Time to curl up and listen to a good book: Digital devices now at public libraries across North Olympic Peninsula

Miniature iPod-like devices — mp3 players — have infiltrated all four Clallam County public libraries to offer you hours of literary, listening pleasure.

They’re called Playaway digital audiobooks, and the North Olympic Library System has purchased 140 titles, with plans to acquire more if library patrons latch on to them.

At the Jefferson County Library as well as the Port Townsend Library, Playaways have been available for checkout for several months now.

And while the Jefferson County library, at 620 Cedar Ave., in Port Hadlock, has 130 Playaways — including many children’s and young adult titles — the Port Townsend Library at 1220 Lawrence St., is looking at adding more of the digital audio books for older patrons, including those in assisted living homes and retirement centers.

Here’s how to use one of the new Playaways just added to the North Olympic Library System:

Visit the public library in Port Angeles, Clallam Bay, Forks or Sequim, look for the orange Playaway display and check out the portable mp3 player containing the book of your choice.

Insert an AAA battery, plug in your own pair of headphones and listen to an actor, or cast of actors, read the book to you.

There’s no Internet downloading, CDs or cassette tapes involved — only the digital player, which is half the size of a deck of cards.

The titles in Clallam’s libraries range from bestselling novels by Nora Roberts to How to Meditate by Pema Chodron, and from classics such as Little Women and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy to stories by A Prairie Home Companion’s Garrison Keillor.

There’s also a Playaway with 2 ½ hours of “Classic Ghost Stories,” one with 13 hours of Twilight, and many other entertainments.

The Playaway kiosk poster shows a woman running with her mp3 book and ear buds; you can also dance, or knit while listening, said Paula Barnes, director of the library system.

The mp3 players are easy to use, she added, with clearly marked buttons that allow you to move from chapter to chapter, speed up or slow down the narrator’s voice and mark the place where you left off.

And Playaways work with standard car adaptors, Barnes noted.

The cost of the North Olympic Library System’s start-up collection of Playaways is $5,700, and the plan is to add more titles each month, though collection management librarian Lorrie Kovell said she and her staff are still in trial mode.

“We want to give it a feel before really committing,” Kovell said. “They’ve caught fire in a lot of places, and we think they will here.”

Now through next Tuesday, customers who come to the Clallam Bay, Port Angeles, Sequim or Forks libraries can enter a contest to win a Playaway audiobook to keep; random drawings will be held, and each branch will have one winner.

The library system has a shot, too, at winning $10,000 worth of digital audiobook players.

The Playaway company is holding a creative-promotion contest this month, and so Kovell, along with outreach coordinator Emily Sly, Sequim librarian Lauren Corder, volunteer Dave Dau, facilities manager Brian Phillips and youth services librarian Jennifer Knight donned orange outfits, orange face paint and glitter — orange being Playaway’s signature color — and paper crowns supplied by the company.

Their hope was to draw attention to the new collection — and emerge victorious from the contest ending Sept. 30.

That $10,000 would bring another 100 or so digital audiobooks into Clallam’s libraries, Kovell said.

To look up titles available on the digital audio players in Clallam County public libraries, book lovers can enter the key word Playaway, either at a library or via the Catalog link on the library system website, www.NOLS.org.

More information is available by phoning the Port Angeles Library at 360-417-8500, the Sequim Library at 360-683-1161, the Forks Library at 360-374-6402 or the Clallam Bay Library at 360-963-2414.

For more information about the Jefferson County Library, visit www.jcl.lib.wa.us or phone 360-385-6544.

For more about the Port Townsend Library, visit www.cityofpt.us/library or phone 360-385-3181.

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Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3550 or at [email protected] peninsuladailynews.com.

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