2010-09-30 / News

New technology changes library’s lending – and ‘reading’ itself

By Holly Benton

The Jamestown Philomenian Library has taken a technological leap forward.

An E-Zone download station – available at limited libraries throughout the state— is now available for patrons to use at the Jamestown library.

Purchased this summer, the download station gives library users the ability to download select audio books and music directly to a MP3 player, iPod, iPad or Zune.

The E-Zone download station is an off-shoot of the Ocean State Libraries’ E-Zone downloadable media site, which allows patrons who have Internet access at home to download Adobe eBooks, Mobipocket eBooks and OverDrive audiobooks, music and videos.

It has been a huge technological addition to the library, said library director Judy Bell.

“I think it’s amazing,” Bell said of the increasing technology available to library users. “was someplace recently and one of the young kids had an iPad… it was phenomenal, so interesting!”

Using the OverDrive media console – an application used to download audiobooks, music and videos – the download station allows patrons to access materials that have been “optimized for download compatibility” with various media devices.

According to Bell, the E-Zone allows people to borrow up to six titles for anywhere from seven days to three weeks.

She added that although you can’t return the materials before their due date, you cannot be charged for overdue fees, because after the given amount of time, the material simply ceases to work.

“You can burn an audiobook to a CD if you wanted to,” she said. “But after a given amount of time, it just stops working.”

One of the 10 original libraries to start using the E-Zone in 2006, the Jamestown Philomenian Library staff is excited about giving library patrons every opportunity to read, Bell said.

“People are very busy,” she said. “We have very smart, intelligent, well informed clientele here, and they’re on the road. And they love audio books. When I used to live off of Jamestown, I loved audio books. You would drive home, and wind up sitting in the car in the snow, waiting for the end of the book because you’re listening to it and that involved with it. It’s another wonderful way to read. The audio aspects of reading are, to me, great.”

Today, library patrons are being given the option of accessing the E-Zone using either the E-Zone downloadable media site at home, or the new E-Zone download station at the library – whichever is more convenient for them.

Bell explained that the purchase of the download station was important, because to use the E-Zone at home, patrons must have high-speed Internet capabilities, including the ability to download Adobe Digital Editions for eBooks, Mobipocket Reader or the OverDrive Media Console.

The download station at the library doesn’t require the user to have anything other than the medium in which they would like to store their borrowed material – and a library card, Bell said.

When asked about potential changes in libraries due to advancing technology, Bell’s response was positive.

“It’s so amazing and so wonderful,” she said. “But I think that people will crave and want and need that face-to-face contact and the exchange of ideas. Our book clubs are going great guns.”

When asked how library patron patterns have changed during recent years, Bell said she feels that the function of libraries throughout time has varied, always allowing room for change.

“We have fewer people, it seems to me, coming in and browsing,” she said. “There was a time when libraries didn’t have very many books and they functioned as places where people met to exchange ideas in person. Now, there’s social networking – maybe that will even drift away. I think that people experience a lot of isolation, though, in modern life. And the public library in a small town, it’s a place where you go and you run into people that you know.”

When asked whether she saw advancing technology as a threat to librarian jobs, Bell said, “Not right away. I would say, frankly, we’re pretty safe job-wise for the next 20 years.”

To access the Ocean State Library E-Zone site, visit http:// riezone.lib.overdrive.com. The Jamestown Library E-Zone download station can be found in the adult area of the library.

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