South Hadley Library Features Free Online Book Database

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SOUTH HADLEY – As any voracious reader knows, there is nothing more powerful than a library card. Just one stop at a local library, and thousands of books, magazines, and movies are available for free at your fingertips.

But what if that library card was even more useful from your couch at home than it is in person?

On Saturday morning at the South Hadley Library, a traveling bookmobile from digital media distributor OverDrive came to the library parking lot to inform the public of the online catalog of eBooks, audiobooks and more that the library has to offer.

“We need to make it known that electronic material is available and free in our library,” said Desiree Smelcer, adult services librarian at the library. “I don’t think enough people know that they are walking around with a device that they always have with them and that they now have access to all the books they want. “

The library has worked with OverDrive since 2005 and is part of a consortium of libraries across the state called C / W MARS (Central Western Massachusetts Automated Resource Sharing Inc.) which collaborates on a large repository of accessible online media, said Marissa Gillett, Digital Book Specialist with OverDrive.

“Our digital library is open 24 hours a day,” said Gillette.

The online library works the same as physical libraries. Users can access a catalog of over 50,000 audiobooks, e-books, magazines, movies, music and even college courses from their computers, smartphones or tablets using OverDrive apps like the one called Libby, said Smelcer. All they need to do is enter their library card information.

A 53-foot-long vehicle, the Bookmobile is equipped with technology and specialists to help library patrons install Libby on their devices. Once installed, a person can sign up for a book waiting list, borrow books, and read their favorites from the app.

Smelcer said online services like Libby help bridge the technology gap between younger and older generations and provide a convenient way for everyone to access books.

“We have blind people who will be using audio instead of books,” she said. “I have people who don’t have very good eyesight, and you can set it up so that the words are an inch high and they can read.”

Enid Sichel, from South Hadley, came to the Bookmobile for help setting up Libby on his tablet. She said she had used a Kindle for years, but wanted her new tablet connected to the public library so she could read for free.

Sichel said she often had to put herself on a waiting list for printed books at the library and worried the wait in line might be longer. While she believes digital services like these are the future of libraries, she fears the financial barriers to entry are too high for those with low incomes.

“The individual must have one,” she said, pointing to her tablet. “It’s a little different from, say, [Andrew] Carnegie’s vision to have a public library in every city.

Laurie Risler, 53, Russ Wells, 50, Natalie Wells, 11, and Mallory Levreault, 11, all from South Hadley, visited the bookmobile together to learn more about the service. Risler said she constantly read e-books using the old OverDrive app connected to the library, but said she wanted to switch to Libby.

She said she’s even seen how transformative e-books can be for seniors who can’t leave their homes.

“Right before my mother passed away, it was her outlet to the world – her eBooks. She put them up all the time… and it was nice, ”she said.

Natalie Wells said she was also using an older app for online reading and was excited to try Libby because it was easier to use.

“It was really difficult to use. It took my mom and I weeks to figure out, ”she said of the old app.

As for the future of the service, Smelcer said she sees more libraries getting involved, only increasing the total amount of media available for use at any one time.

Michael Connors can be reached at [email protected]


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