Cecilia Daddino, 6, of Yaphank, tries out a new digital...

Cecilia Daddino, 6, of Yaphank, tries out a new digital system at Longwood Public Library in Middle Island, Tuesday. (Sept. 14, 2010) Credit: Daniel Gonzalez

Suffolk County residents now have a new library branch, one they can visit from their computers or phones.

Live-brary.com is the new digital branch of the Suffolk Cooperative Library System, offering one-stop shopping for library card holders. Patrons can order books from any of the system's 56 libraries. They can also download any of 7,500 titles in eBooks, audiobooks, music CDs, movies and videos, as well as receive homework help, test prep, career counseling and foreign language instruction. All services are free and require only a library card, said Kevin Verbesey, director of Suffolk's library system.

Verbesey said the new digital branch is "in no way, shape or form a replacement" for traditional libraries and has elements many libraries already offer. Building the site, he said, cost only about $10,000.

"We're expanding the four walls of the library and touching people in as many ways as possible," he said. "It's not really a reinvention of the wheel, it's a repackaging."

One new element, he said, is the library system's presence on Facebook, YouTube, Flickr and Twitter: Live-brary.com contains links to those sites. He said the system also hopes to add a one-step login for the whole site and a GIS, or geographic information system, map so patrons can locate the library closest to an address.

The site went live in June but will officially launch Tuesday, when libraries will host celebrations and offer site instruction. Ruth Westfall, administrator for technology services for the library system, said the site already has more than 600 Facebook "likes" and more than 200 Twitter followers.

"Libraries are no longer about coming in and asking a question and checking out a book," Westfall said. "Now we're coming to you in your house. We will be reaching people who maybe never even walk into a library, who don't know what we offer." This includes the Internet-savvy younger generation, she said, and the disabled.

Suzanne Johnson, assistant director for the Longwood Public Library in Middle Island, said some smaller libraries can't afford certain databases, but the new site gives all residents equal access. "Why should someone be denied access to that information because they happen to like living in a small town?" she said.

The Live-brary site also allows libraries to post videos and programming information for their branches, building community participation, officials said.

In creating the new site, the library system is simply responding to the times, Verbesey said, and adjusting to the same trends as other businesses. The Nassau Library System is planning a similar site that will launch this fall, said director Jackie Thresher.

At a recent introduction to Live-brary.com at the Longwood Public Library, Gail Lynch-Bailey, 53, of Middle Island, was surprised to find there is a mobile version of the site and that she could download items to her iPod.

"So you can take your library home with you and you can take your library on the road - wow!" she said.

Lynch-Bailey said she was impressed with the historical newspaper collection. As she perused articles from the 1940s, Joelle Daddino, 31, of Yaphank, sat nearby marveling at the foreign language offerings. Daddino also said she was happy that she could download audio books for her 6-year-old daughter Cecilia. "We like to listen to books in the car or in the doctor's office," she said. "Instead of pulling out the Nintendo, I'd rather she plug in and listen to a book."

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