2012-07-19 / News

Library becomes more tech savvy

Island ranks 27th in state for E-Zone checkouts
BY ROSEANNE PALEWEC

This is not your grandmother’s library. The Jamestown Philomenian Library is embracing another annual summer book sale as it addresses the changing face of the library given the popularity of Kindles, Nooks and iPads.

Library Director Donna Fogarty says the library is in a period of transition, servicing the needs of traditional library patrons and community members who are firmly planted in the E-Zone.

“Right now it’s a tightrope for libraries that want to supply both populations,” Fogarty said. “I think many of the people who use their e-readers or audio readers still use the library in addition to that. But, there are some people who just use the e-readers and they don’t come into the library at all, so you want to satisfy that customer, as well as the patron who’s here.”

While libraries are in this transition mode, Fogarty maintains, it’s a financial challenge to meet the needs of both types of patron. Among the 74 libraries and branches in the Ocean State Library system, Jamestown ranks 27th for E-Zone checkouts. Still, those E-Zone checkouts in Jamestown – at 2,284 – are up more than 25 percent from the previous year’s total of 1,800. Statewide, over 163,000 books were checked out through digital media.

Jamestown has two Kindles that can be checked out. Each comes with 25 to 40 titles, but the library will download other titles upon request. To take out a Kindle, the library only requires that the borrower be 18 years old with a library card in good standing.

Besides staffing, buying books is the most costly component of Jamestown’s $381,000 library budget. Currently, libraries in the Ocean State system purchase downloads for the E-Zone as a group. But Fogarty believes that could change in the future to a payment system dependent on a library’s individual usage.

Peter Converse, who was accompanying his mother to the July 12 preview for the annual book sale, believes the Jamestown Philomenian Library will need to embrace the future in order to stay viable.

“I think there should be more focus on how electronics will play into the future of this library and how they’re able to adjust to that medium,” he said.

Fogarty is clearly on the same page. She’s serving on an Ocean State Library planning committee, which has – as one of six goals – the establishment of a statewide “virtual” library.

Library staffers, volunteers and Friends of the Library prepared last week for the start of the book sale, which can raise as much as $3,000 to help offset the cost of library programs like the summer reading program for teens.

Books, as they are donated, are carefully checked by Friends of the Library to ensure that the owner has not left behind a surprise. One year $700 was found. The owner, however, was located and the library received a $100 reward for returning the cash. Library patrons will soon get a chance to glimpse other forgotten items.

“We’re hoping to do a display soon with what’s been left in books,” said Fogarty. “We find photographs, tickets.” She added that they once found a ticket to the governor’s ball at the State House that dated back to 1903.

Saturday during the book sale it was clear that the popularity of the Jamestown Philomenian Library extends beyond the town’s borders. Neil Mahoney of Peace Dale was there, feeding his “addiction to cheap books,” primarily, history books and historical novels.

The family of Evelyn Hannigan of Plympton, Mass., has owned property in Jamestown for decades. She clearly is one of the library’s more traditional patrons.

“I was given a Kindle as a gift for Christmas and I gave it to my son,” she said. “I want books.”

For Margo Burke of Westerly, who was in Jamestown visiting a friend, the library is all about ease of use and parking, something she can’t find at her local library.

“It’s just really convenient and the people are really nice,” Burke said. “I just love this little library.”

Curious about what Jamestown residents are reading this summer? According to the waiting list, the summer favorite is the erotic novel “Fifty Shades of Grey.” Library patrons are also requesting the DVD, “Downton Abbey,” and the new memoir by Anna Quindlen, “Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake.”

The book sale continues until Saturday, July 21. Patrons can bring their own bag on the sale’s final day and fill it up for $2.

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