OverDrive is in the initial stage of rolling out more robust data and reporting tools that company officials say will allow libraries to improve their services.
In addition to the data already available, such as holds, titles, circulation, and traffic data, the new datasets will have an increased focus on web traffic intelligence, such as time spent searching, browsing, and socializing about ebooks and other media.
“Our library partners can soon begin to analyze real-time information about reader habits and preferences, without any personally identifiable information,” said Steve Potash, the CEO of OverDrive. Potash said the enhanced data will enable better collection development, community outreach, staff training, and other services.
“This data will empower our partners to maximize ROI on their digital services and understand how best to serve their community,” Potash said. “Every dollar of the library or school budget should be able to be tracked, and all services must demonstrate clear value.”
Some libraries in Ohio, where OverDrive is based, have already either gotten a glimpse of the new data or are eager to do so.
“It will be incredibly informative to have access to that data,” said Hallie Rich, marketing and communications director for the Cuyahoga County Public Library.
Cuyahoga has already leveraged the current data that OverDrive provides to redesign its website (which launched this month), and Rich said the library has combined OverDrive’s data with the library’s own website analytics to better understand where customers spend time on the site and the connections they use when they transition to OverDrive’s site.
“The more we know about the ways our customers interact with our site and OverDrive, the better we can route them to the information, materials, and services they most want and need,” Rich said. “Further, any trends that we can extrapolate from the more robust data set that OverDrive intends to provide will be helpful in our digital marketing efforts, where demographic data and usage patterns are key.”
Heidi Dowling, the administrator of the OverDrive consortium Digital Downloads for the Columbus Metropolitan Library, said OverDrive is releasing more data, but not through their reports page on the Content Reserve site. The new data is sent monthly as a separate report called “Webtrends Report Library-OverDrive LMN Advisory Board Reports.”
“I have not done much with these yet, but you see reports on geographical stats by city, area code, or region; click throughs; referrer sites; and more,” Dowling said. “It is interesting to see where people are when using our site—but I am not sure how we would use that information.”
Robin Nesbitt, the technical services director for Columbus, said the problem is that Columbus is part of a group of 15 libraries, and the data is not separated out by library.
“Yes, we are getting more data, but not really all that helpful, at least in my opinion,” Nesbitt said. “It simply confirms what we thought—people use this from various locations. Potash may like that data, it gives him some good national input, but at a local level, it’s not that helpful.”
Amy Pawlowski, the web applications manager for the Cleveland Public Library, hasn’t seen the new data yet, but she sits on the OverDrive advisory board and has discussed OverDrive’s plans with Potash.
Pawlowski said that she was told that all the reporting features tied to OverDrive’s next generation user interface will be up no later than a few months from now, and she was confident that OverDrive will respond to what libraries need.
“OverDrive is basically asking libraries what they would like OverDrive to focus on moving forward,” Pawlowski said. “I’m positive they’ll come back and ask what we are interested in finding out, and that’s the thing with big data: you have to define on the front end what you are looking for.”
Pawlowski said that she has Google Analytics also set up on the library’s OverDrive site. “OverDrive is fully supportive of libraries wishing to do this, which is in addition to the data tools they are providing and plan to provide in the future. It’s not an either or situation,” Pawlowski said.
Felton Thomas, the director at Cleveland PL, was eager to add on the new data analytics from OverDrive. “It will be huge for us,” he said.
Potash said the company has developed its practices to conform with whatever privacy policies its customers have. As far as ownership of the data and third-party access to it, he said, “Libraries are provided with access to their own data transactions. For purposes of library advocacy, we have been providing to select publishers aggregated data about their title sales and demand from the OverDrive school and library network.”