By Barbara A. Goodno

Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON — Who goes to the library at 2 a.m.? Anyone can now, thanks to an initiative that makes Defense Department library materials available online.

The new Web site, soft-launched in July and formally announced Sept. 18, expands DoD’s library program beyond the 197 libraries located on military installations.

Officials said the new endeavor will bring library materials to military members and their families, including those in the National Guard and Reserve, wherever they live and whenever they want -- at no charge.

“Libraries have long been considered mission-essential, supporting recreation pursuits, off-duty education, spouse careers and education and life-long learning,” said Leslye A. Arsht, deputy undersecretary of defense for military community and family policy. “For quite some time now, we in the Department of Defense have been looking for effective ways to deliver services to all our servicemembers and their families, regardless of location, service or component. This is a huge step in the right direction.”

The new library initiative is the result of a Lean Six Sigma study that showed DoD could provide more high-quality library materials with joint procurement, Arsht said. Lean Six Sigma is a widely used business management strategy.

“We were able to not only enhance the services’ online library portals, but also to create an entirely new resource on Military OneSource,” Arsht said. Military OneSource is a DoD initiative that provides a consolidated starting point for a wide variety of life issues for servicemembers and their families.

The new online library will offer resources and services in electronic and hard-copy versions.

Program managers said that even though they haven’t been advertised, the new resources already have been popular. Since the soft launch in July, Military OneSource has distributed 8,723 e-books and 1,860 audio books. New accounts through Military OneSource and the service library portals show a 68-percent increase in new accounts with Peterson’s Lifelong Learning Database, a 33-percent increase in the number of online CLEP tests taken, and a 115-percent increase in the number of practice ASVAB tests taken.

Arsht said that beginning this summer, a variety of Playaways have been sent each month to troops deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan and other remote locations. They are especially popular in remote locations, where access to electricity may be limited, she noted. A variety of paperback books also are distributed each month.

“This is a wonderful example of what joint collaboration can do as we strive to improve the quality of life for all our servicemembers and their families,” she added.

Service librarians agree. They say that military libraries are some of the busiest places on their installations, and that expanding the reach of these resources to those with limited library access because of duty requirements, who are far from home, or are assigned away from an installation is the right thing to do. They see libraries as a key link in today’s networked world.

“Some books in our installation libraries are in such high demand – especially the CLEP materials,” Army librarian Barbara Christine said. “We are pleased and excited to be able to offer all these resource materials when people need them.”

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