New Technology Means Big Changes for Local Libraries

     Libraries in Kenai and Homer are trying to keep pace with advancing technologies and changing rules dealing with digital content. More and more services are tied to those technologies.

     Libraries offer computers with Internet access, teleconferences with people or organizations thousands of miles away and e-readers, among other things. Homer Public Library Director Ann Dixon said she considers Overdrive, which allows patrons to borrow books through e-readers, to be an important technology.  

     “You can download e-books and audiobooks and some music. To me, that’s a fabulous service,” she said.

     At the Homer library, there is a station dedicated for downloading content from Overdrive, which is also known as Listen Alaska. Dixon said that’s necessary because so many residents either don’t have Internet, or don’t have enough bandwidth to allow for downloading.  She said there is a “petting zoo” full of different types of equipment as well.

     “Like an iPad, or there’s an Kindle Fire and a couple of other electronic readers or listening devices. And we’ll use those for classes,” she said.

     Dixon said staff at the library is available for one-on-one help, too. Kenai Community Library Director Mary Jo Joiner said Kenai also has been offering help with e-readers, among other things. The library also recently started Brown Bag Lunches where they air TED Talks. She said while technology and digital content are good services to offer, issues with that content come up consistently. 

     “The whole e-book field is a changing field right now. Publishers actually don’t want to sell to the libraries and often won’t sell either the e-book or the audiobook. We get requests for material on Listen Alaska… very often we can’t fill those requests because Overdrive doesn’t carry them. And Overdrive doesn’t carry them because the publishers will not to sell to them,” she said.

     She said there is a lot to keep track of, but the Alaska State Library does make sure directors throughout the state are informed. Joiner said that’s how she heard about a library in Philadelphia being sued.

     “They were loaning out Nooks to people and they were sued by a group of the blind because Nooks and Kindles are not handicap accessible. There are all sorts of issues like that that affect what we’re doing and sometimes you’re just overwhelmed trying to keep up with them,” she said.

     Both Joiner and Dixon said access to computers and the Internet are among the most popular services offered at either library. And, over the years, both libraries have been dedicating more of their budgets to improve technology and digital content delivery. 

     Joiner and Dixon made their comments during this week’s edition of the “Coffee Table” program, which aired Wednesday on KBBI and KDLL.