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Suffolk Libraries marks the increasing popularity of eLibrary services

Over half a million items have now been borrowed from our eLibrary. In 2017/18, our customers borrowed nearly 107,000 eBooks and 29,000 eAudiobooks from OverDrive and BorrowBox, downloaded 24,000 eMagazines from RBdigital, and 52,000 songs from Freegal. They also streamed 109,000 songs from Freegal.

It’s also now four years since we launched our first ground-breaking eReader lending service. The pilot involved lending Nook devices at Thurston Library. At the time it was thought to be the first service of its kind in the UK, and we sought advice from libraries in the US on how best to deliver the scheme.

The service was set up to support the growing popularity of eBooks and to give people the chance to test drive devices before they bought their own. It allowed customers to easily sample our excellent range of eBooks. Gainsborough and Woodbridge libraries now also lend eReaders to the public.

In 2015, Halesworth Library became the first library to lend iPads to customers. This was also thought to be the first scheme of its kind in the UK and allowed customers to access all eLibrary services using these devices. 12 of our libraries now lend out iPads to take home, and two libraries lend out iPads within the library, at no cost to the borrower.

Our iPads have been borrowed 450 times and our customers have found them a useful way of getting to grips with new technology to access eBooks and other online services. One of the first customers to borrow an eReader, a 90-year-old woman with a visual impairment and arthritis, found it easier to hold than a large print book and benefitted from being able to increase the size of the text.

Paul Howarth, Suffolk Libraries stock and content manager, said: “We’ve seen a huge growth in the popularity of our online library services over the past few years and it’s something we’ve supported by adding new services and expanding the choice available. It’s very important that as a library service we continue to innovate and provide a wider choice of services and a range of options for people to access books and information.”