Access to library services is a highly popular part of council websites that accounts for around 8% of visits according to Socitm data. The provision of e-books and other digitally accessible resources opens council library facilities to new audiences, including those unable, or disinclined, to visit the library in person. The facility to access e-magazines free of charge, including downloading latest issues to a smart phone, shows council libraries to be taking advantage of new services made possible by the latest technologies. Making these easy to use is critical if the opportunity to gain a whole new segment of library users is to be realised.
Scottish and Welsh unitary councils
This is the same survey that was carried out on English county councils last year, when 44% achieved three or four stars (ie good or very good). The overall result of 37% achieving three or four stars masks a significantly better performance from Scottish sites (46% 3 or 4 stars) than Welsh sites (32%). Clearly, there are challenges in presenting this still relatively new area of activity, a lot of them to do with explaining ‘how it works’ and the various registrations that are required to access e-resources from different suppliers. However, as our report says, for many sites, the work involved in improving the customer experience for this task from a 2 rating to a 4 rating will be small, and there are several good examples to copy, including those in our recommended section.
Check ‘coverage’ to see if your council has been surveyed. Go to councils page and select your council. Look for link to task report under 2017-18 results
Provide a good or very good online service based on this survey
Better connected rankings
*Discrepancies in the figures are due to rounding off
As with all Better Connected tasks, we are looking to land from Google on a good introductory page about ebooks and other eresources, which leads seamlessly into key tasks site users may want to complete.
On the evidence of this survey, some sites need to test their Google results to make sure that the ebooks introduction page is prioritized, rather than having Google take users straight into a catalogue or a third party provider’s site. It is also important to check that both ‘ebooks’ and ‘e-books’ work in Google and site searches. Our experience showed this is not currently the case for all sites.
The ebooks task was not found at all by Google for three sites, which is high – for most tasks Better Connected finds a success rate for this key question above 96% and it is frequently 100% - as it should be.
Surprisingly, only two thirds of home pages provide an obvious link to libraries. Sometimes the link is hidden within mega-menu dropdowns or under the broader term of ‘Leisure and Culture’. However, there was evidence of councils not providing any link at all, presumably because of outsourcing. This seems a surprising choice.
As indicated, we are looking to start our ebooks journey, whether from Google or navigation or site search, on a page with some good introductory text. This does not need to be lengthy, but those new to e-borrowing will have some obvious questions that need to be answered. Some sites take people straight to an e-form for joining the library without any introduction. A number of sites omitted a statement on how books are ‘returned’ and therefore whether or not fines apply – issues that will exercise many people.
Some visitors to the e-resources pages may not have used the council library before, so a good explanation of how to join the library is essential.
A number of sites failed to mention eligibility for joining the library, which is critical if you are encouraging people to join online. In days when people joined the library to borrow books in the traditional way, it could be assumed they would most likely be working or living in the area. But this can’t be assumed with digital resources and people don’t want to go to the trouble of completing a form and then be told they are not eligible.
Web managers also need to ensure that supplier sites provide prominent links back to the council library page and direct links to sign up for a library card. Our survey shows nearly a third of sites do not provide an obvious link to join the library from the pages about e-resources.
When people do find the ‘join’ pages, steps required for joining the library, including eligibility and documentation required are clear in only half of all sites and in fewer than a third of cases can people join the library completely online, without visiting anywhere or posting documents. These figures are disappointing for one of the most used of all council services.
However, the process of borrowing and returning e-books is better explained by sites in this survey than in last year’s survey of county council sites. 80% (compared with 67% of county sites last year) – inform users about whether they need to wait for a library card or PIN or something else before accessing ebooks/emagazines and 67% (cf 41%) make clear the process of borrowing e-books, including whether/how ebooks are ‘returned’.
We found some good examples of comprehensive but easy to read introductions to ebooks, for example those provided by South Ayrshire and Falkirk, but fewer than half the sites surveyed told users what kind of devices and e-readers can be used use to access library e-books and only 55% provided clear instructions on how to access and use these resources.
Sites should not just rely on the ebooks/magazine supplier’s help pages because like much IT-provided ‘help’ information they are not always easy for everyone to understand.
It is not good practice to require users to login to see help pages, as is the case with for example South Lanarkshire, where you can browse BorrowBox titles but to see the help pages, you need to log in. Ideally, help pages for the different systems should be deep linked to from an introductory page with high level information written by council content providers – a good example is South Ayrshire.
Those responsible for creating library pages need to recognise that processes for borrowing e-books, magazines and audio resources are different and more complicated than traditional book borrowing and that readers will often need to download software or apps to do so. They will usually need to sign up for accounts with third party providers in addition to having a library account with the council. Sometimes they will need to be signed in with both accounts at the same time in order to access resources.
In this context, poor wording and the wrong hierarchy of information can make a huge difference to the user’s ability to complete the task. Lack of attention to detail will lead users to give up or phone for further information.
Many sites offer resources from more than one of the ebook systems, such as OverDrive or BorrowBox. Where this is the case they need to explain what the difference is so that the user can choose their preferred system – or indeed sign up for both.
All the sites using Adobe digital need to work to replace this page which is too technical http://blogs.adobe.com/aemmobile/supported-devices. As part of this they need to take care to explain the need for an Adobe ID
This year we tested sites on the desktop, but it our suspicion is that the experience from an iPad or a Kindle Fire would be significantly worse. We therefore suggest that library managers use our question set to test this for themselves.
Finally, we are still seeing very basic errors such as ‘click here’, suggesting that some library content managers may not be aware of accessibility issues.
I really liked the way the top Google search takes users to an excellent introduction to e-books. There are clear pointers as to how to join the library and the process of returning books. It is also very easy to see which devices can be used. The English is clear and does not rely on technical knowledge. There are also clear pointers from the Aberdeenshire home page and Libraries page.
Excellent introduction to ebooks. Engaging content which is simple to read and understand. Direct links into the Getting Started pages of OverDrive. This is really well thought out. Getting a library card number and PIN by email looks really easy and seamless.
This is so easy to use. The introductory page was excellent - really simple to read yet full of information. If you are looking for an example of good practise this is definitely one to copy. The focus is firmly on the customer experience !
Very good introduction to ebooks with direct links into the help pages on OverDrive. The navigation was seamless and I felt overall this was an excellent example of how to implement ebooks.