e-Library Initiatives: Online lending of e-Media at Public Libraries
- adapt public libraries to the digital field through
- supporting and expanding their collections to also encompass varied offerings of digital cultural resources such as e-books, e-papers, e-audio and e-videos;
- ensuring free and easy access to digital cultural resources, in particular also in rural areas, by introducing new online-lending modalities and targeting new audiences.
Austria has a comprehensive network of libraries: 1,062 municipalities have them. Hence, libraries play a key role in in the provision of literature and culture. Granting free and direct access to varied offerings of books, magazines and digital media for children, adolescents and adults, they enable people to use media which they cannot afford or to which they have not previously been introduced – regardless of the person’s social, economic or cultural background. To facilitate the transition of public libraries to the digital age, several initiatives have been launched that also strive to reach out to new user groups.
Lower Austria’s initiative NOE-BOOK.AT: Launched in 2013, this initiative enables users to borrow e-media such as e-books, e-audio and e-videos from around 190 participating public libraries in Lower Austria via the central online portal www.noe-book.at. Registered users can borrow and download up to 6 e-media items simultaneously for free to their own digital devices (PC, e-reader, tablet, mp3 player or smartphone) vie the online portal or the designated app.
Similar initiatives have been launched by other Laender (federal provinces). An example is Tyrol’s 2015 launch of the portal www.onleihe.at/tirol, which enables all holders of a valid library card from one of the participating 85 Tyrolian public libraries or the University and Regional Library of Tyrol to borrow digital resources online 24/7. Given the alpine topography of Tyrol, this e-library is considered an important tool to provide quick and easy access to literature even outside the province’s urban areas.
In addition to these online lending services, it should be noted that public libraries are also themselves information, communication and technology centres. They grant access to new information and communication technologies and provide assistance to users who would otherwise be barred from these technical developments.
- an increase and bundling of public libraries’ digital media resources, i.a. via common online platforms and lending modalities
- an increase in the number of active users, in particular in rural and remote areas
- attraction of new audiences / reading groups
For the above mentioned examples
- Lower Austria: EUR 120,000 for the launch of the project; EUR 100,000 in the subsequent years;
- Tyrol: EUR 205,000
To date, the online portal noe-book.at in Lower Austria can boast more than 6,000 active users who have borrowed a total of over 50,000 media items. The expectation that these digital offering would appeal in particular to youth and male users has not been confirmed. On the contrary: over 75 % of all users are female, and this online lending tool is also surprisingly successful among older users, with most users being between 41 and 50 years old, followed by users from the 51–60 and 31–40 age groups.