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The next phase of libraries rolls into town

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Some 53 percent of Americans visited a library last year, according to a study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, and patrons checked out 2.1 billion items in 2005, reports the National Center for Education Statistics.

Librarians expect circulation numbers to rise as economic concerns make borrowing books more appealing. Yet the bookmobile’s conductors say even many who frequent libraries don’t know about their digital lending options.
“We’re touching only a small percentage of people we could be touching ... and want to make sure that people who don’t know about it get excited about it,” says Daniel Stasiewski, an OverDrive marketing associate.

Americans are increasingly prepared to tap into digital lending: Pew reports 73 percent of US adults have used the Internet, up from 46 percent in 2000, and that 55 percent have high-speed Internet access at home.

“I learned a lot today,” says Angel Chen, as her son watched Kay Thompson’s “Eloise” in the bookmobile lounge. A Boston resident who visits the city’s public library twice a month with her two young children, Ms. Chen says she’ll start downloading library books and movies at home. “Now I know how to do some of this,” she says.

The process is simple: Patrons enter a participating library’s digital lending site through its home page and use the bar code on their library card to check out audiobooks, e-books, videos, and music.

Once selected, an item will be placed in a patron’s cart – much as with online shopping websites. Most books in the digital collections only have a limited number of copies that may be checked out at a time – just as at regular libraries. But, if a book or other material is unavailable, patrons can sign up on a wait list.

Special software can be downloaded onto home computers and then used to transfer the borrowed files to an MP3 player or other device.

There are no late fees – items check back in (i.e. delete themselves) within one to three weeks.

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