eBooks Coming to Valley Libraries

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by Valerie Garner

Roanokers can now use their iPad, iPhone, DROID, Kindle, NOOK and go to the library from the comfort of their very own couch.

Roanoke Valley Libraries – a consortium that includes libraries in Roanoke County, Roanoke City, Salem, and Botetourt County – has expanded its services to offer free downloadable audiobooks and eBooks.

Starting this week, library card holders can check out and download digital media anytime, anywhere by visiting any library website. The new program is powered by the popular “OverDrive” service and all that is required is an Internet connection, a Roanoke Valley Libraries patron card, and a free online program that interfaces with OverDrive.

On Monday, Roanoke City Director of Libraries Sheila Umberger counted down to the opening of the City eBook website which has over 1500 eBooks ready for checkout. Umberger explained that they started looking at the project, which was a new concept in 2008, but the cost of at least 25,000 was prohibitive.

By working with Salem, Botetourt and Roanoke Counties the city library system was able to reduce the cost to a $3000 lease with a $7000 credit toward eBooks. The consortium bought the eBooks and established policies.

Besides various device specific formats there are also audio books available. They can be burned to disc in Windows Media Audio and MP3 formats. There is no limit to the number of checkouts for audio books.

Lending time can be 7 to 14 days. They can’t be returned early they just disappear off the eReader at the end of the lending time. The eBook can be renewed if it is available. An email alert will go out when a book is available for checkout. Three eBooks can be checked out at a time. There are 33,000 out of copyright eBooks available with no limit.

“The challenge for libraries will be to offer that traditional grandmother’s library. People still do want that,” said Umberger. “Our goal is to create community spaces and refurbished areas. I don’t think we need smaller libraries – only design model alterations,” she said.

During a recent meeting City Councilman Court Rosen compared traditional libraries to telephone landline disconnects that began with the proliferation of the cell phone. Assistant City Manager Brian Townsend said that any additions to the current libraries had all been done with the new concept in mind. “No additional shelf space was added,” said Townsend.

“At what point will they just use their eBook?,” added Rosen.

Land for a “super library” was purchased on Peters Creek Road for $175,000 a few years ago. Will there be value in building a super library? City Manager Chris Morrill thinks so – he pointed out that it is the number one place people go for job searches. “We will have to rethink where we really add value … that physical access we can’t lose sight of,” said Morrill.

On Thursday, June 9, classes will begin at the “eBook Expo” at Roanoke City’s main library from 6 – 8:00 p.m. Special guest Sharyn McCrumb will be there and a NOOK Color eReader will be given away.

Sharyn McCrumb is an award-winning Southern writer, best known for her Appalachian “Ballad” novels, set in the North Carolina/Tennessee mountains, including the New York Times Best Sellers, “She Walks These Hills” and “The Rosewood Casket.”

Hands on training will be available at all libraries beginning in mid-June.  Go to www.rvl.info.

Other Council Business:

School Board: Seven applicants for Roanoke City School Board were announced. One applicant will fill the unexpired term of Jason Bingham. Bingham resigned effective June 30 due to a job promotion that requires extensive travel. The applicants are: Chris Craft, Linda Wyatt, Cynthia Dillon, John W. Elliott, Jr., Lisa Stoneman, Richard Willis and John Whitney. Interviews will take place on June 20 with appointments scheduled for July 5.

Waste Management: City code will restrict parking “big blue” trash cans on porches or adjacent to porches to avoid a $25 fine. They must be parked beside the house or in the rear of the house. Exceptions are made for the disabled. Topography challenges are addressed on a case by case basis. Skip Decker, manager of Waste Management ,worked with Roanoke Neighborhood Advocates over a period of months to respond to neighborhood complaints.

Human Services Advisory Report: Jane Colin, Manager of Human Services, presented a list of agencies that received funding totaling $430,582. Not every agency received funding. Agencies self -report on the residency of those served. Morrill hoped to reduce any duplication of services with improved technology and better sharing of information.

Arts Commission Funding: Susan Jennings listed the organizations that received funding totaling $280,437. The criteria required: they are a 501(c)3, they have been in business for at least three years, that administrative support does not exceed 20 percent and that they do not receive more than 50 percent of their budget from city funds. Funding rankings were based on meeting community needs, board attendance, business plans and requests not exceeding $25,000.