E-books coming to libraries
by Elsie Hodnett
Sep 18, 2011 | 4369 views |  1 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Pell City Public Library has launched a new service offering e-books to its patrons.

“The Pell City Public Library, along with assistance from the Pell City Library Guild, is so excited to offer this new service to our library patrons,” said Danny Stewart, library director.

The new service is free for patrons with their library card.

“We had people ask if we would be offering e-books,” said Susan Mann, assistant library director. “Some of the Birmingham libraries had incorporated e-books into what they offer, and at first we were watching to see if it was something that would catch on well.”

Mann said library officials also wanted to be sure e-books were something their patrons would take to.

“A lot of people want to hold a book,” she said. “Then we found that a lot of our patrons were getting e-readers as gifts from family or friends for birthdays or Christmas. They found that it’s not hard to download the e-books, and the e-readers are convenient to pack and take on trips. You can also adjust the letter size to larger print, and the e-readers are easy on the eyes. There were just a lot of positive features, so we began to have a lot of people asking about e-books.”

Mann said the next hurdle was to subscribe to an e-book service and the fees involved.

“We have to make sure we spend our money wisely,” she said. “When it looked like e-books were here to stay, we wanted to offer that service but had to afford it. The library received an LSTA grant through the Alabama Public Library Service.”

Mann said grant allowed the library to get the program started.

“We felt like there was more of a demand for e-books than for a foreign language program we were also considering,” she said. “We felt more of our patrons would utilize the e-books.”

Mann said the library joined the Camellia Net, a consortium of other Alabama libraries. The consortium consists of 24 libraries. The new service is powered by OverDrive and includes audiobooks, music and e-books. Patrons may access the e-books through a link on the library’s website at www.pc.lib.al.us. To sign in, patrons select the Pell City Public Library, then enter their library card number. For patrons with library cards that begin with 1000, their pin number is the last four numbers on the card. For patrons with library cards that begin with 1001, their pin number is the last five numbers on the card.

The e-books are downloaded to PC, Mac and many mobile devices. Titles will automatically expire at the end of the lending period, and there are no late fees.

“The service is not currently compatible with Kindles, but they are working on that,” she said.

Mann said no specific timeframe was given, but it will hopefully be Kindle compatible in the near future.

“We have had a few kinks, but that happens with any new program,” she said. “We ask that our patrons bear with us. If there are any issues or questions, please call the library at 205-884-1015.”

Mann said the new e-book service is in addition to the other services the library offers.

“We will continue to order our hardback books and large print books,” she said. “This new service will not take away from what we are already offering—it will enhance and add to it.”

Mann said this new service is very convenient and provides patrons with access to books from their home.

“That way if the library is closed, they can still get access to the books they want to read,” she said.

Other area libraries are also looking into providing e-book services for their patrons.

Shirley Spears, director of the B.B. Comer Memorial Library in Sylacauga, said the library is very aware of the demand for e-books.

“We are beginning to get some noticeable participation in e-reader books,” she said.

Spears said the library is not able to add e-books to the services it offers due to budgetary reasons.

“The economy is against us,” she said. “We have had budget cuts the last three years.”

Spears said the increase in requests has mainly occurred during the past six months.

“I strongly suspect if we had surveyed six months ago, we would not have had as many patrons who owned e-readers,” she said. “I think e-reader ownership has really picked up steam the past six months.”

Spears said the library will add e-books at some point.

“I think it’s a reasonable service for patrons to expect, and look forward to providing that service,” she said.

Spears said several weeks ago, a veteran library board members visited the library and discussed e-readers.

“He had recently gotten a Kindle, and loved it,” she said. “He bought the library a Kindle so the staff could learn about it and see how it works. It’s so neat and has been very helpful for us to have one to look at.”

Spears said the library may join a consortium to pool e-book resources.

“We don’t see e-books as a bad thing for libraries,” she said. “It is just providing books for patrons in another way.”

Spears said e-books are still cutting-edge technology, and there are still kinks to be worked out.

“We are watching it carefully, and think it’s feasible to add this service hopefully within the next year when finances permit,” she said.

Spears said the library has no intention of stopping the hard material it offers, but instead add another dimension to the services the library offers.

Melanie Harris, director of the Lincoln Public Library, said e-books are not currently available, however the library is a part of the Cheaha Regional Library System which offers e-audiobooks.

Sherry Poe, assistant librarian at the Cheaha Regional Library, said the e-audiobooks can be downloaded on patron’s home computers and to iPods or MP3 players.

“We would like to get e-books as well, but can’t right now due to funding,” she said.

Barbara Rich, director of the Earle A. Rainwater Memorial Library in Childersburg, said the library is also part of the Cheaha Regional Library System and can utilize the e-audiobooks.

“We would like to see our library get an e-book program, but it is a very expensive project, and we can’t justify it at this time,” she said. “Our next step would be to apply for a grant to fund it.”

Rich said patrons have requested e-book services.

“My suggestion to them is to pay the annual fee and join one of the Birmingham libraries that offers e-book services, if you read a lot of e-books,” she said.

Vickie Harkins, interim director of the Armstrong-Osborne Library in Talladega, said the library is looking at an e-book program.

“Our problem is funding,” she said. “We have had budget cuts, and we also haven’t had a lot of demand for e-books yet, although a few people have asked about them.”

Harkins said the library has lost three staff members due to budget cuts already, and has to prioritize funding.

“We are looking into some grants,” she said. “We would like to get e-books as soon as possible, but we have no time period to get it done because we don’t know when funding will allow for it.”