Understanding How Librarians Engage with E-book Lending Subscription Services


  1. Yunhee Shim, Rutgers University (Contact person)
  2. Shagun Jhaver, Rutgers University
  3. Sarah Lamdan, CUNY Law


Public libraries play a crucial role in increasing access to information, disseminating culture and knowledge, and furthering equality, democracy, and social justice. With ever growing demands for digital services from users, librarians are increasingly invested in collecting, curating, managing, and storing a trusted body of digital information for current and future use. To keep up with users’ digital information demands, many libraries have also begun subscribing to e-book vendors such as Hoopla and OverDrive.

Using these e-book subscription services increases the volume of digital information that libraries can offer their patrons. Yet, recent media reports have shown that libraries and patrons often find these services include in their e-book offerings grossly offensive content, including that favoring Nazi ideology and anti-LGBTQ+ propaganda. Currently, the subscription services curate e-book collections entirely on their end, and libraries have little choice over what titles they receive from them. These services usually rely on a mix of human and system-driven reviews and screening to enact content curation. However, mistakes in these processes are frequently evident. From the perspectives of library patrons and librarians serving them, it is essential that we understand the challenges they face when relying on the subscription services’ e-book curation system and begin to find design and policy solutions to address these challenges. This will help prevent the spread of inappropriate e-book content and protect patrons from encountering harmful content when using library services.


As part of this study, we are conducting semi-structured interviews with librarians to understanding their experiences with subscribing to and using e-book lending services like Hoopla and OverDrive, and how their work changes as a result.If you are a librarian familiar with such services, we want to invite you to participate in this interview to share your thoughts.

The interview will take place online using Zoom, and the participant will be offered a $20 Amazon gift card for participating in our study.

Would you like to participate? If yes, please get in touch with the researcher Yunhee Shim (yunhee.shim@rutgers.edu). You can also email Yunhee or me (Shagun) if you have any questions.

Your participation in this study would be much appreciated!

More details about the study and your participation in it are offered below:

PURPOSE OF THE STUDY Cash-strapped libraries are increasingly outsourcing information curation by subscribing to e-book services like Hoopla and OverDrive. In doing so, libraries face the challenges of inadvertently letting in inappropriate content curated by e-book vendors. This study will examine the current work practices of librarians for working with e-book services. It will build upon the literature on content moderation to address the needs of libraries subscribing to e-book curation services.

STUDY PROCEDURES This study would include semi-structured interviews with librarians. These interviews will last between 60-90 minutes and will involve questions that help us identify the challenges faced by librarians. The interview will be recorded.

RISKS, STRESS, OR DISCOMFORT The interview participants will be anonymyzed in our research reports. The study is not on a sensitive subject, so there is minimal risk of harm for the subjects.

BENEFITS OF THE STUDY There are no direct benefits to the participants. Their participation would broaden the knowledge in this research field and may influence the offerings of e-book subscription services their libraries use.

CONFIDENTIALITY OF RESEARCH INFORMATION All the interview data files, such as interview video and transcription files, will be stored on researchers’ laptops and cloud-based Rutgers Box. The interview data files will be secured with passwords and not be shared outside the research team. During the research process, the PI will periodically check the security of the files. After transcripts are completed and verified, the original recordings will be destroyed.

OTHER INFORMATION Participants can, knowledgeably and voluntarily, without coercion, decide whether to participate. They may opt out of the study at any point in time, If they do opt out before the end of the interview, their data will be destroyed.

RESEARCH-RELATED INJURY If you think you have been harmed from being in this research, contact Shagun Jhaver at sj917@rutgers.edu.