3M's Cloud Library eLending system allows readers to continue to patronize their local libraries while checking out digital books with their normal library card.
Libraries have been struggling to remain relevant in the eBook digital era where cheap online downloads have challenged local brick-and-mortar book repositories. Some libraries have already begun lending eBooks by integrating online offerings in Amazon or Adobe formats. But these attempts required users to have credit-cards and to maintain multiple user-names and passwords.
3M has introduced a different approach. The 3M Cloud Library claims to be the first system that allows patrons to use their normal library card to check out both physical and eBooks from a common card catalog.
3M Library Systems integrates digital media, circulation management, and security. It will be available this year to the nearly 2,000 libraries across the United States and Canada which are managed by Polaris Library Systems. The 3M Cloud Library service will roll out from 10 beta sites already in use, with 30 additional library systems to be added next month and the rest over 2012. The growing 3M Cloud Library currently has more than 40 publishers participating with over 100,000 titles already available.
The 3M Cloud Library eLending system announced its integration with the Polaris Integrated Library System (ILS) at the Public Library Association Conference (PLA 2012, March 13, Philadelphia, Penn.) claiming that it is the first patron-friendly system to combine physical and digital books into a single electronic card catalog.
Participating libraries will allow users to browse the common card catalog from their digital device at home, or at the library using 3M's kiosk-style touch-screen-enabled DiscoveryTerminal. Likewise, patrons can download eBooks into their own eBook or PC, or can check-out a free 3M E-Reader that instantly synchs with their personal library without the need for a credit-card. Books can be browsed using the library's own public-access catalog (PAC) or a special 3M Cloud Library app for their reader (the app is available for Android, iOS, or PC devices). Full access to normal PAC services is maintained, such as the ability to place holds on physical books as well as instantly check-out digital titles.
The 3M Cloud Library serves as the digital content distributor, supports library eBook license ownership after the transaction, and requires no multi-year service contract to get the service up and running on a local library. Libraries can also opt-out of the 3M Cloud Library and move to a new platform provider taking all their eBook licenses with them to the new provider's system.