By Amelia Pak-Harvey
AYER -- When Julie Mason Lacey started library school in 1999, the big question of the day was whether libraries would last.
But as assistant director of Ayer's public library, Lacey has not seen any decline in patrons coming for the feel of a traditional book. The library has even adapted to the ever-changing technology of iPads, Kindles and Nooks, countering it with a large eBook database that boasts more than 14,000 titles.
"It's gaining in popularity all the time," Lacey said. "It's getting more and more widely used. It's one of those things where as people become more and more comfortable with it, they start using it and talking about it more, and the more they talk about it, the more other people pick up on it."
The collection has tripled since the library first began the eBook system about three years ago, keeping up with the changing trends of an industry facing budget cuts nationwide.
But the digital push, led by Library Director Mary Anne Lucht, does not stop there.
Online databases such as the Auto Repair Reference Center can help users find out how to fix their specific make of car. Other resources such as Atomic Training can aid in computer software proficiency.
"We try to stay on top of whatever the new thing is so we can stay current," Lacey said.
Ayer's library is drawing in newer generations by mixing its adaptation to the new with a grasp of the old. The youth section of the library still sees young parents who want to share the experience of a hardcopy book with their child, said Children's Librarian Amy Leonard.
"There's a lot of families that just want to introduce books to their young children," she said. "In the next stage it's parents with avid readers who want to supply them."
The youth section can also entice a tech-savvy crowd with its Kindle, two Nooks and a flat-screen TV for a Playstation.
Used on an in-library loan policy, the Kindle and Nooks have the potential to draw a new crowd.
"It's been popular enough where everyone wants to touch it and try it and play with it," said Young Adult Librarian Samantha Benoit.
The Youth Section drew in about 2,400 people with 83 different activity programs last year, while adding about 2,000 physical books, DVDs and CDs to its collection.
Although fewer people have been coming in for research help, Lacey said she has no concerns about the library's future.
"I just haven't seen an indication that libraries are going anywhere," she said. "It's too vital a service. Particularly in this economy, people need free services."
Any library card holder can access eBook, online databases and other resources by going to the library's website, ayerlibrary.org.
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