Tulsa City-County Library beefs up e-book collection
BY NOUR HABIB World Scene Writer
Monday, December 05, 2011
12/05/11 at 3:48 AM
Almost 70 percent of libraries in America offer e-books to their readers. About a year ago, the Tulsa City-County Library system became a part of that statistic.
According to a study by the American Library Association released in July, 67.2 percent of libraries in America offer e-books. Five years ago, when the ALA first began this particular survey, that number was 38.3 percent.
"It's grown continually since then and took a big leap even just in the past two years, when it's gone up 12 percent," said Judy Hoffman of the ALA's Office of Research and Statistics.
The Tulsa City-County Library began its e-book collection a year ago but only "really started beefing up the collection in the last two months," said Rosemary Moran, the library's Collections Development manager.
TCCL has added roughly 5,000 e-books to the collection since September, going from 3,200 copies to 8,200. Moran said the library hopes to have 10,000 copies by the spring.
"We dedicated quite a bit of money out of the (Tulsa Library) Trust money that was available for materials to beefing up our e-book collection," Moran said.
But Moran said they are trying to make "wise purchases."
"We're not just buying anything that comes out," she said. "We're trying to buy things that our customers will actually use."
Since beginning the collection, the library has loaned out more than 48,000 e-books, with more than 16,000 library users checking them out, Moran said.
And the popularity of the collection is growing as the library acquires more titles, she said.
But there are limitations on the titles libraries can acquire, Moran said.
Of the six major American publishers, three don't offer their e-books to libraries, Moran said. One does, but only allows libraries to loan out an e-book 26 times before having to purchase a new copy.
Part of the problem is that neither libraries nor publishers know exactly where the e-book trend is heading, nor what the perfect business model will be.
"There's always been some issues with publishers and libraries because a library will buy a book and check it out to 50 people, and some publishers think that those 50 people might have bought the book," Moran said.
E-books also pose a different issue for publishers, she said.
"If you buy a hardback copy of a book it's going to wear out at some point and you're going to want to replace it," Moran said. "Well, an e-book never wears out. So (publishers) could make one sale and we'd have the book forever, and they wouldn't get any more money out of us."
Carrie Russell of the ALA said the library and publishing communities are working together to try to find a model that works.
"Everything is rapidly changing; things are up in the air," Russell said. "Libraries understand that things are murky right now."
Russell said a variety of business models would be most beneficial to the library community because libraries are not all the same. Among the things that could be considered are subscription models - paying for unlimited use of books for a certain period of time - or pay per use models, she said.
Despite the difficulties of obtaining some titles, Moran said TCCL's collection is a good one.
"There's a huge body of work that is available, and we're doing our best to fill the need," she said.
E-books also have their perks for libraries, such as not taking up shelf space and arriving instantaneously upon order, if they've already been published.
The library's e-book collection, along with other services offered through its website - such as tutoring and job-hunting services - allow the library to serve its customers in more ways.
"We're looking at things that we can make available through our website, so that people can use the library without coming to the library," Moran said.
"Everybody in Tulsa County supports the library system; we're supported by property taxes, so all citizens of the county support the system," she said. "So we try in turn to serve their needs."
10 most popular TCCL e-books
1. "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett
2. "The Confession" by John Grisham
3. "Smokin' Seventeen" by Janet Evanovich
4. "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" by Stieg Larsson
5. "The Lincoln Lawyer" by Michael Connelly
6. "The Black Echo" by Michael Connelly
7. "Witch & Wizard" by James Patterson
8. "I Still Dream About You" by Fannie Flagg
9. "Decision Points" by George W. Bush
10. "16 Lighthouse Road" by Debbie Macomber
By the numbers
Total number of U.S. library locations: 16,671
Percent of U.S. libraries offering ebooks: 67.2
Percent of U.S. urban libraries offering e-books: 87
Percent of U.S. suburban libraries offering e-books: 79.8
Percent of U.S. rural libraries offering e-books: 51.7
Number of e-books in Tulsa City-County Library collection: 8,279
Number of TCCL customers who have used the library's e-book collection: 16,000
Number of check-outs of e-books in TCCL's collection: 48,664
Sources: American Library Association, Tulsa City-County Library
Original Print Headline: Tulsa library beefs up e-book collection
Nour Habib 918-699-8838