August 2, 2021

Shannon Lichty on Collaborations, Flexible Access, New Pricing Models, and Other Changes Driven by the Digital Shift

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

OverDrive is a Platinum Sponsor of the conference, and LJ reached out to Shannon Lichty, Director of Partner Services, OverDrive, 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?

SL: OverDrive has been enabling digital collaborations between libraries, schools, and local institutions for several years. One that many of our partners have enjoyed success with is local content which provides users access to titles relevant to their community. Librarians and teachers can upload directly to their lending platform ebook, audio, and video format titles they source from local indie authors, university presses, even local historical societies and projects. A great example is MidContinent Public Library (MO), [which] worked with local researchers to create digital audio archives of a fascinating series of interviews with members of an African-American bowling league.

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?

As mobile use has increased, so too have expectations for the library to be everywhere with an integrated experience, regardless of the device. OverDrive has been at the forefront of providing libraries and schools with “responsive” apps optimized for mobile users. OverDrive leads the market with our award-winning apps and promotion of open industry standards via OverDrive Read, our browser-based HTML5 and EPUB3 reading software that requires no app to install and supports highly graphic content. Users can access titles (eBooks, audiobooks and streaming video) through any connected device and sync across devices.

How do libraries best support key community needs such as workforce development, enabling better healthcare and education outcomes, and how can they work with corporate or institutional partners to advocate for these roles more effectively?

OverDrive’s large collection of professional development materials, training and career guides, and wellness and health catalogs are serving the workforce of the communities our libraries and schools serve. Where budgets are an issue, we have developed and operate fundraising programs that enable the school or library to solicit support for a “sponsored collection” and recognize that books and materials are provided due to the generous support of the sponsor. A great example is Portage County District Library (OH).

In communities that are implementing the Common Core, what changes in content focus and curriculum support have your customers been asking for?

OverDrive serves nearly 10,000 schools to deliver digital curriculum, textbooks, and reading materials to students in the classroom. We’ve invested in modified metadata that includes grade level ratings, Lexile and Accelerated Reader scores, Common Core alignment, and Interest Level. Schools have also asked for more flexible ways to access materials. We’ve worked with publishers to increase simultaneous use options and to introduce “class sets,” a new program in which several of the largest trade publishers will begin to offer multiple copies of an eBook with simultaneous use rights for short-term periods, such as a semester or year.

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?

OverDrive Marketplace creates a single source of digital content from the widest range of categories, languages, and business or cost models. We expect the free enterprise forces of the marketplace to continue to provide competition for sales and market share, and lead to better pricing and purchasing options for our school and library partners. One successful outcome: An ever increasing number of publishers are providing more than one price model for their titles. In addition, we support individual simultaneous access plans as well as “class sets” with great discounts for titles that a school only needs for a limited period.