The next chapter is on screen

By: Tiffany Esshaki, | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published March 8, 2017

BIRMINGHAM/BLOOMFIELD — With Mother Nature unable to make up her mind, it seems like the only activity you can safely bet on for the next few weeks is kicking back with a good book.

And while your local library hasn’t grown in size since the last time you paid a visit, in a way it really has.

That’s because the Bloomfield Township Public Library and the Baldwin Public Library are putting more resources than ever into their selection of electronic materials for patrons to use. That means more books, magazines, movies and music than ever before — often available with just a click.

 Baldwin Public Library electronic resources librarian Josh Rouan helps patron Joe Wolf get started with e-books.

Baldwin Public Library electronic resources librarian Josh Rouan helps patron Joe Wolf get started with e-books.

Photo provided by Baldwin Public Library Associate Director Rebekah Craft

Tera Moon, assistant director of the Bloomfield Township Public Library, said e-books and other electronic materials grew in popularity between 2015 and 2016 by 13 percent. As awareness grows, so too does the number of platforms that users can choose from to borrow materials.

“The content available and the interfaces for these resources (are) improving all the time,” Moon said. “We recently unveiled a new app that makes reading e-books much easier than it has been in the past.”

That app is called Libby, and it works with the e-resource library platform OverDrive. Think of it as a sort of virtual library network with tens of thousands of brick-and-mortar institutions participating and sharing their content.  According to the app’s website, more than 2 million e-books, audiobooks and videos are available to borrow in the catalog. Just log in with your municipal library card and you’re good to go.

Zinio is a platform the BTPL uses for patrons in search of periodicals, and Hoopla offers streaming music, movies, audiobooks and more.

Hoopla is a favorite app for patrons of the Baldwin Public Library, according to electronic resources librarian Josh Rouan.

“That single platform, which you can use through their website or the app that’s available on both the Apple and Android (systems), offers multiple different types of media, and unlike OverDrive, it’s a simultaneous usage model. That means you’re not having to wait. Anything in the Hoopla catalog is available to users at the same time,” Rouan said.

Since a lack of options certainly isn’t a problem, what’s to keep all library users from jumping onto the e-movement? For patrons who are less tech savvy, it’s about getting their feet wet.

“I usually offer three to four workshops a quarter, each one focusing on a particular platform. I did an Intro to E-books course a few weeks ago for people who have never tried accessing e-books or tried and got stuck along the way,” Rouan said.

On top of those tutorials, he said, the BPL offers drop-in sessions every Saturday with the library’s technology trainer. And of course, reference desk staff are always available to help answer questions.

“Personally, I’ve seen an increase in those types of questions over this past year at the reference desk,” he said.

But tech savvy certainly doesn’t mean younger. Rouan said the biggest consumers of e-materials at the BPL are patrons of middle age or older. The younger set, he said, prefers physical books.

As interest in electronic materials grows, the library is encouraged to put more of its financial resources toward boosting those programs. That’s especially true now that the BPL is undergoing a substantial renovation to its adult services section.

“People are more inclined to look for electronic content because of the nature of our renovation. A large amount of our physical collection is in storage, and along with that, we’re ordering less physical items,” Rouan explained.

That’s really the trend for libraries nationwide, Moon said. In this digital age, the job description for your friendly local librarian has greatly expanded.

“Librarians are at the forefront of working with publishers and technology experts to develop apps and other ways of accessing e-content,” she said. “We know what patrons want. Librarians are expected to be ‘device agnostic’ — we need to know a little bit about many devices. Many people show up at the library having received a Kindle or an iPad as a gift and want help using e-books.”

To learn more about the selection of electronic materials available at the Bloomfield Township Public Library and the Baldwin Public Library, visit btpl.org and baldwinlib.org.