We are once again transitioning, but this time it’s because the seasons are transitioning, and we are moving into holiday seasons. With Halloween this week and Thanksgiving peeking around the corner, we are reminded just how quickly things change, even when the weather isn’t giving all the correct signals.
We’ve been experiencing many changes at the Bertha Bartlett Public Library, and we are trying some new things. When we shifted back to Storytime one day a week, and moved it to Fridays. We did it with the hope that we could use that time by doing two new story times that would help working families better. We now are offering a new Family Storytime on the second Thursday of the month, and an additional preschool story time program on the first Saturday of each month. As we try to create these new events with our young families in mind, still testing the waters to see if it is something that would be welcomed in Story City. Like always, we hope for feedback from our community.
These changes also coincide with the time period when we are trying to finalize our Annual Survey and reports. Even though our year ends the last day of June, there are multiple reports required by agencies, both state and county, that need to be finalized and submitted within the four months after it closes. The last of those reports was due this week, and I’m always surprised that it takes every bit of those four months to fit the reports into the full schedule we keep at the library. The surveys are taken with the intent of comparing our library to the other libraries not only in the state of Iowa, but also around the country. Using what we hope is consistent data, we get a chance to compare our services, programs and usage with libraries of like size.
This is not a very visible part of library work, and it’s not nearly as fun or exciting as books and materials that we loan, but without it, we would be sailing without a compass. We monitor these numbers throughout the year, but when we equalize them over 12 months, we get a much better picture as how our community has changed — or stayed the same.
One of the interesting changes this past year was the shift of usage of our downloadable materials. For the first time since e-books were first offered, our patrons increased their usage of downloadable audio books and reduced their usage of downloadable e-books. With many competing formats these days, we didn’t anticipate this, but as we watched those numbers increase for downloadable audio books, we assumed that the physical copies of our audio books in CD form would see a big drop in use.
We were wrong. Our audio CD books have remained steady in circulation, and the shift to the downloadable didn’t seem to impact it. This is one of those times when an additional format didn’t take away use of existing materials. Many had made that very assumption when we first offered e-books, that the use of our physical books would see a huge decline. We saw a shift at first, then it has resumed somewhat back to the original levels of usage. As we did our own informal survey, we learned that many tried the e-books, but for various reasons, missed the feel of the book in their hands.
Life is like that. We try new things but often go back to what provides the most comfort. The books on our shelves see that fluctuation also, as trends in reading come and go, some of the classics and older copies on our shelves find a rebirth as the trends fade and disappear. Classics are here for a reason, they are like old friends that we can count on. A good book, like good friends are invaluable, and usually pass the test of time.