Houston Libraries Add More Digital Content To Meet 21st Century Demands

Houston Public's Central Library located on McKinney, in downtown Houston.[flickr/Becky Lai]
The Houston Public Library has introduced a new partnership to expand its selection of items that can be checked out digitally. It comes as demand for digital content is ever-increasing. Libraries are trying to keep up with the times.

Users of Houston’s library system now have more choices when it comes to listening or watching content from home. A partnership between the public library and Hoopla Digital enables users to watch or download thousands of movies, TV shows, music albums and audiobooks with their library card.

Sandra Fernandez with the Houston Public Library says it’s another step in the library’s expansion of digital content.

“There is an increased demand in digital content from our customers and so this helps us reach that.”

She says people are used to being able to access services from home, school or office and really anyplace where there’s internet access.

At the same time, people still do come in to the library to read and check out conventional books — although there has been a slight decrease in the circulation of non-digital content.

“We have more people using the library than ever before. What happens, what is a golden rule in the library, is that the economy takes a hit, library usage goes up.”

That’s because during bad economic times people have less money to spend on entertainment. Fernandez says keeping up with new technologies is a challenge for the library, but she’s not worried about its future.

“The library has always been about access to information, access to information, entertainment and education. It used to be that that was only available in one format and that was in the written word on paper. Now there’s many, many formats. We’re still about that.”

The same is true for the Harris County Public Library. Its annual report for 2012-2013 shows the system’s libraries were visited more than 14 million times and non-digital items were checked out more than 10 million times.

“We’re busier than ever.”

Linda Stevens is the marketing coordinator at the Harris County Public Library.

“I don’t know that really our focus is changing but what we do changes a bit. We just got to remain flexible. And I think libraries are doing a good job with that.”

Part of that is offering more services like computer classes or job search assistance.

So despite the ongoing digital evolution — including the recent opening of the nation’s first bookless library in San Antonio — traditional libraries seem to be fine for the foreseeable future.

Bio photo of Florian Martin

Florian Martin

Reporter/NewsLab Coordinator

Florian Martin is the KUHF NewsLab Coordinator. While guiding and overseeing interns, he works on his own stories and is always on call to cover breaking news and other media events...