Libraries keep up with fast-changing technology

Before Mother's Day, I wondered whether any patrons would come in showing us their new iPad, Kindle or other e-book device and ask if we could help them download e-books to their new Mother's Day gift.

Sure enough, the next Monday, several patrons came in with their new presents.

One mentioned that she was amazed at how much has changed in such a short amount of time. She said she was already "old" by the time computers came around and before then, most things were done the same way for generations.

That observation made me ponder how libraries have changed over the past few decades. Libraries really are not "just books" any longer. They are hubs that can be plugged into for a variety of informational, educational and recreational needs.

When librarians spend time helping patrons learn about their new electronic devices, we can also help them download apps to access information they're interested in. Sometimes this is easy, but other times it can be a bit more complicated, so it's always better to bring your device along so librarians can actually see what you're seeing. If you come in for a book, we could just hand it to you if it's available, but e-readers can be a bit more complex.

Then there are the databases and other research resources, such as the Learning Express Library. Remember the oversized, softcover practice test books for the SATs, GMATs or GEDs? They are all available through the Learning Express Library, as well as career information and preparation for the WorkKeys and TOEIC jobs assessment tests. These resources are available at the library or from home at www.beaufortcountylibrary.org.

In addition to e-books, some patrons wish to download the latest audiobooks. It used to be that they would come inside to borrow audiobooks on audio tapes, and eventually CDs.

Then Playaways -- small MP3 players with a preloaded audiobook on them -- came along. The patron provides the ear buds and battery and gets the convenience of an MP3 player without having to buy one. Now the Beaufort County Libraries subscribe to OneClickDigital, which lets patrons download audiobooks to their compatible devices.

We are not just books any longer. Come visit us soon to see what other interesting services and programs we have available.

Linda Costin McCormack is a reference manager at the Bluffton Branch of the Beaufort County Library System, at 120 Palmetto Way, Bluffton.

Original story at the Island Packet