Local libraries reporting heavier demand for services
February 6, 2009 · Updated 5:16 PM
The Sno-Isle library system has reported an across-the-board jump in people visiting its facilities over the past few months.
Attendance for children and adult programs at the Langley and Freeland libraries has increased 32 and 19 percent, respectively.
“We see this spike every time we’re in a recession,” said Sno-Isle marketing director Mary Kelly. “We can help folks find jobs, take out books, keep up with the news and rent DVDs; all for free. At times like this, people rediscover the library.”
She noted that more people are using the library to help with job searches, resume development and other online career resources.
The 21 libraries in the system have seen increases in check-out rates of a wide variety of materials, children’s attendance has increased and its Web site — www.sno-isle.org — has registered a jump in usage.
“People have less disposable income to spend on books and movies, and they know they can turn to the library to help meet their everyday needs,” Kelly said.
In Langley, head librarian Vicky Welfare reports a surge in foot traffic.
“We definitely have had more people in the building and there has been heavy use of the computer stations,” she said.
Welfare said both children and adult programs are drawing interest.
“Our last story time event brought in 20 kids and we doubled the number of people for two recent evening author readings,” she added.
Clinton Library’s Debby Colfer has seen a change as well. The facility switched to a “browsing library” in May, emphasizing a collection of popular materials but narrower in scope compared to larger operations.
“Our business has jumped 20 percent since then, but it’s hard to tell if that’s from the economy or the change to our collection,” Colfer said. “I’ve had people tell me they canceled Netflix because they can get DVDs here.”
Increased use comes at a time when the system is facing its own budget challenges, as the cost of materials, fuel and staff benefits grows faster than revenues. Sno-Isle Libraries is spending less money on books and other materials, and less money to replace outdated equipment.
In addition, customer desire for more open hours and new services is putting a further strain on the budget.
"We take our responsibility as stewards of tax dollars very seriously," library director Jonalyn Woolf-Ivory explained.
We are always looking for ways to manage public dollars better and provide services and resources that people want and need in their lives,” she said. “The services the library provides are essential to the well-being of our communities and we will continue to focus many of our resources on important community issues such as early literacy, school achievement and economic development."