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Library's magazine service looks to future in time for holidays

As the holidays grow near, the Carroll County Public Library is reaching out to let people know the library offers free periodicals on tablets and other mobile devices through a service called Zinio, according to Lisa Picker, public relations and marketing manager for the library.

"With the holidays approaching and people getting tablets [as gifts] again, we want it to be on people's minds that the library offers many options compatible with their devices," Picker said. "[Zinio] also works on desktops, laptops and phones. That's one of the attractive pieces of why we purchased it, because it is compatible at so many different technology levels."

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According to Picker, Zinio allows any person with a Carroll County Public Library card to download more than 100 magazine titles, from National Geographic to Martha Stewart Living to Harper's Magazine, on any computer, and to the save them, print them and keep them indefinitely without fines.

"Once you download [magazines], you can re-download them as long as you want. It's not like when we purchase a physical copy of a magazine where it is available to one person [at a time]," Picker said. "Something else you can do on the tablet is take screenshots, save them, post them to Facebook, or whatever you want to do with them."

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The freedom from normal borrowing limitations provided by Zinio is particularly important around the holidays, when the library offers a number of holiday specific magazines, according to Concetta Pisano, materials manager for the library. Since magazines can be checked out for 21 days, she said, one person could check out title on Christmas baking recipes for the entire season of its relevancy, but with Zinio, any number of users can download that magazine during the holiday season.

Pisano said that despite the benefits to library patrons, it can be difficult connect with them so that they know Zinio is available.

"These are things that we offer that I think people are not aware that we offer," Pisano said. "It's hard to sometimes get that word out there. It's hard to figure out where you could put this information where somebody could see it."

At the North Carroll branch of the Carroll County Public Library, Branch Manager Cindy Ahmann staged a special promotional day for Zinio on Oct. 23, where library staff setup up a table, a poster and handed out flyers on the service to anyone looking at physical magazines.

"I think we had 35 adults and 17 kids that we talked to during the [promotional] day," Ahmann said. "We are still handing flyers out and are continuing to talk it up."

According to Christina Kuntz, manager of the Westminster branch of the Carroll County Public Library, her branch will install displays informing patrons about Zinio before and after the holidays, as well as interacting directly to spread information by word of mouth.

"After the holidays, we are looking at setting aside a day where we will be out on the floor actively showing people how to access Zinio on what may be their brand new device," she said.

Library patron usage of Zinio has grown significantly since the library first began offering the service last September, according to Pisano: in the first month, the library saw 106 users sign up and 515 user downloads. A little more than a year later, there are a total of 1,034 users who have downloaded one or more magazine titles for 15,516 downloads in total.

Still, Pisano said, the library would like to get more of its 96,350 library card holders using Zinio. The 1,034 current users represent just more than one percent of those who hold a library card.

"We'd like to have 20 percent of our users sign up for Zinio, that at least would be a good goal for us," Pisano said. "I think that even if we could get to 10 percent, we would be absolutely ecstatic."

Pisano said that the library looks at the success of its programs in terms of cost per usage and since the cost of Zinio is based upon the subscription fee for each magazine title, and does not increase with more users, the more patrons use Zinio, the "sweeter" the deal becomes for the library and the community.

According to Picker, providing the Zinio service cost the library $8,100 between September 2012 and when they renewed the service June 30. She said $6,000 of that total was a platform fee and the remaining $2,100 the cost of content.

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Picker said projected costs for offering Zinio through June 2014 were unavailable due to the probability of certain magazine titles being dropped and others picked up during the course of the year.

According to Picker, anyone with a computer or mobile device need not wait until the holidays to get started with Zinio, as the service is easily accessed through the library's website at library.carr.org.

"You sign up for it on our website. You click on 'eBooks and digital audio' ... and then Zinio. You click on the link and you'll be taken to the Zinio site just for libraries, be asked to create a user name and password, and you put that in the app when you use it for the first time."

Picker said that while the library has no plans to eliminate physical magazines from circulation, the hope is that by utilizing new technologies, the library can continue to provide services to patrons in a way that makes sense for their lives.

"We want to make as much of our collection available 24/7 as possible," Picker said. "We want to stay on the cutting edge of technology and [ensure] that the titles we have available are the most relevant and available to our population. We hope by offering these additional formats we can better connect with our community."

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