PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.
Our library has a new user that we only see in person once. They come to the library, register and receive a library card, and use our e-book program from home or office. On one hand, we are sad not to interact with a user of our library's services. On the other hand, we are pleased to provide the service even if we interact electronically. Still other library users come to the library to check out a book the old fashioned way, as well as using e-books online.
Digital versions of print books are increasing in popularity in America, and public libraries are quickly becoming the source for e-books. Digital e-books can be used on a variety of devices including personal computers, laptop computers and PDAs. Our e-book program is a shared system with 68 other libraries in Ohio, and provides e-books in the Adobe and Mobipocket formats.
The newest addition to e-books is audio books in a digital format for downloading. All of the necessary software is provided by the web site, or may already be on your computer device. To access our e-book program, you simply go to our web site at www.steubenville.lib.oh.us and connect to our electronic catalog.
That catalog contains all of the items in our physical collection, as well as the holdings of the 68 libraries served by the SEO Library Center. The catalog contains a "tab" which connects you to the "e-books" from which the software and actual e-books are housed. All that is needed is your library card to authenticate that you are part of the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County.
The e-book site is arranged in the same way that a physical library is arranged. Fiction and nonfiction is separated, with specific categories such as Mystery, Romance, and Computer books listed. Thumbnail images of the book cover are connected to short descriptions of the book to make your selection easier. E-books can be downloaded and "checked out" for three weeks. Unlike a physical library, don't worry about overdue notices. E-books simply "go away" at the end of the time period, and return to the e-book system.
The system currently contains over 700 audio books, and 4,000 e-books with more being purchased by the libraries every week. E-books are just like the physical book; they are purchased by a library and added to the collection. In 2006, our e-book program will be merged with the Ohio e-book program, bringing more libraries into one database.
So, as a librarian what do I think of "all of this?" I think it is great, attracting more nonlibrary users to the library. Some e-book users appear at the physical library to "check us out." The new generation of techno-teenager is using the library to retrieve the book they need to read for the high school English class.
Public libraries remain the information source for the citizens of America, regardless of the format that the information takes. Cooperative efforts among libraries are providing everyone with more information and choices in information gathering. Yet, libraries remain as they have been for years. A human at the desk, answering the telephone in a personal way. Your public library.