No one could have predicted the impact technology has had on our world in the last 20 years. Carrying around a palm-sized personal computer and making video calls was previously only seen in movies. But there were many at the forefront of the changes about to take place in the new millennium, including a team of forward-thinking librarians at the Cleveland Public Library.
Librarians have always had their finger on the pulse of what readers want next, and this group was no different. Librarians Patricia Lowrey, Cindy Orr, Sari Feldman and Tracy Strobel were ahead of their time and saw the possibility and potential of ebook and audiobook lending in libraries. Directing an early ebook development team at OverDrive, they helped to build and launch what would become the first popular ebook and audiobook borrowing service from a library—four years before Kindle was introduced and seven years before iPads and tablets became popular.
At the time, these “online libraries” were just making their debut, and gaining attention from the media, as evidenced by this "NBC News" clip from 2003. While the Cleveland Public Library may have been the first to launch a digital collection, others quickly followed. Now, over 22,000 public libraries offer readers access to ebooks, audiobooks, magazines and comics through Libby, the library reading app.
While much has changed in the last 20 years, much has stayed the same, too. A valid library card is still all you need to access your library’s digital collection. There are still no subscriptions. Your library continues to choose the titles available in your local collection. No one has ever been charged a late fee (and no books have ever been returned late, either!). And today, accessing a book is easier than ever through Libby, thanks to the innovative librarians that transformed how we read and helped put books into the hands of millions of readers.
Want to know what’s to come in the next 20 years? Just ask a librarian.