UMN online book platform to expand

The collection will release 3,500 more titles next month.

by Michelle Griffith

An online platform that provides free, online books to Minnesotans will double in size come July.  

Over the next few weeks, Minitex will add more than 3,500 titles with the goal of strengthening communities and providing equal access to e-books across Minnesota.

Minitex — a program jointly funded by the University of Minnesota Libraries, Minnesota Office of Higher Education and Minnesota Department of Education — created the Ebooks Minnesota database in 2016 to make library resources easily accessible for people across the state. 

“Particularly in rural areas and in schools, the libraries are not really well funded,” said Valerie Horton, director of Minitex. “They really depend on statewide services to try to level the playing field to make sure the same resources you have in Dinkytown are available to you if you’re in east Ottertail [county] or Hutchinson.” 

The program purchases novels for its collection from multiple publishing companies, most of which are Minnesota based. Many of the publishing companies in the state seek local authors, so many of the e-books are written and illustrated by Minnesotans, Horton said. 

Minitex was founded over 45 years ago with the goal of sharing physical books and journals between libraries in Minnesota, Horton said. 

Ebooks Minnesota has e-books from range of genres, including fiction, murder mystery, scholarly journals and textbooks. Some books are also offered in a variety of languages that are common in Minnesota, like Somali, Hmong, Khmer, Spanish and Ojibwe.

A large portion of the platform’s e-books are targeted to children and K-12 schools, Horton said. Many schools in rural areas use the books for homework assignments and classroom work. 

A group consisting of librarians from multiple libraries across the state meets quarterly to decide what books should be on the platform, said Tyler Irvin, technology support librarian for Southeastern Libraries Cooperating.

Anyone within the state limits can read books from Ebooks Minnesota. The program uses geolocation to track a user’s IP address and anyone using internet connection within the state has access to the collection, Horton said. 

She added there is no charge, no limit to the number of books people can access and no due date for the book. 

“Ebooks [Minnesota] allows patrons easy access to a ton of fantastic content… Students, book clubs and any other group that is all reading the same title at once can get access to the same titles at the same time,” John Larson, St. Paul Public Library digital services coordinator, said in an email.

Nationwide, people continue expressing positive viewpoints about public libraries, according to the Pew Research Center. In a 2016 Pew Research survey, 66 percent of participants said closing their public library would have a “major impact on their community.”

E-books make up a small but growing percentage of a library’s collection, while the amount of physical materials in libraries are decreasing, Horton said.