Allegheny County Libraries raise funds to support eLibrary as demand rises | Sponsored | Sponsored Content | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Allegheny County Libraries raise funds to support eLibrary as demand rises

This time last year, when movie theaters, sports arenas, public pools, bowling alleys, and bars were all closed, there was still one place open for entertainment — the Allegheny County eLibrary. In those scary early days of the pandemic, many of us turned to entertainment for diversion. Audiobooks, eBooks, and streaming services were a welcome respite from the news and a chance to (mentally) escape the four walls most of us were confined to. And Pittsburghers sure did dive into eBooks and audiobooks, with checkouts skyrocketing at Allegheny County Libraries.

Libraries in the county share physical materials through a countywide shipping service, which means you can request a book and have it delivered to any library in the county. Less well known is that the 46 public libraries in the county also share eResources through downloadable and streaming entertainment sites. Patrons can download an eBook from the eLibrary site for free just like you would borrow a physical library book. But the eLibrary is much more than books. You can look up your ancestry, read eMagazines, use a language learning app, take a personal development course, or look up reliable medical information.

The use of eResources has been steadily increasing each year. As more people discover the convenience of eBooks and audiobooks, libraries in the county and indeed across the country, have been increasing their collection of eResources. During the pandemic, eResource check-outs have increased to levels higher than any previous benchmarks. In April of 2019, 97,867 eBooks were checked out by Allegheny County residents. In 2020, check outs increased by 62%, with 158,067 eBooks loaned in April! 493,105 more eBooks were checked out in 2020 than in 2019. Audiobook check outs spiked by 32% in May 2020, compared to the previous year. As institutions dedicated to providing free opportunities for entertainment and education, these numbers are a validation of libraries’ enduring position in communities, even in a digital world.
Digital resources expand access by allowing residents to visit the library anytime, from anywhere. Whether it’s students or teachers accessing digital databases, caregivers reading a book on their tablet after the kids have finally gone to sleep, or listening to audiobooks while away on vacation, the eLibrary lets people do the library their way. All of these eResources are available for free with your library card (which you can receive by signing up online or visiting any library in person), but they can be costly for libraries to purchase and maintain. The average eBook cost for your library is $15, for a limited number of circulations. With 1.7 million eBooks checked out in Allegheny County in 2020, that’s a lot of dollars.


Which is why Allegheny County libraries are launching the eLibrary For All campaign. From May 1-7, libraries are calling on residents to help make sure these resources are available to everyone by supporting your eLibrary with a donation. All funds raised will go to the purchase of additional eResources, benefiting all county residents. With more funds, libraries can invest in a wider and more robust collection, expand offerings and increase the number of copies available. So, if you’ve borrowed an eBook, listened to an audiobook, or love that it’s available for others, you can support the eLibrary by making a donation at https://elibraryforall.org.

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