Innovative programs and new technology have been paying off big for local libraries.
“We’re at a full 100,000 checkouts more than we were in 2003,” Bob Swaney, director of the Johnson City Public Library, said last week.
The JCPL staff has taken steps to try to be more relevant in the library’s collections.
“We’re trying to be more responsive to what people want to check out,” Swaney said. “We try to have more copies of high-demand items so that people aren’t waiting to check books out.”
Pat Beard, director of the Washington County Public Library, said its branches in Jonesborough and Gray are holding summer reading programs for kids and adults. Many people are also using the libraries for meeting places for other groups such as knitting and crochet craft groups.
The JCPL is also hosting the “One World, Many Stories” summer reading program for children, which has special performers on Thursdays.
“Kids sign up and they can either pledge to read so many books or they can pledge to read for so many hours,” Swaney said.
Kids who meet their goal get invited to a celebration at the end of the summer.
Of course the lagging economy also plays its part in the increased use of free library services.
“We’re seeing a lot of people who are coming in because they can’t afford to buy books for themselves and for their children,” Beard said.
There has also been an increase in the number of people using local libraries to help find jobs.
“We’re getting a lot of people at our libraries using our computers to look for jobs and make resumes,” Beard said.
The Johnson City library has also started a career collection with information on things such as writing resumes and going to job interviews. More possibilities will also become available once the library’s redesign is complete.
“We hope to step up what we’re doing with career help as we’re going to have an environment that allows us to do training,” Swaney said.
He also said the library can do training for library catalog searches among other things after the redesign. “The possibilities are really endless,” Swaney said.
The Johnson City library is also negotiating to have access to a training database called Universal Class which will have information on topics from academic subjects to making repairs around the house.
Availability of online databases accounts for a part of increased library usage.
The Regional Ebook and Audiobook Download System allows patrons of the Johnson City library to access content through the Internet.
“The READS database has ebooks which can go on devices such as the nook, and it’s going to work with the Kindle later this year.”
A range of titles is available, and the library does take purchase suggestions. Ebooks can be checked out from home without going to the library for up to two weeks, but a library card is required. The JCPL is also checking out Kindles and nooks.
“We don’t have a lot right now, but we just wanted to put a few in circulation and see how it goes,” Swaney said. “So far it’s gone well.”
Audiobooks are also available for checkout through the READS database.
“You can download an audio book to an MP3 player or an iPod,” Swaney said. “In some cases you can download them to your computer and burn them to disk, and it’s free.”
The Johnson City library had more than 15,000 electronic checkouts last year. Swaney said they plan on putting more resources into the READS database to make more titles available.
Another online database available to JCPL patrons is the Mango language database.
“The Mango database, which has over 30 different languages, has exploded in use. It’s doubled in the last couple of months,” Swaney said.
Mango has more than 1,000 users from the city library, more than half of whom are people learning Spanish. Access to the language database is free with a library card.