E-Reader Pilot Program a Success at Fairleigh Dickinson University

In November 2009 Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) in Madison, New Jersey implemented an innovative new program using electronic readers, also known as e-book readers or e-readers. These electronic devices can be used to read media such as books, magazines, and newspapers. As users view these materials they can write notes, highlight text, and bookmark pages. The e-readers also have an audio player allowing users to listen to audio books or mp3s. Additionally, some models of e-readers may have a built-in dictionary or a web browser.


The program started at FDU allows students to check out an e-reader for one week with the option to renew it for a second week. Some reference books and literature are already pre-loaded on the e-readers but students can also load their own books. Sony Readers, Amazon Kindles, and iPod Touches are the e-readers available for checkout.


FDU’s e-book lending program is a direct result of University President J. Michael Adams inquiry about the academic uses of e-readers. Systems Librarian and Technical Support Specialist Denise O’Shea, who had an interest in e-reader programs and had heard about ongoing programs at other academic libraries, volunteered to begin the pilot program in the library. The implementation of the program was a collaborative effort with the campus libraries, The Center for Teaching and Learning with Technology, and The Office of Information Resources Technology. At the same time, according to the article ”Is There Hope For A Kindle Application In Universities”, some universities have decided that the Kindle and any other eBooks will not be provided, promoted, or recommended unless they are made accessible to visually impaired students (dbReaders).


There was some upfront work that needed to be done before the library could start loaning out the e-readers. The electronic readers and their necessary accessories needed to be purchased, registered, renamed, and configured. They also needed to be bar-coded, cataloged, and packaged for circulation.  Generic accounts were setup with Amazon, iTunes, and Sony so titles recommended by librarians and students could be purchased and downloaded. A circulation policy had to be developed and announcements for this new service needed to be released.


The library staff received training in the basics of using e-readers. They learned how to turn the equipment on and off, navigate through the list of titles, open a book and read it, and charge the batteries. Students and staff who borrowed the e-readers received a one page sheet of e-reader tips.


At the start of the program, libraries at FDU campuses in Madison and Teaneck each received twelve e-reader devices which were available to students and staff. The interest level was high as some users were eager to explore the technology, while others wanted to learn about the academic applications of the new devices.


Each person who used the e-readers was asked to document their experiences by completing a survey. The results of the survey showed most people felt the e-readers were easy to use and were satisfied with its performance. Most users had tried the advanced features but, according to the survey, there were mixed feelings about some of the elements such as note-taking and highlighting. For these features, some people were more comfortable with the standard printed material


After the first four months of the e-reader pilot program, there continued to be a high demand for e-readers which lead to the university’s decision to extend the project. In the spring of 2010 the program was expanded to the classroom launching the academic-reader pilot program. For this phase of the program, one class received 20 e-readers pre-loaded with course materials. The library e-readers continued to be loaned out and further analysis for both programs would be ongoing.


At the start of the e-reader pilot program, there were three main expectations: to investigate the educational use of e-readers, to collect feedback from users of the devices, and to enhance the image of the campus libraries. Librarian and Technical Support Specialist Denise O’Shea felt the project was a huge success based on the e-reader usage and surveys. She also felt it met the expectation of enhancing the image of the campus libraries.

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