Alternative Uses for the Pesky eBook Budget

Not happy with an eBook collection that has limited checkouts or paying three times the price for the “privilege”? I’m willing to bet that there are better uses for that eBook budget money that would yield a higher rate of return on investment, better community outreach and involvement, and/or make more fiscal sense for your library’s stakeholders. So, I brainstormed a few ideas but I’m hoping that you can help me think of more possible uses. Let’s begin!

(Note: Your results may vary. Not all ideas are suited for all library types, shapes, and sizes. Remember to always take what works and adapt/discard the rest.-A)

  • Programming! No time like the present to bolster up your programming content! Do your part to stimulate the economy and employ someone to teach a class, perform, or lecture about a local subject or interest. If you hire locally, you keep the money in the local economy. Alternatively, take the money and use it to provide refreshments or catering to current programs. Food brings people together! Programming is excellent for bringing people through your doors and into your building where you can educate them as to what other goods and services the library has to offer. Use programming to bring something different and unique to the library. Consider the top circulating subjects in this Library Journal article. Does your library have programming to reflect this kind of interest?
  • Hire Someone! The current theme right now is being short staffed, so why not take that money and hire someone to help out? It gives someone a job, it helps out the local economy, and it keeps the other staff from reaching the breaking point. Whether it’s a high school kid to shelve books or an adult to run a circulation desk for a couple of hours, that could make a difference in staff morale and time management.
  • Build Something Cool! Like a Digital Media Lab. Or a recording studio. Perhaps not those things specifically, but something that reflects the needs of the community on a larger scale. These two examples represent something that people generally don’t have in their own homes but are useful for their interests or hobbies. It doesn’t have to be elaborate; it just has to serve a need that currently isn’t being met.
  • Start a New (and Different) Collection! Guitars, seeds, kitchen tools, museum passes, and video games are some of the collections out there right now. They represent a wide range of interests and activities within the community. Consider this idea from the life enrichment perspective; in fostering people’s interest and curiosity, this could be the next logical step to support such pursuits. Nurturing the cultural and intellectual pursuits are not simply limited to print or visual media! These kinds of collections get people using their other senses as well as up and out in the world.
  • Start Your Own eBook Partnership! Douglas County Libraries in Colorado have formed a partnership with the Colorado Independent Publishers Association for eBooks. Whether a library goes on their own or through a consortium, this kind of trail has been blazed already. I’m going to guess that you might even get a better deal out of it with less hassle.

I understand that this list represents a variety of complexity in execution, but they are alternatives paths to spend library budget money in productive ways for the benefit of the community. It’s really up to each library to evaluate the situation and consider the best course of action. I would hope that this would inspire people to reconsider the current eBook deal and invest in their library in a different way. There are always other paths that can be taken.

If you have other ideas, leave them as a comment or a pingback and I’ll add them to the post.

19 thoughts on “Alternative Uses for the Pesky eBook Budget

  1. I absolutely agree! I’m just in the initial stages of developing a program/experiment at the Chesapeake Public Library (VA) in which we plan to take an alternative approach to addressing the eBook dilemma. Our focus is on creating a model for providing budding authors with everything they need to create, publish, and promote their works. We’re chronicling the initiative at

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  5. Take the money and hire local people to come to the library and talk with patrons. Create local experts. Check out people.

    That way, you’re getting: programming, “materials to lend out”, and stimulating the local economy.

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  8. I agree that it’s a myth that our patrons are demanding ebooks. However, I think we can work to create a demand. I work at a relatively wealthy private school library. Most of our students have a smart phone, and many have a laptop, tablet, or iPad. I’ve purchased over 700 ebooks in the last year, and the usage is measly. However, it was the same situation with our subscription databases when I arrived at this school 4 years ago. We had a robust collection, but no one used them. Once I started educating students and teachers, the usage and demand increased. I think it needs to be the same for ebooks. Many patrons don’t know how to use them. Granted, they are more complicated than subscription databases, but more education and publicity will create demand. I guess the question is do I really want to create that demand while the industry is still in its infancy and still causes such administrative headaches.

  9. Oops, I was reading two blogs at the same time and responded to that blog post here. The response above was meant for another blog. Sorry! I obviously need more caffeine.

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