Tradition meets technology in AF libraries

By Air Force News on October 12, 2011

SAN ANTONIO (AFNS) -- Air Force libraries continue to adapt to emerging technologies and changes in the way Airmen and families want information.

Whether a customer wants to check out a printed publication, download the latest bestseller novel for their e-reader or find a quiet place to study, Air Force libraries continue to meet the literary needs of customers in an evolving digital world.

"All of us, including our customers, are on the move these days," said Melinda Mosley, the Air Force Services Agency administrative librarian. "We're using mobile devices like tablets, netbooks and smart phones more than ever; we're interested in providing service to our customers anywhere, anytime, in addition to providing face-to-face services at our libraries."

The explosion of the Internet as an information medium serves librarians as both a flexible resource and a useful tool, said Rodolfo Rodela, the supervising librarian at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas.

"Through the Web, we make the library available at the point-of-need and nearly free of the restrictions of time and space," Rodela said. "It's a common event nowadays: an Airman lives and works in Cairo, yet can still 'visit' and do research at an Air Force library in Texas through our Web-based journals and books."

While Airmen and families can "visit" online libraries at their convenience, the value of installation librarians has not diminished, Rodela said.

"Librarians build bridges and remove barriers to information," Rodela said. "Nothing improves your searching prowess like expert guidance from an experienced librarian. Search engines return too many questionable sources for efficient research. We'll show you how to use the library's e-journals to find only relevant and vetted sources."

Air Force librarians have also embraced social media as a way to reach out to Airmen and families. Social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, are used to inform customers about new Department of Defense programs, events and local happenings, said Dorothee Bennett, a library technician in charge of outreach, programs and marketing for the library at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.

"We see more and more Air Force libraries using social media," she said. "Many of them have Facebook pages, YouTube accounts and some write their own blogs. With more acceptances of these mediums by the Air Force, base libraries have been able to capitalize on what we do best -- connect our customers and the information they want with the information we have."

Connecting customers to what they want doesn't stop at social media posts. Air Force libraries also use an online library called OverDrive  that allows Airmen and families to 'check out' e-books, audio books, music and movies. Customers keep the items from three to 14 days and may have five items checked out at any one time, Mosley said.

"Since we started the program in 2007, there have been more than 56,000 checkouts," she said. "We've been adding titles each year. In the last 12 months, there have been more than 25,300 checkouts, so our use has increased greatly in the last year due to additional titles, more publicity and the popularity of digital devices."

To keep pace with the latest digital devices, some Air Force libraries also host technology fairs to teach Airmen and families about the latest mobile applications, devices and resources they can use to meet their reading needs. The Eglin AFB library hosts a semiannual "Technology Petting Zoo."

"We highlight e-book readers, tablets and smart phones and answer questions about the devices as well as e-books available for check out on OverDrive," Bennett said. "We also post new developments on e-book technology on our Facebook page. For example, we post updates on new e-readers that are now compatible with OverDrive."

While Air Force libraries continue to reshape their programs around evolving technology, the main mission of a librarian will continue to be the same, Rodela said.

"We collect and organize information; we advocate free speech and open access to information; we foster literacy in young and old, and we support every individual's desire for self-development and education," Rodela said.

Visit a local Air Force library to sign up for an OverDrive account. For more information about Air Force quality of life programs visit