by Tara McGrath
ONCE UPON A time, libraries were places to hunt out an old and dusty book – but that image is quickly being replaced by e-books, free wi-fi and interactive websites.
However, as technology advances, the number of people visiting Eastern Regional Libraries branches in person is down by almost 500,000 in the past five years.
In the 2006-07 financial year there were 2.5 million physical visits to ERL branches, but in 2010-11 that dropped to just over 2 million. Website hits rose to 1.4million in 2010-11 from 478,406 hits in 2006-07.
ERL information services manager Paul Burden said this was because website redevelopments now featured e-resources and online learning for children.
E-books have been available on the ERL website since June last year and there have been 14,000 checkouts in that time.
Mr Burden said those numbers were rapidly increasing, with 2800 books checked out during February, and a spike in rentals just after Christmas last year.
Mr Burden said ERL had about 7000 electronic titles available, including e-books and audio books.
But Amazon Kindles cannot use the ERL software yet because of copyright problems with the e-book platform Overdrive. “There’s an 82-year-old lady in a retirement village who keeps asking when they’re going to be compatible because she has a Kindle she wants to use,” Mr Burden said.
Knoxfield bookworm Annette Schlafrig, 57, reads ERL e-books on her Netbook. Ms Schlafrig said the books were especially suited to older readers because they could change the font size.
“E-books have also been great for me while I’ve had a broken arm. I’ve read book after book but haven’t actually borrowed any physical books.”
Knox residents can learn how to use these new devices at a ‘technology petting zoo’ lined up at ERL branches.