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February 25, 2012

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Goshen library staffers seeking public input on eBook selections

GOSHEN — The Goshen Public Library will be home to a new limited eBook service starting this spring, and library officials are calling on the public to help them decide exactly which eBooks should be part of that new collection.

“We’ve been getting calls from patrons about eBooks for quite a while now, and a number of libraries have begun offering limited eBook services as a way for patrons to get at least a few eBooks on their readers,” said GPL Director Andy Waters regarding why the library has decided to take the eBook plunge.

Waters said creating a new eBook service is by no means an easy task, as even a modest starting collection of eBooks is likely to be very expensive — particularly at a time when budget resources for all types of library materials are constrained.

“We don’t have a new source of money for eBooks. This is just on top of what we already have for print books,” Waters said. “So we’re just going to dabble in this right now and see how it goes.”

In light of this fact, Waters said library staff has placed a brief survey on its website, http://goshenpl.lib.in.us, where library patrons can weigh in on everything from which genre of eBooks they would like to see offered to which gadget is their preferred device for reading eBooks.

“We needed to investigate this very carefully, because eBooks are a very expensive alternative to print books for libraries due to things like licensing and copyright issues, and I think a lot of people who have eBooks are probably not aware of that,” Waters said. “So what we’ve been doing for the last month is an Internet survey on our website gathering information about this service. We would like to begin offering eBooks sometime this spring, but we really need to know what our patrons’ expectations are before we make any final decisions.”

Approximately 300 people have responded to the library’s survey, Waters said, adding that the feedback received so far has given library staff a good idea of what will be expected of it once the new service goes live this spring.

“We want to be able to meet as many of (library patrons’) preferences as possible, so probably our biggest question is what types of books they’d like to see in our eBook library, such as fiction, nonfiction, biographies, history, science fiction, teen books, children’s books, etc.,” Waters said. “The feedback we’re getting so far is about what we were expecting, which is that they’d like us to provide eBooks that are best sellers. So we’ll definitely be keeping that in mind when we make our final selections.”

As for how the actual eBook rental process will work, Waters said that while nothing has been set in stone, right now it looks like library staff will utilize some type of application system where people will access the library’s website and then punch in a provided access code allowing them to browse through the available eBook selections.

“Once they’re in, they’d be able to see which eBooks are checked out, which ones are available to be checked out, and then they could select which ones they’d like to check out,” Waters said. “Then once they have them downloaded onto their reading device, like maybe a Kindle or an iPad, then the eBooks would stay on their device for something like 15 to 30 days, and then after that it would just disappear from the device.”

Waters said plans are to keep the online survey up until the end of this month, after which library staff will take some time to examine all of the received feedback before deciding how best to proceed.

“Basically we’re going to step back and compare what our feedback was to what we can possibly afford,” Waters said. “It’s going to take us a little while, because we’re going to have to negotiate with the companies that provide these services to see if we can get a price that we can work with. As I said before, this is quite an expensive endeavor, and there are a lot of strings attached with eBooks that do not come with print books.”

Even with the added cost and workload, however, Waters said he can’t help but be excited about the prospects of the new service, particularly if it helps to encourage more people to discover the joys of reading.

“Ebooks are very popular, and they’re not going to go away,” Waters said. “We don’t know how much of a role they’ll play in how people read in the future, but we think overall it’s a great thing. So I definitely think there is a place for libraries to provide this service to the public, and we’re all for it.”

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Goshen City Council member Dixie Robinson is asking residents to make an effort to clean up their yards this spring. The city’s Dial-A-Truck program is available to haul trash away. Do you think there are more unsightly properties in Goshen this year than five years ago?

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