Library enters 21st century; Will the people follow? |

Library enters 21st century; Will the people follow?

John Wilkinson of Snowmass Village pages through books at the Pitkin County Library. (Aspen times file)

ASPEN The Pitkin County Library has added a host of new features, from downloadable books and music, to an easy-to-use website. The only question at this point is whether patrons of the library (anyone with a library card) will take advantage of it.”We realized about six months ago that the public was ready,” said Jocelyn Durrance, assistant director of the library. “Now we have to build a critical mass.”

So, for your next road trip, download an audiobook from the library’s selection of thousands for free. Don’t have an MP3 player? That’s fine – the library sells them at cost.Durrance said people calling with questions led to the new changes – but it will take a good deal of education to get new features into regular use. So, while librarians are going about their usual routines, ask one for help, and the librarian will be brimming with joy, she said.As Durrance put it, “We’re being very aggressive.”That’s because the library looks much the same as it did six months ago. But, she said, much has changed.

For example, the library went online, connecting Pitkin County with a dozen or so Western Slope libraries. Patrons can go online and request a book from the closest library. The new feature, in essence, increases the size of the local library by a factor of 12. Librarians said they understand some of the changes are not easy for people who aren’t computer-savvy to understand, but getting over the hump is not as hard as it might seem.”If I can learn to download, then anyone can,” said Molly Ireland, assistant to the librarian. “We’re trying to light a fire under the public.”Many of the new features don’t even require a visit. For example, Ireland recommends downloading audiobooks from home for better speed.The library has subscribed to two services that provide audiobooks. The services cost the library thousands of dollars each year, but they cost patrons nothing. Once the books have been downloaded to a computer or MP3 player, patrons can keep them for as long as it takes to listen to the book.

The new website has a host of other features such as placing holds on books, renewals and address changes, all of which patrons now can do from home. To some degree, library administrators said they are often making the difficult decision between print and online information. More and more, the only or best information available is online.The library just subscribed to a new database (at a cost of $1,000 per year) that is a compendium of nursing homes and assisted-care facilities across the country. Durrance said she searched for another way to get the information but eventually realized that the database – called Eldercare – is the only one out there. That database and about two dozen others are accessible from home through the library website. “It’s a shift in expenditure and a shift in how people get information,” Durrance said. “You can tell by talking to people, they’re ready.”Joel Stonington’s e-mail address is

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