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Digital Library Memberships Soar, as Councils Adapt

LGA calls for more cash, publishers to ease restrictions

By claudia glover

The coronavirus lockdown has seen the number of users taking out digital library memberships across the UK jump by up to 770 percent.

With libraries closed, many councils have made digital-only libraries available; allowing users to download e-books and audio books for free.

Now the LGA is calling on the government and publishers to “unlock” £5 million in funding to make more books and audiobooks available to the public, as well as calling on publishers to relax licensing rules that limit the number of times they can lend out audio books.

Councils are currently providing additional online resources under the hashtag #LibrariesFromHome.

Hampshire Country Council has seen a 770 percent increase in new digital users, Cornwall Council a 630 percent jump and Hertfordshire County Council a rise of 332 percent in those signing up for digital library memberships.

The LGA is also calling for publishers to temporarily offer flexibility on their pricing in order to increase the choice for users, reflecting the current increase in demand as pandemic continues to impact everyday life.

The audiobook industry has gained popularity in recent years and is now experiencing even higher engagement as people look for new ways to pass time. According to Deloitte, 2020 will see the global audiobook market grow by 20% to 3.5 billion downloads, and the podcast market will show 30 percent growth, reaching 1.1 billion.

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Library Connected boss Isobel Hunter told Computer Business Review: “We will be presenting a coherent online offer to library members, including e-borrowing of books and audio and access to online information resources.

“Library staff across the country have leapt at the challenge to create their own #librariesfromhome programmes. There has already been a 600% surge in e-membership and thousands of people joining Kingston Libraries storytime.”

Libraries all over the world have been working hard to provide increased access to digital content so that residents can help their psychological and mental health through the use of free literature.

According to the International Federation of Library Association, the National Library of Spain is promoting its digital content to support education, while the Granby Library in Quebec, Canada is releasing content focused on learning a new skill.

The Library of Estonia is catering for analogue book lovers with an electronic bookcase outside its gates, where ordered books can be accessed day or night.

Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Chair of the LGA’s Culture, Tourism and Sport Board, said: “The number of people registering to use digital library services across some parts of the country has rocketed. Councils are doing everything they can to protect their residents’ wellbeing during this difficult time. Extra funding would help libraries extend their licences and meet this growing demand.”

Isobel Hunter added: “We are already working with members to focus on recovery after the pandemic and reopening library buildings as the heart of communities once more. We hope the uplift in the digital library offer will be one good outcome from this terrible pandemic”.

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