(STILLWATER, OKLAHOMA / August 10, 2020) – Between March and August this year, the Stillwater Public Library checked out over 15,000 more digital items than during the same period last year. The primary reason for the increase is obvious: people could not come into the library, so they had to get books in other ways. With more time spent at home, people who may not have previously tried eBooks or audios were looking for ways to continue to read.

Other reasons for this growth resulted from an unprecedented response by publishers and OverDrive, who provides our eBook platform, to assist libraries during the COVID crisis. Many publishers, who one year ago were increasing prices and borrowing restrictions on titles, relaxed their rules or lowered prices to allow libraries to offer more titles to more people within their budget. They also made select titles available to unlimited users for periods of time, such as the first and second books in the Harry Potter series.

OverDrive helped libraries provide online programs while we were closed to the public by increasing the number of Community Read titles that were offered for simultaneous use. This allowed book clubs and discussion groups to be created.

In June, OverDrive rolled out the first titles in their new COVID Response Collections. They paid participating publishers and authors for rights to a growing collection of ebooks and audiobooks that will be provided for unlimited simultaneous use, at no cost to libraries. The first collection was a Kids & Teens bundle of educational works. These collections will help supplement libraries’ offerings.

Another factor in the growth of ebook usage was that between April and July, the OK Virtual Library was fortunate to receive a $50,000 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services provided through the Oklahoma Department of Libraries. That grant helped purchase more copies of titles with waiting lists, books that patrons from multiple libraries in our consortium had suggested, expired titles with waiting lists and children’s and young adult titles.

All of these factors have created an explosion in online reading and listening. As we head into a new school year, this trend will most likely continue. We will continue look for additional revenue sources in partnership with the Oklahoma Department of Libraries to keep up with demand.

Although the library is back open, we are still offering Virtual cards for those who do not wish to come in and only want to use eBooks. If you have never had a card and want to sign up, you can email circulation@stillwater.org to get started. We also anticipate another sizeable grant coming soon from the Oklahoma Department of Libraries, so if you are interested in eBook and audio content, please let us know what you want. We are happy to look into your suggestions.