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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

Busy Days at the Library

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, May 24, 2009

“I hear that the library is really busy!”


That is an often-made comment that I am receiving these days.


National media has been running stories about the dramatic increase in usage of public libraries across the nation.


As people look at ways to economize, they are turning to their local public libraries as a means to “save money.”


The stories are true; we are experiencing record levels of usage, with more new library cards being issued than ever.


But increased usage of libraries has been a story for many years.


Our usage has doubled in the past 25 years, in a county with a declining population.


And today, there are many different ways to use your public library compared to 25 years ago.


Online databases, public computers, and DVDs are all new things that didn’t exist 25 years ago.


The latest phenomenon is increased usage of our public computers as people can’t afford home computer maintenance, software upgrades, and connectivity to the Internet.


I am glad that the library has a computer system to manage the checkouts.


If it was 25 years ago, and we were using those trays and trays of checkout cards, it wouldn’t work with today’s usage.


Over the past decade, the total library staff has shrunk by 10 employees due to budget cuts and freezes in funding on the state level.


Today, we must operate more efficiently in handling the clerical functions of the library system to utilize staff to work with the public.


With the economy now reducing the library’s budget, we must cooperate with other libraries to share and utilize what we can afford to purchase for our collections.


Our computer system now contains 73 Ohio libraries with over 200 locations and collections.


The computer system manages requests from the public, and delivery service moves books and audiovisuals to the requested location.


To use a specific item, the bestselling religious novel, “The Shack” by William Young has 404 requests entered for the 230 copies of the book owned by system libraries.


Those requests are kept in order chronologically by the date the request was entered into the system.


The requests are satisfied based on the home library of the requester, matched against who owns the copy of the book available.


In the list for “The Shack,” the first request from someone in our own library system is number 282, who is a Schiappa Branch Library customer.


So, if one of the copies of the book owned by our library system is returned, it will be reserved for that person first.


If all of the requests from our library system have been satisfied, then that copy would satisfy the request of another library based on the order of the hold, and which copy has been on the shelf the longest time.


This is all done in fairness to all, and the desire to move materials around to meet the greatest needs.


Actually, it is a “librarian-thing.”  Librarians take organization to a degree that the rest of society probably doesn’t understand, but that’s why we are here.


In today’s economic climate where libraries are dealing with fewer dollars to buy new books, it is all we can do to meet the demands of increased public usage.