116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Dean Jones got out of the library habit when he got old enough to buy his own books, but he's patronizing the library again, even if he hasn't actually walked in the door.
“When I was younger, I used to spend hours in libraries,” said Jones, 54, of Cedar Rapids. “It's been a few decades since I've had a library card, because the technology is changing and checking out a book for a few weeks doesn't really suit my style.”
What brought Jones back, at least virtually, is Metro Library Network's eBook service. The service by Overdrive allows patrons in Marion, Hiawatha and Cedar Rapids to download from home any of more than 500 titles, for free.
“I think it's working very well,” said Jones. “I will definitely become more of a user, but I don't know if I will be frequenting the library as often, just because the technology provides me a way to do that without having to visit the library.”
“I know it's being used, because people keep commenting they like it,” said Jeaneal Weeks, Hiawatha Public Library director.
The Iowa City and Coralville public libraries also offer the Overdrive service. Both also lend reading devices, while Metro patrons must provide their own.
Overdrive is compatible with laptop computers and with the Sony e-reader, Kobo, Nook and iPad reading devices.
Amazon's Kindle won't run the required, free Adobe software download, said Amber Mussman, spokeswoman for the Cedar Rapids library, which circulated 360 eBooks in June.
Users may download up to four titles at a time for up to two weeks. At the end of the period, the content disappears from a user's device, and the library may loan it again. The software prevents borrowers from printing material from eBooks.
“Publishers have strict rules regarding this, for obvious reasons,” Mussman said.
That's among the issues libraries, readers and publishers are likely to work out as technology evolves.
“There are a lot of copyright issues that play into this,” said Jennifer Burek Pierce, assistant professor at the University of Iowa's School of Library and Information Science.
“We're looking for ways to bring technology to the table,” said Cedar Rapids Library director Robert Pasicznyuk. “The biggest problem we've had in the library world is publishers haven't made their products available in (certain) formats - you can buy it, but you can't rent it. I think the economic systems will morph.”
The city's new downtown library now under design will have about 11,000 square feet devoted to technology needs, including Internet terminals for public use, said Mussman. Books and other media will take up more than 30,000 square feet.
Services like eBooks and QuickFlicks, which allows patrons to reserve DVDs online, help reduce the staff time and labor needed to reshelve materials.
“We're always looking for ways in the library world to move away from what I call mundane but necessary labor,” said Pasicznyuk. “We don't need to have 12 people in the back doing repetitive labor all day long.”
Online services demonstrate libraries' ability to adapt to changing technology.
“Not all these things available for free on the Internet are the types of information your library is buying for you,” said Burek Pierce. “The higher quality information, that's going to be the thing your library often has to pay someone to make more accessible.”
Burek Pierce doesn't see much difference between a book on paper, Kindle or online via a library-provided service.
“If you think about it, it's still reading,” she said.
Kara Logsden, adult services coordinator for the Iowa City Public Library, said libraries give people access to ideas.
“I think the traditional library service will never change,” Logsden said. “What we think of as books may change.”