How Public Libraries Are Upping Their Audio Game Using Dial-A-Story
Audiobooks have been available in public libraries across America for years now and their popularity is only growing. However, checking out an audiobook from a library is not always the perfect solution for everyone. Many people do not have an audiobook-friendly device like a smartphone. There may be barriers for those developing digital literacy skills. There is also the issue of public libraries lacking funding to offer an extensive audiobook collection. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t something libraries can do.
The team at the Galecia Group has worked to develop a service that brings audio stories to everyone: LibraryCall, and the exciting Library Dial-A-Story service. “We developed LibraryCall for those trapped on the wrong side of the digital divide with no broadband connectivity, no computer at home, and no library computer to rely upon,” says Lori Ayre, Galecia Group’s founder and CEO. “Digital poverty has left these people hanging by a thread during this pandemic, and we wanted to find a way to keep them from being completely isolated. So we designed a service to deliver critical information by phone, to deliver stories by phone, and to deliver calendar information by phone.” The suite of services is called LibraryCall.
LibraryCall’s Dial-A-Story makes listening to stories as easy as dialing a phone number. If your library has partnered with LibraryCall’s Community Calendar service, all you need to do to access a calendar of scheduled library events is dial a local number provided by the library: no computers or even internet access required. LibraryCall Resource Hotline helps libraries serve more members of their communities with current and critical information remotely, safely, and at no additional cost to the end-user. “People relying on libraries for Internet access lost a critical connection to information when libraries closed. Many of these people have nothing but a phone and a limited data plan so even using online library resources is challenging if not impossible,” says Ayre “We have utilized state-of-the-art cloud technology with a very simple technology — telephones — to provide a platform that is hassle-free for staff and patrons”.
It is very important for libraries to make accessing audio content easier, especially during the pandemic. For learners, studies such as this one conducted by WestEd show evidence that adding an audible component to students’ routines increased the annual expected gain in reading achievement by 58% in just 10 weeks, putting them three months ahead of control students. Plus, the study group outperformed the control group across all measures, by three times in reading comprehension, nearly seven times in second-grade vocabulary, and nearly four times in reading motivation.
That study reinforced an earlier work published in the School Library Research journal, which found that “struggling readers’ use of audiobooks had a positive impact on reading skills and attitudes toward reading”, demonstrating that access to and use of audiobooks by students struggling to read not only improved their reading skills but also their self-assessment of their reading ability.
Audiobooks also meet people where they are at. Not everyone has the time to sit down with a book in hand while getting ready for work, commuting, taking care of children, cooking at home, or any number of tasks. With Library Dial-A-Story, anyone can access audio content with ease without relying on pricey subscriptions, expensive devices, or temperamental internet service.
LibraryCall and their services aren’t only set up to benefit library patrons, of course. For public libraries, they offer an easy-to-use and cost-effective supplement to traditional and more expensive audiobook catalogs. As it stands, many audiobook offerings at libraries are part of expensive subscription bundles that limit the number of “copies” of an audiobook that can be checked out at any one time. Library Dial-A-Story gives libraries access to the entire Storytime Commons, Galecia Group’s growing collection of high-quality audio content for all ages. Libraries may record their own readings to offer to patrons over the system, and can contribute to the Storytime Commons for other libraries to make use of! As more libraries take advantage of Library Dial-A-Story and the Storytime Commons, the pool of audio content available on offer continues to increase, benefitting all members and their patrons.
Commenting on the future of LibraryCall, Lori Ayre had this to say: “I’m really excited about these new services. In fact, I’ve added several new people to the team to help develop English and Spanish language content for the Storytime Commons and to make sure everything in the Commons is copyright clear, high quality and has useful metadata. We love that we have combined our technical expertise with our understanding and commitment to the work of libraries, and created something more than useful — something critical — tools for truly reaching everyone.”
If you are interested in having more audio content at your fingertips then be sure to contact your local library and ask them about LibraryCall — they may already have a local number set up! And if you work at or run a library yourself, setting up their service for yourself is easy as can be with their unlimited training and planning consultation offer. The LibraryCall services are not intended to replace traditional library services. Instead, it provides a low-cost way to extend the library’s reach to people without broadband. LibraryCall enhances your ability to bring stories and education into homes, into your car, on the train, or wherever else a few spoken words can enhance someone’s day.