A digital service offering books, television shows, movies and music began in November at the Smyrna Public Library, the county’s only city-operated library.
Mary Wallace Moore, director, says the library isn’t turning its back on traditional ink and paper. Instead, it’s capturing a new generation with a service that meets their needs.
“People of a younger generation are embracing technology more and more every day in their lives,” Moore said. “I know there are a lot of millennials that don’t have a DVD player or cable TV. They access their information through their laptop.”
Documentaries and movies, such as “E.T.” and “To Kill a Mockingbird,” are available through the service along with music that spans from classical to recent hits by artists like Katy Perry and Taylor Swift.
Moore said there’s an unfair perception of libraries as strictly educational. She challenges it’s about improving clients’ quality of life.
“I don’t want a reader to make light of that,” Moore said. “Studies show that readers are happier people. You have a higher quality of life, you have a longer life. … So I don’t want people to think that only reading historical books or hard text books will improve your life.”
The Great Recession sent new customers through library doors across the country and Moore says despite the want for instant entertainment, libraries are as relevant as ever.
“I don’t want to say that libraries are fighting to stay relevant. I don’t think that’s true,” Moore said. “I think we simply are. We are relevant in people’s lives.”
Smyrna’s library is the first in the state to offer Hoopla Digital, a service that launched in July and is a kind of combination of the Netflix streaming service and Apple’s iTunes music library.
Free with a library card, it’s a quickly growing service that could be in as many as 1,000 libraries nationwide by the end of the year, said Jeff Jankowski, owner of the Ohio company.
“It’s a way to stay relevant with the community and reach new users,” Jankowski said. “There’s generations of new users that rely on their mobile device or their iPad or their browser to consume all of their content.
Physical books have limitations, Jankowski said, and force libraries to speculate at what their cardholders will want to read.
“Sometimes they buy things that circulate and sometimes they buy things that don’t,” Jankowski said.
Unread books may sit on shelves while new releases don’t stay in stock. Almost half of library circulations nationwide are some kind of media, Jankowski said, such as movies or audiobooks.
Demand for digital content isn’t limited to Smyrna. The county’s public library system also is responding to the increasing desire for online entertainment.
“Demand is increasing because the number of e-readers, tablets and smartphones is increasing,” said Jonathan McKeown, associate director of library services for Cobb County. “They have in their hands a device that provides access to a wide variety of information. Patrons are used to turning to the library for many of these types services traditionally, so it is a logical progression that the library will have the digital equivalent.”
Technology has had little impact on traditional circulations, McKeown said, but is affecting reference materials.
“The library system has transitioned numerous reference sources from print to digital,” McKeown said. “This has helped free up shelf space in libraries, as well as making the sources more widely available to patrons.”