PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.
Upon my return from temporary retirement, my first task was to gather statistics for our 2009 report to the State Library of Ohio.
They seemed to know that the report would be a couple of days tardy, as I had been out of the office during January and February.
Years ago, statistical reports for a library involved gathering monthly reports and an adding machine and totaling columns of figures.
Today, I go into the computer system and request various reports for the year and let the computer do the work.
We can develop more reports than ever before, and various agencies now want more and more data than ever before.
The first data I pulled from the system was the number of active library cards held by county residents.
I was surprised to find 33,252 active library cards, which is about half of the residents of Jefferson County.
My surprise was because we ended Bookmobile service to schools last fall, and deleted all of those cards from our system.
The new total reflects that most of those children acquired new library cards, and our total number of library cards increased by 15 percent even after deleting the Bookmobile cards.
The number of items checked out of our 7 libraries remained constant, even with the reduction of 25 hours per week in operating hours.
Videos, DVDs, CDs, and cassettes accounted for 25 percent of checkouts, and continued to grow as the size of the collection shrinks.
Usage of our public computers grew by 20 percent in 2009, even though the number of computers available for use remained the same.
More and more laptop computers are being used to access our wireless system.
The library’s income from the Public Library Fund declined by over $ 600,000 during the last five months of 2009 as reductions and cuts to the fund became a reality.
As with most library systems, we increased fines and fees for various library services to help address the budget crunch.
The result was the opposite of the intended, total collections declined slightly as people were more careful with overdue materials and increased fines produced small collections.
Our library system is still a major provider of e-books that can be downloaded and used for a 3 week period.
We rank in the top three of the 75 library systems in our network for use of e-books.
Attendance of library programs jumped 20 percent as we try to offer more programs and book clubs to satisfy customer demands.
As I have said before, public libraries are quickly becoming the last public service outlet in our communities.
We still have buildings, phones, and human beings at a desk to serve your information needs.
So many agencies have disappeared from our society, from utility offices to state offices, replaced by a web site or post office box.
Many times, the librarian becomes the person that the public uses for information, searching, and paperwork for those agencies that no longer exist.
Actually, the public library’s purpose remains unchanged from a century ago. What have changed are the means and methods used to find that information.