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Cowles Library partnership adds audiobooks, e-books to collection

THE MOBIUS PARTNERSHIP will allow Drake students to access more audiobooks and e-books over Libby, an online library that links library catalogs. PHOTO courtesy of Cowles library

With platforms such as Audible and Libby, new ways to read have been increasing in popularity. According to 2022’s OverDrive data, patrons borrowed 191 million audiobooks, or online recorded readings of books, and checked out 331 million e-books, or books read over screens.

This year, Cowles Library partnered with the MOBIUS consortium to gain access to audiobooks and e-books through Libby, an online platform created by library system OverDrive that gives patrons remote access to materials available at their library. 

Previously, Libby had focused on public libraries, but with the MOBIUS consortium — a group of academic libraries — Drake students, faculty and staff will be able to read and listen to books that both Drake and other schools within the program select.
“Using a public library serves the entire metropolitan area, so a huge number of users. This is a group of academic libraries, and we’re one of the bigger ones,” said Laura Krossner, electronic resources and access services librarian. “So there’s far less people who are going to be waiting for content.” 

Through various databases, Cowles provides access to over one million online volumes. According to Krossner, e-books bring a convenience to reading that many students desire. Online, it is easier to search for specific words, and having books on devices avoids having to carry print volumes. 

According to Krossner, for years, the library had been getting requests for audiobooks. Around eight years ago, the library offered CDs and other physical audiobooks, but according to Carrie Dunham-LaGree, associate professor of librarianship and librarian for digital literacy and general education, patrons didn’t use them because they wanted them in more portable formats, such as on their devices. CDs were also expensive for libraries. 

“For our disabled patrons and people who have vision problems, we want them to access content. We’ve also had some students who just don’t process information visually very well. They’d rather listen to it,” Krossner said. “We’re always trying to give our patrons what they want in a cost-effective way, and until Overdrive allowed academic libraries to do this program, there wasn’t a good way to do that.”  

To access an audiobook or e-book through the system, search Libby or OverDrive using a Drake account, log in to the program and search through the category. Libby currently hosts over 9,000 audiobooks and over 14,000 e-books.
“With the Libby app, one does not need to be terribly digitally literate to use it once you get it set up. It’s so easy to use from your phone, [and] you can also use it from your computer,” Dunham-LaGree said.

Patrons are able to use both the MOBIUS consortium through Drake and their personal Libby library to access as many materials as possible. On Libby, patrons are able to change how long they want to check out a book by clicking on the check-out time. 

“We don’t want a patron to be frustrated, so that was one of the reasons we were really excited that OverDrive and Libby finally came up with an academic library program similar to what they already have with public libraries, what a lot of our patrons are already used to,” Krossner said. 

Patrons of Cowles Library are able to request new materials on Libby through the bell icon, which leads them to a notification page. 

Cowles librarians decided to wait a month before requesting additional books through the MOBIUS consortium to see what students would request. According to Dunham-LaGree, they have chosen to prioritize audiobooks because of their existing print non-academic collection. 

“We’re trying to honor as many patron requests as we can, and then thinking about the things that are going to be popular at the public libraries and have long lines,” Dunham-LaGree said. 

Dunham-LaGree named the upcoming Britney Spears book as an example of an upcoming book that the library assumed would be popular. 

According to Dunham-LaGree and Krossner, patrons have been requesting a lot of popular fiction, specifically romance, which the library doesn’t typically collect. 

Drake’s faculty and staff book club had been one large group requesting audiobooks. 

Sara Heijerman, student services manager, runs the book club. She uses Libby for audiobooks and e-books and is reading two books by Lisa See, one physically and one over audio. 

“I really love audiobooks because they let me multitask,” Heijerman said. “I love doing audiobooks while I’m going for walks, while I’m commuting in the morning [and] while I’m doing kind of mindless repetitive tasks like laundry or working through spreadsheets.” 

According to Heijerman, members of the book club often discuss audiobooks, and Dunham-LaGree informed the members when the services were added to Cowles.

“Everyone was very excited about it,” Heijerman said. “I added it to my Libby library. Now I can use the Urbandale Library and the MOBIUS Consortium.” 

Krossner said the library would continue to have print books but would also offer more e-content because of its accessibility. 

Dunham-LaGree was hopeful that these partnerships would allow more students to read on their own time rather than having to check out books during the library’s hours. 

“Our primary purpose is to support the curriculum and meet the needs of Drake students, faculty and staff. Anything that people are wanting, we’re always going to say, ‘Hey, how can we help be a part of the solution for that?’” Dunham-LaGree said. “As we continue to explore different collections, we’re always looking to give people the resources that they need for their classes and as a reader.”

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