Bertha Bartlett Public Library news

Staff Writer
Story City Herald

—by Kolleen Taylor

Summer continually proves to be the busiest time of year for the public library, as children, parents and teachers all seem to find the library a safe, easy place to spend time, find books and movies and use other resources during the more leisurely summer hours.

For staff, we try to anticipate the needs ahead of summer. We pull together programs and independent activities that will engage the different age groups who use the library. We try to purchase appropriate materials in the various genres that appeal to both genders. And sometimes we hit the mark perfectly, other times we don’t. It’s a moving target, and we never know how it will all wash out. And when we see we have missed a bit, we re-evaluate and try to adjust.

We anticipated higher than normal usage this summer due to the closing of the swimming pool. Although our statistics are strong, we did not exceed last years’ record-breaking use, much to our surprise. In June 2015, the number of people who came to the library averaged 185 per day, while this past June it was down to 174 per day. Program attendance last year during June exceeded 800, while this year we barely passed 650. So it’s not surprising that our circulation in June 2015 exceeded 6100 items, while in June of 2016 we circulated just short of 5500. After talking with some of the staff and parents, we learned many had their children attend more camps this summer and found activities away from Story City to adjust to the loss of the heavily used swimming pool. And we think that impacted the use of the library.

This isn’t a dire shift, as we chart the usage of our library and see that it ebbs and flows, and we’ve seen continually higher use of the library over the past 10 years. Statistics are compiled so we can see what is happening in our community. And when things change in our community, it has a wider impact than many imagine.

Not all our decisions are based on statistics. We observe how people use the library; from where they sit, where groups congregate and recommendations we hear our patrons give each other. We also can learn a lot from the condition of our shelves and general disarray that is displayed in the magazine and newspaper area, the puzzle area, or the children or teen areas. If an area is messy, it means it has been used. If the books are out of order, it means the shelf was heavily browsed while looking for something.

At the staff meeting this past week, we discussed the condition of the shelves and the efforts we make to put things back in order. We have shelving rules in the library, so that the library staff all uses the same methods so we can find the books for our patrons. Although we try to do this within guidelines that all libraries are given, each library tries to find ways to make materials easy to find for their patrons. And that seems to vary a bit from library to library.

So when you visit our library, and you are not finding an item you need, please ask the staff to help you. We are not always successful, but that is why we are here, and we are diligent. And making your visit to the library a pleasant experience is our ultimate goal, sending you on your way with the items you wanted when you walked through the library doors.