South Hadley Library shows off free online book database

  • Tonya Ely, left, a technical suppport specialist with the digital media distributor OverDrive, helps South Hadley resident Enid Sichel set up the "Libby" app on her device during her visit to OverDrive's bookmobile stationed outside the South Hadley Public Library on Saturday morning, August 3, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Tonya Ely, left, and Marissa Gillett, third from left, both with the digital media distributor OverDrive, help South Hadley residents Enid Sichel and Alice Kennedy, right, browse online inside the OverDrive digital bookmobile parked at the town library. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Bob Rosienski of Holyoke, who subs in the circulation department of the Edwards Library in Southampton, takes a video of a digital bookmobile parked outside the South Hadley Public Library on Saturday morning. The 53-foot bookmobile is operated by OverDrive, a digital media distributor based in Cleveland. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • South Hadley residents Russ Wells and Laurie Risler and Mallory Levreault and Natalie Wells, both 11, visited the digital bookmobile outside the South Hadley Public Library on Saturday morning, August 3, 2019. The bookmobile is operated by OverDrive, a digital media distributor based in Cleveland. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • South Hadley residents Laurie Risler and Mallory Levreault, 11, talked about their reading habits during a visit to a digital bookmobile stationed outside the South Hadley Public Library on Saturday morning, August 3, 2019. The bookmobile is operated by OverDrive, a digital media distributor based in Cleveland. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Desiree Smelcer, adult services librarian at the South Hadley Public Library, talks about the C/W MARS (Central Western Massachusetts Automated Resource Sharing Inc.) system while welcoming patrons to a digital bookmobile parked at the library on Saturday morning. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • South Hadley residents Laurie Risler, left, and Mallory Levreault and Natalie Wells, both 11, talked about their reading habits during a visit to a digital bookmobile parked outside the South Hadley Public Library on Saturday morning, August 3, 2019. The bookmobile is operated by OverDrive, a digital media distributor based in Cleveland. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • An interactive screen inside the digital bookmobile displays offerings from the C/W MARS (Central Western Massachusetts Automated Resource Sharing, Inc.) system, of which the South Hadley Public Library is a member. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Tonya Ely, left, and Marissa Gillett, third from left, both with the digital media distributor OverDrive, help South Hadley residents Enid Sichel and Alice Kennedy, right, browse online inside the OverDrive digital bookmobile parked at the town library on Saturday morning, August 3, 2019. The 53-foot long bookmobile expands with "slide-outs" to give the display area a functional width of 13 feet. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Lisa Barthelette and her daughter, Katie, 4, of South Hadley browse in the digital bookmobile. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Zachary Barthelette, 10, of South Hadley uses an interactive screen to browse titles in a digital bookmobile stationed outside the South Hadley Public Library on Saturday morning, August 3, 2019. The bookmobile is operated by OverDrive, a digital media distributor based in Cleveland. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Lisa Barthelette and her daughter, Katie, 4, of South Hadley explore a digital bookmobile outside the South Hadley Public Library on Saturday morning, August 3, 2019. The bookmobile is operated by OverDrive, a digital media distributor based in Cleveland, and tours the country promoting the access of digital reading materials through use of "Libby" and other apps. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 8/4/2019 11:58:47 PM

SOUTH HADLEY — As any voracious reader knows, there’s nothing more powerful than a library card. Just one stop in to a local library and thousands of books, magazines and movies are available at a person’s fingertips for free.

But what if that library card is even more useful from your couch at home than it is in person?

On Saturday morning at the South Hadley Library, a traveling bookmobile from digital media distributor OverDrive came to the library’s parking lot to educate the public about the online catalog of e-books, audiobooks and more that the library provides.

“We need to get the word out that electronic material is available, and it’s free through our library,” said Desiree Smelcer, adult services librarian at the library. “I don’t think enough people know that they’re walking around with — a device they always have with them that they now have access to any book they want.”

The library has been working with OverDrive since 2005 and is part of a consortium of libraries across the state called C/W MARS (Central Western Massachusetts Automated Resource Sharing Inc.) that collaborate on a large repository of accessible online media, said Marissa Gillett, digital book specialist with OverDrive.

“Our digital library is open 24 hours a day,” Gillette said.

The online library works similarly to physical ones. Users can access a catalog of over 50,000 audiobooks, e-books, magazines, movies, music and even college classes from their computers, smartphones or tablets using OverDrive apps like one called Libby, Smelcer said. All they have to do is enter their library card information.

A 53-foot long vehicle, the bookmobile is fitted with technology and specialists to help library patrons set up Libby on their devices. When it’s installed, a person can get on a waiting list for a book, borrow books and read their favorites from the app.

Smelcer said online services like Libby help bridge the technology gap between younger and older generations and act as a convenient way for every person to access books.

“We have some people who are blind who will use audio instead of the books,” she said. “I have people who don’t have very good eyesight, and you can set it up so that the words are an inch tall, and they can read.”

Enid Sichel, of South Hadley, came to the bookmobile to get help setting up Libby on her tablet. She said she has been using a Kindle for years, but wanted her new tablet connected to the public library so she can read for free.

Sichel said she often has to put herself on a waiting list for print books at the library and was worried that the wait online could be longer. Although she thinks digital services like these are the future of libraries, she is worried that financial barriers to entry are too high for those who are low-income.

“The individual has to have one of these,” she said, pointing to her tablet. “That’s a little different than, say, [Andrew] Carnegie’s vision of putting a public library in every town.”

Laurie Risler, 53, Russ Wells, 50, Natalie Wells, 11, and Mallory Levreault, 11, all from South Hadley, visited the bookmobile together to learn about the service. Risler said she constantly reads e-books using the old OverDrive app connected to the library, but said she wants to switch to Libby.

She said she has even seen how transformative e-books can be for older people who can’t leave their homes.

“Right before my mom passed away, that was her outlet to the world — her e-books. She pulled them up all the time … and it was nice,” she said.

Natalie Wells said she also used an older app for online reading and was excited to try Libby since it was easier to use.

“It was really hard to use. It took, like, weeks for my mom and me to figure it out,” she said of the old app.

In regard to the future of the service, Smelcer said she sees more libraries becoming involved, only increasing the total amount of media available for anytime use.

Michael Connors can be reached at mconnors@gazettenet.com.

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