PHOTO CAPTION: Sophomore Aishwarya Palaniappan works on homework in the school library. Whenever she needs to stay after school, the library is her go-to place. (Photo by Solai Alagappan)

By Solai Alagappan

Libraries are a great place to be after school hours for people of all ages. The number of visitors who come seems to be increasing, and it’s easy to see why. Not many places besides libraries offer an endless amount of books, open workspaces, and a quiet atmosphere. Not only that, but they also offer a simple way to be able to read books from the comfort of your home through online downloads.

Dean Baumeister, the coordinator of reference services of the Memorial Hall Library in downtown Andover, said the number of people using the library has increased due to electronic books. He stated, “We have had a steady increase of visitors in the last five, ten, fifteen years and a steady increase in the number of ebook titles we have made available, so there has been an increase in both.”

Freshman Elizabeth Anderson prefers electronic books as she not only visits the library once a week but also reads most of her books on Kindle. “I mostly read books on the Kindle because the library has a website where you can have books sent straight to the Kindle,” she explained.

One of the times that Memorial Hall is filled the most is when Andover has power outages, and people lose electricity, wifi, or heat. The library can offer all of these things due to its location.

Baumeister explained, “Geographically, we are located near the safety center and so the electric company and utility company try to keep things running in the areas close to the safety center. A lot of times when there is a widespread power outage, we still have power. When we have power, we also have heat and wifi. Of course, we are a public space so we have places for people to sit down, get warm, get on their devices, charge them up and get on the wifi so they can connect with the world to figure out what’s happening. That’s, I think, probably the biggest reason that they come.”

The library at Andover High School is also used by many students. Librarian Mr. Berube explained, “We have a lot of kids who come in, and they have silent sustained reading with some of the English classes. Their teacher would bring them down, and they would pick out a fiction book to check out.”

Most of the students visit before and after school, when they can finish homework and study with friends. Mr. Berube stated, “There is a line outside the door here waiting in the hallway until 7:20 when I open the doors. There are up to seventy or more kids in here before school until the bell rings. Then, I have kids here until four o’clock when I close up after school. Then again, during a school day, they only come with their class and a few during lunch.”

The AHS library also offers many online books used for research on E-brary, which is a platform for electronic textbooks.

Mr. Berube explained, “We have 150,000 electronic books, and kids, mostly when they’re freshmen, come and see me with their history class, and I give them a number that allows them access to this database, so they can search for books online. You can also  download them to Kindle if you wanted to.”

Whether it’s for research, projects, or homework, online copies of school books prevent students from having to carry heavier physical copies in their backpack. Anderson states, “When it comes to having a heavy backpack, online textbooks are better.”

Although electronic books may be easier to access, physical copies may be more beneficial and help retain information. Mr. Berube explained, “I prefer a physical copy and I think most people do. The reason we went to the electronic books is that it’s cheaper. We could never afford to buy 150,000 physical books. Plus, these books often times have unlimited licenses, which means instead of buying multiple copies of one book, you buy the book electronically, and all 18,000 kids can read the same book at the same time.”

Libraries have always been the ideal place for working, being with friends, or reading a book. They have become even more popular with new online books. As new technology enhances the way of studying and reading, making it simpler for more people to be able to work, the number of library visitors will continue to grow.