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A library, traditionally, is a physical place where a person goes to find books and other informational materials — made of paper.

But in today's increasingly digital world, Utah State Librarian Donna Morris said, library resources are available at the click of a mouse or a tap on a screen from anywhere at anytime.

"It's a whole new approach to learning and to finding information," Morris said. "Now you're looking at the library being a door to resources from the world. It's a portal."

The popularity of audiobooks, ebooks and other digital materials has grown steadily in recent years, prompting changes in the way libraries — and schools — operate, Morris said.

In 2011, Utah's public libraries offered a collective total of 111,670 ebooks and audiobooks, according to data collected by the Utah State Library.

By 2013, that number had grown to include more than 1 million audiobook and e-book titles.

"Utahns have increasingly relied on digital resources to answer day to day questions," Morris said, "to answer business questions, to answer life's questions, to answer whatever questions they may have."

Colleen Eggett, a program manager with the Utah State Library, said the rise in digital circulation has been "phenomenal." She said that over time, e-books are quickly becoming the preferred format for people looking for informational resources.

"Everyone is just clamoring to get ebooks and audiobooks," she said. "With all the tablets and everything else, it's what everybody wants."

Utah's digital revolution extends into school libraries and children's reading materials as well.

The mobile app FarFaria, which allows users to access one book for free each day from its library of digital children's books, recently released a report on its user data that showed Utah children were among the country's most regular e-readers.

FarFaria users in Utah read an average of 12 e-books each month during the summer of 2014, compared to the app's national average of 9.6 books.

FarFaria CEO and co-founder Ajay Godhwani said the mission of the app is not to replace traditional books, but to encourage children to read in whatever format they choose.

"If you want kids to grow up as readers, we need to give them all the opportunities we can to read," he said.

Many school districts in Utah have invested in creating digital libraries, either through their own ebook purchases or by partnering with statewide services through the Utah Education Network or the Utah State Library.

Compared to paper-based reading, e-books are more accessible and don't fall victim to wear and tear over time, said Cory Stokes, technology director for the Southwest Educational Development Center.

"They can read it anywhere," he said. "They can check it out anytime."

E-books and audiobooks are particularly useful in rural parts of the state, Stokes said, where libraries may not be located near a student's home but resources can be accessed through a computer, tablet or smartphone.

The Southwest Educational Development Center functions as a satellite office for the state Office of Education, assisting schools in Washington, Kane, Garfield, Iron, Beaver and Millard counties.

"They can't go down to a city library," Stokes said. "They can just log in, grab a book and read it."

Stokes said the center is in the second year of an initiative to increase its library of digital books for students, paid for with grant money from the Utah State Library.

The center has purchased mostly works of fiction for teenage children, but expects to continue expanding its selection and user base.

"We probably have about 20 percent of the students who are currently using it and they like it," he said. "They just pick it up and run with it."

Morris said one feature of e-books that often appeals to younger readers is the ability to incorporate multimedia content into a text.

The content of a paper book is static, she said, but a book on a tablet or computer screen will often include embedded video or animations that supplement the written information.

"You used to be able to just go page to page, but now the book comes alive," Morris said. "(Children) are used to the characters popping out and doing something."

Of course there are costs associated with a transition to digital resources, particularly when it comes to the devices that e-books are read on.

But Diana Suddreth, director of teaching and learning for the Utah Office of Education, says ebooks with multimedia and supplemental content offer a particular value to readers, which helps to justify the initial costs of entry.

"If we're going to go in the direction of e-books, it should be something more than what's available in print," she said.

Suddreth said a statewide transition to digital resources requires that all children and their families have equal access to technology, which is not the case currently.

Some digital textbooks require an Internet connection to access the text, she said, which imposes limits on where and when students can do their homework.

"It's both more portable and less portable, depending on the context," she said.

In the end, there's a very practical benefit to having all of a student's books loaded onto a single device:

"It just doesn't make sense for kids to be carrying around backpacks full of heavy books any more," Suddreth said.

Stokes said e-books and audiobooks are still relatively new, and educators continue to look at the research and new features available for digital libraries. But he doesn't expect digital reading to be a passing fad.

"I really do think it's the future," he said. "I think it's where we're going."