Zip Books is based on the pilot project, “Zip Books—Digital Library of Northern California,” conducted by the Butte, Shasta and Humboldt County Libraries under a FY 2011/12 LSTA grant from the California State Library. The purpose was to identify and test efficient, cost-effective alternatives to traditional interlibrary loan delivery practices. One method tested was a “buy vs. borrow” model, where used books were ordered through Amazon, rather than requested through interlibrary loan, and shipped directly to patrons in good standing using the free Amazon Prime two-day delivery service whenever possible. Services were tracked, and the patrons were responsible for returning the books to the library when finished. The libraries would then decide whether to add the books to their collections or dispose of them in some other way (offering it to other Zip libraries, library book sale, etc.)
Zip Books is extremely popular with both libraries and patrons. It provides patrons with speedy access to materials they might not otherwise be able to get through the library, without the long wait often associated with traditional Interlibrary Loan (ILL) requests and local resource sharing systems like Link+. It is easy for library staff to administer. And since Amazon ships materials directly to the patron, it saves the effort and cost of packaging and mailing materials, or the need to require patrons to return to the library to pick up their requested materials. It adds a patron- driven collection development approach a library’s usual process, resulting in a collection more closely attuned to the needs of the local community. And it exposes library staff to patrons and materials they might not otherwise encounter, improving their ability to market library services and serve their communities.
There are currently 74 participating library jurisdictions across the state, with more being added each year. To find a Zip Books program near you, click on our Zip Books map or browse through our list of participating libraries.