February 28, 2011

February Meeting Recap

The digital age and libraries was the topic of the February chapter meeting for Southwest Missouri PRSA. Member Kathleen O’Dell, community relations director for the Springfield-Greene County Library District spoke to the membership about how the digital age has brought on many changes for the district.

During her discussion with the chapter, O’Dell shared some statistics about the circulation of the district. In the 2001-2002 fiscal year the Springfield-Greene County Library District saw 1.3 million items being circulated. During the 2009-2010 fiscal year, they saw 3.9 million items. Circulation includes books, movies, electronic books, etc. O’Dell said because of the digital age, the library is providing more to more people on more platforms.

Some highlights of offerings the district has include free WiFi, banks of computers at all branches which O’Dell said were seeing an increase in use by individuals who are job searching and applying for jobs. Many companies have moved into the digital world as well and are asking all potential employees to visit their websites to apply for positions. In addition to the banks of computers available for library card holders, there are a series of computer training classes offered for individuals regardless on if they currently hold a library card or not. The series is called The Edge and offers classes ranging from basic computer how-to skills to “how to use that e-reader you got for Christmas.” These classes are available for people of all ages and are tailored for the age group that is participating.

The district also offers through their webiste a free download of software called Overdrive which allows library card holders to download e-books to be played on their mp3 players, e-readers, etc. In addition to the books available through Overdrive, the library also has many e-books available through their regular library catalog which can still be searched through CoolCat, the library’s electronic card catalog system. O’Dell referred to the district’s website as their “11th branch” due to the large amount of resources available on the site.

The site has numerous research databases available to library card holders ranging from recipe database search engines to databases that will assist you in starting your own business in the area. The site also has areas for kids and teens with age appropriate links including reading assistance for younger children and an area for teens to write a blog and book reviews.

One challenge O’Dell outlined was the fact that though we are in the digital age and all of their information is available in an electronic format, they still produce them in print. So the digital age hasn’t always made their jobs easier or quicker, it has just added to the workload of employees and expectations of their constituents.

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