While the Jacksonville Public Library is not qualified to participate in a new state-initiated e-book program, local library director Trina Stidham believes it will help smaller entities offer programs similar to their larger counterparts without breaking their budgets.

The Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) “is really promoting Texas libraries, and each one has its own great needs. When you talk about the size of the library, the population it serves, there are so many extremes,” she noted. “If an extremely tiny library can offer the same things as one in Austin or Dallas or even at Baylor? TSLAC is definitely trying to make sure all libraries across the State of Texas are 21st century libraries, meeting 21st century needs.”

On Monday, TSLAC announced its new “E-Read Texas” program, geared “to bring electronic books to Texans served by small community libraries in all parts of the state beginning September 1,” according to a news release.

It “will provide an easy-to-use platform to access e-books provided by TSLAC alongside materials purchased by local libraries,” it stated.

“We are very happy to be able to offer Texans access to these high-demand materials through their public libraries,” said Mark Smith, director and Texas State Librarian. “We recognize the great need in communities across the state for diverse reading materials and are excited to partner with local libraries to provide cost-effective and user-friendly access to those resources.”

TSLAC will partner with Amigos Library Services to make SimplyE, an open-source e-book platform, available to as many as 225 small and medium-sized community libraries during the next two years. SimplyE includes easy-to-use e-reader apps for iOS and Android, allowing users to check out and read e-books provided by their local library.

The program will help smaller libraries to have the opportunity to invest in great programs more easily, Stidham said.

“I believe that's what the state is shooting for – (to help those programs that must decide) 'Are we paying a few thousand a year for a program for Overdrive, when those funds might pay for other needed programs? We can't just take a chunk of money and invest in a program like Overdrive,'” she said.

Overdrive is the program utilized by the Jacksonville Public Library, one which Stidham said was in place before she became program director.

“We are a small town, but we are still fortunate enough to have a larger budget that we can implement an electronic book system that our patrons can use,” she said. In fact, the program has drawn former patrons who prefer to peruse their reading material electronically but whose reading may have been limited by purchasing those materials elsewhere.

“When we first went to Overdrive, a lot of those who invested in Nooks or Kindles and bought their books on their devices came back, (realizing now) 'I can get those for free,' ” Stidham said. “There's a strong readership here.”

Local residents are eligible for a free library card, while Cherokee County residents outside the Jacksonville city limits pay $10 a year for a membership.

The “E-Read Texas” program will enhance “the collections of public libraries, making these materials available 24/7, is a great benefit to communities in Texas. We encourage everyone to get a library card to take advantage of this and the many other amazing things libraries offer for free,” said Alan Kornblau, chief executive officer of Amigos Library Services. “We are proud to partner with the Texas State Library and Archives Commission in providing this easy access to electronic books for people of all ages.”

The project is the first stage of a multi-year project bring more e-books to Texans via their public libraries, and the “E-Read Texas” program will include a collection of general-interest adult fiction and non-fiction books based on a collaboration between TSLAC and the Texas library community, the release stated. The program complements TSLAC’s TexShare and TexQuest programs that leverage statewide buying power to bring cost-effective access to e-resources to virtually every person in the state. Texans use e-resources provided by TSLAC more than 140 million times each year, it added.

“Online or in person, the library is the only free source of education for adults. And that's the great thing about a public library,” Stidham said.

To learn more about “E-Read Texas,” visit the TSLAC’s Library Developments blog: www.tsl.texas.gov/ld/librarydevelopments/?p=24660

The Texas State Library and Archives Commission provides Texans access to the information they need to be informed, productive citizens by preserving the archival record of Texas; enhancing the service capacity of public, academic and school libraries; assisting public agencies in the maintenance of their records; and meeting the reading needs of Texans with disabilities. For more information, visit tsl.texas.gov