November 26, 2022

Jim Petersen on Meeting Consumer Expectations, Acquisition Models, and more Impacts of the Digital Shift

Jim PetersenOn October 1, Library Journal and School Library Journal will host their fifth annual virtual conference, “The Digital Shift: Libraries @ The Center.”

Library Ideas is a Gold Sponsor of the conference, and LJ reached out to Jim Petersen, Chief Revenue Officer of Library Ideas, to participate in this series of interviews addressing libraries’ central role in the transformation of our culture from analog experiences to digital experiences.

LJ: How do you see the digital shift enabling collaborations and how are these new kinds of partnerships changing the library user experience?

JP: The ongoing digital shift has allowed libraries to radically enhance the most important collaboration they have, the relationship they have with their patrons. Digital content offers patrons a much closer experience to content. Digital content has the ability to allow patrons to access the library 24/7. The greatest challenge for libraries with digital content is to offer it in a manner that meets or exceeds patrons’ expectations just the same as any other business competing for those same “eyeballs.”

Now that the digital shift and mobile and tablet use are converging to create an expectation of accessing library materials everywhere, how is the library world rising to that challenge, how must we modify user experience to cross screens successfully, and how do we best serve those still struggling with the digital divide?

In this era of perhaps the largest transformation of formats in libraries it is critical for libraries to change their methodologies of reaching patrons. Given high consumer expectations libraries need to tailor their services and content to tech savvy and demanding consumers. We need to focus on creating experiences to draw those consumers in rather than ask them to ignore their current positive experiences in the “consumer world” in favor of a clunkier user experience in libraries because of “limitations.”

How are you and your library partners assessing the impact of the content they provide on their patrons?

Libraries have a growing array of tools to be able to measure the success of their digital services. We provide robust, detailed, live real-time reporting based upon factors such as genre usage, quantity of use per unique user, overall use, [and] number of unique users so that libraries can assess not only the success of our products, but, also to assist in identifying areas in their physical collections to address.

In view of concerns about too much screen time for children, what role can and should digital play in early learning?

Libraries historically have been one of the pillars of childhood learning providing quality content to younger patrons. Parents have long trusted the carefully built collections at libraries to assist in developing a child’s lifelong love of learning. The digital age in many ways heightens the need for a carefully curated collection of content for young patrons. If anything there is a higher value proposition in the high quality reviewed content available from the library. The library can be one of the greatest resources of content for parents.

When this event began, whether ebooks even had a future in libraries was far from clear. Now that all of the Big 5 offer ebooks to public libraries, what is the next step? Will acquisition models diversify for public libraries as they have in the academic market? How will rising ebook prices in academia change collection development? How will the school market evolve?

Ebooks have provided libraries with perhaps the greatest opportunity in several generations for drawing in new patrons, as we have seen in the explosion of usage. The current model of ebook acquisition for libraries has also created the greatest challenge for libraries. With books costing up to $100 per copy the current models put a burden on library budgets. We created a radically different model with our ebook service, Freading. With Freading we utilize a database model providing libraries with a collection of over 50,000 titles from 1,000+ publishers for no upfront cost. The library receives the entire collection and even more uniquely all titles are unlimited simultaneous use. The library pays us for usage, that is it. We believe this is the most affordable and convenient model available for libraries.