News From Terre Haute, Indiana

September 17, 2013

Library expands eBooks, technology

Arthur Foulkes
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — The Vigo County Public Library board of directors Monday approved a 2014 budget that calls for increased spending on downloadable eBooks and audio books.

The board passed the budget without dissent on a roll-call vote. One of the seven board members, Terry Jones, was out of town and unable to attend the meeting.

The $7.1-million budget includes as much as 13 percent in additional spending on eBooks and other virtual items that are rising in popularity, said Kristi Howe, library director.

While library patrons still check out books, the circulation for “tangible” library materials has been nearly unchanged in the past couple of years, library officials said. On the other hand, the growth in demand for books that can be electronically downloaded onto iPads, Kindles, smartphones and other electronic devices has grown steadily.

In August, the VCPL averaged 65 eBook downloads per day, said Bonnie McNair, public services coordinator for the library. That is up from about 50 per day a year earlier. Meanwhile, the number of audio book downloads increased to an average of 26 per day from 15 over the same period, she said.

The VCPL was one of the first public libraries in Indiana to offer eBooks, McNair noted.

Circulation figures for “tangible” items, such as books, CDs and DVDs, were up just 2 percent in July compared with a year earlier, Howe told the Tribune-Star earlier this month.

Anyone with a valid VCPL library card can go online and download eBooks or audio books using a free “app” known as “Overdrive,” McNair said. Although the eBooks are digital, there is still a limit to the number the library can check out at a time, she said. As a result, some books involve a waiting period while a book is on “hold” for a patron.

The library’s 2014 budget, as approved, includes a 2.6 percent increase in revenue, which is the maximum allowed this year by the state. The budget must still be approved by the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance.

Before voting on the budget, the library board, whose members are appointed by the Vigo County School Board, the county council and the county commissioners, reviewed a series of potential maintenance and improvement projects, including replacing the library’s aging roof. Roof replacement could cost between $140,000 and $200,000, according to figures provided to the board.

Other potential repairs or improvements include replacing siding, parking lot repairs and upgrading lighting in the lobby of the main branch. The library is also considering a massive remodeling project with a total price tag of about $500,000 but that could be broken into much smaller parts and would not all need to be completed, Howe said.

“These are options for us,” Howe told the board.

To learn more about what’s happening at the library or to find out how to download electronic books any time of the night or day, visit the library’s website at www.vigo.lib.in.us.

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@trib star.com.