North Alabama libraries seeing more people, but digital demands still a steep hike

Digital services can cost nearly $100,000 a year for some libraries.

Posted: Oct 19, 2020 5:23 PM
Updated: Oct 19, 2020 6:50 PM

In North Alabama, librarians said they're seeing more visitors during the pandemic.

But they said the costs of keeping up with digital demands can be close to $100,000.

WAAY 31 learned what the Huntsville-Madison County Public Library is doing to keep up.

Ever since the Huntsville-Madison County Library had to close its doors due to coronavirus, since they reopened, they've refocused their books to going to something like audio books or digital platforms for people to access what they need from the library so everyone can stay safe.

"Because we were actually closed to the public until May 6, we saw the form of increase come in digital. But really our print circulation is also up," said Melanie Thornton.

Thornton is the director of public relations at the Huntsville-Madison County Library. She told us since they shifted their focus to digital trends, the library now has a platform called "Hoopla Digital." You can use it to access e-books, audio books, movies and more.

"It does cost us an average of $3,500 a month, so the Huntsville Library Foundation actually raised money to refund it for an entire year," said Thornton.

Thornton told us some items on the platform cost as much as $80, but now, they're available for free to anyone with a library card. It's all made possible from the foundation raising over $130,000 and gifting it to HMPL so they can have access for the entire year.

While some people are staying online, Thornton told us they are seeing more people come in to get their items in person. She's thankful they were able to adjust and get the funds they need to stay a reliable resource to many.

"Parents are probably really wanting to limit screen time for kids, especially right now, so they're not taking advantage of the digital part," she said.

The library is still operating on limited hours and they do have curbside pickup if you're not able to come in. But, they say the digital options are always in place.

In addition to the library foundation gifting the money for digital services, they also gifted the libraries in the county $1,000 each to buy more print books.

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