iPatron: Librarian Dorothy Houlihan helps Ray McDonald learn how to check out electronic books using his iPad at the River Forest Public Library on Thursday, Nov. 3.Photos by J. GEIL/Photo Editor

They were among the first in their consortium to get Kindles in the fall of 2008, and, several years later, staff at the River Forest Public Library is still focused on bringing technology to patrons.

“Back when everybody was scared of Kindle … we broke the ice, I think,” said library Director Sophia Anastos of the library’s move to buy the electronic reading devices, or e-readers.

Now the library’s catalogue of audiobooks, e-books, music and videos tallies close to 7,000 items and will be the fastest growing collection into the future, Anastos said. Circulation numbers have been doubling every month.

The library recently held its second “technology petting zoo” event, which gave about 25 visitors a chance to try out iPads, Nooks and other brands of e-readers. Circulating e-readers with pre-loaded content used to be the library’s way to introduce technology to patrons, said Hadley Ford, an information technology and digital resources librarian.

But with the price of e-readers coming down, the library’s approach has been more “take and try,” Ford said. Since the library started its Media on Demand service in the last few years, patrons can choose their own items to check out and download them onto e-readers.

“At some point you want people to explore technology and integrate it into their lives,” Ford said. “We want the focus to be on trying technology, not intimidating anymore.”

Most people are open-minded and interested in e-readers, staff members said, though there are always people who prefer regular books.

This year, the library partnered with District 90 as part of the district’s iPad initiative for eighth-graders at Roosevelt Middle School. Students received iPads for the year that are owned by the district, and the library sent them software to be able to download books and other materials on the devices.

D90 Superintendent Ed Condon, who attended the technology petting zoo, said it’s been great to see students at the library using Media on Demand.

As digital items make up more and more of the library’s collection in the future, Anastos said it could lead to increased shelf space and possible competition with services like Amazon, which is looking at a model allowing people to borrow books for a fee.

“Do we compete, complement or innovate and invent?” Anastos asked. “Answering these questions will be a fun challenge.”

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