Blogger Abby Johnson

Connecting Kids to Books While Your Building is Closed

Many of our library buildings are closed to the public right now (including mine). So how can we connect kids to the great books we have in our digital collections? I have some ideas for marketing digital books to kids and I would love your suggestions in the comments.

First step? Make sure they are there.

This sounds simple, but I know my library’s e-book collection is mostly comprised of adult and teen books because those are traditionally the e-books that have circulated for us. With the astronomical cost of digital books, it didn’t make sense for me to buy too many kids’ titles because they simply weren’t used at the rate that our books for older readers were. Now, with kids out of school and unable to access our physical books, I’m beefing up our e-book offerings for younger readers.

The good news is that even though prices are still very high, sometimes kids’ e-books are not as expensive as adult e-books, which can help you bulk up the collection. If you’re really starting from scratch, reach out to your rep who can help suggest ways to find less expensive books that might allow you to quickly build up your collection.

Next, tell your patrons about your digital collection in general.

This is definitely something that’s a work in progress for all of us, I’d guess. What avenues have you used to get the word out about your digital collection? We have done email blasts and frequent social media posts. This week I started adding some reviews of digital material to our weekly New Books email along with our general information email and a note to shoot me an email if anyone needed help getting set up with digital books. Our local newspaper is doing a COVID-19 edition and we’re taking out a full page ad to promote our digital services.

Then, promote titles! Curate lists on Overdrive.

Screenshot of a Libby digital booklist for marketing digital books

If your library uses Overdrive, you have the ability to curate lists of materials that appear on your Overdrive site and on Libby or Sora. Utilize curated lists to share staff recommendations, seasonal “displays” or lists that coordinate with school assignments to help with nontraditional instruction. Creating digital “displays” is a way of marketing digital books that mirrors the physical displays you’re familiar with making. You already know how to do this!

During typical times, I try to switch out my lists about once a month, but now that we’re All Digital All the Time, it may be a good idea to change the lists more often depending on how much your families are using them. I like to set them to display all titles, but display available titles first so readers see available books right away.

If you’ve never curated lists before, reach out to your Overdrive rep and I know they will be happy to help you get started.

Create Collections on Hoopla

Example of a Hoopla digital booklist screenshot for marketing digital books

Did you know that you can create your own Collections on Hoopla? In the library dashboard, click on the Collections tab and you can create private collections. Check the box to show them to your patrons when you’re ready. These will show up in the large list of categories (which are a little hard to find), but (more usefully) you can also link directly to them. Here’s another place where you can do staff picks, seasonal lists or lists that tie in to your local schools’ curricula. Hoopla’s giant catalog can be intimidating to navigate, so marketing digital books on Hoopla by creating collections can really help your patrons out. If budget’s a concern, rest assured that the price per download is shown directly in the search when adding items to a collection so you can easily limit the books you’re promoting to the less expensive titles or formats if you wish.

Add lists in your OPAC or a staff blog

Screenshot of an Overdrive digital booklist for marketing digital books

Does your patron-facing catalog allow you to add book lists? Consider switching them over to items that are available digitally. I honestly don’t know how many people I’m reaching with these catalog lists, but my hope is that I’m capturing SOME patrons who might not already know about our ebook offerings and whose first instinct is to head to our library catalog instead.

We’ve also shifted gears with our staff blog and are completely focusing on promoting digital services and materials, as well as links to curated resources from outside the library. I’m also mobilizing our team to post more frequently while our buildings are closed since the blog is one of the few ways we have to communicate with our patrons. Our blog posts can be shared on our Facebook page to reach even more folks.

If you’re not a person with permission to curate lists directly on your e-book platforms, you can potentially create lists linking directly to e-book titles on a website, blog, or even a Google doc that you could share with patrons or in response to reader’s advisory questions.

No E-Books? No problem.

Don’t have an e-book collection of your own? There are many publishers and platforms offering free trials or free limited collections this spring in response to school and library closures and there’s no reason you can’t look for your favorites and be marketing digital books on those platforms with patrons. The Indiana State Library has a pretty good list of some of the resources available, as well as links to other state libraries with additional resources. Even if you yourself don’t have the authority to add any of the platforms currently offering free services, it may be worth a look to see if there are e-books or e-audiobooks available for free that you would want to booktalk or highlight for your patrons.

Other ideas?

These are the digital platforms that my library has access to for marketing digital books, but I know there are many more out there. What are you doing to promote your collection while your physical locations are closed? I would love to know what ideas you have!

This post addresses the following ALSC Core Competencies: I. Commitment to Client Group, II. Reference and User Services, IV. Knowledge, Curation, and Management of Materials, and V. Outreach and Advocacy.

One comment

  1. Carol S Levin

    For the duration of this crisis, a National Emergency Library has opened its doors and many children’s books (including recorded books) are available for free e-loan there (search by words in the title or author’s name). There is even a read-aloud option — the computer-generated voice does pretty well. The collection includes adult books, non-fiction, and lots of children’s picture books and chapter books by well-known authors including some real gems like the script from “Really Rosie” — a musical collaboration (videos available on Youtube) between Maurice Sendak and Carole King that would be perfect for kids to perform with homemade puppets or with friends and family members by Zoom! Performing is fun and builds reader fluency. Searching the site for Reader’s Theatre yields other great performance scripts and many other reader’s theater scripts are available on the web. Another personal favorite (and a lovely family read-aloud) with an empowering message for these difficult times is Margaret Mahy’s The Girl with the Green Ear: Stories about Magic in Nature. One note: Most of the books in the National Emergency Library are out of print and not available as e-books so this replaces the access you would have had to these books in your local school or public library, but many authors & illustrators are hurting (like so many others in this difficult time) so if you find a book you love and it is in print and you can afford it, consider ordering it (ideally online from an independent bookstore at to help keep them in business.)

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