Not just books: DC public libraries see big spike in digital items being checked out

It’s a digital milestone for DC Public Library — the library system checked out it’s 2 millionth digital item of the year earlier this month, doubling last year’s total of 1 million downloads.

Tiphanie Yanique’s “Land of Love and Drowning” was the 2 millionth digital checkout, according to the library system.

“It’s a staggering number, considering the rate at which electronic material is being adopted,” said Richard Reyes-Gavilan, executive director of DC Public Library.

Reyes said this comes as more and more people opt for content they can checkout from home, which they can watch on their tablet, laptop or even their Kindle.

“People are becoming increasingly comfortable with online formats for their reading material,” he said.

Reyes-Gavilan said the library system’s digital offerings continue to grow, and include not only eBooks but also audio books, movies, digital magazines and journals.

“Popular stuff, you know, Good Housekeeping, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, you know, magazines for kids and teens,” he said.

With a library card, which you can get online, you can borrow up to 10 titles at once online and choose whether you want to have access to it for seven, 14 or 21 days. When time is up, you’ll no longer have access to the digital item.

The 2 million downloads contributed to the library’s overall circulation of 6.3 million items, including paperbacks and hardcovers in the 2022 fiscal year, which recently ended. That’s up 27% over the 2021 fiscal year.

Reyes said while it does cost the library system money to secure licensing for digital offerings, there are efficiencies that come with offering eBooks.

“With physical books, there’s a lot of processing time for books to get back on the shelf, number of staff have to handle it,” Reyes-Gavilan said.

He said for library patrons who favor getting a book from a shelf, that option isn’t going away.

“I like to talk to people and reassure them that, that our mission isn’t changing, you know, that we are still providing library services, meaning that we are still providing access to information, we’re still providing people the knowledge that they need, but we’re doing it in ways that correspond with how people want to learn,” he said.

The move by more readers to digital does have the library system looking for new ways to get people into their local library. Lectures, community events, musical performances and other activities are some of the ways people are being lured in. In January, the library also plans to start lending out items such as law equipment and tools.

“Even if you provide a smaller print collection, you begin running out of room quickly by virtue of all the great ideas that community members have for how they should be using their new spaces,” he said.

Mike Murillo

Mike Murillo is a reporter and anchor at WTOP. Before joining WTOP in 2013, he worked in radio in Orlando, New York City and Philadelphia.

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