Satisfied customers, Library offers more for patrons to check outAfter a period of early closings and diminished hours due to city budget cuts, the Duluth Public Library is on the rebound. Longer hours of operation, staffing increases, new programming and recent technological improvements now help patrons, old and new.
By: Thomas Vaughn, Duluth Budgeteer News
After a period of early closings and diminished hours due to city budget cuts, the Duluth Public Library is on the rebound. Longer hours of operation, staffing increases, new programming and recent technological improvements now help patrons, old and new.
Peter Fena is one of those using the new services.
“I just came here directly from work. I think computer access is a wise use of taxpayers’ dollars,” the restaurant worker said after spending a while in the computer area on the main floor of the main branch downtown. “I email. I shop for houses. I use the technology as often as I can. They need more computers down here. They’re full-up and people are waiting in line.”
That demand comes after a 2012 National Citizen Survey for Duluth recorded a 22 percent increase from 2009 in the public’s positive perception of the library system. The data now show 82 percent of respondents affirm the functionality of library services.
The new positive impression may be attributed to the library system restoring its hours of service after voters approved a parks referendum last fall, increasing the library’s funding.
Reduced hours from city budget cuts in 2008 saw branch libraries going from operating five days per week to just two. The main library’s hours also decreased.
Voter approval of the park referendum allowed the library system to return to operating five days per week this summer. After Labor Day this year, the main library will also be open on Saturdays.
“I think people’s satisfaction was a direct result of those hours being restored,” said Carla Powers, manager of library services.
And the libraries they’re coming back to aren’t your grandfather’s anymore. Library card holders can now use their personal technology devices for research, with electronic access to any database in the library catalog. Downloadable eBooks allow patrons to bring books to their Kindle or Nook or iPad. And you can save money and time that way: These borrowed books disappear on the due date, never generating an overdue fine.
“People want things instantly now. When I was young, you knew the library hours and you came during open hours. You expected the library to be closed at night,” said Renee Zurn, library supervisor of digital and outreach services. “Now we have so many resources online, you can actually come to the library at midnight, if you would like, through our online service and our databases.”
Another online service is simply the public computers. Jerome Upshaw is one library patron who uses Facebook at the library. He also brings his family along to benefit from other library offerings.
“On average I use the
library several times a week,” said Upshaw. “I don’t have computer access at home, so this is a very good place to come to. It’s right in the neighborhood. Facebook is really big.”
Rodney Savary said he often brings his own laptop along with him to the library even if he is coming to use the stationary computers because the library offers Wi-Fi connectivity.
“Jobs are kind of tight. I’m checking blogs, I’m networking,” said Savary, who uses both Facebook and LinkedIn. “I’m staying with a friend right now. There is no Wi-Fi there.
If I need to get connected
I come here.”
Nancy Eaton is the library’s Facebook page administrator. She noted the many positive comments about library hours and programs expressed on the Facebook page.
“There are a number of new people who “like” the library’s Facebook page every week. With the increased publicity that the library has gotten about hours and events that are going on, more and more people know the library and think of the library,” Eaton said. “They realize that this is a place where they can get a lot of great things.”
And it’s more than just books and eBooks. Additions for children include new toys in a circulating collection that offers toys focused on learning through a partnership with the Minnesota Reading Corps. There’s also story time for families on Thursday evenings beginning in the fall.