Meeting College Students’ Needs one Ebook and Audiobook at a Time

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When librarian Paul Huffman joined Lindenwood University in 2007, one of the first things he noticed around the private, coeducational campus was how often the students were on their devices.

“It was pretty obvious that if we were going to keep the library relevant to the incoming students, we had to provide digital content,” he said.

The second-oldest university west of the Mississippi, Lindenwood’s 13,000 students already had access to electronic databases that support the curricula of the 120 undergraduate and graduate programs offered at the liberal arts institution. According to Huffman, the library wanted to expand its digital offering to include non-academic titles that “might also supplement the classroom.”

It was also important that the collection provided flexible format options to meet the unique challenges that come with a bustling college campus.

“The students have busy lives,” Huffman explained. “Some of them have jobs in addition to school and some of them are athletes and they’re trying to find time to get these books read.”


When it came time to choose their partner in providing popular digital titles, Lindenwood selected OverDrive for two primary reasons: 


Lindenwood can choose from an unrivaled catalog of millions of ebook and audiobook titles to meet both the educational and recreational needs of students. After exploring all of the options, Huffman said that OverDrive had the best selection. 


Content is available on all major devices, including laptops, ereaders, tablets and smartphones. This is incredibly important for a large institution like Lindenwood where all of the students are bringing their own devices. 


  • Lindenwood’s digital collection is accessible through an easy-to-use app. Huffman said that OverDrive “is the only one that is very simple to use” and he and the other librarians will tell students “if you want a book and you want to access it within minutes, OverDrive is the place to go.”
  • Flexible format options meet the individual requirements of the students. For athletes in particular, audiobooks can be listened to while working out, making them “a perfect fit for the students’ needs and time limits,” Huffman said.


It’s not just the students who take advantage of the OverDrive collection.

“We’re a suburb of St. Louis,” Huffman said, “and a lot of our professors live elsewhere in city so some of them have 20 to 30 minute drives. A couple even have hour drives. When they’re driving, they don’t have the ability to grade papers or read a physical book, so the audiobooks come in really handy for the commuters.”

Huffman added that the professors will mention OverDrive in their classrooms and he has 10 faculty members that he would describe as power users.

“The professors are totally on board with electronic books,” he said.

Instructors also help develop the collection. Huffman has a group of half a dozen professors that he periodically meets with to see if they have any title suggestions. If the books are available through OverDrive, he’ll add them to Lindenwood’s digital collection. 


Lindenwood’s digital library has experienced impressive results. Users have climbed every year since its launch, as have checkouts. Audiobooks in particular have seen tremendous success. While audiobooks make up only one third of Lindenwood’s OverDrive collection, they account for two thirds of the library’s digital circulation.

When Lindenwood first started to build their digital collection, Huffman focused on classic literature because the nearby public library didn’t offer many of these titles. Then he surveyed the university’s various academic programs and bought the core subject titles for each field. After those areas of the collection had been filled, he began branching out into popular fiction and bestsellers.

While the collection was originally started to supplement the academic needs of the students, Huffman notes that “the high-moving titles are the same as the public library. Harry Potter. Game of Thrones. A lot more movement out of the popular titles than we expected.”

The success of the OverDrive collection has even had an impact on the physical collection.

“In fact,” Huffman said, “we’ve seen the hardcopy books level and off and actually decline, but when we’re doing assessment numbers, the electronic books like OverDrive have been an area of growth for us.”