By Molly McCarthy, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – According to the Pew Research Center the percentage of American adults who own an electronic reader or e-reader jumped from 10 percent to 19 percent between mid-December 2011 and early January 2012. The holiday gift-giving season is seen as the reason for the jump in sales. While bookstores and publishers are adapting business models to fit the growing e-reader trend, they are not the only markets affected by it.
Director of Shrewsbury Public Library Ellen Dolan first started to see a significant increase in the interest in e-books during the holiday season of 2010. Dolan said she could see a huge surge in libraries” OverDrive catalog the week after Christmas last year and that was repeated again this year. OverDrive is a digital distributor of e-books, audiobooks, and other digital content and is used by the library.
The upward trend in e-reader use led the employees of the library and SELCO (Shrewsbury's electric, telephone and cable provider) to hold a workshop Jan. 5 helping users get comfortable using e-readers such as Nooks, Kindles, iPads, and other tablet devices.
The new device workshop is only one of the many ways the library is incorporating the use of e-books into its mission to stimulate the imagination, nurture literacy in young children, empower people to find and use information, encourage lifelong learning, and support Shrewsbury's evolving community.
“There is a big push right now to build e-book collections, but we are still in the infancy of building that collection,” Dolan said.
According to Dolan, about 4 percent of the library's budget goes to e-books. There are currently more than 5,000 e-books in the library's collection.
Electronic Resources librarian Dennis Holtgrefe holds group e-reader classes.
“The devices themselves – when you are just trying to read and things like that – are pretty intuitive. The hard part is how to get your content sometimes,” Holtgrefe said. “So the classes focus on getting library material and how to put it on your device and also the rules associated with that – how long you can keep a book and how to get it to return automatically, those kinds of details.”
Reference librarian Pryia Rathnam will be holding one-on-one sessions for people to learn to use their e-readers. The sessions will start in March and will be held Tuesdays from 2:30 to 4 p.m. There will be three 20-minute sessions people can sign up for.
“We really understand that it's kind of a growing role of people seeing public libraries as the place they can get acquainted with new technology,” Dolan said. “They get a live person who knows that they are doing and can help them.”
According to Dolan the library is making plans to renovate the way the library deals with reference services. The reference desk is going to be moved out onto the floor. There is going to be a collaborative part of the desk where individuals can work together with Rathnam, without the barrier of a desk.
“There will be more space where she can work with an individual whether they are sitting there with an iPad or a Kindle or whatever,” said Dolan.
While e-books and e-readers allow public libraries to offer another free resource to members of the community they also bring challenges. Dolan stated one challenge is that there is no standard format for e-books and the idea of public library e-books is very different than the retail issue.
“If you think about a print book, you can give a print book to everyone who can read the specific language of that book and that book is functional for them,” Dolan said. “Whereas with an e-book if they don's have a device that matches the format it's not available to them. And not all publishers are selling to public libraries. Those that are selling to libraries have a variety of different parameters which they sell or lease the books.”
According to Library Journal the American Library Association (ALA) will meet with major publishers Macmillan, Simon and Schuster and Penguin Publishing House at the ALA 2012 Midwinter Meeting regarding public libraries and e-books.
“We have a very serious interest in making sure our patrons have access to free material,” Dolan said. “That's what libraries have been about and that's why people support public libraries. I's hoping that we get a successful business model for the publishers and it is also a successful lending model for public libraries.”
The Shrewsbury Public Library has purchased some e-readers and they will be available for loan in about a month.
To make an appointment for one-on-one help using e-readers with library content, contact Reference Librarian Priya Rathnam at 508-842-0081.
The Shrewsbury Public Library is located at 609 Main Street, Shrewsbury, MA 01545.