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Check it out: ‘Library’s ‘digital realm’ complicates purchases

By Jodi Schultz / For the Enterprise -Sometimes, (for instance, when the calendar swears it’s spring, but the temperature is slowly rising to zero), I ask myself why a sane person would choose to live here.

How could so many seemingly intelligent people subject themselves to this land of eternal winter?

I usually take awhile to answer. Perhaps my brain activity has slowed due to freezing, or I don’t hear myself the first time I ask because my ears are covered with layers of winter gear. Eventually, though, I always arrive at the same conclusion.

Park Rapids is an amazing place to live and work. Those of us lucky enough to call it home are surrounded by nature’s beauty and immersed in the nature of beautiful people.

Area residents pool their energy and resources to provide events and create a feeling of community and a positive experience for visitors.

Lines are blurred as businesses, organizations, and individuals come together over a common goal. Currently, we are abuzz with preparations for the Governor’s Fishing Opener. Soon, our little spot of paradise may not be such a well-kept secret.

Our library system is designed with a similar model of neighborly goodwill. We extend reciprocal borrowing privileges beyond the Kitchigami branches and throughout the rest of our state. Unfortunately, we are not able to provide electronic book access to non-residents of Kitchigami Regional Library System.

The reason for this limitation has to do with the difference between the ways our digital items and our other materials are acquired.

When we purchase hard copies of books and magazines, we receive the items along with complete ownership. We can choose to lend them to our residents and we can choose to lend them to our neighbors who live outside our library system.

It becomes much more complicated when we move into the digital realm. Libraries cannot simply purchase electronic books. We need to choose a platform (ours is 3M Cloud Library) and sign a contract with the platform provider. We then purchase each electronic book individually.

Our platform contract stipulates that our lending permission extends only to residents of the Kitchigami region. Our contract dollar amount is determined based on that population. Similarly, Kitchigami residents cannot use the e-book services available in neighboring library regions (for example Lake Agassiz), because Lake Agassiz’s platform provider, Overdrive, stipulates the same geographic restriction in their contract.

As exciting as it is to be able to offer e-books through the library, it can also be confusing, since the model for purchasing and lending e-books is so different from traditional library materials.

So far there are only a handful of vendors who offer e-book services for libraries and all are set up in a similar way. Hopefully, changes in technology will bring improvements which will enable libraries to lend e-materials with as few restrictions as we have when we lend traditional materials.

In the meantime, I’ll pull my hat snugly over my ears, and remind myself that I’m truly glad to be exactly where I am.