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Meeting the digital demand page 3
Central Rappahannock Regional Library is trying to keep up with digital demand.

 England Run's branch of the Central Rappahannock Regional Library has space for people to meet, use computers and read in comfy chairs.
ROBERT A. MARTIN/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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Date published: 7/15/2011

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Say you check out the only e-book copy of "The Lost City of Z" by downloading it. You have two weeks to read it. At the end of that two weeks, it disappears from your device and becomes available for the next library borrower.

Librarians and publishers determine how many people can simultaneously check out a given e-book, and how long the borrowing period is. Like traditional books, the more copies the library makes available for download, the more it costs the library.

"There's a universe of books," Caroline Parr, deputy director of the library, said. "Which ones can you afford?"

She said the cost of an e-book is similar to the cost of a regular book. Since there is not a separate e-book budget at CRRL, Black will have to balance e-book and traditional book acquisitions depending on demand, need and resources. Essentially, she will treat e-books as she does any other books in the collection.

And library officials prefer to talk about e-books like any other library item. The only difference is you don't have to visit the library to borrow them.

a virtual branch

Glover said that the library is working to position its website as a separate branch of the system. This makes sense when you consider that e-books don't sit on shelves. As the e-book collection grows, library customers will have less need to go to the library to check out books.

Library patrons can already check a book's availability and reserve it online, but they still have to make the trip to the branch if they want to read it. Not so with e-books.

Over time, the growth of e-books could change the nature of physical libraries. In some ways, it will only continue a shift that has already taken place.

Older libraries like the CRRL Headquarters branch on Caroline Street are packed with books. Volumes are stacked on towering shelves that dwarf the average person.

CRRL's newest branch--England Run in southern Stafford--looks more like a bookstore or a coffee shop than a traditional library. It was designed to be an attractive gathering space where people can meet, use computers, read in comfy chairs and check out books. There are even separate spaces for teens and kids, and a number of meeting rooms that can be reserved for group functions.


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Top 10 e-book downloads from Central Rappahannock Regional Library since 2009 (number of downloads in parentheses)

10--"Patton: As Military Commander" by Hubert Essame (63)

9--"Smitten" by Janet Evanovich (65)

8--"Good Poor Man's Wife" by Claudia Bushman (67)

7--"Naughty Neighbor" by Janet Evanovich (71)

6--"The Harlem Renaissance: An Annotated Reference Guide for Student Research" by Marie Rodgers (78)

5--"Judas at the Jockey Club and Other Episodes of Porfirian Mexico" by William Beezley (87)

4--"How to Prepare for the Armed Forces Test--ASVAB" (109)

3--"Fugitive: A Novel" by Phillip Margolin (113)

2--"Nova's GRE Prep Course" by Jeff Kolby and Scott Thornburg (122)

1--"Manifest Destiny's Underworld: Filibustering in Antebellum America" by Robert May (186)

A recent Associated Press report suggests localities across the country have responded to the recession by making drastic cuts to library budgets. Some have closed libraries altogether.

Not so in the Fredericksburg area, which has supported Central Rappahannock Regional Library through the tough economy. In fact, Stafford County built the England Run branch under budget while the economy was taking a beating.

Here are the last three annual budgets for CRRL. Some funding comes from the state, but most comes from the participating localities of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania, Stafford and Westmoreland counties.

2009--10

$9,716,033

2010--11

$10,309,055

2011--12

$10,625,077