While continuing to follow the traditional library model, the Parker Library is simultaneously breaching the frontier of the digital age.
Amy Long, who took over as Parker’s branch manager six months ago, has seen a lot of change since being hired by Douglas County Libraries in 2004. As the population grew, so did the numbers of books and movies and CDs. Consequently, space became more limited and library layouts were altered to maintain an open feel and a patron-friendly flow. Although books are still in demand, the popularity of e-content is providing a bit of breathing room.
Consumers are buying nearly as many digital titles as physical items these days. The Parker Library averages about 40,000 visits per month and 3 percent of the materials checked-out are e-content. Douglas County Libraries is ramping up its efforts to provide more e-books, recently purchasing the rights to 10,000 digital titles.
Director Jamie LaRue is widely recognized as a visionary who thinks 10-15 years ahead, keeping up with emerging trends like a contemporary fashion designer. As a result, the library system has been well-prepared for the changes that have come with technological advances.
Understandably, there are mixed feelings about the rapidity with which the new age is being ushered in. Long, 36, is among the many lifelong readers who still prefer holding a book.
“There’s something about reading a book to me that’s relaxing: opening the pages, feeling the paper, turning the pages,” she says. “There’s something about that that actually calms me down and helps me get into a book.”
Some of those who have responded enthusiastically to the electronic format have discovered a new world. Besides having the ability to carry dozens of books on a lightweight tablet, there is the benefit of turning the page with the swipe of a finger or downloading a novel without having to go to a store.
“The thing I love about it is honestly people are reading more. I think people who didn’t read before found that this format fits (with how) they want to be reading. They want the convenience of it,” she says. “Maybe they’re older and they need that magnifying capability of the Kindle or they’re always on their iPad and they can just open the book and read.”
That’s why Long, in spite of her preference for physical books, is embracing the relatively new medium with open arms. In her mind, the method is inconsequential. She uses her grandmother as an example of someone who changed with the times, even though it was out of necessity. Her grandmother was losing her eyesight and switched to audiobooks to fulfill her passion.
“The format didn’t matter. She cared about books and reading,” Long said. “To me that was what was more important. And that’s the way I see digital content. It’s just an extension of literacy.”
Parker Library, by the numbers
Physical visits per month: 40,000
E-content checkouts: roughly 3 percent
Materials checked out at any given time: 40 percent
Parker Library staffers, full-time and part-time: 50
Total circulation at DC Libraries: 8 million titles
*A correction was made to this story* - Roughly 3 percent of the materials checked out by Parker Library users is electronic. Some publishers are selling as much e-merchandise as physical titles.