N.O. library offers digital downloads

The New Orleans Public Library has recently expanded its digital offerings — giving anyone with a library card the opportunity to download an extensive range of books, audio books, educational activities for kids and music to their electronic device of choice.

More than 8,300 e-books and 3 million songs are available at no cost.

While some of the e-books and audio books have been available for more than a year, Tony Barnes, manager of information for the library, said that the digital library has been significantly expanded and is also easier to use.

And the library pays the copyright and subscription cost.

Most publications are now created in an electronic version before being printed, so the process essentially cuts out the middle man, Barnes said.

In addition to more e-books and audio books, through “Freegal Music” patrons can download up to five songs a week from a catalog of more than 3 million songs.

With “TumbleBooks,” parents will find a selection of e-books, interactive books, language learning programs, puzzles and games geared toward kids from kindergarten to sixth grade.

Using the “Louisiana Library Connections,” users can access an expansive variety of reference resources made available through the state library.

When a student needs to do research for an assignment at 2 a.m., the resources are there, Barnes said, adding that he does not advocate kids doing their homework at 2 a.m.

“The New Orleans Public Library is dedicated to ensuring our customers are able to utilize their library to the fullest extent, and now they will have access not only in our 14 locations, but at their home and on the go,” Charles Brown, city librarian and executive director of the library, said in a press release.

“With so many people giving and receiving digital devices for the holidays, we felt this was the perfect time to let everyone know that they can fill up their e-readers, iPads and tablets with books and music from the New Orleans Public Library,’’ he said in the release. “We are here to act as a gateway for information, so we want to remind people that all of these outstanding services are available to the public for free.”

While Barnes said he still prefers his books on paper, the digital offerings include something for everyone — “even dinosaurs like me.” And it is a trend that only will continue, Barnes said. While audio-books were initially geared toward people who are visually impaired, Barnes said that demand has expanded greatly, with many people now listening to books during their daily commutes.

And for the millions who just received e-book readers or smart phones or tablets as Christmas presents, Barnes said the public library is a good starting point for building a personal library.

To ensure that cardholders know how to use the digital resources, the library will offer e-book help classes throughout the year.

The digital offerings, as well as more information, can be accessed through the library web site at http://neworleanspubliclibrary.org.