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Examiner
  • Virtual library is never snowbound

  • Mid-Continent Public Library’s doors are closed during federal holidays and inclement weather, but readers aren’t left waiting until the next day to pick up their next page-turner.

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  • Mid-Continent Public Library’s doors are closed during federal holidays and inclement weather, but readers aren’t left waiting until the next day to pick up their next page-turner.
    With MCPL branches closed four days in the past two weeks – three weather-related, one because of Presidents Day – staff are noticing that 21st century library users still have access to their favorite authors and musicians through online resources.
    “It looks like last week’s storm was a perfect example of how people weren’t able to get here physically, but they were still able to take advantage of our resources,” said Amy Caviness, who has been Mid-Continent Public Library’s electronic resources manager for seven years.
    Those resources, which include audiobooks, e-books and music downloads, are available by visiting the mymcpl.org and clicking the yellow “Online Resources” tab.
    THE POPULARITY GROWS
    All MCPL branches were closed Feb. 18 for Presidents Day. Among the library’s four most recently closed days, that Monday received the most virtual checkouts, with a total of 2,488 (audiobook, 355; e-book, 1,410; and music, 723).
    On the second highest virtual traffic day – Tuesday – all MCPL branches were closed because of the weather. The library had 2,263 virtual checkouts (audiobook, 333; e-book, 1,538; and music, 392).
    All branches were closed last Thursday and Friday because of Thursday's heavy snowfall. On Thursday, 1,992 virtual checkouts took place (audiobook, 242; e-book, 1,516; and music, 234).
    On Friday, those numbers were slightly down, with 1,741 virtual checkouts (audiobook, 255; e-book, 1,270; and music, 216).
    MCPL customers also take advantage of these resources when the library doors are open. On Feb. 19 and 20 – when the library was open – virtual checkouts totaled 2,269 and 1,860.
    One of MCPL’s virtual resources is Freegal Music, a downloadable music service that allows library card holders to download and keep up to three songs each week at no cost.
    “The downloadable music is really going well,” Caviness said. “We haven’t done a lot of promotions until recently, but the numbers of downloads and the number of users is what we expected. It’s a lot like downloading something from iTunes, which helps, because a lot of people are already familiar with that.”
    Despite the popularity of online resources, Caviness said she and other MCPL staff don’t think physical libraries are going anywhere any time soon.
    “There are still plenty of people out there who like the physical feel and smell of a book,” Caviness said. “But, it is nice when they can’t get here physically because of a storm or their schedule that they still have access to our resources.”
    Mid-Continent plans to grow its e-book collections and customer access to online resources as they continue to grow in popularity, Caviness said. Earlier this month, MCPL received an eReader Exploration Grant from the state of Missouri to purchase more Kindle Fire e-readers. MCPL staff will then continue to train staff and customers on the use of e-reader technology.
    Page 2 of 2 - New technologies aren’t replacing physical staff members, Caviness said. Instead, staff are being retrained or reallocated to other areas, such as technical support to help customers with downloading resources on e-readers.
    “They’re spending a lot of time doing that instead of checking out physical books,” Caviness said. “There’s still plenty for everyone to do.”
    LIBRARIES AREN’T GOING ANYWHERE
    The popularity of online library resources continues to impress and amaze MCPL Libraries Director Steve Potter.
    Potter posted on Facebook Saturday morning about MCPL’s virtual library. The e-book and audiobook activity, Potter said, doesn’t include new holds placed, items renewed, online information services used or downloads outside of MCPL’s primary content provider.
    “Had you told me in 1991 that we could do this kind of volume without opening the doors, I’m not sure I would have believed it,” Potter wrote.
    Liz Sypko, MCPL’s assistant manager in the Acquisitions Department, commented Saturday evening on Potter’s post that she is in another state, on vacation, and checked out an e-book from Mid-Continent Public Library’s virtual branch.
    “I never purchase print books, but (I) use the library, and for e-books I always turn to the library first and purchase e-books only if I have received a gift card,” Sypko wrote in a follow-up Facebook message. “Before every trip, even if it’s just down to Truman Lake for the weekend, I download books to my NOOK Color.”
    Tom and Tabitha Valencic visit Mid-Continent Public Library every day without actually leaving their Kansas City home. The couple homeschool their children, who range from ages 10 months to 16 years, and the family uses virtual resources including e-books, Freegal music downloads and a variety of online learning resources for languages and test preparation.
    The Valencic family visits an actual physical branch of MCPL about twice a month.
    “We look for different books and movies and place holds, renew and check due dates online,” Tabitha Valencic said. “My oldest three have been checking out audio books to listen to when doing chores or just any time.”
    Another library colleague of Potter’s also posed him with the question, “How long before we won’t be needed?”
    “We will always be needed,” Potter replied, “as long as we are nimble and can adapt to what our public wants while still supplying what they need.”
     

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