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Meeting the demands of technology

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Posted: Wednesday, April 25, 2012 3:00 pm | Updated: 12:00 pm, Fri Apr 27, 2012.

A few months ago, a staff member at the Leach Public Library in Wahpeton taught groups of Richland County residents how to download the library's electronic book offerings to their reading devices.

Staff at the Breckenridge Library, a branch of the Lake Agassiz Regional Library, help out their e-reading patrons, too, providing one-on-one assistance as needed for people who're wondering how to download e-books from the library's online collection.

Offering e-books and other digital content is a step many libraries, including the two in the Twin Towns, have taken to meet the demands of the growing number of Americans who own e-readers and tablet devices.

"Libraries are technical now," said Bonnie MacIver, library director of Leach Public Library. "Technology's an important part."

And the e-reader, specifically, is a technological feature that is sweeping the nation. The percentage of adults who say they've read an e-book in the last year (21 percent) is up 4 percent from December, according to February data released this month from the Pew Research Center. Those who read e-books also read an average of nine more books per year than those who read in a more traditional fashion, states the report, based on recent surveys.

But how exactly do e-readers, e-books and other technological advances in reading affect libraries?

Despite the challenges of learning new technology and some of the higher costs, staff from both libraries in the Twin Towns said the shift toward e-reading has been positive.

"We have adjusted, but it's a happy adjustment," said Lucy Borgheiinck, library associate at Breckenridge Library. "It's something we're glad to be able to provide."

Since July 2011, when Leach Public Library started offering Library2Go – a consortium of North Dakota libraries that lends out e-books and other e-content – the library has been able to reach more people throughout Richland County, Librarian Melissa Bakken said.

"I definitely think we can serve more people," Bakken said. "I think we saw more new (library) cards right after Christmas for this sake alone." A valid library card is required to use the services at both libraries.

In the first six months of Library2Go, the library had about 90 or so total electronic checkouts, MacIver said. A booming January had close to 300 checkouts, due inpart to the number of people who received e-readers for Christmas – "That was the gift to give this year," Bakken said – and to the Library2Go classes the library offered patrons who sought guidance on using the service. Since then, the library has seen anywhere from 100 to 140 checkouts per month, she said.

Breckenridge Library also has been able to reach a few more patrons since the Lake Agassiz Regional Library began offering e-books and e-audiobooks in April 2011, though the outreach has been slower than the library anticipated, Borgheiinck said. But the library has had new people come in and is expecting more in the future "as the word trickles out," she said. Since Feb. 15, the library has had 319 checkouts of e-books and e-audiobooks.

"I think it's the same way as any other trend – there are people who jump on the bandwagon right away, and then there are people who wait to see if it's successful," she said. "I've noticed that's definitely true with this, too."

At both libraries, people can download free software, log on to the online service and borrow e-books or other content for their devices.

While the e-reader offerings provide options for people with e-reader devices, they also are more expensive, library officials say. Last week, members of the Library Board at Leach Public Library requested an extra $10,000 in annual grant funding from Richland County to help cover some of the expenses for its databases, which include Library2Go, Tumble books – an e-book website for children – and a host of other databases. Due to the databases the library added last year, there's been an increase of $6,500 in the annual library budget.

Lake Agassiz Regional Library, which has more than 2,500 e-books in its collection, leases the rights to the material to borrow out to library patrons, said Janelle Brandon, marketing director at the regional library. It's expensive, as some publishers have raised prices 300 percent, said Helen Goodin, collection development librarian at the regional library.

"We tend to buy/lease from publishers that keep prices reasonable and to watch for sales," Goodin said in an email to the Daily News. "We want the collection to reflect new and popular materials, but we are finding that older titles of popular authors are circulating very well."

For more information, go to the Leach Public Library website: www. leachlibrarywahpeton.org; and the Lake Agassiz Regional Library website: www. larl.org.

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