Bucking the national trend, Lincoln County Public Library officials saw an increase in circulation last year.
Alyssa Ramirez, director of the library system, told the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners on Feb. 5 that — halfway through the fiscal year — circulation is up 15 percent over the year prior. At the Libby branch, librarians saw a 19 percent uptick in checkouts, she said.
Nationally, the trend has gone the other way. The American Library Association reported in its “State of America’s Libraries 2018” that circulation across the country decreased 11 percent per capita since fiscal year 2012.
Ramirez chalked up the increase to innovative programs, like the grab-and-go system in Libby. Patrons entering the library can choose quickly from a selection of bestsellers near the entrance, she said.
Ramirez also cited ongoing efforts to encourage library cardholders to place books on hold and request items as potentially part of the uptick. Items transferred between libraries increased about 8 percent. Reference questions also are up 43 percent, she said, and the number of people visiting the system’s branch locations has risen by about a thousand this year.
“It would have been higher if [the Troy branch] hadn’t closed for a week, so I think that number is just going to increase,” Ramirez said.
The Troy branch recently underwent a renovation partially covered by a $20,000 grant from the Steele-Reese Foundation. Officials temporarily closed the facility during the upgrades.
The newly refurbished space is much more open, which meant that officials had to reduce slightly the size of its collection, Ramirez said. But the added room offers more space for events, she said.
“On Saturday, [Troy Branch Librarian Sharee Miller] sent pictures because she had 14 kids there to play board games,” Ramirez said. “Having that open space is really good.”
“That’s a busy little place down there,” said County Commissioner Mark Peck (D-1).
Programs, too, have expanded. In the six months leading up to December, about 4,000 people attended library events, according to Ramirez. Nationally, the American Library Association reported that program attendance has increased by about 17 percent since fiscal year 2012.
“We’re putting on more programs and seeing a lot more people attending them,” Ramirez said. “Last week, [Dustina Deans] did a baby story time and she had 12 kids under two. There have been great things happening at the library.”
Ramirez also told county commissioners that the library has become more discerning in the quality of books it accepts as donations. They are looking for either recently published materials or books in good condition.
“We are getting a lot more strict about the donations we’re putting on our shelves,” she said.
Ramirez also announced the promotion of Dustina Deans from a library technician to a public services librarian. The salary increase is covered in the library’s budget, she said. The promotion already earned the support of the library board of trustees.
“That would be a pay increase for her and … put her in a more supervisory role,” Ramirez said. “She would be the main one supervising the Libby branch, which is already happening, basically, anytime I leave that branch.”