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Llano County OKs new online library service despite access concerns

Llano County Commissioners Court

Members of the Llano County Commissioners Court unanimously voted to switch the county library system's online reading service from OverDrive to Bibliotheca during its Feb. 28 meeting. Staff photo by Brigid Cooley

In about four weeks, maybe longer, the Llano County Library system will switch its e-book service from OverDrive to Bibliotheca, which does not work with all e-book readers. Currently, the system does not provide e-book service because the Llano County Commissioners Court suspended OverDrive service in December. 

Members of the Commissioners Court unanimously approved the switch during their meeting Monday, Feb. 28. The decision follows a recommendation made by the Llano County Library Advisory Board.

Before the vote, commissioners were given a presentation on Bibliotheca services by Library Advisory Board Secretary Rochelle Wells. Other board members, including Chair Gay Baskin, Vice-Chair Bonnie Wallace, and Cindy Travers, also attended the meeting. 

OverDrive, which has been used by the county’s library system for more than 10 years, was suspended by the Commissioners Court in December 2021 over concerns children could access inappropriate reading materials without their parents’ knowledge. Since then, the Library Advisory Board has been tasked with finding an alternate online program with access to materials for library patrons, especially elderly and disabled users. 

The switch, however, will limit access for patrons like Leila Little, who uses online services via her Kindle e-reader. 

According to the cloudLibrary by Bibliotheca website, the only Kindle devices the online service is compatible with are Kindle Fire tablets, not e-readers such as Kindle Paperwhites or other Kindle e-ink device apps. OverDrive, however, is currently compatible with e-reader devices from Kindle, NOOK, and other brands. 

Little addressed the issue during the public comments portion of the meeting. She also noted the change will impact the effectiveness of e-readers owned by the county system, which can be rented to cardholders.  

“The Kingsland branch has Kindle e-readers for checkout, and they will be rendered useless by this service because you can’t check out digital library books,” she continued. “Therefore, Bibliotheca (and) cloudLibrary is not an improvement in service upon OverDrive but a downgrade.” 

Concerns over the limitation were brought up again by Pct. 2 Commissioner Linda Raschke after a presentation outlining Bilbliotheca’s services from Wells. 

“There was a remark that Kindle e-readers are not supported?” Raschke asked Wells. 

“No, you can read them on the Kindles,” Wells responded. “Mason County and Bexar County (library systems) check out Kindles to their patrons who do not have their own.” 

Later during the meeting, however, board member Travers echoed information provided by the cloudLibrary website, clarifying that the only Kindle device currently compatible with the program is the Kindle Fire.

Pct. 4 Commissioner Jerry Don Moss dismissed the concern, pointing out that a decision for the entire library system should not be determined by the program’s incompatibility with certain devices. 

Details surrounding the switch to Bibliotheca were also questioned by Pct. 1 Commissioner Peter Jones, who asked whether changing programs was necessary since it was determined 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 point-of-service system.

“It appears to me that’s the direction you’re taking with this Bibliotheca approach anyway, where you’re basically saying the same thing,” Jones said, indicating that access to both systems can be limited to ages 18 and older. “The issue of access is not any different than we have with OverDrive, so (the change is) because you like the system better?” 

“I think that, during our research, we’ve found this program that is significantly better,” board member Wallace answered. 

Several of the details she listed as better, however, only related to OverDrive, which is soon switching to a more efficient, easier-to-use format called Libby. Already, most e-book readers use the Libby app, rather than OverDrive, which is being phased out. Libby is an upgrade of the OverDrive app.

Moss made the motion to switch to Bibliotheca. The contract to the service is contingent on review by the county’s legal team and will come before the Commissioners Court again if any issues are found. Once reviewed, it will take roughly four weeks to install the service. 

brigid@thepicayune.com

2 thoughts on “Llano County OKs new online library service despite access concerns

  1. So our Commissioners, in spite of just hearing that Bibliotheca is compatible with only one type of device, voted for it anyway. This is a blatant disregard for a majority of their constituents who do not have this type of device. They were elected to serve all people, not just a few self-serving individuals. Who serves my interests?

  2. So they’re reducing access for many readers with Kindles of various kinds, likely the majority of users, because someone can’t or won’t apply a filter on the POS system? Methinks someone is getting a kickback for their recommendation.

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