SOUTH MUSKOKA - Libraries may be changing their programs and introducing new technology, but they are not forgetting the old fashioned print book.
OLD AND NEW.
Sheila Durand, CEO of Muskoka Lakes Library, reads a print book while Lindsay Nelan-McAuly, intern at the library, reads from an eReader. They are teaching people how to use new technology, but don't expect print books to disappear.
In three local libraries – Bracebridge, Gravenhurst, and Port Carling – librarians are seeing the younger crowd searching the book shelves while grandparents are settling down with their eReaders.
Caralene Clement, head librarian for the Gravenhurst library, said seniors are coming in for technical help because a family member bought them an eReader and they want to learn how to use it, but teens prefer print books.
They’re on computers, Facebook and phones all day, Clement said, when they want to read, they want to relax.
“We thought that was really strange because they’re into technology,” she said.
Throughout the winter the Bracebridge, Gravenhurst and Muskoka Lakes libraries focused on developing programs to help people with online resources, learning how to use computers and eBooks. In all three municipalities the majority of those attending the programs are the older segment of the population.
On average, the Gravenhurst library helps 22 people each week with technical support, 90 per cent of them are retired.
But that doesn’t mean teens aren’t accessing eBooks at all, the library just can’t track them.
Megan Davidson, a clerk at the library, went to the Gravenhurst High School in February to teach teens how to download eBooks onto their smart phones.
“If you know how to do it we don’t see you anymore,” Davidson said.
The library, which launched its first eReaders on Jan. 23 this year, is the only one of the three libraries to offer eReaders. In 2012, there were 66,448 print books signed out of the Gravenhurst library and 5,108 eBooks.
The Muskoka Lakes Library sees a similar trend. While there are many readers no longer coming to sign out books because they can access everything online, their programs involving print books are still well-attended.
Sheila Durand, CEO of the Muskoka Lakes, said they opened their book club for people to join online or through Facebook but no one has taken that option. Those who attend still come to the library.
The numbers for their reading program for parents and young children have also remained steady over the past few years.
“It’s hard to imagine readying a story to your child on your knee from an eReader,” she said.
Young moms are signing out hundreds of books for their children, she said, giving their youngsters the opportunity to follow along and feel the book as they read, something much more difficult to do on an eReader.
In Jan. and Feb. of 2013, overall circulation in the library was down four per cent from the previous year at 2,388, but children’s book circulation was up 67 per cent.
Cathryn Rodney, CEO of the Bracebridge library, said people like the feel and smell of print books.
“With eBooks you can scroll the page easily, but it’s not the same as remembering something happened on the bottom left hand side of the page and flipping back until you find that spot and then going back to where you were. You couldn’t do that with an eBook,” she said.
Rodney notices an increase in eBook book downloads each year after Christmas “because people got them for Christmas and after that it drops down again and the novelty wears off.”
Aside from people enjoying the feel of a book in their hands, Rodney accounts the lack of eBook users to the expense of buying an eReader, people not knowing the library offers eBook downloads, and the technology scaring people away.
Some have driven to Muskoka Lakes to attend programs that teach people how to use an eReader.
Although the Bracebridge library doesn’t offer eReaders yet because of lack of space, Rodney said they will probably provide eBooks fully loaded on their shelves in the future.
“It’s not eBook versus print book, eBook is just another format for us, just like there was books on tape and then there were books on C.D,” she said.
The total circulation of the Bracebridge library increased seven per cent in 2012 over the previous year with a total circulation of 118,338 materials signed out. Print books accounted for 69 per cent, while eBooks made up four per cent, and audio visual was 27 per cent.
Rodney expects to see a huge increase in the number of eBooks circulating, but she said a survey done at the Bracebridge library’s circulation desk showed less than three per cent of those who responded indicated they would discontinue reading print material.
Between two focus groups consisting of students from Bracebridge and Muskoka Lakes Secondary School and St. Dominic Catholic School, she said only one student had an eReader, which she had received as a gift.
Rodney said the consensus among the groups was they preferred print material.
“It’s an awful lot like Star Trek to think there will be no print material,” she said.