The Lawson McGhee Library in downtown Knoxville, Tennessee, commemorates its 125th anniversary this month and throughout October. The festivities begin by embracing the future in a very big way.

There’s been a lot published recently about the waning  importance of public libraries as bastions of knowledge due to the Internet the digitization of books, and the demise of the brick and mortar book stores. On top of that we’re hearing that by eliminating the publishing process necessary to actually publish a book, the cost of eBooks would be much less.

I’ve seen very little change in the price of an electronically published paperback, although there is a 40% difference in the price of a newly published book and the electronic version where we wait up to a year for the paperback version.

Libraries are certainly in the midst of a significant transition. This is due to a combination of forces, which include shrinking budgets and the digital information revolution.

Unlike many other libraries in the country, the Lawson McGee library is ahead of the game.  As part of the new,  they’re now offering eBooks to their community where patrons can download eBooks of all genres without leaving the privacy of their homes.

According to the comment from the library manager, Nelda Hill, in the, “eBooks took off like wildfire beyond our wildest imaginations, and it’s been steadily building,”

They did have a game plan, which is always good, and after watching the mobile device wars to see which would win out so that when they launched the program in February of this year people were ready for it. Happily it brought a lot of people back to the library.

The library has an eBook collection of 7,000 titles available 24-hours a day (you do need to be a patron). The eBooks can be checked out for 7, 14 or 21 days and at the end of that period, the eBook is automatically is returned to the library. Using the same principle of a regular library process, if the eBook isn’t on hold, it can be renewed.

There are no overdue fees. And if you download to your computer, you don’t have to buy a Kindle or other mobile device on which to read it.

I hope this will take place throughout the country and also that it will be a wakeup call to booksellers who have put the prices up on electronic paperbacks when they no longer have the overheads associated with hard copy publishing. (Warning–this is my personal  opinion.)

There’s also an amazing connection to the past…

The Calvin M. McClung Collection has thousands of manuscripts, photographs of Knoxville, data to trace genealogy and even the original letter from Harry Burn Sr.’s mother urging him to vote “yes” to give women the right to vote.

The Collection is housed at the East Tennessee History Center at 601 South Gay Street, but it is still part of the library.

Hill said the McClung collection is “one of the best public library collections in the Southeast and that includes books, nonprint sources, our historical collection dating back to the signing of the U.S. Constitution. The collection is famous in part because the collection is (partly) digitized and available online. There’s much rare and priceless stuff available through technology. It’s a blending of old technology and new technology.”

Steve Cotham, manager of the McClung Collection, said the collection was established by Calvin Morgan McClung, a wealthy hardware merchant, in 1921.

It includes a 250,000 photographic collection, mostly negatives, of things like old Knoxville, neighborhoods, businesses and parades, many sources for citizens to trace their genealogy, documents on women’s suffrage, 600 historic manuscript collections, thousands of newspapers starting in the 1790s, 200 magazine subscriptions relating to history, paintings by local artists, thousands of obits, Sanborn fire insurance maps of cities from 1884 to the 1950s, microfilm on Tennessee county records, a history of cities, and collections from famous Tennesseans such as John Sevier, William Blount and James White. The collection also includes the original 1919 letter from Febb Burn to her son Harry Burn Sr.., saying “Hurrah and vote for suffrage.” The young Tennessee House member voted “yes” to amend the U.S. Constitution, giving women the right to vote.

There so much more in the article about the old and the new. Click on to read it.

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2 Comments on Innovative 125-year old Knoxville Tennessee library embraces the future as well as the past…

  1. Tammy P. says:

    This is a very interesting post and I hope the program will be adopted by libraries throughout the country. I too have noticed that the cost of what would by now be in paperback version cost about the same as the they would in hard copy. Also best-sellers in hard copy usually hit the shelves with a 30-40% off, which is about the same price as the electronic version.

  2. Vivie Long says:

    This is wonderful. Yep the digital books aren’t such a great deal so far. I can’t see our local library doing this any time soon but they do offer great resources for people who are out of work.

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