Purpose drives choice of content for e-readers

Feedback from patrons assists effort

What content should go on electronic readers, such as iPads and Nooks, purchased for use in community health libraries and facility-based resource centers?

Staff at the Community Health Library within the Samuel and Sandra Hekemian Medical Library at Hackensack (NJ) University Medical Center wants to offer information found at their library in a new way. The plan for the pilot project, which is still in the research process, is to put a selection of materials on certain topics on each electronic device so there is variety from which to choose. For example, there might be books on asthma and cancer on one electronic reader, and books on cardiac disease and diabetes on another. Also, there might be two or three of the same titles on every device. One iPad and one Nook will have identical content so staff can determine which device patrons prefer. Each device will have 30 to 40 titles.

According to Barbara Reich, MLS, AHIP, director of the medical library, her first thought was to have one Nook and one iPad dedicated to a specific disease, such as cancer. Then she realized that if the device was checked out, the topic would not be available to other patrons. "I began to realize things should be more evenly divided, with a few subjects on each device," says Reich.

As the project progresses, it will be easier to determine what content to put on the electronic readers, says Deborah Magnan, PT, MLIS, AHIP, associate librarian. If patients are asking for books that are not on the iPads and Nooks, the librarians will know which titles to add. Also they will learn the value of the content by asking patrons to fill out a brief questionnaire after they use the iPad or Nook. Questions might include: "Was what you read helpful to you?" "Did you ask your doctor a different kind of question based on what you read?" "Did you look at your disease differently because of something you read?" and "Did the information change the way you make decisions?"

The questionnaire will help librarians know if the content impacted the patient's care and decision-making process, explains Magnan.

Feedback from patients and family members using the electronic readers will provide future guidance for content choice. "In going forward it is important to have the patient give us feedback. This is a very new project, and we don't know how it will be received," says Magnan.