As part of our ongoing series of blog posts highlighting our awesome staff throughout the Free Library of Philadelphia, today we take some time to speak with Jamie Bowers, an eResources Librarian.
What is your role with the Free Library of Philadelphia?
As the eResources librarian, I'm in charge of all the Free Library's digital resources: ebooks, audiobooks, databases, and online learning platforms. Last year I led the Experience Pass project, which allows Philadelphians to use their library cards to check out free passes to museums, sporting events, and other attractions.
Philadelphia Magazine recently recognized the Free Library with a "Best of Philly" award for our Digital Resources. Can you give us some background on managing the Digital Resources and what is your favorite Digital Resource to use?
Managing the digital resources at the Free Library is a big job! It's a soup to nuts kind of gig, that includes understanding ever-changing purchasing models, evaluating content, negotiating licensing with vendors, setting up and maintaining access through our website, deciphering usage statistics, teaching people how to use eResources, marketing, blogging, troubleshooting tech issues, and keeping up with emerging trends. It requires that I work closely with colleagues in my office, as well as across departments in IT and Communications, to make sure our resources are of the best quality, in good working order, and that the public knows about all that we have to offer.
As a team of one, it was a huge honor for me personally that the Free Library was recognized for Best of Philly for Digital Resources. If there's a zoom reception somewhere with champagne, I have not yet received my invitation, so hit me up Philly Mag! But seriously, as much as it is an honor, Library digital resources being described as a "rabbit hole" that was "discovered during the pandemic," leaves me feeling a little ambivalent. We were here before the pandemic. We'll be here for Philadelphia through the pandemic, and we'll still be here when this pandemic is over. We got you Philly, let us know what you need!
My favorite new digital resource is Historical Black Newspapers, which gives patrons access to 10 distinguished African American newspapers, dating as far back as 1893! The Philadelphia Tribune is included and this is HUGE for Philadelphia. Library cardholders already had digital access to the Tribune through our database Access World News from September 2008-present. (Pro tip: You can find Access World News in our A-Z database list under A.) Now with the addition of the historical newspaper collection from ProQuest, cardholders can access the Tribune digitally from 1912-2001. This was previously only accessible via microfilm through a physical visit to the Library, so this really just opens up access to the oldest continuously published daily Black newspaper in the United States to so many more people.
What do you wish more people knew about the library / department where you work?
First, I want people to know that we are not "closed." We never closed. You may not be able to walk inside our buildings, but we are open for service. Free Library staff are working hard and we're adding new programs and services everyday, from new ebooks and audiobooks, to new databases, virtual programs. Now people can even make appointments to pick up or place holds on physical materials. You can always reach a librarian for help or to ask a question via email and now you can reach us by phone.
For digital resources specifically, I want people to know we've got something for everyone: students, job seekers, lifelong learners, and for the average person who just wants to download a fun beach read, stream a movie, or find information on health and wellness. Check out this set of digital fliers to get a general overview of some of digital resources we offer.
What is the most satisfying aspect of your job?
I love saving people money. When people tell me they are buying subscriptions to audiobook services or paying for expensive online courses to level up their tech skills, I say, you know we already have that at the Free Library? Your tax dollars are already hard at work, (responsibly stewarded by some of the smartest, hippest, nerds in Philadelphia,) to provide you these resources. Don't pay twice! (Pro tip: download the OverDrive, Libby, or Hoopla apps today!)
What are you currently reading / watching?
I'm currently listening to Margaret Atwood's The Heart Goes Last, via Libby. It's a novel about a couple that goes to live in a place called Consilience to escape the terrible poverty and violence in a dystopian United States. It's a social experiment where they get to live in a cookie-cutter suburban house for one month, then have to go live in a prison for the second month. Things do not go well. Next on deck are Megan Giddings' Lakewood and Maurice Carols Ruffin's We Cast a Shadow—both are disturbing dystopian books, my cup of tea for sure.
Where’s your favorite place to read in Philly?
The grove of trees outside the Barnes, near their reflective pools, is heaven. I miss sitting there and eating lunch with a good book.
Do you have a favorite librarian or other Free Library staff member at your neighborhood library you think we should shine a spotlight on? Let us know in the comments!