A new business will make using the library easier and potentially help readers save money on library fines and the cost of new books. Helium, a library book delivery service in Milwaukee County, enables residents to rent library books online, have them delivered to their home, picked up and returned.
"In an age of declining readership, Helium effectively removes obstacles to establishing strong reading habits – money and time spent obtaining books," says Helium founder Ian Buchanan.
The service, which begins Sept. 3, is free through at least the end of the year. Buchanan, who has a full-time job in Downtown Milwaukee, is currently funding the project himself, but projects this will change in the future. The cost will be minimal.
"We fully anticipate even the final pricing structure to reflect bargain-level costs as compared to other services that deliver books, including Amazon," says Buchanan.
Buchanan compares the business model to food delivery services like Eat Street or UberEats. However, unlike food, books sourced from libraries need to be returned.
"Helium takes care of that as well, also at no charge to the customer," says Buchanan. "In addition, with each rental order placed through Helium, the company pledges to donate to causes that support our local reading and education ecosystems."
In 2018, 26 percent of Americans admitted to not reading one book, according to a study conducted by Pew Research. Within the same study, the data shows that print books are the preferred medium of American readers.
"Helium leaves time and money in the hands of the individual, aiming to elevate readership levels by delivering free books, and in the form readers seem to cherish most: print," says Buchanan.
To use the service, readers visit Helium’s website, place an order to rent the books they desire and have those books delivered to their door. When it comes time to return the rented books, the reader indicates via the site that their books are ready to be picked up. Helium will then return them to the local library.
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.