News Feature

Blue Hill
Originally published in The Weekly Packet, February 27, 2014
Blue Hill Public Library continues to expand digital services

A researcher at Blue Hill Public Library in Maine

Alison Allen uses a public computer at the Blue Hill Public Library for research on February 25, while Katie Harriman takes advantage of the wireless service on her laptop.

Photo by Anne Berleant Order prints of selected PBP photos.

by Ruby Nash

An often-overlooked source of modernity, libraries across the country are constantly looking for new ways to serve patrons now seeking more than just books. Peninsula residents seeking information about, and access to, the ever-changing digital landscape may find what they are looking for at the Blue Hill Public Library, thanks to a number of services recently added to its offerings.

“These new services are exciting because they are furthering our mission. We work to both anticipate and follow the needs and interests of our patrons,” said Director Rich Boulet. “We are serving patrons in the ways they need and from anywhere. They can be far away on vacation, working from home, or living here as seasonal residents, and they can still access the Blue Hill Library from anywhere.”

The library already offers an entire “Digital Collection” including e-books and audiobooks through Maine InfoNet, as well as access to Freegal, a database of digital music with which patrons can download, and keep, three free songs a week or 12 songs a month.

The library’s newest service, which began February 1, is called One Click Digital. It is an audiobook database that spans a variety of devices, be it mp3 player, smartphone, tablet, or computer. While the library still offers Maine InfoNet’s Download Library as a resource, One Click Digital is based on a multi-user platform. In other words, there are no wait times for audiobooks of interest. Several patrons can listen to the same book at the same time, which is also part of Blue Hill Library’s pledge to the community, according to Shelley Latham, development associate. “Our motivation is to ensure that no one is left out and that everybody can participate in the technological culture.”

While the new technological culture may make life easier, it doesn’t always make life simpler. Glitches are not unheard of, and the library staff say they increasingly deal with smoothing the transition between service and technological complexities. To help with the transition, staff members have been given opportunities to work with various devices, such as the Kindle, to better aid patrons when problems arise.

As a way to integrate the would-be user with the technology, the library hosts public events, such as the upcoming “Technology Petting Zoo” (March 29 from 1 to 3 p.m.) where community members can test out a collection of e-reader and tablets.

One does not have to be a patron to participate in the event, which is true for many other services at the library. Last year, 365 independent, community-sponsored meetings were held at the library, in addition to the 434 library-sponsored programs.

As technology increasingly allows people to work from home or to isolate themselves in their devices, BHPL is actively working to keep human connections by providing ample brick-and-mortar space to access the digital world. For example, the Young Adult books section offers round tables, comfy benches, and electrical outlets where young people can surf the Internet together. “It’s been very popular from the start,” Boulet said of the space.

Public computer users at Blue Hill Public Library in maine

Sarah Cole (in forefront) signs up for computer and Internet use at the Blue Hill Public Library on February 25, as does Jane Kidder, a librarian visitng Blue Hill from Gray Public Library.

Photo by Anne Berleant
A researcher at Blue Hill Public Library in Maine

Alison Allen uses a public computer at the Blue Hill Public Library for research on February 25, while Katie Harriman takes advantage of the wireless service on her laptop.

Photo by Anne Berleant
Wireless users at Blue Hill Public Library in Maine

From left, Stephen Foster and Malcom Herrick avail themselves of the Blue Hill Public Library’s available technology—specifically its wireless services—on February 25.

Photo by Anne Berleant