I have been using the Overdrive ebook and audiobook service through public libraries for a decade, back when Ontario Public Library and Burbank Public Library were the first two Southern California public libraries to offer this service to their patrons.
But most public libraries out here in Southern California (Buena Park Library is an exception) don’t offer much in the way of Christian titles….just the occasional popular bestsellers from megachurch pastor authors like Rick Warren or Joel Osteen.
Texas Church Libraries Consortia Groundwork
When I joined the Southern California chapter of the Evangelical Church Library Association (ECLA) two years ago, I learned at their spring 2012 meeting that two Texas Baptist church libraries consortia were in the process of becoming the first church library customers of Overdrive. Most of the church librarians I have met and know have not ever read an ebook (although a lot of my church-going friends DO read ebooks, usually from Amazon), so this is a huge, complex and challenging new opportunity for church libraries. Since I was the only person in our chapter who had ever used Overdrive, and since I’m one of the few professional librarians in the group, I started investigating this possible partnership for our chapter and for my own church. These two consortia launched their Overdrive libraries in August 2012.
Glenn McEowen, the V.P. of Sales and Development at Library Concepts, serves on the Wedgwood Baptist Church library in Fort Worth, Texas, and was instrumental in getting the two Texas church library consortia set up on Overdrive. He has reported extensively on the Church Librarians Network about some of the issues facing church libraries who might be considering ebooks, and in particular, the experience his church library and consortium has had with Overdrive.
Reports (PDF) by Glenn McEowen posted to the Church Librarians Network:
- eBooks: In Our Library?
- eBooks: Affordable?
- eBooks: A Good Value? Part 1
- eBooks: A Good Value? Part 2
- eBook Update: November 2011
- eBooks Update: Summer 2013
Overdrive’s Church Libraries’ Liaison
After reading Glenn’s reports and corresponding with him, Glenn put me in touch with Joe Dickinson, the Overdrive sales rep who handled the two Texas consortia. Joe and I started corresponding heavily in October discussing the pricing and logistics of setting up an Overdrive library for my own church library. While church libraries are a new market for Overdrive, Joe is quite passionate about helping us out, and he has been exceptionally responsive and thorough with my endless inquiries.
If you are interested in chatting with Joe about Overdrive for your church library, you can reach him at:
Overdrive Education and Library Sales
(216) 573-6886 ext. 216.
My Overdrive Report
Following is the information I received from Joe and reported to the ECLA SoCal fall 2013 chapter meeting.
The quote I obtained is based on the membership size for my church, 900 members.
- $4,000 (minimum) per year. [Joe advised that just a few years ago, the minimum startup was $12,000 for even small libraries.]
- $2,000 for services (website, authentication, cataloging, training, support).
- $2,000 for collection budget (lease titles, do not own).
- Each year, this $2,000 would grow the collection with new Items (not paying to renew lease on existing collection).
- Exception is Zondervan (Harper Collins), who requires libraries to re-lease Titles after a predetermined number of check-outs ($5-$26/title).
- Collection Items = Titles + Copies (2 copies of same title = 2 purchases).
Collection Development Issues
- Can buy more Titles and Copies (Items) at any time.
- Audio and ebooks are separate purchases (Items).
- Ebooks: Average $15 per book (Copy).
- Audiobooks: Average $40 pre book (Copy).
- Overdrive rule of thumb:
- Purchase 1 audiobook purchase for every 5 ebook purchases.
- Start with at least 20 audiobooks so that audiobook listeners don’t get discouraged (popular among elderly).
- Ebook and audiobook purchases include all supported formats, with new formats added when they become available (example: when the Kindle version becomes available).
- READ: A new Overdrive ebook format, for browser reading (no app). Works on mobile browsers too.
I am also investigating online catalog solutions/ILSs for my church library, so was very interested in learning about turnkey or low-cost ways to integrate Overdrive with a new library catalog.
- Can be exported to an online catalog, to show up alongside local holdings and be findable in existing library catalog.
- MARC Light (included at no extra cost): Title, Author, Link to record on Overdrive [recommended].
- MARC Full ($1.50 per record): Full MARC record [not necessary].
- Available anytime on the website for catalogers to export and then import into online catalog.
- Uses the SIP2 authentication protocol.
- Some ILSs have this authentication automated (ex: BookSystems Atriuum, SirsiDynix, Surpass CL).
- Glenn with Concept I wrote a custom script to do this for Concept I.
- Other ILS systems can use an intermediary spreadsheet of User IDs stored in the cloud, and Overdrive looks there to authenticate.
- Patrons must have unique User IDs.
- Rollout completed: Normal = 8-12 weeks after payment received, but can happen as soon as 4-5 weeks after payment received.
- Do not need to have an online catalog/ILS in order to launch Overdrive. However, if want to sync patron databases, need online catalog/ILS in place first.
Despite the Texas church libraries using a consortium approach, Overdrive now generally recommends against this approach for church libraries. This is mainly due to the amount of time it takes to get all the funds together from each member of the consortium, and the time it takes to wade through collective collection development decisions…both of which slow down the entire launch process.
When our ECLA chapter first started discussing Overdrive, we initially considered the idea of a forming a consortium around our chapter church library members. But we soon realized that while we are all Evangelical denominations, there are some doctrinal differences among our denominations that could impact collection development decisions. So we agreed that it would be more likely that consortia get formed among denominations in a particular geographic area (example: churches from my conference located in Southern California, or a Catholic diocese).
Issues I Thought About Later
These are issues that came to mind after my fall 2013 report, and I still need to hit Joe up for some answers.
- What is the next membership threshold and pricing tier? I know that my church Finance Committee will want to know at what membership level we will get bumped up to a higher annual collection cost. And based upon the trend in public libraries that use Overdrive, I expect even our casual church attendees (vs. members), and possibly members from other nearby churches to want to sign up for our Overdrive library.
- Are there any limitations to international members accessing and downloading any of the Titles or formats? I see this as an excellent ministry opportunity to equip our church missionaries by providing them with access to a virtual library. But I have heard rumors that Overdrive’s Kindle format ebooks are not available to download internationally (an Amazon restriction, not an Overdrive one).
My Church Library Committee is in favor of acquiring this service, and is excited about the new patrons it will attract to the church library. So my next step is to pitch it to our Church Finance Committee to fund the $4,000 start up cost and commit to the ongoing annual $2,000 collection minimum (assuming the service is well received by our church after the first year). If the church cannot fund the whole thing, then I will work on proposals for fundraising campaigns.
My brilliant husband even came up with a proposal to ask each church Overdrive member to pay a $10 annual membership fee that can go towards the annual $2,000 collection development minimum. This is about the cost of one Amazon Kindle ebook (which I know a lot of our church members purchase). If just 100 members paid the $10/year membership fee, that funds 50% of our $2,000 annual minimum! If the church commits to including the $2,000 collection minimum in their annual budget, than this $10 annual membership fee can help fund the purchase of additional Titles or additional Copies of popular Titles.
What I find most exciting about this new partnership between Overdrive and church libraries is that even those churches that do not have a physical library (which are many!) now have the opportunity to provide a virtual ebook and audiobook library to their congregations.