Library pilot expanding to Pioneer Valley transit riders

A digital library pilot program called “Browse, Borrow, Board” recently launched in the Pioneer Valley.

A digital library pilot program called “Browse, Borrow, Board” recently launched in the Pioneer Valley. Courtesy of Sen. Jake Oliveira

By ALISON KUZNITZ

State House News Service

Published: 12-29-2023 10:44 AM

Public transit riders without library cards in the Pioneer Valley can now access online materials, including e-books and audiobooks, as they wait for their buses as part of a growing initiative that launched in Boston this year.

The “Browse, Borrow, Board” pilot expanded to the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority (PVTA) last week, as western Massachusetts lawmakers celebrated the digital content program at Springfield’s Union Station.

Sen. Jake Oliveira said the funding he secured for regional public libraries in the fiscal year 2024 budget is helping to bring the pilot — a collaboration among the Massachusetts Library System, the Boston Public Library and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation — to other regional transit authorities throughout the state. The program’s “primary goal is to reach riders who may not already be familiar with the library’s offerings,” Oliveira’s office said.

Following the one-year pilot, which is slated to conclude in September 2024, Oliveira said his goal is to secure a “more long-term” service.

“Massachusetts residents have some of the longest commuting times out of any state in the country,” Oliveira, a Ludlow Democrat, told State House News Service. Oliveira said connecting transit riders, including public school students who rely on the PVTA, to digital library offerings is educational and improves their commuting experience.

The content comes in multiple genres and languages, including English, Spanish and Portuguese, Oliveira said.

Transit riders don’t need to have library cards to access the collection from the Boston Public Library, which also includes newspapers and magazines. By scanning QR codes at bus and train stations, users can set up temporary accounts and borrow up to five e-books or audiobooks over a three-week period, according to the Boston Public Library.

“I look forward to seeing this program succeed and entertaining its viability down the line when east-west rail is up and running,” Sen. Adam Gomez, a Springfield Democrat, said in a statement, referring to the anticipated commuter rail project.

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The Browse, Borrow, Board pilot launched at 20 bus stops in Boston this spring, including at eight stops situated on fare-free routes, according to the Boston Public Library.

Other pilots are active at the Metrowest, Berkshire, Worcester and Franklin County regional transit authorities, said Sarah Sogigian, executive director of the Massachusetts Library System. Officials are also working on a pilot for the Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority and hope to add more agencies in the new year, she said.