New eBook Platform Aims for Excellent User Experience

Johnson County Library has migrated its eBooks and eAudiobooks to a new platform, in a move designed to provide optimum service and value to patrons.

The Library has switched from Axis 360 to the Libby platform from OverDrive. Library staff recommended that change following a thorough evaluation with 7,485 survey responses from patrons, schools, other users and staff. Library staff evaluated products from four vendors and determined that Libby was the best choice for its features, user-friendly service and customer support.

“We are thrilled to provide a better customer experience,” said Nancy Birmingham, assistant branch manager of the Leawood branch and project manager for the migration to Libby, which went live right before Memorial Day weekend.

An eBook platform is the digital equivalent of a Library building; electronic books go into it like hard copies go on shelves. Since 2012, Johnson County Library had used Axis 360, which over the years got both good reviews and complaints.

When Hope Harms became eResources Librarian in October 2017 she thought a review of the service was appropriate. That evaluation was approved in 2020 and completed in spring 2021. Survey feedback showed respondents wanted fewer glitches and better reliability.

“One of the things we were looking for, from a user perspective, was a more reliable, seamless experience,” Harms explained.

The Library sought proposals from four key vendors serving Libraries nationally. Staffers tried out the different platforms and got feedback from 16 peer Library systems. OverDrive’s Libby platform got good reviews, including from Kansas City, Mo., and Mid-Continent Public Library, and emerged as the top choice.

“OverDrive is one of the dominant vendors in this market,” Harms said. “They have great publisher relationships, just in terms of the types of titles we can access through them.”

Another advantage is OverDrive’s exclusive agreement with Amazon to offer many eBooks in the Kindle format.

Top administrators approved the migration in summer 2021. In January 2022 Birmingham started leading the migration team, including people from finance, communications, information technology, collection development, front-line staff, technical services, and a liaison to schools.

The migration was a big job, transitioning more than 50,000 titles to the new platform. One big challenge was to transition Holds from Axis 360 to Libby. In mid-April, the Library “paused” the ability to place further Holds, in order to migrate more than 18,000 existing Holds to the new system, with patrons still in line in their same spot.  Moving the entire collection took six weeks.

On May 23, the Library stopped accessing titles through Axis 360, and then on May 25 titles started appearing via Libby, with 12,000 checkouts by the end of that first weekend. The new system was ready for summer.

Users can access the new system via the Libby app and, and it’s designed to be intuitive. Birmingham said Library staffers are also well trained to help patrons needing a quick tutorial. So far, the migration has gone well and new acquisitions have started.

“Our selectors are eager to explore the inventory OverDrive offers us for purchase,” Harms said.

Both Harms and Birmingham say the behind-the-scenes evaluation phase led to a positive change, with an excellent new vendor and product for the Library.

“We were able to present our community’s priorities in a really coherent and concise way, so we could determine what best met our needs,” Harms said, “so we can provide a really great patron experience.”