The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on life as we know it. In the blink of an eye, working from home and e-learning became what we did. Churches went virtual, shops and restaurants switched from in-person shopping and dining to street pick-up overnight. It even affected local libraries. They closed for a short time and then switched to other ways to connect with patrons.
While staying at home, people tackled DIY development projects and focused on hobbies. Among them was reading. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. consumers spent more on leisure reading during the COVID-19 pandemic than ever before. Consumer spending on leisure reading will grow 22.9% in 2020 and a further 1.8% in 2021 to reach $15.2 billion.
That’s a big jump, but people had time to recharge again. Preferred formats included e-books and audiobooks. Both are available through Overdrive’s Libby app, a free service offered by the Pioneerland Library System that allows patrons to borrow digital content with their library card.
“Libby is a popular resource for patrons and interest continues to grow,” said Katy Hiltner, head librarian at Hutchinson. “People enjoy being able to access digital content – both e-books and audiobooks. It’s especially popular for those who are “snowbirds” or just traveling in general. Putting books on a device is much easier than packing a bag with books! Libby is also a great resource for patrons who are unable to visit the library regularly.”
Meeker County Librarian Beth Cronk agreed.
“… It’s clear that our local people are really using and enjoying these (e-books and e-audio books),” Cronk said. “Library patrons come in or call us to help them get started with Libby, especially at the Litchfield and Dassel libraries. Some people contact me if they need help figuring out a problem with the app. Some local library cardholders only check out e-books or downloadable audiobooks, not physical books, so we see them every year when they renew their card.”
Local residents occasionally give Cronk suggestions for books they would like to see in Libby’s library stock.
“It’s clear to me from the frequent support and enthusiasm for the service from Libby users as library staff that our local residents are big fans of Libby. I encourage anyone in our area who wants to borrow free e-books or downloadable audiobooks from the library to download the Libby app and see all of Pioneerland’s availability. If they need help, they can contact their local branch or contact me at the Litchfield Library. I’m always happy to help. Libby is a great resource.”
To learn more about the Libby app and how to use it, Leader caught up with Laurie Ortega, executive director of the Pioneerland Library System, for a Leader Q&A.
What are e-books? What are audiobooks?
E-books are defined as “non-editable text that is converted into a digital format and displayed and read on an electronic device such as a tablet or phone.” E-audiobooks are digital audio recordings of a book that can be downloaded and listened to on your device.
How popular are ebooks and audiobooks in Pioneerland? When did Pioneerland introduce Libby?
The collection of electronic material is quite popular in Pioneerland. A collection of digital magazines is also available. The number of copies has been steadily increasing every year since we launched the Overdrive collection in 2011. The demand for e-audiobooks has grown in particular over the past few years. Since 2011, Pioneerland has been providing access to a growing collection of eBooks/eAudiobooks via Overdrive. Libby is Overdrive’s new library reader app – the previous ‘Overdrive app’ has been phased out and is no longer supported.
Are Pioneerland ebooks and audiobooks only available through the Libby app?
Users can access the content through the library website or the Libby app available in the Apple and/or Google Play stores. The application is free to download. A registered library card is required to download e-books and e-audio books to their device.
Why do libraries offer e-books?
E-books and e-audiobooks attract new readers who prefer to access materials digitally, extend the service to existing library users, and reach beyond the physical walls of the library 24/7 (even when the library is closed)! to the collection.
What are the advantages of e-books over traditional printed books?
Possibility to read/listen anywhere, comfort, customizable reading experience, 24-hour access to materials even when the library is closed. Also, there are no late fees or penalties for digital materials.
Any downsides to the e-book?
Not everything you want to read or listen to will be available in the libraries’ digital collections.
Do Pioneerland libraries lend e-readers?
No, Pioneerland does not rent e-readers.
What does Pioneerland want to see in the future with e-books?
I would like the price to drop (this is primarily controlled by the publisher). libraries will pay significantly more for e-books/e-audiobooks than the user would purchase on their own.
Wondering how long you can download e-books before they disappear after so many days?
Users can choose the rental period: 7, 14 or 21 days. And yes – when the rental period ends, the content will automatically expire.
Why aren’t all books available as e-books? How do you choose the e-book offer?
Publishers may not be authorized to distribute the book electronically, or the author may have chosen not to make their book available in digital format. Pioneerland selects digital offerings based on a number of criteria, including popularity, reviews—readers, publishers, and “professionals” such as Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Kirkus—and price, which is sometimes a factor. We have an annual budget for collecting digital material and we have to stay within that.
“Pioneerland continues to expand its collection of digital materials,” added Ortega, “and I expect demand to continue to grow.”