By Robbie Ward
TUPELO – Lee County’s library collection of eBooks has grown from nothing a year ago to about 580 now and will continue to expand from recent financial support.
The expansion is part of a growing trend in libraries statewide to bring books to patrons in another format beyond traditional paperbacks.
Instead of physically checking out books, patrons can download versions of the books to their phones, laptops, tablets and other electronic devices. The library also offers a limited collection of about 20 downloadable audiobooks.
Lee County Library Director Jeff Tomlinson says about 100 are checked out each month out of the 600 options available for download.
“We’re doing our best to find ways to keep buying new materials,” Tomlinson said.
Recently, the Friends of the Lee County Library donated $3,400 to expand the library’s eBooks and downloadable audiobooks collection. Tomlinson has requested an additional $5,000 in funding from both the city of Tupelo and Lee County to help add to the library’s digital collections.
Patrons sign up to check out the downloadable books by signing up on the library’s website, www.li.lib.ms.us, or visiting the library for assistance from staff. Up to five eBooks or audiobooks can be checked out at a time, and each disappears from electronic devices after the checkout period ends.
The Pew Research Center released a study in 2012 showing more readers using digital formats and a slight decrease in print readers. Jennifer Wann Walker, interim executive director of the Mississippi Library Commission, said just more than half of the libraries in the state offer eBooks, and 16 public library systems in the state, including the Lee-Itawamba Library System, received up to $10,000 in 2012 to buy eBooks.
While more eBooks will become a part of libraries, Walker said people shouldn’t worry about them replacing physical books anytime soon.
“Public libraries will offer both print and eBooks to their communities for years to come,” she said. “And readers will continue to switch back and forth, reading both print and eBooks.”