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Virtual library branch offers digital books

Photo by Tori Boone

Photo by Tori Boone

SUWANEE -- Browse. Check out. Download. Enjoy.

Accessing digital materials through the Gwinnett County Public Library Web site is that easy, according to the Digital Bookmobile, a fact Gwinnett residents who stepped inside it on Friday may have learned.

The 74-foot, high-tech tractor-trailer was parked outside the Suwanee library branch. Inside and out, computers were set up to assist guests in learning the ins and outs of browsing and finding cataloged materials, adding items to their virtual shopping carts, proceeding through checkout and then downloading their selections. Bookmobile staff were on hand to explain the process and walk guests through each step.

GCPL's virtual branch, which was started in 2005 and is powered by OverDrive, offers eBooks, audiobooks, music and video.

Sugar Hill resident Laura Hall was exploring the technology inside the Bookmobile on Friday afternoon with two of her three children.

"I was interested in learning more about the digital books for my son, who is a homeschooler," she said, "and my (oldest) daughter, who loves to listen to audiobooks."

Hall's younger daughter, 3-year-old Maggie, donned headphones to watch a children's educational video -- WordWorld's "Happy Birthday Dog" -- on one of the computers.

"We use the Suwanee public library a lot both for videos and books, things that we're learning," Hall said. With the digital offerings, "I'm hoping it gives us access to more things that we use in our studies and to supplement what my (oldest) daughter's doing at school or to find more audiobooks that she's interested in because she's more of an auditory learner."

GCPL's virtual branch is open to all library card holders. To begin downloading material on personal computers, users first need to install free software that can be accessed online at digitalbooks.gwinnettpl.org.

"It's a free, one-time installation and once the software is installed, basically the patrons are going to treat the Web site like an online store," said Dan Stasiewski, a digital library specialist with OverDrive, who was assisting patrons inside the Bookmobile. "If they've ever done any online shopping, they're going to see the same process."

Library users will need their library card number and PIN number to check out materials, which consist of an expanding collection of best-selling, new release and classic titles that, once downloaded, can be read on a computer screen or on mobile devices. Many of the available audiobooks can be burned onto CDs.

"This is going to be a separate catalog from whatever is inside the library," Stasiewski said. "(GCPL is) building this like a new branch of the library online. They're adding things to the shelves and they're constantly adding titles to the collection."

To access the GCPL's virtual branch, gwinnettpl.org and click on "Download Media" at the bottom of the page.