Library moves to the cloud

As the public turns more to e-readers, Glendale and Pasadena are poised to be among the few library systems in the nation to try out a new cloud-based technology for lending out ebooks.

The cloud library — developed by 3M — will be tested by just 10 library systems in the nation, with the shared Glendale-Pasadena lending network the only one in California to be part of the program.

Unlike Glendale and Pasadena's current digital reading platform, OverDrive, the ebooks on the 3M platform will be stored in a "cloud," or an off-site data center. Patrons will access an Internet connection to download a book from the cloud, which is stored on their reading device for two weeks.

After the two-week period, the title automatically returns to the cloud — no more drop-offs or late fees, or library clerks refiling returned volumes, for the matter.

When libraries began applying to be part of the cloud test last year, Pasadena Public Library Director Jan Sanders said she "started nagging people."

"Both Pasadena and Glendale are driven to piloted projects and moving ahead," she said.

It also helped that the libraries have been using self-check-out machines made by 3M.

"The best thing about the cloud — it's just so easy to access," Glendale libraries director Cindy Cleary said. "It's all about the ease of use."

Tom Mercer, the digital business development leader for 3M Library Systems, said the cloud is all about connectivity.

"It's about keeping everything in sync," he said. "If I'm on my iPhone and read half the book, I can go to my iPad and take off where I left off," he said.

Since 3M first went live with its cloud program in January, he said 40 libraries nationwide have purchased the system.

Using the cloud, people can download books in 30 to 90 seconds on iPhones, iPads, Nooks, Androids or PC and Mac computers. But the cloud application is not currently compatible with Amazon's Kindle readers.

"We know they're interested," Mercer said. "We just don't know when that will happen."

As a shared beta test site, Glendale and Pasadena libraries received a $25,000-grant to purchase ebooks and 20 3M-made e-readers to lend out to patrons.

As the year unfolds, Mercer said 3M will be taking notes on how library patrons are using the system in the hope that people will read more books than they did previously.

Sanders said there can be no way to predict where the technology is headed.

"The end is not in sight," she said. "I think you can't even see where it's going."

In the meantime, Sanders is adamant about staying on top of the latest technology trends as a way to keep up with her patrons and stay relevant.

"When I can verbally ask my iPhone a question and get an answer, then I have to think differently about providing service," Sanders said. "You can stand up, make a difference and be counted — or be swept under."