Decatur library offers classes to help patrons with new technology [Herald & Review, Decatur, Ill.]
(Herald & Review (Decatur, IL) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Jan. 06--DECATUR -- As surely as doctors' offices brace themselves to treat the slips and spills brought on by wintertime ice as it covers the ground, the Decatur Public Library prepares in January to handle its own seasonal influx of patrons.
Library patrons, however, come bearing new technology.
For every local resident who unwraps a new Internet-enabled device, whether they are tablets, smartphones or e-readers, the library is prepared to instruct them how to use their gadgets to take advantage of new library services offering free books, magazines and music.
"We kind of learned from last year that we weren't offering enough classes spread out in the month after Christmas," said Amanda Standerfer, the head of the library's adult division. "We really got slammed with e-book demands and new devices after New Year's, and this year I feel we're more prepared. We're offering four Kindle classes in January, and twice as many individual sessions as we had available last year. And we'll probably keep running these through the spring, because that's how long it will take to run its course."
Use of the library's e-book system, LibraryOnTheGo, has grown exponentially in the last few years that it has been offered. Monthly checkouts went from only a couple hundred titles per month in 2010 to as high as 1,600 per month in 2012, and more than 1,000 new users were registered in the system in the past year. These new patrons bring forth a dizzying array of tablets and e-reader devices, some of which work better with the LibraryOnTheGo system than others.
"It's mostly the third-party and off-brand stuff that isn't compatible, but Kindles do have some limitations as well," Standerfer said. "The e-book files come in three different formats, but the Kindle works only with the Amazon format."
Still, with a rapidly expanding library of e-book selections that has approached around 15,000, there are still plenty of selections to pick from with any compatible device. And it's not just books that are available either. The library's Zinio and Freegal programs also offer magazines and music respectively through Internet devices. The Freegal program even allows users to download music to keep, essentially giving it away for free. The library will be offering classes this month on how to use each one of these services for tablets, and will break them up by operating system: Android tablets on Jan. 22 and iPad tablets on Jan. 30.
"A lot of people are getting some of the generic Android tablets that are out there, and these classes will walk them through the LibraryOnTheGo system, Freegal and Zinio all at once," Standerfer said. "These services are all available from home with a valid library card. Honestly, the classes are becoming more difficult because all the tablets are so different, but we're hoping that by separating the Android and iPad classes we can make it easier."
Even those with no internet ability at all can take advantage of the new systems by attending one of the library's "Basic Internet" classes, the next of which will be held on Jan. 22. Standerfer said that even in 2013, basic Internet skills are still a mystery to some.
"There are still people who come into the library wanting to use a tablet, but they don't even have an email address," she said. "You do need to have some basic Internet know-how, which we can teach. We offer those classes almost every month and they still fill up almost completely."
As much as the volume of e-book checkouts has grown, however, there is question of how much further the Decatur Public Library can continue to expand the system. Purchasing e-books is increasingly expensive according to Standerfer, and the library is currently assessing how many it can continue to add to its collection.
"There's a lot of controversy in the library field about e-books," she said. "There's very few vendors and publishers who want to work with libraries right now, because they don't think they're getting good value for the books sold. And so the e-books have gotten very expensive, sometimes twice as much as a physical copy. We're asking that if our patrons want to show us that e-books are a priority, they send an email or come in and let us know."
(c)2013 the Herald & Review (Decatur, Ill.)
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