Onleihe: The Pocket Library
Please enter here: Erdem Üngür goes to the library with his smartphone (Photo: Anna Esser)
13 September 2012
Libraries are great, but when you need them they are often closed – or too far away. This is not true for Onleihe (an artificial word that literally translates as OnLoan). Onleihe is a digital library that can be accessed almost any time and anywhere, a feature greatly appreciated by Erdem Üngür and Nurittin Yildiran. Von Anna Esser
Erdem Üngür is working at his desk in between piles of folders and papers. His office at the Cultural University of Istanbul, where he works as a research assistant, is small and dimly lit. Strewn on the windowsill are books about Bauhaus architecture and aesthetics, statics and philosophy. Üngür is hacking away on his notebook computer, opens up a book here and a book there, many of which are in English, some also in German.
Üngür, who is in his late twenties, has been working on this doctorate degree in architecture for a year, but on the other side of town, at the Technical University. So far, he has no exact idea of his dissertation topic, he is thinking of “something involving philosophy and space.” He has been searching for the right literature for a long time: “There clearly is a shortage of Turkish literature on architecture and philosophy,” he says.
Üngür graduated from the German School Istanbul in 2003, but in his opinion his German has become a bit rusty. To avoid losing the language even more, he does not miss a single movie night at the Goethe-Institut Istanbul. This is where he saw postings about the digital library Onleihe. He tried it out immediately. He was hoping to perhaps find literature by Peter Sloterdijk that would come in handy for his studies. Only a few of the philosopher’s books have so far been translated into Turkish, and Erdem Üngür has too much on his plate to go to the institute’s library.
The libraries of the Goethe-Instituts in Central and Eastern Europe, North-West Europe, Southern Europe, East Asia, Canada and the United States, and since April 2012 also Sub-Saharan Africa, have made digital media available for loan via the Internet since autumn 2011. Meanwhile, 25 Goethe libraries have established a digital branch.
350 libraries – and an upward trendLibrary users can borrow books, audio books, music albums and films there. Mind you: borrow. This is because the digital library, as any other library, has at most a couple of copies of each book and no digital copies to give away for free. Electronic books, too, have to be returned by users. This is very simple to do: all files you download onto a computer, an e-book reader, an MP3 player or a smartphone have a preset expiration date. Borrowers can use them for seven days.
Onleihe is also very popular beyond the boundaries of the Goethe-Institut. This digital lending system was developed by the Wiesbaden-based Divibib company and launched in 2007, initially with four pilot libraries in the cities of Hamburg, Cologne, Munich und Würzburg. Today, 350 libraries use Onleihe, among them several university libraries, library networks and Goethe-Instituts. The trend is upward.
As Erdem Üngür is a permanent resident of Turkey and a registered member of the library of the Goethe-Institut in Istanbul – two prerequisites for using the local Onleihe – he was eligible to sign in on the Goethe-Institut’s website.
Now he is keying in the name “Sloterdijk” and gets four hits. Üngür decides to borrow Du musst dein Leben ändern. Über Anthropotechnik, it is available for loan. “It’s practically impossible to borrow such a book in its original language in Turkey,” he says. Erdem Üngür downloads the e-book version onto his smartphone and immediately begins to read.
German with Snow WhiteNurittin Yildiran is a user of Onleihe, too. A German teacher at the Cankaya Anadolu Lisesi in Ankara, a school for returnee children with German as their first foreign language, Yildiran has so far used Onleihe to borrow teaching materials and magazines. Last year he bought the crime novel Schneewittchen muss sterben by Nele Neuhaus. Now, as he browses through the Goethe-Institut’s Onleihe catalogue for South-Eastern Europe, he comes across the audio book version and borrows it on the spot.
Whether one is interested in travel guides, teaching aids or fiction: there’s a broad range of books to borrow via Onleihe. Almost one thousand media are available from the digital library of the Goethe-Instituts in South-Eastern Europe. Onleihe is particularly useful for people who live outside the metropolises of Ankara, Istanbul and Izmir, which have Goethe libraries.
With the computer on his lap and the book Schneewittchen muss sterben in his hand, Nurittin Yildiran starts to read while listening to the audio book. “When I read written text in a book and listen to the audio book at the same time I can hear how to pronounce certain words correctly and improve my pronunciation,” he explains.
Erdem Üngür plans to use the Goethe-Institut’s Onleihe more often in the future to refresh his German: He intends to spend his long trips commuting between the two universities listening to German audio books.