Thursday, September 24, 2009

Recent Events: August and September

August was a short month for the library, with the most significant feature being a two-week closing at the end of the month. Considerable time was devoted to preparing the library and the public for this hiatus. In response to an article in the Norwich Bulletin referring to the closing as a vacation, I composed a letter to the editor reiterating the reasons for our two-week hiatus and distinguishing between a vacation and a furlough.

Among the preparatory tasks required were circulating a special issue of the news letter with information on the closing period and other details, arranging for our consortium and the state inter library loan system to defer loan transactions involving the library, circulating information to patrons and residents on alternative library sites, and ensuring that adequate forewarning was provided to the public in order to avoid frustration and upset.

Ironically, even as the library prepared to close, the demand for services increased. While the overall statistics for circulation reflect a decline in absolute numbers, a comparison of numbers of items circulated per service day shows that in August of 2009 about 650 items were circulated per service day, while in 2008, the number was 596. For inter library loans, the figure was 90 per service day, versus 75 in 2008. One other, albeit unscientific measure of the use made of the library is the need, for the first time, of multi-lingual signage that includes announcements in Mandarin as well as Spanish and English. This was based on observations made after reducing hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the beginning of July.

Prior to closing we also prepared a mailing to all candidates for city council and mayor, inviting them to an informal gathering with board and staff following the September 21 board meeting. This proved to be an exemplary event, with board, staff, current city council members and candidates getting an opportunity to discuss their perceptions of the library, the library’s role as a community resource and its essential service as a democratizing agent. The event was well received, and should become an anticipated part of each election season.

I want to recommend to all library patrons a recent article in the on line journal First Monday entitled The Relationship between Public Libraries and Google: Too Much Information. There is a popular misconception, glibly espoused in certain uninformed quarters, that all information is available on line for free, thus making libraries anachronisms. For those needing a thoughtful rejoinder to this bit of untruth I encourage you to read and share this article.