MA libraries are participating in an e-book pilot program

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Reprinted courtesy of: Comunicas Shrewsbury (Massachusetts)

By: Brian Benson

Several local libraries are part of a new state pilot program designed to explore different platforms and models for electronic book lending in response to growing demand for the service.

Fifty-one libraries statewide are participating in the six-month pilot project.

"This is a direct response to our member libraries throughout Massachusetts who have made it clear that eContent is a statewide imperative," Gregory Pronevitz, executive director of the Mass. Library System said in a press release. "This project is our first step aimed at fixing that problem for our entire state and the wide range of libraries we serve."

Local town libraries involved include ones in Bellingham, Milford, Natick, Shrewsbury, Sudbury and Wellesley. Libraries at Framingham State University and Fay School in Southborough are also participating. The pilot program started in November, though some libraries have different launch dates.

The state is working with vendors Baker & Taylor and BiblioLabs as part of the pilot program. The program is funded through $150,000 of federal funds from the Institute for Museums and Library Services and $165,000 from the Massachusetts Library System, according to a press release.

State leaders eventually hope to "create a single eBook platform and shared collection for all Massachusetts libraries and their patrons," according to a blog about the effort.

They also hope to ensure libraries have perpetual access to eBooks, improve the experience for patrons and provide ways to upload local content, according to the blog.

"There’s definitely a lot more devices out there and a lot more demand to be able to carry (books) on your tablet," said Jennifer Pike, technical services supervisor at the Milford Town Library.

Pike said patrons will have more access to eBooks when Milford officially launches the pilot in mid-January. Staff are currently undergoing training, she said.

Jane Finlay, assistant director of Morse Institute Library in Natick, which plans to go live with the pilot in February, said it's important for libraries to offer an array of eBooks to patrons for free like they do with printed books.

"Just as libraries played a big role in making information available (to people of lower economic status), we need to continue to do that with eBooks," Finlay said.

Finlay said librarians are seeking feedback from patrons about the pilot program.

She said lawmakers' support for increased funding for eBooks is critical to improving eBook services.

Karen Tobin, assistant director of the Goodnow Library in Sudbury, added, "We’re looking for the best way to serve our patrons since the demand for eBooks is constantly increasing."