Online at Last

Desperate times call for digital access!

I have a confession. I’ve never read an e-book.

Ordinarily, that wouldn’t be a big deal. Lots of people prefer “real” books. Some don’t know what e-books are.

But I know. I know about all the Library’s digital resources, and I have usage and impact stats about each of them. I can make a strong case for how and why the Library is helping to narrow the digital divide and make resources available 24/7 online to people throughout Mecklenburg County and beyond, and why these efforts need your support.

You see, I work for the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library Foundation – and until now, I haven’t personally used many of the resources I know are valuable.

But thanks to COVID-19, I’m about to.

Faced with time to fill at home, my stack of books won’t last long, and my 12-year-old is perilously close to the bottom of hers. Desperate times call for digital access, and today was the day.

Here’s what I discovered: stats don’t tell the whole story!

I started with Hoopla, which offers e-books, music and video, and can be used on a phone – because obviously, I don’t have a dedicated e-reading device! I followed very simple instructions and was logged in and ready to go faster than walking from the parking lot to the Library door on a busy Saturday. Up to ten borrows each month (increased during this period of high demand), no lines, no waiting – and no waiting lists! Materials even “return” themselves when they’re due, and they don’t get lost under the seat of the car.

Materials on Hoopla are easy to search and sort, the selection is broad, and I never left the couch. I was worried about reading print on a phone, but you can adjust the font size, line height, even color and margins to suit your device and your eyes. Hoopla remembers your place when you close a book or stop a movie, and a cute little animation simulates pages turning. It’s all very intuitive and surprisingly pleasant.

The real test – of both usability and coolness – was the teen test. I gave my daughter a list of Library digital resources and asked her to set up and try whatever looked interesting. She shrugged and chose Kanopy, a video-streaming service. It was up and running in seconds. She easily navigated the search tools and was very quickly watching a movie on my laptop. I guess she found something she liked. Actually, I know she did because she’s still watching it.

Which brings me to a final point. Everyone in the house can have their own Library card – and if they don’t already, it’s easy to sign up online – so everyone can watch, read or hear something different, on their own device, on their preferred platform. In these days of physical distancing, that’s very helpful.

But for those magical moments when everyone agrees, you can also watch together. Just plug an HDMI cable from your laptop to your television and VOILA! Your Library’s world of resources, free with your Library card, on the biggest screen in your living room.

Enjoy. I know we will.

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