Library technology increasing with patron savvy

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By Amber Coulter

E-readers, audio books, online reading and other technology-based literature hasn’t caught on with everyone. But the number of readers using such methods is increasing, and Hardin County Public Library is responding.
The branch in Elizabethtown hosted a free presentation Saturday to show patrons how to download e-Books, audio books and other forms of media onto e-readers and iPods.
Lisa Huffer, bookmobile librarian and unofficial library system techie, said digital items offer alternative reading options to technology-savvy patrons.
“I don’t really think it will take the place of books,” she said. “It just encourages (readers) to use other media.”
The Hardin County library system is part of a consortium, called Kentucky Libraries Unbound, that collectively purchases digital materials. Then, they can provide online access to e-books, audio books, music and other media to check out for free, much like a traditional library.
Users can connect to the service by clicking the Kentucky Libraries Unbound icon at the bottom of the library system’s home page, www.hcpl
Library Director Rene Hutcheson said the service was slow to grow in popularity since it began about five years ago, but the number of users has increased in recent years. More readers are using technology to find answers for research and as a way to simplify leisure reading, she said.
“We are proud to provide services and resources in whatever format is easier for our patrons,” she said. “The trick is staying informed of current advances and having them in place so the staff can assist people with their new gadgets.”
Most digital downloads are audio books, followed by printed e-books, then e-videos and e-music, Hutcheson said.
There was a rush of use after Christmas, when some patrons received e-readers as gifts, she said.
Circulation hit 13,334 items in January and 12,405 in February. That’s up from just over 6,000 at the same time last year, which increased every month to more than 9,000 items checked out in November.
Even Amazon.com announced for the first time last summer that quarterly sales for e-books had outstripped traditional book sales for that quarter.
Elizabethtown resident Linda Dillard said she downloads items from the services and often checks out audio books to listen to during her drive to and from work at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green.
“If I don’t get to listen to them, then I just don’t get to stay up on what’s going on in the world of literature,” she said. “It’s a wonderful service.”
Hutcheson said library system officials are considering buying e-books in addition to being a member of the consortium.
The library also uses advancing technology to introduce readers to new ways to explore books.
There is an online book club in which members receive via e-mail five-minute sections from a chapter of a book. By the end of the week, they have had the opportunity to read a few chapters. Then, they’ll receive segments from a new book the following Monday.
Hutcheson said that option is popular with teenagers. Club members accessed those books 3,360 times last month, she said.
Long-standing technology options also are seeing increased use.
Hutcheson said more patrons come into the library with laptops to use wireless Internet access every day — and some users sit in their cars and access the technology.
Rineyville resident Theresa Peters said she logs on through the library’s Internet access almost every day when she’s waiting between runs as a bus monitor for Hardin County Schools. She does not have Internet access at home.
She researches books she might recommend to her son and researches items she repairs and builds at home.
“I learned to take my steering column apart on the Internet,” she said.
Amber Coulter can be reached at (270) 505-1746 or acoulter@thenewsenterprise.com.