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Library sees transition to newer technologies

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012 11:08 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012 11:09 a.m. CDT

Newton Public Library Director Sue Padilla presented her annual report to the Newton City Council at Monday night’s regular council meeting.

Her report detailed how much times have changed — particularly in recent years — for libraries all over. The library is no longer just a place where books are kept and checked out for readers to borrow for their own reading.

The library has evolved.

At the same time that circulation of the library’s in-print volumes dropped 6 percent in just a single year, the advent of downloadable materials, such as audiobooks and e-books, has increased the size of the library’s offerings to nearly 95,000 titles.

“Circulation for 2011-12 totalled 124,861 items plus 11,448 Internet computer checkouts — using just six Internet computer stations,” Padilla said. “Besides circulating books, movies and CD’s and providing free Internet access and educational programming, you many not know some of the other services that your public library provides the public without charge.”

Library staff will proctor exams for college students enrolled in online and correspondence courses. The library also provides a free Notary Public service and basic Internet instruction.

“Twenty-nine database subscriptions are available to library cardholders from home and at the library on topics ranging from auto repair to genealogy,” Padilla said. “We have recently added Small Business Reference Center, which has information about starting a business, and Small Engine Reference Center with repair instructions for ATVs, boat motors, motorcycles, tractors, jet skis, snowmobiles and outdoor power equipment.”

The library also serves as a public Wi-Fi “hot spot.” Patrons may bring their own computers and use the public Internet connection via Wi-Fi at any location in the library building.

“With the increased popularity of e-readers, the library reference staff can often be found teaching people one-on-one how to use these new devices,” Padilla said. “Reference staff have also been assisting job searchers become more digitally literate as they assist more people than ever before with online applications and access to Iowa Workforce information.”

She said donations to the library in the past year totalled more than $2,200. Those funds were used to add materials to the library’s collection and to support library programming. Additionally, the Friends of the Library organization has provided additional vital support to the tune of more than $2,100.

“Since its inception in 1996, the Newton Public Library Foundation has continued to play a vital role in funding public library extraordinary requests that reach beyond budget allowance to enhance technology, building, programming and collection needs,” she added. “In 2011-12, the Foundation provided roughly $12,412 of funding for library programs and reading promotion, reupholstering chairs in the children’s area, a new puppet theater, DVD replacements for VHS cassettes and increased audio-visual security.”

Padilla said the Library Board had developed a strategic plan in the past year that identified four key areas of emphasis for the library:

• supporting readers as they pursue personal growth and learning goals;

• fostering, encouraging and stimulating young readers’ interest in learning and reading;

• providing free public access to the Internet and digital services; and

• providing a public space for people to meet and interact with others in the community.

“Several of the action steps will require funding from the city, and I will be addressing those issues in the coming months,” she said. “Partially refilling circulation staffing levels lost in 2009 and updating and improving library connectivity for the public within the library and remotely are two action steps that are quickly becoming more crucial to the library’s goals and mission.”

A copy of the library’s annual report and Padilla’s presentation are available at the library website, www.newton.lib.ia.us.

Bob Eschliman can be contacted at (641) 792-3121 ext. 423 or via email at bschliman@newtondailynews.com.

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