From Guitar Hero to eBooks, the catalog of interesting adaptations at area bibliotecas is impressive.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Once upon a time libraries were tranquil places of solemn study, scored by the gentle crinkle of pages turning, hushed voices and the whir of the microfiche machine. No longer.
John Steinbeck Library, administered by the city of Salinas, has waded furthest into the rising tide of new and digital media, most notably with their Digital Arts Lab (DAL). The room is lined with shelves of in-house equipment including a Nikon D-60 digital camera, a projector, and five shiny iMacs packed with apps like Adobe CS4, Microsoft Office, iLife, iWorks and Final Cut Studio for creating music, video, graphics, photos and websites.
“We have an in-house tech team made up of librarians and support staff,” says program manager and DAL/tech team advisor Garland Thompson. “It’s to provide better service and access to our patrons, and makes for a more positive experience.”
Speaking of positive experiences, their Teen Lounge is appointed with a 52-inch Sony HD TV, Wii and X-Box with Guitar Hero and rotating games from partner Game Crazy – which all comes in quite handy for National Gaming Day in Libraries – plus graphic novels and manga (Asian comic-book-style novellas). It’s all appointed with cozy chairs, with an outdoor courtyard offering a sunlit counterpart.
For even younger patrons, the library is compiling a toy library – 4,000 items strong – coming in the spring.
The high-tech allure extends online, of course, in the form of blogs stocked with reading recommendations and DAL tips and tricks, a website using Joomla open source software, and an RSS feed. eAudiobooks and eBooks are another option. On the hardware side, Cesar Chavez Library added 11 sleek online workstations. It makes the Steinbeck Library’s lone microfiche machine appear palaeozoic.
County Librarian Jayanti Addleman of the 17-strong Monterey County Free Library system concurs.
“It’s how young people communicate and interact,” she says. Not that they’ve strayed far from literature. “We currently have 2,706 eAudiobooks and a smaller number of eBooks, not counting all the links to the free eBooks on our website.”
Computer classes, updated hardware and computers, wi-fi and T-1 lines for fast Internet connectivity keep the County Free libraries – and its patrons – abreast of the technology.
Carmel’s Harrison Memorial Library, with its Read to a Dog program, 1928 building and pre-school storytime, seems quaint. But its Mango online language learning system and downloadable eBooks and eAudiobooks suggest it’s not ready to be a memorial to anything but original benefactor California Supreme Court Justice Ralph Chandler Harrison.
They brought in the ubiquitous and revolutionary Wii, and just last month fired up a broad, immersion program they call the Technology Petting Zoo, where patrons were invited to get hands-on with hi-tech stuff like eBook readers, iTouch and even Guitar Hero.
“I think [eBook readers are] great for people who need to have searchable books and need to carry multiple books at once,” says Head of Reference Librarian Jean Chapin. “To me, it’s just another way of delivering a book.”
She adds that the video gaming jibes with their multi-pronged mission: the pursuit of education, information, recreation and culture. They’ve been offering patrons eBooks and eAudiobooks about three or four years, though demand has crept slowly. Monthly, the library checks out roughly 4,000 regular books, 1,800 audio and video materials, and 100 e-materials.
Technology has also allowed for new routes to old-fashioned aid.
“From 1pm to midnight every day,” County Librarian Addleman says, “[kids] can get online with a live teacher to help with homework. Teens are comfortable with the online model.”
“Before Netflix was a glimmer in a CEO’s eye,” she smiles, “we’d been mailing materials to patrons. We bring the library to you.” With the growth of online content, she continues, “If you live in Monterey County, you don’t have to come into the library.”
It seems to portend a quiet, radical revolution in our idea of libraries. Not so fast, says Addleman – not all trends reach toward the next technological plateau. Addleman cites political pollster Mark J. Penn’s Microtrends, which found that after books and gaming, the most popular activities for teens at libraries were knitting and crafts. So, listening to their teen advisory groups, the King City branch hosts crotcheting, Prunedale puts on scrapbooking and Marina does origami – social networking, in real time, in the real world.