Several months ago, I was asked to write an article for the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle ROCNext column regarding technology in libraries. I was asked for the text again recently by a staff member, and discovered the original article is no longer on the D&C website. So, here is the full text…
These days, there’s an app for everything, and your local libraries have not been left behind. Technology is part of everyday life, and library users in Monroe County have a multitude of apps, gadgets, and, most important of all, skilled staff ready to help you learn how to use your new e-reader or figure out your smartphone.
There are currently two apps for smartphones and tablets that provide access to the Monroe County Library System catalog. LS2 Mobile Library is available in both the Apple and Android stores and provides mobile access to the general catalog; Overdrive Media Console is also available in both major app stores and provides mobile access to e-books and e-audio books. Coming later this year is a new app, MCLS to Go, that will provide mobile access to the general catalog, Overdrive, an events feed, and more, all in one convenient place. On schedule for 2013 is an iPad app called Rochester Voices that interprets and presents portions of the Central Library historical collections that reflect “voices” such as diaries, letters, oral histories, and music.
Although libraries in New York State have experienced a 23% cut in state aid since 2008, the Monroe County Library System & Rochester Public Library have used private funding and portions of our remaining state aid to move the system forward and satisfy the growing demand for hi-tech access to our collections. The Rochester Voices project, for example, is funded entirely with private money raised through the Friends & Foundation of the Rochester Public Library.
In addition to apps, local libraries have become sources for the gadgets themselves. The Central Library has loaned GPS units for the last two years with great success, and the Greece Public Library currently loans Nook e-readers and iPads for use by children and families in the library. Most libraries in Monroe County offer help for users who are puzzled by or frustrated with their own gadgets. Webster librarian Greg Benoit, with assistance from BOCES I, recorded several videos now available on the library website (www.libraryweb.org) that provide step by step tutorials for downloading e-books to various reading devices. In addition, many libraries offer one-on-one “Apple Genius” type assistance for users onsite or by phone.
Despite the surge in popularity of e-books, libraries everywhere are faced with significant challenges in providing the level of service our users have come to expect. Many publishers, most notably Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, Hachette, and Penguin, refuse to sell e-books to libraries. Other publishers offer e-books to libraries at inflated prices, making it nearly impossible for libraries to adequately satisfy user demand. For example, a library can purchase a print copy of 50 Shades of Gray for about $9.00, while an e-book version of the same title costs nearly $50.00. In response to this, libraries are looking to independent publishers to provide new and exciting e-content, and are also looking locally for content. Scheduled for release later this year in Monroe County libraries is a collection of original, local music which will be available for download through Overdrive.
The death of the library has been doggedly predicted for at least the last 25 years, but libraries are doing what they’ve always done – improvising and adapting to new challenges every day. Libraries have grown beyond the four walls of the building and are now making content available to users 24 hours a day, virtually anywhere. Visit us and see what we have for you.