost in downloadable audiobook registrations – from an average of 6 per month to 36 in May for the two services combined. What we didn’t see was a corresponding boost in the circulation of downloadables. I’m hoping we’ll start seeing a bounce there next month.