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Library Sees Rise in Downloadable Book Usage

LARCHMONT, N.Y. – Liam Hegarty is one of many employees and patrons of the Larchmont Library making use of the technology that provides downloadable audiobooks and e-books.

Hegarty, a reference librarian, has had the inside track on the growing market for downloadable library books, but patrons are catching on as more titles in more formats become available.

In January 2009, patrons county-wide downloaded 267 e-books and 1,218 audiobooks, 43 of which total came from Larchmont, said June Hesler, interim director of the Larchmont Library. In January 2011, that number jumped to 6,171, 247 of which total came from Larchmont.

The Larchmont Library's e-book and audiobook circulation in January was the ninth highest throughout the 46-library system. It peaked in the month of August with 353 downloads.

"At this point, I wouldn't say it's a big part of our overall circulation, but it's definitely growing," Hesler said.

There are currently 3,106 unique titles available for audiobook downloads and 4,120 titles for e-books. There will be even more titles available in 2012.

Like regular books, digital books can only be lent to one patron at a time, which led to long waiting lists for popular titles like "The Help." To cut down on long wait times, libraries began buying additional digital copies of certain titles to be made available to their patrons only. Larchmont, which began buying additional digital copies in March, now owns 1,084 e-books and 326 audiobooks.

The digital downloads are provided by the Westchester Library System. From that site, patrons can download digital books and audiobooks. They will need a valid library card and PIN as well as a device that meets the system requirements for the type of materials they want to download. They’ll also need an e-mail address as a place to hold a title.

Supportable devices include PC Windows, Mac, Android, Blackberry, iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, Sony Reader and NOOK. The Amazon Kindle was added to the list Sept. 21.

"Everybody was waiting for the Kindle," said Hegarty, who hosted three programs late last year showing patrons how to download books based on the devices they had.

For patrons who may not be tech savvy, the library now has a computer in the reference room designated for downloading e-books directly to their mobile devices, which librarians are available to assist with.

Although patrons can now download their e-books and audiobooks from home, Hesler believes those people will continue to visit the library.

"I hope the experience of actually physically sharing books and those beautiful illustrations lasts," Hesler said. "We're still always going to be that resource. We're like that friendly community face."

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