Demand for digital resources boomed at EPL: here's the top 10


UPLOADED BY: Jenny Feniak ::: EMAIL: ::: PHONE: 587.920.8406 ::: CREDIT: Supplied ::: CAPTION: Edmonton, Alberta - Sharon Day, director of Branch Services and Collections for the Edmonton Public Library.Sharon Day, director of Branch Services and Collections for the Edmonton Public Library. Supplied

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The digital revolution may not be televised but it’s already well established at the Edmonton Public Library. Online offerings are growing by leaps and bounds, bolstered this year by branch closures and health restrictions that limited access to the physical collection.

The library released its list of top products, including the 10 digital resources demanded most by Edmontonians in a year when physical distancing and staying inside was the new normal.

“A lot of people are not aware of the resources we offer,” says Sharon Day, director of Branch Services and Collections for EPL. “Physical demand is decreasing but digital is increasing at the same pace. It’s about how they want to consume content — that trend has really accelerated.”

At the top of the digital resource list is Overdrive, a service for borrowing e-books from the library’s collection. Like the physical collection, if all copies of an e-book are in use,  patrons must put it on hold and wait their turn in line.


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Use of Overdrive has been steadily increasing for years. There was explosive growth in the first few years after it was added to the library’s resources, followed by 10 per cent annual jumps. In 2020, there was a 34 per cent increase in use translating to more than two million downloads.

“It was one of our most well-used resources and one of our oldest digital resources,” says Day. “In our digital collection, books and reading content is the most popular.”

The two biggest months for Overdrive lending coincided with branch closures due to health restrictions; April saw a 58 per cent increase over the same month in 2019, while December saw a 44 per cent increase over the same month a year prior.

Overdrive isn’t the only option for e-books through the library. Patrons can also access Hoopla, though the service is less popular than Overdrive. Hoopla offers access to movies, TV shows, audiobooks and comics as well as e-books through the app. Slightly more than 250,000 checkouts were made through the program in 2020.

Streaming services also filled out the top 10 digital resources. Kanopy, a video streaming service for TV shows and documentaries, was third on the list with more than 500,000 plays and visits. Acorn TV streams new and classic British television, a service that was accessed almost 120,000 times. Even online courses are available through, which drew almost half a million course uses last year.

While digital resources were a big draw, EPL had to pivot its live content to online delivery, too, when branches closed in the spring. Language classes, parenting groups and storytime all had to move to online delivery. Even big events, such as the upcoming Forward Thinking Speaker Series guest Irshad Manji, will be streamed live rather than hosting as an in-person event.


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“We are absolutely looking to expand our offerings online,” says Day. “The pick up was quite popular and we will likely never stop doing that now.”

The Manji talk is a popular draw for the library. As of late January, more than 800 tickets had already been snapped up.

The EPL is also the home of Capital City Records, a digital collection of contemporary local music. Access to the collection was up 15 per cent compared to 2019, with a little over 10,000 access hits.

A small team of four librarians keeps track of digital ordering material such as e-book licences. Each librarian has a subject area of expertise and they track trends and anticipate demand, adding copies when holds start to pile up. Day says they maintain a five-to-one ratio, with one copy for every five holds placed on an item.

But these resources aren’t free for the EPL and the popularity of e-books has caused budgetary concerns for Day and library administration.

“The price of digital copies far exceeds the price of a physical copy. In many cases, up to three times as much,” says Day.

Those digital copies have an expiry on their licence, often in two to three years. Publishers have also placed restrictions, such as blackout periods when libraries can only access a single copy of new material, or restricting audiobook content for libraries.

In late 2019, Edmonton City Council joined other municipalities across the country in asking the federal government to investigate the high prices for digital content for libraries.

To find out more about digital resources at the Edmonton Public Library, you can visit

EPL Top 10 Digital Resources


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