by guest blogger Rossana Morriello, (research support librarian, Politecnico di Torino, Italy)
In my previous post “Italian libraries and coronavirus,” I stated that the number of users of library services has increased in these days because of the pandemic that created a shift to digital collections and also made many new users approach library collections.
I tried to get precise data about the current trend. Many libraries are collecting data, and it is very important that they keep on doing so in order to analyze later what is going on now. However, we can get useful insights into the current state of things from digital lending platforms used by many libraries, and I asked a few questions to Giulio Blasi, CEO of Horizons Unlimited, the producer of platform MLOL (Media Library Online).
What is Media Library Online (MLOL)?
GB: MLOL is the first Italian network of libraries for digital lending. It is privately owned and managed by a firm located in Bologna, Horizons Unlimited srl, that has autonomously developed in the back office/front end platform for the service.
The MLOL platform is a digital content aggregator of eBooks (trade/academic), audiobooks, newspapers and magazines, music, movies. Our Shop offers — among other things — 1 mln eBooks, 100,000 audiobooks, 7,200 newspapers and magazines.
We also continuously develop an “open collection” where we harvest & classify digital resources (to date 1.5 mln items)
How many libraries and what kind of libraries use this in Italy?
GB: To date, this network includes more than 6,500 libraries from all the Italian regions and 10 foreign countries. We serve public, academic and scholastic. Even a few private libraries. We have 1,245,000 registered users.
How has the use changed in these days of the coronavirus emergency?
GB: COVID19 has been a real shock for libraries, librarians and patrons. After the lockdown, digital libraries remained the only way of maintaining a lending service. That has meant a 150% increase in usage of our platform in March, by comparison with March 2019 (the expected average increase was 20%), including our Help Desk tickets unfortunately, since we have a mass of users that have no previous experience in reading eBooks, using Adobe DRM etc.
A big effort was made by librarians to simplify the registration procedures so as to permit patrons and new users without MLOL credentials to obtain them even from home without physically visiting the library. This has always been a big taboo in Italy, and I think this will be something to reflect seriously about once the emergence will be over.
In terms of usage patterns, we had no big changes. The big change is that people are discovering the very existence of library digital services. And probably also a lot of librarians are repositioning their idea of digital services. But this is another story.
Horizons Unlimited srl
via Cignani, 66 – 40128 Bologna
tel. +39-051-37.08.87 | fax +39-051-41.57.636 | cell. +39-338-91.81.263