In the midst of a technological transition period, the John M. Cuelenaere Public Library should dispel some people’s notion of what a library is.
“Many people think they know what happens in the library, but the fact of the matter is, they don’t,” the library’s director Alex Juorio said. “(They think) that it’s an old building with a bunch of books and people that go ‘shhhh!’ a lot, and that’s not what we’re about.
“We’ve done some very non-traditional library things, and the community seems to be responding.”
Launching a new website last week and continuing to expand their breadth of digital content, the aim is to keep the publicly-funded facility up with the times.
“We’re seeing the shift in print media to digital media in things like ebooks and downloading music and digital video available over the Internet, so we’re moving really hard to provide those services on behalf of the community,” Juorio said.
The latest addition to the library’s online services is Freegal — a name that plays on the words free and legal.
The service allows anyone with a library card to download three song mp3s per week, with the week resetting itself on Mondays.
“They’re not borrowed like a traditional library service — they’re downloaded and there’s no digital lock on the files,” McLean said, noting that once someone has an mp3 on their computer, it’s theirs to keep.
With Freegal added to the library’s arsenal of digital services last week, 22 patrons have already begun using it, downloading 66 songs.
Last year saw the library’s digital services expand to include a database of 1,700 newspapers from around the world, including those printed in 42 different languages, updated daily.
“You can translate them to all the different languages, so it’s really helpful for local immigrants who want to read the local newspaper but can’t speak English,” McLean noted.
An ebook service was also added last year, with books made available through online downloading. Free ebook clinics are still being held every Wednesday afternoon, from 1:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. to help those new to the digital devices.
Many people think they know what happens in the library, but the fact of the matter is, they don’t. - John M. Cuelenaere Public Library director Alex Juorio
All of these and various other online services are available at home to anyone with a library card, and Internet connection and a computer.
“We’re not so much a physical location as we used to be,” Juorio said. “If you have Internet access you can visit the library from your house.”
That said, the current library facility continues to flourish, with this year boasting a gate count of 137,609 between January and May — about 9,000 more people than last year at this time.
Traditional library services continue, with the new books constantly flowing in to meet the demands of the public.
“We’re trying to become a community centre, a place where people can meet and where we can showcase the digital products to help people,” Juorio said.
To do this, the library is changing its physical space quite a bit. They’re archiving lesser-read books in the basement and freeing up space upstairs.
“There’s just more space for the public to relax and enjoy the building without there being lots of shelves of books — more seating, more open space and more space to come and play,” deputy director Jaclyn McLean said.
“It’s not like we’ll have fewer books, we’ll have them stored out of public view. You can put a hold on them and get them the following day,” Juorio said, noting that inter-library loans are still being processed, making available the books in 305 other libraries across the province.
“We’re still seeing a lot of people using print books … It’s still a viable medium by all means. It’s not going to be as violent as a shift as from VHS to DVD.”
More on the library’s myriad of online services and in-house programming can be found online, at www.jmcpl.ca