If you’re a book enthusiast, news that libraries are going digital may leave you feeling weary. If you’re a library administrator, the concerns of staunch traditionalists may have you shying away from new technology. Fear not, going digital won’t turn your library into a cold, sterile environment from sci-fi future. Instead, it could help to highlight and improve many of the services patrons use on a regular basis.
E-Books and Magazines
There are plenty of reasons people prefer physical books to electronic formats. Common complaints are “I like feeling the weight of a book in my hand” or “I don’t understand computers!” However, both librarians and patrons recognize the down side to handling paper versions. For one, there’s always the potential for damaged or lost material. Wear and tear is inevitable when items are changing hands hundreds of times per year. E-Books and magazines mean never having to encounter missing pages or strange stains. Instead, patrons are given two or more weeks of access to a digital copy, easily viewed from a tablet or laptop. With e-Books, more funding can be spent on acquiring new titles than on replacing lost copies, cutting down on wait lists for best-sellers.
Newspaper Archives and Special Collections
The library has always been a great resource for researching local history. Yet newspapers (papered or microfilmed) maps, and other historical content are often only accessible through a gatekeeper, i.e. the reference desk. Patrons request items, wait for staff to search some top-secret room for the hardcopy, and then are forced to return it within a couple of hours. By digitizing archives and special collections, libraries can preserve original material and create online portals for greater community access.
Photocopying, Printing, and Scanning
Sometimes you need some take home research from various sources, but aren’t willing to lug 10 books around. You could write it all down. (Carpal Tunnel alert!) Or, you could make a copy on the paper jamming, coin eating, multi-function copier. Many libraries still employ all in one photocopiers for printing and scanning services. With high usage, these machines become finicky, incurring extra service costs. Additionally, a constant supply of paper and toner is expensive and difficult to maintain. The latest in scanner technology allows individuals to scan and transfer pages to a USB key, email or cloud, all without a separate computer, keyboard or mouse.
If you’re still unsure of all the ways digital imaging technology can benefit your library, here’s your chance to get a first-hand look at the future! MES is exhibiting at the 2014 OLA Super Conference, and would love to answer all your questions. Visit us booth 736 to learn more.