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Library use is changing again!

The Eva Jane Romaine Coombe Director

Library use is changing again! Having worked in libraries for nearly 40 years and been a Library cardholder for even longer, I can say this really isn’t anything new. When I began my career in public libraries, we had card catalogs and the entire check-out process was manual. Overdue notices were typed by Library staff on a typewriter and mailed to your home. When we looked for a magazine article for a research project we used the Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature to find the citations, then located copies of the magazines and read or copied the articles. Reference resources were expensive and only available in print. The Library couldn’t afford copies for each branch and some libraries couldn’t afford these resources at all. Now these resources are available online, with your Library card, and can be accessed from any location with Internet access. Full-text articles are available online. Digital books, streaming video, and music downloads all make using the Library possible from anywhere, anytime. The Main Library was built in three phases starting between 1955 and 1998 and Library has the capacity to house a collection of millions of items. But the rise in the demand for digital materials and the corresponding decline in the demand for some forms of print materials mean the way the building is used is also changing. The Library’s extensive magazine collection saw a decline in use by nearly 90 percent from 2005 through 2013. So, in 2015, we moved the collection to the stacks and added the MakerSpace. The Library has more than 980,000 adult non-fiction books stored at Main Library. But only 23 percent of those books were borrowed in the last two years. Visits to the Main Library are down by 19.5 percent in the last five years; the resources that used to require a trip to the Main Library are now available anywhere, from a branch library or home or school or work, even when the Library’s buildings are closed. Computer use is also down over the last five years as more people use their personal tablet or smartphone to access the Internet.

So we’re going to be re-working Main Library space to make it easier for families to use by placing youth services in close proximity to our Popular Library. Right now, these departments are located in two separate buildings. Our cardholders have to cross the street or use an elevator to get from one section to the other; that’s impractical for families with children in tow. We plan to reconfigure the Information and Reference collection of nonfiction to make it easier to browse. We’ll showcase the subjects that get the most use and make the less popular subjects available by request from our stacks. Books in the Children’s and Teen sections will also be carefully selected to encourage more use of the collection. Many desktop computers will be replaced with laptops which can be used anywhere in the Main Library and new services, like the MakerSpace, will expand. We’ll replace the floor in the Atrium and update furnishings throughout the building.

If you regularly visit the Main Library, you’ll see these changes being implemented and if you haven’t visited Main in a while, we hope these improvements will bring you back.

Winter 2018 links  
Winter 2018 links