Linda Knupp remembers a time when vinyl LP records were popular items at the library. Then it was CDs. Now it’s digital music downloads through Hoopla, a subscription service that the Manhattan Public Library participates in.
Other formats, like movies, have changed so quickly that the library director hasn’t even bothered to buy a personal Blu-Ray player. But that’s a bet that might pay out, she says, as that format, too, seems like it might be superseded by online streaming services.
“Technology changes so fast. I remember when VHS tapes were a big thing,” Knupp said. “Now you don’t see those.”
As media content like books, movies and music has changed, so has the Manhattan Public Library’s approach to providing access to that content, said Knupp. Library cards, while still used to check out physical books, are now more like digital passports that provide access to media through partnerships and memberships in third-party content services.
In October, the library launched patron access to Kanopy, an online movie service that allows users to stream up to 10 movies per month from a selection of documentaries, foreign films, classics, independent films and educational videos. Next month, the library will add 12 magazines, like The Atlantic and Martha Stewart’s Living to its Flipster membership that allows library patrons to look through digital magazines.
Library members also have access to Hoopla, Knupp said, which provides audio books, e-books music, television shows and movies.
Those formats are a part of the library’s strategy to remain a cornerstone of information and information access in the Manhattan community, Knupp said.
“There’s been a change in availability of digital resources and the way people think about the library, as far as being able to use the space,” she said.
“Earlier it was just a place where you checked out books and used print reference resources with indexes in the back. Now it’s all available online. It makes a huge difference in the way you access information.”
But that’s also changed the way libraries have to think about their collections. It’s easy to manage the sharing rights to a physical copy of a book or movie. With their digital counterparts, it’s not as clear, Knupp said.
“You used to buy a book from a vendor, and you could circulate that until it fell apart,” she said.
“Now, if we buy an electronic copy, we have to find out what that means for access and how long we have it. Publishers in the industry are still trying to work their ways through that as well.
“I think that’s going to be unsettled for the foreseeable future, but I think libraries will still have a way to participate at some level and stay nimble according to the needs of the community,” she continued.
In any case, the library has also looked to adapt its approach in being a community building, Knupp said. The library has historically played host to K-State students in the community, but that was especially true these last 18 months after fire and water damage gutted the interior of K-State’s Hale Library.
In 2019, the library added two study and meeting rooms, which are typically booked, said Maddy Ogle, public relations coordinator for the library. Last spring the library opened its Teen Zone, a second-floor section of the library dedicated to young adult books as well as a partitioned room for users to play video games and study. The space has been hugely popular for middle and high schoolers after classes get out each day, Ogle said, and the library will start a teen literary magazine in the coming months.
The children’s staff have also focused on encouraging children to learn at the library. In addition to organized activities, there are two passive educational activity stations for children to stop by and engage with. For adults, especially older ones who might not be as familiar with technology, the library has also expanded its classes to cover topics such as cloud computing and smartphone photography.
“We hope people get the sense that the library is the education hub, where they can come and find something to enjoy but also learn,” Knupp said.
Knupp said the library will install new RFID scanners, which will use radio frequencies to scan books in a faster, more convenient way later this year. The scanners will also help the library keep better security and tabs on its inventory, Knupp said.
While digital access and materials have been popular, the library still sees an average of 1,000 weekly visitors, Knupp said, so the library has continued to evaluate its physical collections strategy.
Library staff increased the loan period on movies to two weeks in the fall, and since adding video games a few years ago, the library has only expanded its collection, she said.
Beyond rental kiosks like Redbox, there are no movie rental stores in town anymore, and the library is often the easiest way to watch older movies.
“People use (the library) for so many reasons,” Knupp said. “We do homebound delivery for people who might not be able to come in to get books, and people come for our children’s programs. They come and play chess together. It’s a pretty welcoming spot for a variety of people to use.”
Ogle encouraged Manhattan residents to check out the library, especially if they’ve never visited or haven’t been in a while.
“It’s everyone’s place,” she said. “Library cards are free, so that means everything else is free.
“Students, or if it’s your New Year’s resolution to be budget friendly, come check out a book or watch a movie instead of going to buy whatever movie is out there. If we don’t have it, ask us about it, because we want to be your library.”