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Demand for digital collections spikes at libraries across Canada

Vancouver Public Library Central Library

With libraries closed across the country, librarians are observing an unprecedented demand for digital materials.

In Newfoundland and Labrador Public Libraries, traffic to the digital collection has spiked 190 per cent, with 224 per cent more users.

In the Toronto Public Library system, use of the ebook and e-audiobook OverDrive collection has leapt 33 per cent, from an average of 18,000 to 24,000 checkouts per day. They’ve also welcomed thousands of new users since introducing an instant digital library card on April 15. In the first 13 days it was offered, 7,500 users signed up.

In addition, use of streaming services Kanopy and Hoopla has increased 111 per cent, leading TPL to increase the number of monthly titles available to a user from four to eight.

In the Calgary Public Library system, the amount of material borrowed from the digital collection between April 10 to 24 was up 44.2 per cent from the first two weeks in March. In addition, enrollment in online courses through the library was up 16 per cent over the same period in comparison to the previous two-week period.

The Edmonton Public Library system saw an increase in users accessing their digital collection of 115 per cent in March and 96 per cent in April (up to April 26) compared with January 2020. EPL also found that the use of its streaming services ramped up dramatically in March compared with February: AcornTV had a 64 per cent increase in active users, Kanopy had a 147 per cent increase in new users, and Hoopla had a 104 per cent increase in new users.

The Vancouver Public Library has had over 2,000 new users sign up for library cards since physical branches closed, with a 93 per cent increase in access to the digital collection. While the branches’ largest digital collections – OverDrive, RBDigital, and Lynda.com – have all been discovered by new users, RBDigital has attracted the most, with 345 per cent more user registrations during the week of April 13 compared with the same period in 2019.

With students attending class online, demand for non-fiction ebooks has exploded across VPL, with a 460 per cent increase for non-fiction ebooks for kids and a shocking 4000 per cent increase in non-fiction ebooks for teens. “These wild swings in demand are really showing how folks’ needs and interests are dramatically changing,” says Scott Fraser, marketing and communications manager at Vancouver Public Library. “Non-fiction ebooks for teens was a very small piece of our business prior to March, and suddenly it became one of our leading categories.”

In Toronto, adults have been drawn to books on cooking and crafting as well as guides to mindfulness, meditation, and sleep. “We are looking for advice on how to cope, how to be resilient, how to get through this,” says Michele Melady, TPL’s manager, collection development and membership services. “People are looking for optimism in their lives right now.”