HARVARD -- Despite an ever-changing tide in technology, the Harvard Public Library is prepared to handle the current and future generations of online readers.
Harvard's circulation continues rise, according to Assistant Director Lisa Gagnon, as eBooks, online language programs and research databases actually increase the number of people using the library.
"I think you just try to respond as you can over time to what patrons are looking for," Gagnon said.
Harvard library cardholders can exclusively access 20,000 eBook titles on the online service Freading, in addition to the 15,000 eBooks, audiobooks and videos on the regional Central and Western Massachusetts catalog. Harvard patrons also get another 6,000 online audiobooks through the OneClickDigital platform. Those who are not yet accustomed to eReading can even reserve physical books from home.
"Now patrons can request books online from home any time of the day," she said. "I think that's helped the print because now the catalog's available online 24/7 and patrons can request books 24 hours a day."
As the library transitions to the digital world, help with basic research questions has been replaced with help about eReading devices. On Jan. 25, the library is hosting a Digital Day for people to receive help with downloading reading applications onto their devices. The library will have extra staff on hand to help people with their iPads, Nooks, Kindles and more.
Gagnon said the Harvard community has a strong readership, even among young people. The library has maintained active summer reading programs, adopting book and movie suggestions from its Teen Advisory Board that meets every month.
Although youth participation tends to drop in the teenage years, Gagnon said the library is still engaging this age group. Last year, the library had 39 teen volunteers who put in 450 hours of work.
An even smoother eBook platform might be in the future, as the state's library system is working on a statewide eBook platform accessible to all state libraries.
Meanwhile, Gagnon said staying on top of the digital world mainly means staying in touch with what patrons need -- even when it means mixing the new with the old.
"It's just a matter of responding to what patrons want," she said, "but not forgetting that you're going to have a wide variety of patrons with a variety of needs."
To access library eBooks, audiobooks and videos online, visit harvardpubliclibrary.org and click on "eLibrary."
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