Even when physically shut, Army libraries stay open online
March 22, 2013
ANSBACH, Germany (March 21, 2013) -- Libraries and the media they house have changed considerably. Cuneiform clay tablets have been discovered in ancient Mesopotamia. Woodblock printing and movable type moved books away from manuscript into the printed books libraries use today.
The 20th century brought other innovations such as microfilm, audio books and video. In the 21st century, another media phenomenon has taken hold of libraries: digital media. Though brick-and-mortar libraries still house physical books, now libraries hold access to a wealth of books, research material, magazines, audio books, music, film and television housed as binary code on remote servers.
U.S. Army Garrison Ansbach's libraries and other libraries across the Army have kept up with this trend with the Army Digital Media Library. This means Army library patrons can access more than just a catalog of what books the library has on hand, but they may access the books themselves almost instantly.
"We like to think of it as a green alternative," said Adam Firling, library technician. "They're lightweight, they're portable. They don't take up a lot of space."
"We have items that will go into all the standard e-book readers," said Mike Colarusso, librarian. "This is 24/7. It's a pretty stable vendor -- rarely has an outage -- and this is worldwide 365. The library never closes. As long as you have been to the library, established your account, input the information correctly, and you're able to log into your physical account, you can get e-books 24/7."
Within this digital library there are 20,614 e-books of different formats. Much like physical copies of the books, customers share a finite copy of digital books because of digital rights management. On highly popular books, this means customers will still have to wait for a book. As this service is spread across the entire U.S. Army worldwide, some highly popular books may have a wait list in the triple digits.
"We're suffering from our own success so to speak," said Colarusso. "It's very popular. We get the word out."
In addition to e-books, there are also thousands of mp3- and wma-format audiobooks, hundreds of videos and hundreds of musical albums.
The impetus for the program began with the question of how to get books and other material downrange to Soldiers during Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. One solution was that charitable publishers would send boxes of new paperbacks, popular reprints, puzzle books, learning material and more to Soldiers downrange. This program is still in existence.
With the proliferation of portable media storage, establishing an electronic library was another solution.
"It's taken multiple steps to get to this level where it looks really easy at this point," said Colarusso. "But to turn the Army around from one wait point of service to how we meet the information and reading needs for a deployed force -- it took several years to get to this point."
This service naturally extended to other Army community members.
"This is Family and MWR, so they want to make using these recreational and leisure services comparable to or better than the type of services the Soldiers would expect to receive on the civilian side," said Colarusso.
Bleidorn Library will hold an orientation session for the Army Digital Media Library April 23 at noon, but the librarians are happy to work with customers on an individual basis.
"Customers are much better served coming in for an individual one-on-one," said Colarusso. "If I have four people here, it would be 40 minutes before I got every one of them a single book checked out."
To learn more, call Bleidorn Community Library at 09811-83-1740 or DSN 468-1740 or call Storck Community Library at 09841-82-4675 or DSN 468-4675. At USAG Bamberg, call Bamberg Community Library at 0951-300-1740 or DSN 469-1740. At USAG Schweinfurt, call Ledward Library at 09721-96-1740 or DSN 354-1740.
To browse the Army Digital Media Library, visit http://army.lib.overdrive.com.