Audiobooks and digital collection enable library patrons to use ‘books on the go’

To celebrate Audiobook Appreciation Month this June, we’re highlighting the large audiobook and digital collection the Kent District Library (KDL) provides patrons with year round. These convenient, ‘on the go’ options enable readers to enjoy titles while multitasking, working, traveling and more. 

KDL uses Hoopla, a digital service providing entertainment media products and services like DVDs, CDs, audiobooks, Ebooks, comics and shelf-ready solutions to public libraries across the country. Users can borrow these titles immediately by logging in with their library card credentials, and within seconds, their titles are streamable on web browsers, phone, tablet and TV screens. 

Alison Kuchta, collection development librarian, says KDL’s Hoopla collection has access to 188,019 audiobook “instant titles” as of June 2023, which are immediately available to patrons. 

“As far as the eAudiobook format is concerned, OverDrive, our Libby provider states, ‘Audiobooks have seen a 21% year-over-year circulation growth across public libraries globally.’ And at KDl, the year-over-year growth of eAudiobook circulation, using data from 2021 and 2022, was higher than that at 24.5%,” she says. 

In the OverDrive collection alone, there are more than 29,000 audiobook titles, providing more than 108,000 individual copies to patrons. In total, the library provides more than 200,000 digital audiobook titles, says Katie Zuidema, marketing communications specialist at KDL. 

“In 2022, KDL circulated 705,084 digital audiobooks, and circulation has been increasing every year,” Zuidema says.
Courtesy of Tommy Allen/ Hoopla, available free from Kent District Library, makes numerous video, print and audio titles available anywhere.
Here are the top 10 most popular audiobook titles, as checked out by KDL patrons so far in 2023.
  1. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas (999 checkouts)
  2. Atomic Habits by James Clear (802 checkouts)
  3. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson (654 checkouts)
  4. The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley (634 checkouts)
  5. The Guest List by Lucy Foley (621 checkouts)
  6. A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas (611 checkouts)
  7. (tie) I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy (592 checkouts)
(tie) The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid (592 checkouts)
  1. (tie) Book Lovers by Emily Henry (589 checkouts)
(tie) The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave (589 checkouts)

Kutcha says the increase in popularity of these digital titles is in part because of their convenience.

“Not only are audiobooks convenient in that you don’t have to physically hold a book, turn the pages, etc., they’re also useful on an educational level,” she says. “Beyond accessibility, audiobooks are convenient for entertainment, travel, multitasking, relaxing, and listening to titles with unfamiliar words for pronunciation. For example, fantasy/world-building words or words from another language.”

Shelley Roossien, accessibility and inclusion specialist at KDL, oversees all accessibility initiatives, programs and services, including the Talking Book & Braille Center. Roossien says KDL offers patrons of all ages many different ways to check out digital resources. 

“Our physical collection includes books on CD and Playways, as well as Vox and Wonderbooks read-alongs for children that have a speaker attached to a print book that plays the audio track of the story,” she says.
Courtesy of Tommy Allen/ Hoopla makes e-audiobooks available on the go.
In addition to the Libby and Hoopla apps, KDL also provides audiobooks free by mail to people with visual, physical, or reading disabilities through the Talking Book & Braille Center program. Roossien says the TBBC program is one of KDL’s “best-kept secrets.”

“People that experience disabilities have the ability to receive audiobooks through this program directly to their home free of charge or have the option to use the TBBC’s online download service, BARD, or the mobile app.”

The community’s response to the audiobook collection has been positive, she says.

“I think patrons really enjoy having different format options when it comes to reading, not just in the selection of titles. Whether popping a CD in the car on a road trip, using the Libby app to check out a book to listen to while going for a run, or a child using a Wonderbook to assist in learning to read, audiobooks have become an essential part of our reading journey. Patrons that are members of the TBBC program consistently express their thankfulness for a program that allows people with print disabilities to continue to read.”

Ben Eastman, collection services assistant, helps process the new physical materials coming into KDL’s catalog. He also has experience with recording audiobook content, with titles on Audible. 

Eastman says the hobby requires special skills. “The ability to change or modify your voice in some way so characters are distinct from each other is a big plus,” he says. “Also having a good ear, paying attention to details, and being able to remove mouth noise from the recordings.Creating a quiet environment to record in is key, and honestly, if you have a decent USB microphone and free recording software such as Audacity, you're good to go.”

Although none of Eastman’s recorded titles are currently in KDL’s catalog, he ensures the collection is still vast and all-encompassing.

“KDL's audiobook collection is absolutely fantastic,” he says. “Genres range from historical fiction, to sci-fi, to fantasy, to true crime, to romance, to mysteries, to humor. There is literally something for anyone and everyone.”

Literacy Matters is a series focused on the importance of knowledge, community resources seeking to remove barriers to access, and the value of our library systems to society. Literacy Matters is supported by Kent District Library. 

Sarah briefly lived in Grand Rapids years ago, before moving back to Lansing, but that West Michigan love never really left her heart. Through her coverage on small businesses, arts and culture, dining, and anything mitten-made, she’s committed to convincing any and everyone -- just how great the Great Lakes state is. Sarah received her degrees in Journalism and Professional Communications. You can find her in a record shop, a local concert, or eating one too many desserts at a bakery. If by chance, she’s not at any of those places, you can contact her at [email protected].

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