Friday, March 2, 2012

York Public Library Keeps Up With The Times

By Larry Favinger

Staff Columnist


In the almost 10 years that the York Public Library has been at its home on Long Sands Road, there have been a lot of changes, many of them driven by the increases in technology.

Librarian Robert Waldman said during an interview in his office earlier this week that when the library moved from its much smaller home on York Street, there were two or three “public computers.” Today there are 19 and the ability to add more should the need arise.

The library’s number of actual books has risen from 40,000 when the move was made to what is now in the neighborhood of 60,000 volumes.

“We also have wireless,” he continued, “and that’s been one of the very big changes,” because “more and more people are bringing in their own computers. They’re more comfortable using them [here at the library].”

“The wireless technology is one of the more recent technologies that really has made a tremendous difference in library use.”

And the impact of electronics hasn’t stopped there. Now there are the handheld devices.

“Those devices are not only for access to information,” Waldman said. “It’s also for access to the actual reading materials.”

Waldman said the number of electronic books beings circulated is growing but, the “book circulation continues to go up. So rather than one instead of the other, they seem to be complimenting each other.”

With the increasing number of electronic devices being given as gifts or purchased and used, the library has responded with classes to help people use them to borrow electronic books from the library.

The increase in the popularity of the electronic readers is also causing concern with the publishing industry, he said.

“Some of the publishers are trying to decide how many circulations to give” to a library.

Their concern, he continued, is how to continue to make a profit while providing public access to the books that they have.

This is not dissimilar to when books first came out, he said. At that time publishers worried about how allowing libraries to lend books for free would impact the number of copies sold.

It actually worked well as the sales of books increased once the public could read it from a library and talk about it with others, many then went out and purchased the title for themselves.

Some years ago the library became part of the Minerva network, giving people the opportunity to access books York doesn’t have on their shelves. In joining this work, people can access material from any library within the state in a matter of days.

Included on the library’s web site is a newsstand that allows people to get magazines on their computers as well. By clicking on the magazine the reader wants, he or she has access to the entire issue. “We’re very excited about that,” Waldman said.

There’s also “learning express” available on the website, where people have access to tutorials on how to apply for a job, help in writing a resume and other helpful information.

“In some ways its like reading a science fiction novel and you’re in it,” he said. “Instead of reading what’s going to happen, it’s here.”

So at this point York and other libraries have the ability to offer more services that are more easily accessible than in previous years, and with computers and websites many of the services—e-books and audio books included—are accessible without ever leaving home.

And there is Minerva, a statewide library catalog. “We tell people now to think that you have a library of six million items,” he said.

A user goes on the site, finds the book he or she wants, and the library notifies them when it arrives, usually within a couple of days.

Additionally, there is Marvel, a service that offers juried information on a variety of subjects for those seeking noted, accurate data.

Other changes have also been made, albeit at a much slower rate. Where once audio books and movies on VCRs were the rage, these are being replaced by what Waldman terms a great collection of DVDs and CDs.

The library’s website is done locally and is purposely easy to read and use. Along with access of those services aforementioned, there is a listing of local community events.

“We’re very fortunate that this library is the center of all kinds of activity,” Waldman concluded.

York’s 10-year-old library has grown and continues to do so not through technology alone, but by acting as a social destination for the town as well.