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The Bookmobile is Back in Town

State of the Arts

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A roaming bookmobile hits the brakes at Shelburne’s Pierson Library on Tuesday, but forget the jumbled van full of kid-lit tomes from your childhood. The nationally touring Digital Bookmobile, created by Cleveland-based digital distributor OverDrive, is a riff on that blast from the past. Its whopping 74-foot-long 18-wheeler is packed with the latest in literature — virtual, that is.

The trend of downloading traditional library materials digitally — in the form of audiobook, eBook, video or music files — is steadily rising. “We’re in the top 10 [Vermont] libraries [for] distribution in digital audiobooks,” says Kip Roberson, director of the Pierson. “Books are certainly still No. 1 for us,” he continues, but notes that an increasing number of patrons seek digital audiobooks to listen to on their way to work, for example.

In response, the Pierson Library, as part of a group of libraries around the state called the Green Mountain Library Consortium, has upped its online services. The Consortium’s downloadable audiobook collection, dubbed Listen Up! Vermont, has more than 2000 titles that can be accessed anywhere, even past library hours. Want to “read” Great Expectations on your iPod while pedaling down the bike path? Users just need a library card, Internet access and the mobile device.

Filled with interactive computer stations — and a couple of OverDrive reps to guide the way — the bookmobile allows bibliophiles to explore the downloads their library cards can access. For the uninitiated, a “gadget gallery” featuring iPods, Sony Readers and Zunes demonstrates which newfangled devices are compatible with the Internet-based services.

It may be a digital world out there, but are tech-savvy kids the only ones who will benefit from these offerings? Roberson says no. “We have all ages asking questions here about it. I’m hoping [the bookmobile will] draw a crowd from every age group.”

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