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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

eBooks and digital downloads

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, February 18, 2018


Public libraries are changing with the times, yet their basic purpose and theme remains the same as when Ben Franklin organized the first one in New England.


A recent news article states that 58 library systems in America have each passed the 1 million mark of checking out, or rather lending, eBooks and digital audiobooks in 2017.


This milestone confirms the growth of digital lending in the public library world and demonstrates that libraries are changing to meet the public needs of the new information technology.


Interesting to me is that three of Ohio’s metropolitan libraries are on-the-list including the Cleveland Public Library, the Cuyahoga County Public Library, and the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.


The largest circulating library in America of digital products is the King County Library System in the State of Washington, an area known for its use of technology.


So what does it mean to us?  Well, a 2nd list in the article contains “top-circulating consortia” meaning the public libraries that join together into a group to provide eBooks and digital audiobooks to the public.


There is the Ohio Digital Library, consortia of Ohio public libraries that include our library system, and we are in the top 5 nationwide for use.


Our library’s checkouts of eBooks and digital audiobooks are growing by 10 percent per year passing 50,000 items in 2017.


Some people like them, some people don’t like them; and a 3rd category of people will use both formats.


There are many advantages to the format; such as the ability to change the font and adjust your device for better reading.


The overall device is lightweight when compared to the traditional book, and they are easy-to-use with minor directions.


Other people like the “feel” of the traditional book, and some have cited the “smell” of paper and a binding as the reason to like a traditional book.


I am pleased that people are using whatever format in reading books, and that they use the library in the same way they have always used the library.

In addition to the Ohio Digital Library, our library system also has Tumble Books, a digital library of children’s books as well as games and puzzles.


Many people use Flipster, our online directory of journals and magazines which can be downloaded into your device or used at your home or office.


Hoopla is a popular database featuring all kinds of movies, music, and eBooks that can be accessed from home.


And, our website has access to millions of pages of online information through the variety of databases provided by the library and the Ohio Public Library Information Network.


Public libraries still have books on our shelves, as the total number of books published annually continues to increase.


With the growth of non-traditional book publishing available to authors, the 40,000 books that used to be published each year has grown to 200,000 or more by most estimates.


So, libraries are forced to find ways to provide access to more titles than ever before, mostly through networks and consortia membership.


Our library system was one of the first four libraries to join the SEO Library Center in 1988; a network of Ohio libraries that today contains 93 library systems and 250 outlets.


I am telling you all of this because there is a perception that libraries will “go away” since the Internet exists.


Well more than half of the residents of Jefferson County have active library cards, and we would be thrilled if everyone did.


In today’s world, we have lots of people using the library that we never see --- as they use our online systems without actually coming through a library door.


Well, if I think about it, everyone is coming through the library door, either with hinges or by