E-readers, Libraries, and Training…Oh My!

After Christmas it hit like a storm. Questions from patrons about e-readers along with usage of NetLibrary and OverDrive soared. With the drop in price of Amazon Kindles and then competitors dropping their prices to match, e-readers went from being the tool of the tech-elite to a device that nearly anyone can afford.

According to Linda Raymond, materials management manager for the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, new patron use of OverDrive is up 160% over last year, circulation of digital content increased by 399%, and holds on digital content increased 178%. Raymond says circulation would be even higher if we had more materials to meet the increased demand.

Evolution of Readers

Evolution of Readers by John Blyberg

With this surge in the use of e-readers and library lending of digital materials, questions from the public have increased as well. Nathan Cook, library service specialist II for the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library works in the busy Telephone Reference department of the library. Cook says that for the first few days after Christmas nearly every other call was about e-readers–mostly from the elderly who received e-readers as gifts. Now the questions are down to five to six a day

Providing training on e-readers for staff at the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library has been challenging due to the fact that we have no money in our current budget to purchase the devices needed to conduct training. Luckily staff from the North Carolina Master Trainer program have been trained in the use of e-readers and are prepared with an “E-Reader Petting Zoo” which will be coming to Charlotte in April.

How has Cook answered this blitz of questions with no training? Cook says, “I’ve answered questions with a combination of guesswork, luck and the printed instructions that are linked from our Media Downloads page. Between using what we already have available on our page, and the Internet to check out the websites and FAQs of the individual readers themselves (or their makers’ companies), I’d estimate I am actually successful in helping at least 75% or 80% of the questions I get about these services.”

I’m always pleased when I see staff like Cook who are resourceful and seek out the information needed to get the job done. Other staff at the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library have taken field trips or training classes to Barnes and Noble to try out the Nook. These are the people we need helping us to research and prepare for training! As leaders in training it is our job to not only provide training for staff, like Cook, who field such questions about tech gadgets but to also anticipate “the next big thing” that will impact our staff.

Our theme at ALA Learning for February and March will be staff training on e-readers. Were you prepared for the e-reader craze? How are you preparing now? Do you have any materials you’d like to showcase here on ALA Learning? In addition to posts from our contributing authors, we want to hear from you! If you have a story to tell or training materials to share, please contact me at webmaster@alalearning.org. We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

About Lori Reed

Lori Reed, coauthor of Workplace Learning & Leadership: A Handbook for Library and Non-Profit Trainers, is a learning and communication strategist with more than twenty years experience in learning and development. A 2009 Library Journal Mover & Shaker and a 2010 "One to Watch" for paralibrarians, Lori graduated cum laude from East Carolina University with a Bachelor of Science in Communication. Lori is a certified Synchronous Learning Expert and a North Carolina Master Trainer and has traveled across North America speaking about libraries and training.


  1. San Antonio Public Library’s Head of Tech Services was great at anticipating this surge of interest, and San Antonio put together a team to do twice-weekly eReader clinics at branches all over town during the month of January. Attendance was very high compared to other technology trainings.

  2. Richard Mott says:

    Lori, I just wanted to thank you for this timely article. We are having a similar experience in Jacksonville with a surge in demand for e-reader assistance. I’m jealous of San Antonio’s foresight, because I have to confess JPL is scrambling to catch up.

  3. e-books and e-book readers for Dummies… is that book written yet? Oh My! are the right words! Librarians will need to provide a very clear way- perhaps instructions and classes like mentioned above for patrons, students and faculty to navigate through this potentially confusing maze of all things E!
    Dorothy had the slippers, a GPS would have been nice too! But Glinda I bet was really her personal librarian who guided her every now and then toward the right information… Yes, we do have a destination but we do need guidance from our librarians and tech staff!


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