Technology Demonstration Sparks Discussion of New Role of Libraries in Digital Age

December 23, 2013

Pictured of people gathered at technology petting zoo workshop at Southwest Harbor Public Library

Technology petting zoo workshop at Southwest Harbor Public Library

Southwest Harbor - Technology is changing the way people access knowledge and libraries are responding by making technology more accessible to their patrons. That was the theme of a recent technology workshop and conversation on the role of libraries in the digital age hosted at the Southwest Harbor Public Library.

Gathered around two tables near the library’s main entrance, members of the public had a chance to try out a collection of e-reader and tablet devices that were part of a technology petting zoo on loan from the Maine State Library. Southwest Harbor Public Library Assistant Director, Kate Pickup-McMullin, and Jared Leadbetter, Technology Coordinator for the Maine State Library, talked about the features of each of the six different devices in the collection and demonstrated how they could be used to access the Maine InfoNet Download Library, a statewide collection of downloadable ebooks and audiobooks accessible to cardholders from participating Maine libraries.

“Ereaders and tablet devices continue to grow in popularity, and this is the time of year when people are getting new ones as gifts or may be thinking about buying a device for someone else,” said Pickup-McMullin. “We are seeing a lot of people coming through the doors with questions and we are happy to be in the position to help them make informed decisions.”

Southwest Harbor resident, Carol Nelson, brought along her brand new Nook Simple Touch that arrived by mail that morning. “I spend a lot of time here at the library and was excited when I heard about this workshop,” Nelson, said. “The e-reader is a good fit for me because its small and lightweight for traveling, but can fit the equivalent of 10 paperback books. I’m looking forward to seeing what the download library has to offer.”

The Southwest Harbor Library is one of 216 libraries statewide that has access to the Maine InfoNet Download Library, a statewide collection of downloadable ebooks and audiobooks accessible to cardholders from participating Maine libraries. The service includes over 11,000 ebooks and audiobooks, all of which can be downloaded from any computer or device connected to the internet. Users just need to have a valid library card number from a participating library. Maine InfoNet can be found online at www.download.maineinfonet.org.

Following the technology demonstration, the library hosted a roundtable discussion on services that included input from local legislators, town officials, members of the Southwest Harbor Public Library Board and staff from the Maine State Library. Candy Emlen, director of the Southwest Harbor Public Library, outlined some of the many ways the library has expanded services in recent years to address the shifting needs and expectations of their community.

“We aren’t afraid to try something new,” Emlen said. “One of our most popular programs is a summer literacy camp, aimed at keeping younger kids engaged during the school vacation period. This fall we hosted workshops to help our neighbors understand their health care access options under the Affordable Care Act and soon we will be offering sessions to help area residents with tax preparation.”

After the start of the new year, the library will offer an ongoing series aimed at helping patrons learn a range of computer literacy skills, access the Library's digital resources, and explore social media, tablet applications, digital photography and more. "The classes will be led by library staff, patron volunteers, local computer consultants and hopefully students," Pickup-McMullin said.

Maine State Librarian, Linda Lord, reminded participants of the Maine Public Library Fund State Income Tax Check-off and encouraged them to spread the word to their friends and neighbors. The program allows taxpayers to voluntarily donate money to libraries as part of the income tax filing process. Funding from the 2013 tax year went to the purchase of new titles for the Maine InfoNet Download Library.

“Last year was our first year of the check-off and we raised nearly $26,000 to support statewide library activities,” Lord said. “If everyone who values the role of public libraries in their communities gave a little bit through the check-off, they would collectively make a big difference, helping ensure quality library services throughout our entire state.”

Senator Brian Langley (R-Ellsworth) noted that although libraries have changed over time, they continue to be an important place for people to gather in their communities. “While home computers and internet are convenient, they tend to isolate us as well,” he said. “I live right around the corner from the Ellsworth Public Library and there is no better place to go when you want to be around people and learn something new.”

“The Southwest Harbor Public Library’s commitment to serving the community is exemplary,” said Rep. Brian Hubbell (D-Bar Harbor,) noting that the library was recently honored with its third straight ‘5-Star Library’ designation from the Library Journal, an honor received by only one percent of libraries nation-wide. “The library’s participation in this state and local library partnership is just one more example of the great work being done to provide services to the community.”

Supporting documents

Technology petting zoo workshop at Southwest Harbor Public Library