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Llano County library board considers switching online reading service

Llano County Library Advisory Board

Members of the Llano County Library Advisory Board discussed switching from OverDrive, the county’s online reading portal, to a similar service called Bibliotheca during a Feb. 17 meeting at the Justice of the Peace Meeting Hall, 8347 RR 1431 in Buchanan Dam. Staff photo by Brigid Cooley

The Llano County Library Advisory Board signaled its intent to switch the county system’s online reading services to a different vendor during its Feb. 17 meeting, despite pushback from library patrons upset that the service has been temporarily suspended. Members moved to advise county commissioners to switch the system from OverDrive to Bibliotheca, a similar resource providing eBook and audiobook access to users.

“What it boils down to is I don’t have access to a library,” Llano resident Rose White said in an interview with “I’m sure I’m not the only one. This county has a relatively aged population, and a lot of them are isolated. (OverDrive) is one thing that can be used, and a lot of us do use it.” 

White, who has owned property in the county for 25 years, struggles with mobility and relies on the online service as her primary library resource. She previously advocated for OverDrive to be reinstated, speaking during the public comments section of previous Library Advisory Board meetings and Commissioners Court meetings. 

The Feb. 17 meeting was the first without a public comments section. Instead, Chair Gay Baskin directed visitors to send concerns and suggestions to the board’s group email address,

“The committee has worked very, very hard. It’s a very time-consuming job,” Baskin said. “I hope each of you can understand. Most of us are on two or three committees. It’s all volunteer (work), and so we’d like to use our time very wisely today.” 

The meeting, which was scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. and last two hours, adjourned 15 minutes early. 

Details surrounding the possible switch were shared by board secretary Rochelle Wells. 

Wells is a member of the collections subcommittee, which is tasked with overseeing material acquisition for the county libraries. Following the board’s Feb. 10 meeting, Wells and other subcommittee members met with librarians from two libraries using Bibliotheca: the M. Beven Eckert Memorial Library in Mason County, which switched from OverDrive in December, and BiblioTech, an all-digital library based in Bexar County. 

Staff from both noted a larger selection of books and a user-friendly interface as perks, Wells said. She also noted that Bibliotheca is not part of the Central Texas Digital Consortium and instead uses a program called cloudLibrary for its material acquisition and sharing. Books can be individually purchased as well as shared between libraries subscribed to the service.

“We’d be in the same group as (Mason County and BiblioTech), so we could utilize all the things they have that they’ve been having for a while.” Wells explained. 

The county’s subscription to OverDrive, which was first instituted in 2011, has been suspended since December of last year, when concerns were raised about the types of materials accessible through the online portal. The service gave patrons access to e-materials through the Central Texas Digital Consortium catalog. The consortium is made up of over 56 neighboring libraries, including the Leander and Liberty Hill libraries and the Burnet County Library System. 

While libraries do not have the ability to limit patron access to certain books within the consortium, it was determined during a Jan. 24 advisory board meeting that library card holders under the age of 18 could be restricted from using OverDrive through filters applied to the backend of the library’s online system. These same filters will be applied if the system is switched to Bibliotheca. 

According to Wells, first-year fees for Bibliotheca would cost $2,142, which is less than the annual $3,000 fee associated with OverDrive. 

“(That number covers) the linking fee and the training fee,” Wells said. “And then, we have to buy our own virtual books separately.”

Purchasing virtual books could be covered by unused library funds left in the bank since county officials placed a freeze on purchasing new books until the board could provide in-depth recommendations, Wells said. 

An official contract for Bibliotheca services was not available to board members at the time of the meeting. To switch services, commissioners would have to approve the board’s recommendation. Once the switch is approved, company representatives have said installing the new service would take “four weeks or less,” Wells said.