Technology such as e-books, Wi-Fi ‘bringing people back’ to Kentucky’s public libraries

Public libraries across Kentucky are reporting unprecedented usage as technology continues to change the way Kentuckians use their libraries, according to a press release from the state Education and Workforce Development Cabinet.

Statistics compiled from Kentucky’s 119 public libraries show that Kentuckians checked out 30,664,564 items during the 2013-2014 fiscal year, setting a record which was an increase of 2 percent over the previous year.

(Photo from Creative Commons)
(Photo from Creative Commons)

The driving factor in this increase was the circulation of more than 2 million e-books. For the first time, the number of e-books checked out from public libraries in the state surpassed the number of items checked out from bookmobiles.

Rhonda Glass, director of the Metcalfe County Public Library, said that residents in her rural county are embracing the library’s digital services.

“Newer services like e-books and Wi-Fi are bringing people back to the library. Every day people come in to get new cards or renew their old ones so they can download e-books. Some county residents drive 20 miles or more just to use our Wi-Fi; in this economy, that’s saying a lot.”

In addition to the dramatic increase in usage of electronic materials, Kentucky’s public libraries provided 4,858 computers for public use. In a world where technology is necessary for so many activities, the library is the only place where many Kentuckians have access to a computer to search for employment, access government services, prepare school assignments, and take tests among many other tasks.

“By providing Kentuckians access to technology along with a wide range of services, programs and reading materials, public libraries continue to enhance their role as community and educational partners across the state,” said Wayne Onkst, state librarian and commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives.

Kentucky’s residents have also taken advantage of public library Internet access. Many Kentuckians brought their own devices to use at the library as every library system offered wireless access. More than 1.25 million wireless sessions were counted at library locations. Many other Kentuckians visited their public libraries from home, school or office through library websites and the Kentucky Virtual Library as the libraries play an increasing role in the education of Kentuckians at every level of the educational process.

The number of people registered for library cards in public libraries increased to 2,664,920 or 60 percent of Kentucky’s population. Other highlights for Kentucky public libraries included:

· 19,283,936 people visited a library building,

· 1,426,468 people attended a children’s program sponsored by the library,

· more than 25,000 groups held meetings in a public library meeting room,

· 78,242 items were borrowed from libraries across the world through interlibrary loan for Kentuckians, and

· Kentucky’s bookmobile fleet – the largest in the nation – circulated 1,690,528 items to shut-ins, homebound Kentuckians, schools and others unable to visit a library location.

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