LEMONT – The Lemont Public Library may have more in common with an Apple Store than a bookstore in a year or two.
Increasingly in recent years, the Lemont Public Library District has worked to curate and program a facility for the 21st century reader by incorporating technology into its landscape.
“Things have really changed quickly,” said Library Director Sandi Pointon. “If all we are about is books, we’ll become a museum.”
In honor of National Library Week, April 14 to 20, the library is hosting several programs exploring digital devices and products under the theme “It’s a brave new digital world.”
Chief among these is the Bring Your Own Device sessions, a series of classes teaching device and product use for the iPad, Kindle Fire, Nook and Android tablets.
The BYOD sessions are designed to highlight digital services that offer content such as ebooks, magazines, audio and independent film, all of which are accessible for free with a public library card.
The library is also conducting demonstrations of various products and devices throughout the week.
Lemont’s librarians now spend half their time providing digital device and product assistance, Pointon said, to the extent that technology inquiries have nearly surpassed traditional reference requests.
In order to better gauge public interest in technology and programming, the library is conducting a survey throughout the entirety of April.
But even without the survey results, Pointon has a grasp on what readers are looking for: technology-oriented devices and programs.
“There’s more demand than we can keep up with,” she said.
The library recently began offering web-based printing. It is in the process of upgrading its WiFi. One of the library catalogs is an in-facility iPad and, said IT manager Fernando Alfonso, the district is considering adding a mobile computer lab as well.
Patrons today use library services as a commitment-free opportunity to test drive new devices, Alfonso said. The library owns about 25 Nook and Kindle tablets and e-readers, all of which were purchased within the last two years and are available on loan.
“There’s been a lot of movement on audiobooks and also e-readers,” said reference librarian Paul Dobersztyn.
Each device costs about $200, which is covered by the district technology budget. The library’s annual operating budget is about $1 million, with technology comprising 8 percent of the resources.
In order to meet the growing demand for a digital media experience, the district is moving away from traditional library amenities such as a comprehensive print magazine collection. Instead of subscribing to the print editions, the library will place several tablets in the magazine section to provide easy access to digital publications, the need for which has eclipsed that for print magazines.
The library is not alone in its strategy. Lemont Family Dental recently replaced its print magazines with iPads, using a library card account to provide patients with a digital magazine collection.
“We don’t have room to continue to shelve items that aren’t being checked out,” said Pointon.
The library is consolidating its print materials to create more device-friendly seating areas and workspaces and provide funding for devices and online content.
Moving forward, a larger percent of the library budget will be designated for digital services, Pointon said.
Children’s programs are now using iPad technology, projecting books from an iPad onto a big screen TV for increased visibility during story time.
Recently, the library created a new part-time position for an instructor who will exclusively teach iPad tutorials.
Pointon, who admits to doing 95 percent of her reading on-screen, said she doesn’t see technology as a threat. Rather, she sees it as a tool and a chance for the library to expand its services, venturing out into that brave new digital world.