FREEPORT- With the growing popularity of e-books, tablet computers, smartphones and other devices, technology has reshaped the way people get information and read for both work and pleasure.

To keep up, the Freeport Community Library has just hired its first-ever technology librarian.

Robin Lowell joined the staff on Aug. 6. She comes to Freeport with experience working in both academic and public libraries, most recently working as a reference librarian at the Patten Free Library in Bath.

While Lowell has spent her first days on the staff getting to know the library and the community, she will be concentrating most of her time on technology-related issues.

“I’m going to be able to help with maintaining the (library’s) website, perhaps updating it in the future,” she said. “I’ll also be helping with our web presence, including Twitter, Facebook and other things out there coming down the road. (I will also be) teaching classes, to address questions, to just be a resource for what people need me to be.”

Library Director Beth Edmonds said she had been trying for the last couple of years to add the position of technology librarian to help the Freeport library stay ahead of the technology curve. “Libraries are changing in the sense that we are information access points,” Edmonds said. “Of all kinds, not just print. This library has tried to address the needs of the community.”

Looking through a pool of 35 candidates, Edmonds said, Lowell quickly stood out.

“Robin was just the perfect fit,” she said. “She came ready to take charge of really making sure that the patrons and the staff are up to date on all of the technology that they need to be up to date with in this world.”

Lowell said that she wants patrons to feel comfortable coming to her with technology questions, adding that she was aware that for some people, adapting to rapidly changing technology can be difficult.

“There’s just so much out there,” she said. “And it’s just so hard to find a trusted source to go to and also somebody who is welcoming. People can be very intimidated by asking questions.”

There are plans in the works for Lowell to soon begin teaching some technology classes at the library, but she also plans to have one-on-one sessions, where patrons can schedule appointments with her and ask whatever technology-related questions they want, whether it be trying to get photos from their camera to their laptop, using Skype to talk to distant relatives or setting up an email account.

“Patrons are always welcome to ask me about technology questions,” she said.

Edmonds said Lowell’s role will be changing and expanding as it becomes clear where her expertise is needed.

“We don’t know yet all the places where she’s going to work,” Edmonds said.

Edmonds said she has definitely seen a change in how people use the library over the years.

“I think the major thing I’ve noticed over the last 10-15 years is people are much more technologically savvy,” she said. “You’ve got young people coming in from schools where they bring their laptops. They’re web natives, they’re plugged in and ready to go. That’s sort of raised the consciousness of their parents and their grandparents. So we’re trying to respond to that.”

One example of how people use the library has changed is the increased use of e-books. The Freeport Community Library is part of the Maine InfoNet system, where patrons from libraries all over the state can log in from any computer and download e-books, which are automatically returned from the patron’s e-reader after the lending period has expired. This system allows patrons to utilize the library’s services without having to set foot in the library, and, Edmonds said, it is gaining popularity in town.

“I’d say I have about 250 of my patrons who are regularly using it,” she said.

However, the library’s basic function, according to Edmonds, still hasn’t changed.

“It’s a center, it’s where you get information of all kinds,” she said, adding that libraries are constantly evolving.

“But libraries have always done that,” Lowell added. “You started out with books perhaps, but people could also read newspapers and magazines at the library. In the old days, you could get your LP records and cassettes and your audio books, but then it moved on to CDs and DVDs. It’s just a natural progression, as formats change in life.”

But that doesn’t mean that the library is going to become completely virtual any time soon. Edmonds said a majority of the people still say they want physical books, and she doesn’t see a time where books will entirely disappear from the shelves.

Lowell agreed.

“With a book, you don’t have to worry about the power going out, or the formats changing,” she said. “There’s something nice about something that you don’t have to upgrade.”

Robin Lowell is the Freeport Community Library’s first-ever technology librarian.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.