DERBY CENTER — As most people indulge in the shopping frenzy that is Black Friday, folks who want to provide a more personal, budget-friendly gift might consider their local library.
Local libraries have something special to offer their members these days.
A library card opens up more than the books on the local library shelves. Today, members can borrow from a wide array of ebooks and audio books, says Maureen Badger, librarian of the Dailey Memorial Library in Derby Center.
And like the books on the shelves, these digital books can be borrowed for free.
Borrowing ebooks and audio books is a growing part of the Dailey’s membership usage, Badger says. It’s been increasing over the past decade when the digital book system was added to the resources of Vermont libraries that participate.
Anyone who wants to give the gift of ebooks and audio books need only take that special neighbor or aunt to the local library and arrange for her to get a library card that comes with access to an online library system.
Badger or her volunteers, like former librarian Barbara Whitehill, will help her sign in to the system and download the app onto a Kindle, tablet, laptop or phone.
And then with a swipe the online library opens up.
There are several apps corresponding to the two different online libraries available in Vermont, one through the Green Mountain Consortium which uses an app called Libby, and the other through an app called rbdigital. Both have thousands of digital books available to read or listen to.
Whitehill is a resident expert at the Dailey, says Badger. She was involved with other librarians in the creation of the consortium which was taken over by the Vermont Department of Libraries. She also happens to like the simplicity of rbdigital. She can help with both options.
“Her strongest area of expertise is helping people with technical questions. She is a technical guru,” Badger said.
Whitehill works at the library on Wednesdays, and Badger often encourages members ti work with Whitehill if they are starting from scratch with online access of books - like this reporter who wants to use an iPhone for audio books.
“She has helped endless people with trying to get them connected with this,” Badger said.
Whitehill is handy with computer questions too.
Someone getting the hang of a Kindle or tablet would do well to turn to Whitehill for help, Badger said.
She herself is still learning, showing how she downloads ebooks on her own Kindle and peppering Whitehill with her own questions.
Badger said she, like many others, loves the feel and ease of holding books in her hands. But sometimes there’s a waiting list for a book she wants to read, and then she goes for the “e-version” instead.
Many people also prefer ebooks when they are traveling or for space reasons.
Like books, members can make up wish lists, putting ebooks and audio books on hold for downloading when available.
The apps alert members when books are available.
Digital books are still loaned out for two weeks.
But don’t dawdle in reading them, Badger notes. Unlike librarians who might offer grace periods instead of fines, the online system just grabs the ebook back when time’s up.
And it’s nice to return it sooner, Badger says. There are often people waiting for the newest or most popular digital books available.
You don’t have to be a resident in a town to join a town’s library. Some small libraries don’t offer the link to the online library, so people can turn to a neighboring town’s library instead, Badger said.
The online library access still comes as a surprise to Vermonters, even those who are regular library borrowers.
“People in general don’t know they can take out ebooks and audibles from their library,” Badger said.
There has been a steady increase in the numbers of digital books borrowed year after year in the decade since the online system began.
Of course, many people still prefer books to hold in their hands.
Librarians like Badger are seeing an increase in the number of books being borrowed, although not in the number of people who are using their local library.
Badger speculates that people are busy, and they are taking out more books at the same time these days.
If busy people who love physical books don’t have time to browse for what they want, librarians can help.
Badger says they’d be happy to put together a book selection for a member pressed for time.
That’s what librarians love to do.