As the only official bilingual province, with a third of its population French-speaking, the New Brunswick Public Library Service has developed new ways to access books.
“Our public library service strives to offer the most up-to-date resources and demand told us that the public was eager to embrace new technology,” says Sylvie Nadeau, the executive director of the NB Public Library Service. “We then looked for ways to provide valuable bilingual services for New Brunswickers who enjoy reading on their tablets, eReaders and other mobile devices.”
One of the projects, which the public library service team has been working on since 2010, is the implementation of an electronic library. It allows New Brunswick library card holders to check out, download and read or listen to eBooks and audiobooks immediately or transfer them to portable devices.
Electronic Library New Brunswick is made possible through a subscription to Overdrive, a software company that manages library lending. Overdrive is a leader in the market of digital resources lending through libraries. The subscription covers the software and management of loans and NB Public Library Service purchases the materials that are made available for loan in the electronic library. Overdrive provides the most comprehensive English/French bilingual experience currently available to libraries.
The library service staff has also been instrumental in the implementation of the electronic library. “Our staff have created device guides in English and French on our website to supplement the resources from Overdrive,” said Nadeau.
The guides offer an overview of how to use the service on a variety of the most common devices including Android Smartphones, Android tablets, BlackBerry Playbook, iPad, iPhone, Kobo (Button, Touch and VOX), the Samsung Galaxy Tab and Sony Reader. “These guides are available on the Web and are handed out in libraries in response to questions from the public, and they have helped staff who are less comfortable with technology be able to more easily assist the public,” explained Nadeau.
The Public Library Service team continually strives to improve the quality of the collection to meet customers’ needs. One of the main partners is the New Brunswick Public Libraries Foundation, which made a donation to purchase new e-books and downloadable audio books just in time to beef up collections for the high demand Christmas season in 2012. “The Foundation has always strived to support the New Brunswick Public Library Service’s collection,” said Brian Hudson, chair of the Foundation. “The donations to the Electronic Library acknowledged the demand for electronic formats, and the increased usage shows us it was a good investment.”
The team is also working closely with colleagues in Quebec to monitor the development of a made-in-Quebec French e-book tool. “A solution is currently being piloted for libraries in Quebec. New Brunswick wants to be first in line to access improved French content outside of Quebec,” Nadeau said.
The reception that Electronic Library New Brunswick has received has been phenomenal. “This service is a significant technological step forward for our libraries,” added Nadeau. “We are pleased with every effort that makes it easier for the people of this province to have access to books, whether they are electronic or physical.”
The Electronic Library is a complement to existing public library services that provide access to a provincial collection of more than 1.8 million items, as well as to programs and services.
The Electronic Library constitutes less than one percent of the library service’s overall collection. The Electronic Library circulated 47,458 items in 2011-12, while the library service’s print books and audiovisual materials reach more than 2.7 million circulations annually.
“Our most recent statistics indicate that New Brunswickers have adopted electronic formats as a new addition to the offerings of our public library service. Since the launch of the Electronic Library in 2010, the circulation of material has more than doubled and was at 109,604 in 2012-13. It is definitely a growing market that we have to consider in our service planning,” Nadeau said.
More than 16,000 e-books and downloadable audio books are available through the Electronic Library in both official languages.
“Increasing the collection and modernizing our services is one way we are supporting lifelong learning and enhancing quality of life for New Brunswickers,” concluded Nadeau.