OverDrive has announced upgrades to its digital service for school libraries, with a choice of thematic visual screen settings, more deft searching tools, a new book recommendation system, and social media options, among other features.
OverDrive’s upgraded metadata now allows students and teachers to cross-search their libraries’ collections of ebooks, audio, music, and video according to genre, Lexile and ATOS reading levels, and other categories. The site also allows educators to create thematic book lists and students to adjust their checkout time, search OverDrive’s complete holdings with a new enhancement, Recommend to Library, and suggest titles they would like their libraries to acquire.
Launched in August, the roll-out of the free upgrades is nearing completion for all of the 6,500 school libraries currently using OverDrive’s digital services, says David Burleigh, director of marketing for the company. Librarians may also sample the enhancements at OverDrive’s booth during the AASL (American Association of School Librarians) National Conference in Hartford, CT from November 14 to 16.
The new settings page allows users to choose from three visual themes for their OverDrive experience: “Fun,” “Standard,” and “Modern.” School libraries can personalize these “skins” with their own colors and select a default, says Burleigh, and students have the option to personalize what they see. The settings page also allows students to select their own checkout time for eBooks, Audiobooks, and Disney Online Books—for seven days, 14 days, or 21 days.
This same page features three pull-down menus—for Subjects, Collections, and Levels—that students can use to cross-search books. On a prototype of the updated system, categories in the Subjects menu include historical fiction, romance, test prep, teacher resources, and more. The Collections menu includes “recent additions,” “popular titles,” “don’t miss these,” along with Project Gutenberg titles. The Levels tab offers searches according to interest level, ATOS and reading levels, along with Lexile measure.
Though Common Core State Standards search options aren’t featured in OverDrive’s updated template, OverDrive will customize the Collections drop-down menu offerings according to teachers’ needs, with up to twelve custom collections, says Burleigh. “We can provide lists of books when teachers are looking to teach” in a focused area, he says. “We have a number of collection development specialists available to assist teachers with Common Core.”
This flexibility means that “We can include ‘Mr. Smith’s Sixth Grade Reading Class,’ and it would comes up with a handful of titles and be as specific as they need,” Burleigh adds. “We can go in and customize the experience.” Librarians can also select which subjects and genres appear under the Subjects drop-down menu.
The Recommend to Library option allows students to search OverDrive’s main catalog and recommend books they’d like their school libraries to acquire, with their tracked recommendations visible in OverDrive Marketplace for librarians to review. However, only titles appropriate for K-12 will be viewable by students. They won’t find Fifty Shades of Grey there, says OverDrive K-12 collection development specialist Bailey Hotujac.
Once a student chooses a book, he or she can immediately borrow it, place a hold, add it to his or her wish list, or browse the first 10 percent of the book before deciding what to do. Each featured book page lists that title’s ATOS and Lexile rating, along with recommended age of readership, similar titles, and available borrowing platforms, including Kindle, Adobe EPUB, OverDrive READ, the company’s browser-based reader, and more, viewable online or offline. Twitter, Facebook, and messaging buttons on the book title pages allow students to communicate about them via social media.
Other features include highlighting, bookmarking, and a table of contents that includes percentage figures telling readers how far along each chapter falls in the book. A FAQ feature and step-by-step videos offer assistance to students using the service.
“It’s really about the metadata,” Burleigh says, highlighting that “we’ve made the searching so much more robust.” The upgrades allow the library experience to be “customized per student.”