PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

August 13, 2013

Going digital; libraries turn the page

Mary Meaux
The Port Arthur News

— Browsing the public library has taken on a new meaning as libraries work to keep up with the changing lifestyles of a modern age.

The bookshelves filled with volumes of hard back and paper back books and reference materials are still there but now they are joined by what seems to be an endless supply of digital technology. The Marion and Ed Hughes Public Library in Nederland now offers a mobile app for smartphones, iPhones and other devices that will provide access to the library 24/7, Port Arthur Public Library has an art gallery featuring eight flat screen TV’s and are currently exhibiting the works of four artists on those screens free of charge, Port Neches Public Library is working on an oral history archival project that will connect to digital records at the library as well as books and other materials and Groves Public Library recently purchased a scanner so they can help people searching for a job connect with employers by scanning in resumes.

Victoria Klehn, director at the Nederland library, summed up the situation.

“We’ve always had the information available and will continue to provide these services so people can make use of the library but we are now finding new ways to connect people to the information,” Klehn said.

 Libraries in Mid and South Jefferson County are working hard to keep up with the needs of their respective communities. Through the years VHS tapes made way for DVD’s then Blu-ray, archival of newspapers went from strictly paper copies to microfiche with changes on the horizon to go toward digital and digital databases have replaced the old card catalogue.

Deborah Harper, director at Groves Public Library, didn’t realize when she was learning to use a computer it would end up being half of the library’s services.

On a recent sunny day she looked out her window and saw a family at the park nearby; children were playing while the parents were taking advantage of the wi-fi service.

“People will park there are night sometimes to use the wireless,” Harper said. “And one day we had a man bring his whole computer and plug it up (at park) and use the wireless.”

Several of the local libraries participate in TexShare, a consortium of Texas libraries joining together to share print and electronic materials, purchase online resources, and combine staff expertise. TexShare services are available to patrons of participating member libraries all across Texas, regardless of institution type, size, or location. The consortium is administered by the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, according to the website.

Through TexShare, library patrons can check out the Job and Career Accelerator, perform genealogy research with Heritage Quest, search for materials and books through Discovery Texas and more.

Jose Martinez, director at Port Arthur Public Library is excited about several new projects including the transition from microfiche to digital as well as a new database for children called BookFlix.

“It will include fiction and non-fiction, book or video,” Martinez said. “It will be beneficial for the community of Port Arthur and link us to 2,000 to 3,000 books and materials we don’t have in our collection.”

Port Arthur is also looking at the idea of allowing patrons to check-out a laptop. The service would be for in-house use only for up to two hours. The user could use a flash drive with the laptop and eventually be able to print. But this is in the very early stages, he added.

“I think it is a plus, keeping our community up front technology-wise and providing resources a person can use,” he said.

E-mail: mmeaux@panews.com

Twitter: MaryMeauxPANews