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Hillsborough virtual library links to homes

By Jeff Berlinicke
Special Correspondent
Published: February 25, 2014

ODESSA – Why drive to the library when the library can come to you – wherever you are.

The Hillsborough County Public Library system is making it a lot easier to get the information, and reading material, you need.

The Austin Davis Public Library is just one example of how libraries have changed and are embracing a future that few can comprehend in today’s era of social media and digital information. The county libraries have added a new program that allows access to music, books, magazines, and study courses, from home. All it takes is a Hillsborough County library card and the most basic Internet knowledge. Welcome to the virtual library.

Wendy Prasad, a librarian at the Davis branch, said that it is now possible for anyone with a library card to wake up in the middle of the night and take out a book online. The cost is absolutely free. It’s also a great asset for vacationers and people who simply can’t get to the library.

Brian Walton, principal librarian for Hillsborough County, is involved with numerous new programs. One, Overdrive, distributes eBooks as well as digital magazines, television shows, and audio books through Hoopla. The idea is to use the library card and to sign in at Free mobile apps can be installed on any iOS or Android device. After that, it’s just a matter of logging in. Any borrowed titles are automatically returned when the lending period is over.

“Libraries all over the county have it now,” Walton said. “We are always going to be adding to what we have to offer.”

So does that mean actual walk-in libraries will become obsolete? Of course not, Prasad said.

“The library is a community place,” she said. “That’s why we offer so many new programs. We have events for kids and people of all ages. We have free Internet. It’s a place for the community to bond, so there will always be a need for libraries. We just are offering more things now.”

Beverly Hladky, site C\coordinator at the Davis branch, said that Maker Space is the next potential innovation. It will be able to offer robotics labs, and 3-D computers among other things.

Walton also said that people will soon be able to access the library to take online, fully accredited courses on almost any topic imaginable. Once again, it is free through the Hillsborough County public libraries.

How does the library pay for all of the new benefits? Prasad said most of the funds are generated through property taxes and she doesn’t foresee a charge any time soon.