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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.

What do people do in Libraries today?

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, July 29, 2012

Exactly what do people do in a public library today, and are we that busy with the Internet?


Those two questions are commonly asked of me, and it is difficult to provide a quick answer in these complex days.


In June, the front door of the Main Library was cleaned and refinished, and the contractor found it impossible to work with the number of people coming and going from the library.


The reroofing projects at the Schiappa and Toronto Libraries have caused temporary rerouting of foot traffic into the buildings, and with comments from the workers being “how busy the library is.”


Looking at numbers, there are 33,000 active library cards issued through our library system. 


It is not necessary to physically enter one of our libraries to use it, and eBooks are a prime example of that.  Last month, there were 1,200 eBooks downloaded from our eBook database by cardholders of the library system without ever entering a library building.


Some people did come to the library to get an eBook if there connection wasn’t fast enough to accommodate the download, or they may have needed assistance with their reader.


With your library card and a home computer, you can access numerous online databases of information through the library website.


Our libraries have become a prime location for people to learn how to use their Kindle, or Nook, or whatever reader they have acquired.


Our selection of eBooks continues to grow and expand, but it remains a “bottomless pit” of requests and demand with the expansion of eBooks, which is growing monthly.


Yes, people do still read the traditional paperbound books, with over 50,000 checked out of our libraries last month alone.


Add another 20,000 audio-visuals monthly consisting of DVDs, CDs, and even videocassettes and books on tape that remain in our collection and you will see the thousands of items that are received at our libraries.


Public Libraries have expanded beyond the traditional walls of our buildings as the collections of the 80 libraries that are contained in our database are available to library users.


The bins of materials arrive every weekday at all of our library locations to meet the requests of our library customers.


This past week we welcomed the Homer Public Library, and the Bluffton-Richland Public Library, both located in NW Ohio, into our system.  Each additional library brings additional collection items that can be borrowed.


Looking past the traditional book collections of a library, we have about 50 public Internet computers in our seven buildings, and another 35 computers used by staff for Internet and system operations.


We are preparing to expand that number with laptop banks to supplement the wireless connections that exist in all of our locations.


Add to that the copying (including color), faxes, scans, and things from research and resume assistance, and what I call “all that other stuff.”


I am known for my speech about public libraries being the “last public service desk” in our communities where people come to find forms, connect to state and local agencies, and simply ask where to go to find this or that.


In this age of information technology, our library is found by people around the world when they are looking for information about Steubenville and Jefferson County.


Genealogists are thrilled that we provide information and send it to them with an e-mail, fax, or phone call for a small fee.


And no, the Internet isn’t putting libraries out-of-business, it is making us busier and providing us with more and greater tools to service you, our customers!