The Shorty Awards honor the best of social media and digital. View this season's finalists!
From the 5th Annual Shorty Social Good Awards

OverDrive donates popular ebooks to public libraries to help meet increased demand during COVID

Entered in Community or Employee Engagement

About this entry

Since 2003, OverDrive has partnered with public libraries worldwide to provide ebooks and audiobooks for their patrons in a safe lending environment. OverDrive fully supports the library’s mission to provide access to information for all citizens in their community. Furthermore, OverDrive is a Certified B Corporation and is committed to meeting the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance and public transparency to balance profit and purpose.

Due to the national crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, libraries urgently needed to provide greater access to even more reading materials during building closures. OverDrive quickly deployed a strategy to work with publishers to supply catalogs of high-quality titles for low or no cost for readers of all ages. OverDrive and publishers donated a collection of simultaneous use ebooks and audiobooks to 20,000 public libraries around the world, accessible through the award-winning Libby reading app. Many libraries responded that these donations were essential to help them meet increasing demand for digital content.

During the pandemic at the end of May, social unrest gripped the nation. To help libraries meet the spike in interest in anti-racism and social justice books, OverDrive expanded their COVID response strategy to create a Black Lives Matter digital book collection. OverDrive donated anti-racism and social justice ebooks and audiobooks to libraries and schools written by Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) authors. The goal was to help readers learn and grow as they expand their knowledge of race relations.

Why does this entry deserve to win?

OverDrive’s strategy involved working with publishers to negotiate terms to provide more digital book titles at low or no cost to meet public libraries’ growing demand for ebooks and audiobooks. Many popular and in-demand titles are available only in one copy/one user lending models which means only one patron can borrow at a time. This can result in long wait lists with libraries, especially with the most popular titles. To eliminate waiting and serve more readers more quickly, OverDrive obtained simultaneous use rights for many popular and select titles in a variety of subjects – including social justice – and donated the ebooks and audiobooks to public libraries. This allowed anyone with a valid library card at participating libraries to borrow and read the title at the same time.

OverDrive also worked directly with libraries to coordinate these campaigns and promote to their patrons through various means. This included promoting via OverDrive’s and the libraries’ social media, creating posts on OverDrive’s library blog reaching 20,000 libraries worldwide as well as encouraging libraries to share through their blogs, websites and other promotional tools. The digital collections and communications around them were designed to encourage conversation and build community awareness and advocacy.

Finally, OverDrive’s renowned Professional Book Nerds podcast facilitated a social justice conversation event via Zoom with the authors of I'm Not Dying with You Tonight, a New York Times Young Adult bestselling novel addressing racial issues in America. The authors and podcast hosts discussed the current social climate in America as well as racial equality and relations, also allowing attendees to ask their own questions.


The results of OverDrive’s COVID response and Black Lives Matter digital book donations show how the company helped public libraries and schools meet the greatly increased demand for ebooks and audiobooks during the pandemic. As of the end of August 2020, hundreds of thousands of people around the world have borrowed and enjoyed these digital titles.

The donated simultaneous use ebooks and audiobooks in OverDrive’s COVID response and Black Lives Matter were borrowed over 800,000 times by nearly 500,000 readers since mid-June. Without OverDrive’s donation, readers would have had limited access to these titles due to significant wait lists. Instead, readers around the world did borrow (with a valid library card) and read the books for free. This enthusiastic response inspired libraries to create virtual book clubs with Black Lives Matter titles and discuss these important societal and racial issues.

Another impactful OverDrive initiative to provide additional access to more community members was the Instant Digital Card program through the Libby reading app. In 2020, over 100 library systems offered Instant Digital Cards, allowing residents in their service area to sign up for a library card and instantly begin borrowing popular ebooks and audiobooks in just 30 seconds using only their cell phone number. Over 500,000 Instant Digital Cards have been created this year, compared to 142,000 in all of 2019.


Entrant Company / Organization Name