Libraries adapt to electronic books

Man reading iPad.

SUN PHOTO BY TOM CHANG, Seasonal resident Ed Noel reads an article on his iPad Friday at the Elsie Quirk Library in Englewood

ENGLEWOOD — Demand for electronic classes has increased at local libraries since the holidays and libraries in Charlotte and Sarasota counties are trying to help residents keep up with the times by offering basic courses.

“We get five to 10 requests a day now since Christmas (for e-reader assistance),” said Deirdre Morrow, a reference librarian at Elsie Quirk Library in Englewood.

Pamela Burch, a librarian at the North Port Library, said teaching people how to use an e-reader is similar to teaching them how to ride a bicycle.

“When you learn how to do it, you got it,” Burch said.

Charlotte County Libraries have access to four electronic book devices: Nook, Kindle, iOS (iPad/iPhone) and Android tablets. Library patrons are bringing them in to the library along with their own instructions, said Anne Shepherd, Charlotte County division manager of libraries and history.

“If someone needs help at a reference desk, we do everything we can to help,” Shepherd said.

Library patrons who need the most help are the ones who have recently received gifts of e-readers.

“Those tend to be the same people who may not understand the basics for the technology like the need for a credit card,” she said.

While library staff was initially unprepared, many adapted to the new technology by owning devices themselves.

“We’re used to e-readers since we’ve been seeing them for four years,” Shepherd said.

Before, libraries got about three or four inquiries a week, Shepherd said, but it’s picked up since Christmas.

Shepherd fields inquiries about e-reader classes.

“We like to hear from people what they want,” she said. “Do they want more general or advanced classes?”

Charlotte County does not have its own e-book library, but residents can access 20,000 e-books circulating from the state of Florida. Charlotte residents also have reciprocal access to Lee and Sarasota counties’ e-book libraries when they sign up for library cards.

“We haven’t been able to afford a platform for e-books,” Shepherd said. “We may have one this year.”

Physical books take up 80 percent of circulation, she said, but priorities in the county are geared toward computer use.

“Our biggest demands are laptop space, plugs to charge devices and public computers,” she said. “We averaged about 9,000 a month of those who used our public computers. Last year we had a total of 119,758 use our computers. We’re working with the state of Florida to expand our bandwidth.”

Sarasota County offers webinars for e-readers, a new service.

Janet Hansen, coordinator for staff and volunteer development for Sarasota County Libraries, said the library tries to teach readers through every means available. Volunteers help acclimate patrons to e-readers.

“I think it’s a challenge to train because our staff is always busy and they also have to bring themselves up to speed about the technology,” Hansen said. “We don’t always have time to train them.”

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About Tom

Tom Chang is a freelance journalist with a background in multimedia journalism and web publishing. He is currently pursuing his Masters in Journalism and Media Studies from the University of South Florida St.Petersburg. He graduated in 2004 with a Bachelors Degree in Mass Communications at USF Tampa. Tom's interests include a little bit of everything from entertainment to sports. He also wishes to delve into creative writing writing sci-fi/fantasy stories. Tom was recently the Online Editor for USF St. Petersburg's the Crow's Nest, he joined the staff in January 2010 where he started freelance writing, photographing, copy editing and later became a staff writer. Tom’s freelance experience in journalism amassed a wide range of companies including Creative Loafing, The Focus Magazine, Lutz News, Examiner.com, and Tampa Tribune.
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