Manager Mary Wussow doesn't have an e-reader yet, but it's just a matter of time, Wussow said, before she joins the latest trend sweeping the literary world.
A self-described technology-enthusiast, Wussow has seen a rapid rise over the last several years in the use of and interest in digital books and e-readers, like Amazon's Kindle, the Nook or the Apple iPad. This February, Dakota County library users checked out more than 11,051 e-books, up from 3,546 in February 2011.
And with that whopping growth came plenty of questions—about downloading digital books, using e-reader tablets and even patrons asking for brand or device recommendations.
While librarians have refrained from reviewing hardware, Wussow said, she and others have developed a new "Reader Bar" at Wescott Library in Eagan. The bar, inspired by the Genius Bar at Apple Stores, is a one-stop learning station for interested library patrons who want to find out more about e-readers. Visitors can test five e-reader devices, including the iPad 2, the Nook Color, a Nook tablet, a Kindle Keyboard and a Kindle Fire. Librarians are on hand to answer questions about the devices.
“We handle hundreds of questions on the e-books and e-book readers, through email, chat, phones and instant messaging, and it’s easier to show someone in person than to describe what buttons to press,” Wussow said. "We also wanted to give people a chance to play around with them if they were considering buying one."
The surge in interest among library patrons for e-readers began back in 2010, Wussow said, when many started to receive them as holiday gifts. That trend continued last year—especially during graduation season and Mother's and Father's Day, she added.
While more and more people are investing in e-readers, learning about the devices can be difficult, since each e-reader downloads books and operates differently, Wussow noted.
“Technology is very intimidating for peple, and the processes aren’t always easy with e-books at this time," Wussow said. "Realizing how many questions people have had, we felt this would be a nice opportunity."
The Dakota County library system, Wussow added, also offers an "eBook Basics" course geared toward e-readers. The libraries, she said, have nearly 3,000 e-books in their archives.
Wussow hopes future developments will make e-readers more intuitive, but for the foreseeable future, patrons can seek help at the Reader Bar, which opened on March 5.
"I love technology, and I love learning about new trends and thinking about what the future can be for libraries," said Wussow.