Brittney Burns – Staff Writer
People in Macon County are using the library more frequently, and for different reasons. Macon County Public Library Director Karen Wallace presented commissioners with a report on usage at the library, which saw more than a 25 percent increase from July 2015 to July 2016. Last fiscal year, more than 33,000 residents were active registered users in Macon County. Most users are Macon County residents, but also include part-time residents who own property in Macon County but are not part of the population count. Active registered users are library card holders who have used their card in the last three years.
With budget constraints and reduced operating hours this year, the library has reduced staffing levels, but has been able to manage the increase in library usage.
According to Wallace, staff levels have decreased since 2011-12 year, when the library was at an all time high of 23.4 full time equivalent staff, to 21.47 staff members last year. To save $8,300, the public library reduced operating hours Monday through Thursday by one hour, closing at 7 p.m. instead of 8 p.m.
While many people visit the library to get books, Wallace spoke of the changes in the library’s circulation. According to Wallace, overall circulation has increased, and people are reading more; however, they are not always reading print books, they are reading in different formats such as eBooks and digital reading.
“One of the things that libraries are really well known for is reading, and we are really proud of that,” said Wallace. “The increase in the number of active users in Macon County reflects a lot of reading in Macon County. We are proud of Macon County citizens for the reading they’re doing.”
Wallace noted that last year, people utilizing the library checked out more than 230,000 books and media, including eBooks at all three of the Macon County libraries.
To meet the technology needs of Macon County citizens the library has worked to better provide equipment and connectivity. Library staff also provides technology classes and one-on-one assistance to citizens serving their technology needs, including employment skills, personal finance, and distance education. Over the last fiscal year, the county’s libraries continued to see increases in library technology usage increasing to more than 77,000 technology sessions including library computer (internet), wireless and children’s computer sessions.
Technology use at the libraries has also changed; people who don’t have their own computers are still coming to the library to use computers provided by the library, but libraries have also seen an increase in people using their own devices, such as laptops, table and phones, to use the libraries’ technology. The library serves as a connectivity point, allowing the community to utilize the facility’s internet access capabilities.
Attendance of the events and programs hosted at the library also continues to increase at the county’s libraries with more than 24,000 people of all ages attending the programs and events last year. The county libraries hold programs and events around many different topics for all age groups reaching out to different community organizations to partner with for the programs and events. STEM and early literacy education, employment and business skills, health and mental health information and outdoor recreation are just a few of the classes and workshops citizens can find at the library.