PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.
For over 20 years, the Public Library Data Service survey has been reviewing public libraries nationwide to provide general trends in the usage and operations of public libraries.
The annual survey is sponsored by the Public Library Association for the use and benefit of libraries in planning and developing services to the public.
There have been many reports of the dramatic rise in usage of public libraries in conjunction with the economic downturn of the last two years, but actually the usage increase can be traced back over the past decade.
Every indicator of library usage since 2001 shows a constant increase in the number of people visiting libraries, the number of items checked out, the number of library card holders, and people accessing online resources provided by libraries.
93 percent of libraries have web pages, and most provide access to an online public-access catalog of the library’s collections.
Most libraries have additional online databases that can be used by the public in-house, as well as from home computers.
70 percent allow the ability for people to monitor and manage their library accounts from home.
Most libraries list their program offerings on their web site, and most have wireless Internet access in their library buildings.
Many report that providing sufficient bandwidth for public demand is a problem, with many areas of the U.S. still devoid of high speed Internet access.
43 percent of public libraries have locally produced digitized collections available for usage.
Our library system has all of the above resources available for your use.
Our website at www.steubenvillelibrary.org links to our online catalog, which has holdings of more than 6 million items at 74 library systems around Ohio.
All are available to be borrowed and shipped to the library nearest you for pick-up.
We have online resources that can be accessed from home through OPLIN (Ohio Public Library Information Network) as well as additional resources that we purchase locally.
Your library card account can be accessed from home, and you can renew items if there are no active requests for them.
All of our libraries have Internet access, and wireless capability, some of which extends outside of the building proper.
And yes, the Digital Shoebox Project of our library contains more than 65,000 pages of digitized materials for searching.
Our library usage is growing just like library usage across the nation, with 34,000 active library card holders.
While the economy is causing libraries to be busier than ever, some of the growth is simply people discovering, or re-discovering their public libraries.
As our society has been changing due to the development of new technologies, your public library continues its purpose of being the information-provider, as well as providing real people to provide customer service to the public.
And while you can interact with the library through technology, you can also talk to a real person on the phone or in-person.
People are flocking to libraries for classes, children’s programming, and computer training. We are the people place that seems to have disappeared from our society.