Crowd-sourcing the consortium: Selecting & sharing ebooks to benefit all student

MOBIUS, a large multi-type consortium made up of 70 institutions, thrives on resource sharing across its member libraries.

Sponsored by OverDrive

Founded in 1998, MOBIUS is based in Missouri but the consortium’s libraries are spread out across multiple states including Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Texas and Oklahoma. Its members are predominantly academic with some special and public libraries as well. Along with providing a union catalog that covers all of the holdings of the print collection across all member libraries, MOBIUS also manages state-wide courier services in both Missouri and Iowa to encourage resource sharing among the member libraries in those states.

As the e-resources coordinator for MOBIUS, Christina Virden was already familiar with providing digital content such as academic textbooks and research databases to the consortium when member libraries inquired about making the OverDrive ereading platform available to students.

“They were curious if OverDrive was something that was available for academic libraries,” she said.

For the member libraries that made the request, there were key reasons they were interested in adding OverDrive as an e-resource provider:

  • Catalog supports recreational & educational reading. 
    MOBIUS member libraries wanted to start providing more popular content digitally. OverDrive’s unrivaled catalog of millions of ebooks and audiobooks allows MOBIUS libraries to select popular titles that students can read alongside academic titles. It was also important that member libraries could provide access to “more non-academic content” that would still be appropriate for classroom use, according to Virden.
  • Easy to use with 24/7 access.
    Students can access the collection on all major devices, including laptops, smartphones, tablets and ereaders, allowing them to browse, borrow and read anytime, anywhere.
  • Multiple formats to meet student demand.
    “There was also a really strong interest in providing audio content,” Virden said. “It’s not something a lot of our academics had previously collected but it’s something students are using more and more,” and the libraries wanted to meet the reading needs of those students.

Of the 70 institutions that make up MOBIUS, there were eight pilot libraries that initially joined the new OverDrive shared collection.

Selection Parameters Guide the Way

Building a collection that meets both the recreational and educational demands of so many libraries is a group effort, with each member library given the autonomy to select the content most relevant to their patrons. MOBIUS utilizes content credit, which allows libraries to apply funds to their accounts before purchasing.

The OverDrive content selection process mimics what the libraries hadalready been doing with print collections. Instead of having a collection development committee or centralized system, Virden explains that “the group came up with a document that has some parameters around things they should think about while collecting, but each member is spending their individual portion of the content credit how they want to spend it as long as they are following that guideline.”

This individualized method means that smaller libraries have as much vested interest in the shared collection as larger libraries, while also making sure each library is able to buy content appropriate for their audience.

Enthusiasm Encourages Growth

Since launching the platform in December 2017, MOBIUS’ OverDrive shared collection has seen tremendous success. Along with circulation numbers increasing month to month, the number of member libraries has grown from the original eight pilot libraries to now 17, with additional libraries showing interest in joining.

Virden attributes much of this to the enthusiasm of the librarians involved.

“The OverDrive group is very dedicated and really enthusiastic about this. They want to get out there and do presentations and they want to talk about the experience they’ve had forming a shared collection,” she said.

The collection, too, has seen growth as the libraries embrace the sharing model. According to Virden, there were three libraries that joined the consortium who already had existing OverDrive collections and “they made all of that content available to everybody else. They’ve been willing to donate content that they didn’t have to donate to the shared collection.” While there are established spending plans for each library, members are so enthusiastic about the collection, they’re spending above and beyond that when additional funds allow them to do so.

For Virden, who had not thought about adding OverDrive until it was brought up by members of the consortium, the shared collection has been a wonderful way to watch the member libraries work together to create something that benefits all involved. The decentralized selection strategy gives students at member libraries access to a wide range of titles, and she said “it’s been a really unexpected surprise how popular it is,” adding “it’s been one of those things that just took off and we’re quite proud to see our members working together in that way to do something different.”