Digital World - Library offers array of electronic services
Chelmsford Independent (MA) - Thursday, March 6, 2014
Author: Molly Loughman firstname.lastname@example.org
Despite rapid technological advancements, public libraries across the country haven’t stopped safeguarding one of America’s fundamental ways of life: freedom of information.
As Chelmsford Public Library creeps into the 21st century, investments continue to be made toward connecting locals with resources and ideas, not just through yesterday’s bookshelves, but also via today’s limitless realms of electronic content (e-content). This is available to all Chelmsford residents who are members of the library.
Using eight service vendors, the library’s current e-content is available through its website. This includes online databases, educational resources, audio content, images, music, video content, e-books, business web support, along with a multitude of digital references and publications. New services are Hoopla, Zinio, MA eBook Project and Freegal.
“Offering all these resources, it’s not that it’s a fad or something new we want to try. It’s an easy way to supplement our collection. We could never afford the floor space or the shelf space to offer this much stuff as we can electronically,” said Chelmsford Library Head of Reference Brian Herzog. “Electronically is much more convenient for people. They can do it 24 hours a day and they don’t have to come in the library… I think Chelmsford has a reputation of being proactive and being willing to try things.”
Knowledge is power
One of the library’s four newly released services is Hoopla. This offers a wide array of streaming videos, including movies and television shows. Although it may not always boast the latest blockbusters, Hoopla, with a user-friendly interface, provides a wealth of educational documentaries.
“Everything they have can also be downloaded… When you stream it, you have three days to watch it without the library being charged again,” said Herzog. “When you download music there, you download an entire album at a time.”
The library began with popular fiction and non-fiction e-books and audio books provider Overdrive several years ago, according to Herzog. The service is said to have a catalogue of around 5,000 downloadable e-books.
“A lot of our patrons are familiar with that because up until very recently, that was the only thing people had access too,” said Herzog.
Chelmsford residents can also use Safari Books Online, streaming computer and business e-books.
“Which works well for business books and computer books… you can just go into Safari, look it up, figure it out and move on with your project. It’s not something you’d put on a kindle, it’s just a different kind of resource people have access to,” said Herzog.
Offering animated and read-aloud e-books for children is Tumblebooks, which can be streamed on any computer, explained Herzog, adding it also has streaming videos. The picture books highlight words, helping to guide young readers through each page.
Another new service is Zinio for Libraries, which gives readers full color digital copies of popular magazines. The material is automatically sent to subscribers once published.
“Another problem with e-books services is a lot of the publishers don’t want to sell e-books to libraries because we loan them for free. They want to sell things to people,” said Herzog, explaining the library doesn’t always receive newly released movies or bestseller books.
However, Zinio Libraries gives Chelmsford Library members access to major magazines, for example: Businessweek, Bloomberg, Discover, The Economist, Gardening & Outdoor Living, Inked, Macworld, NEWS, National Geographic, Newsweek, Oprah Magazine, Rolling Stone, Seventeen, Smithsonian and more.
“It’s just like having the magazine in front of you. It’s full color, full spread and you can click on an article to read the whole thing,” said Herzog, noting some outlets attach videos to articles. “It’s a pretty neat tool. It’s such an easy way to get information, especially for commuters- [Zinio] has been pretty popular with people.”
New and different from other e-content services is the MA eBook Project. This is an effort driven and funded by the state government for the MA eBook Project, made possible through the Massachusetts Library System (MLS) and its partnership with Ebook Library (EBL).
Chelmsford Public Library is one of 50 pilot libraries in the state offering its patrons more than 170,000 titles until the end of June. Streamed or downloaded, the MA eBook Project offers content for all academic and professional subject areas.
“Because it’s a state product, they want it to appeal to everyone… It’s a really broad collection,” said Herzog. “But its is a good project because it’s something the state is doing directly to offer more electronic resources to patrons.”
New and available for download with no expiration is Freegal, which offers music at three downloads per week before they can be kept forever. Also available at the library is the Online Newsstand, which streams easy to reach magazines and newspaper articles.
Supported by the library, but not a vendor, Chelmsford TeleMedia is available to all, streaming local television and video recordings of popular school, library and around town happenings. The library welcomes additional ideas for other e-content vendors.
“The libraries don’t create any of this, we had to wait for the vendors to catch up… Now they’re finally coming out with projects that make it easy enough for libraries to be able to offer this to patrons,” said Herzog, admitting he would have loved this to happen years ago. Computer classes to navigate the services are also available to all at the Chelmsford Public Library.
“I would say Chelmsford patrons have a wider variety of electronic resources at their local library than most other towns’ residents... Using library resources has never been easier.”
For more information, visit www.chelmsfordlibrary.org/econtent
If you have any questions about the library's electronic resources, please contact the Reference Staff.