Soldotna library goes digital with e-readers

Patrons to the Joyce K. Carver Memorial Library are no longer bound to paper when they go to check out books.

The library recently began circulating five Amazon Kindles the same as it would any other books in the collection. Library staff will load on any book the borrower asks for, and the borrower can take it home for three weeks.

The Kindles are one way to link patrons to the online Alaska Digital Library, a massive electronic collection available to anyone with a library card to any Alaska library. Many people don’t know it exists, said Kim McMilin, a library clerk with the Soldotna library.

“A lot of people don’t know that they can get material on their iPhones, Kindles or iPads,” McMilin said. “We try to make it as simple as possible. We’ll download it for them and then check out the Kindles to them.”

The Kindles in the library are available to anyone, but when most people discover they can check the material out on their own devices, they opt for that, McMilin said. However, if someone happens to not have an iPhone or other personal device, the Kindles are there for them, she said.

Having e-readers available is becoming an increasingly common feature at public libraries. Kindle also offers a connection to public libraries for device owners — according to Amazon, the manufacturer of the Kindle, more than 11,000 public libraries nationwide offer their books for the Kindle.

McMilin said the Soldotna library has modeled its Kindle-lending program after other similar programs nationwide but said she was unaware that any other library in Alaska was doing the same kind of program.

The Kindles were purchased with a grant from the Soldotna Elks Lodge, she said.

Elks Secretary Paul Whitney said the lodge granted the Soldotna library about $10,000 when it first moved into the new building about 18 months ago. He said the Elks Lodge is “almost continually” giving out grants for various community needs.

“It’s either something big or $100 to Tustumena School … for hot dogs and drinks,” Whitney said. “At Christmastime, we bought $4,000 worth of toys to distribute to the community. … We gave almost $7,000 (around that time).”

McMilin said the borrowing policy, late fees and replacement policies are the same for Kindles as they are for any of the books in the library: If you lose it or break it, you replace it, she said. The cost is a little higher — $100 per device, she said.

The Kindles have been circulating since about mid-January. So far, it’s a scattershot of demographics of who is checking the devices out, she said. They are not necessarily to encourage the “technologically challenged,” but they can help because it makes it so much easier to have library staff download exactly what the borrower wants, she said. Even though the books are easily accessible on the Alaska Digital Library, users can get discouraged and give up if there are multiple steps, she said.

“Sometimes it gets very confusing,” McMilin said. “It’s a simple process, but there are a series of steps you have to go through. “

People seem fairly happy to find out that there is a whole other resource available through their own device, she said.

“A lot of people don’t realize the digital library is out there,” McMilin said. “They also don’t realize that it’s free. They’ll still walk in and say, ‘How much do I owe you for this?’ and we’ll just say, ‘No, no, it’s free.’”

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