Libraries aren’t just for Internet access, new DVD titles and e-books. They are still the place to go for books and other resources.
In Fort Dodge, people are using the public library more, according to Barb Shultz, library director.
“We’ve seen a slight increase,” Shultz said. “We have all the best sellers. Those all go out. And we have people that we see, a lot of parents with children that come in, and they start their reading cycle off at a young age. And we have a lot of people that check out a lot of materials in the children’s section as well.”
Shultz said estimating how many patrons use the Fort Dodge Public Library’s resources is difficult, however.
“We have such an online presence and we have so many things that are available, so many tools and so many products, programs and services online, it’s harder to measure how much people are actually using those services as opposed to coming in to the library,” she said.
The library still attracts new visitors, though.
“A couple of weeks ago we had a children’s open house and we saw a lot of new faces that we had not seen before in the library,” Shultz said. “We trust they will become lifelong users of the library as well.”
The library also serves as a gathering place for the community.
“We have several groups that use us on a fairly regular basis,” Shultz said. “We have a couple young adult groups that meet here, and have an anime club and some other things they enjoy very much, being able to use the space here.”
Humboldt Public Library also remains vital in the digital 21st century, according to Nikki Ehlers, library director.
“We’re just as busy as ever,” Ehlers said.
Library attendance in Humboldt has, in general, remained the same, Ehlers said.
“We still have 600 to 800 people a month use our computers. Circulation of books is still hopping,” she said. “We have more than 5,000 kids a year come to programs.”
Both physical and digital resources are offered and used at the Humboldt library.
“We have books, recorded books, e-books, large prints. We have all the best sellers and multiple copies,” Ehlers said. “We have Zinio, which is free magazine subscriptions. We have FREEGAL, which is downloadable music. We have ancestry.com and HeritageQuest.”
People also come to the Humboldt Public Library for gatherings and for its programs.
“We have lots of programs for children and adults,” Ehlers said. “The genealogy society meets here. We have several book clubs.”
With nicer weather, even more people are expected to visit, Ehlers said.
“It makes a big difference,” she said. “When people can get out easily, traffic picks up.”
Smaller town libraries
Libraries remain especially important in smaller towns. The Dayton Public Library is as vital as ever, according to Tanya Campbell, library director.
“Most of our checkouts are still hardbacks and paperbacks,” she said. “We have some e-book checkouts, but it doesn’t equal 1 percent of our overall checkouts.”
Campbell said libraries now are focusing more on programming, offering classes and different activities to promote literacy.
“There’s just a lot of directions to go, depending on what the community’s needs are. Every community’s needs are different,” she said. “I think libraries are becoming more personalized and committing their resources to what they see as community needs.”
The Dayton Public Library sees many children and teenagers checking out books, Campbell said.
“We just received a large grant and we’ve been really updating our juvenile book selection,” she said. “Our checkouts have definitely gone up in direct correlation with the number of new books we get.”
Because the Southeast Webster Grand Elementary School in Dayton eliminated its teacher-librarian position, students are also using the public library more in their studies.
“It’s a real disadvantage to kids,” Campbell said. “When they get to college they’re going to struggle more than we did.”