From hardbound to high-tech
© Kirk Starratt
Regional Librarian Frances Newman says membership continues to grow at Annapolis Valley Regional Library branches. Evolving technology and services account for much of the increased usage.
BY KIRK STARRATT
Kings County Advertiser/Register
It boasts more use than any other regional library in the province, other than Halifax, and membership continues to grow with evolving technology and services.
The Annapolis Valley Regional Library (AVRL) serves Annapolis, Kings and West Hants counties through 11 its branch libraries, bookmobile and van deliveries and “Books By Mail” service. There were 613,301 items borrowed during the 2009/ 2010 fiscal year - and membership continues to grow. The number of active members now stands at 28,549, with 3,049 new members joining in just the past year. Active members are those who have used their library card within the past three years.
Regional librarian Frances Newman, who made a presentation to Kings County council June 15, says the regional library added about 20,000 new items last year. There are about 225,000 items available, and items may be borrowed from other libraries: about 12,000 inter-library loans were done last year. Library staff answered 19,000 questions.
“Books By Mail” is a free service to anyone who lives at least 10 kilometers from a branch or is physically unable to visit a library or bookmobile stop. Ninety-five people in the region use the service, 30 in Kings County.
The AVRL website is well used with 337,019 hits last year, an eight per cent increase over the previous year. The library offers an online catalogue of books and the ability to request reservations. People renew materials, check the AVRL events calendar, look up encyclopedia articles through World Book, check various databases and check out “Top-Ten Read-a-likes” lists.
Newman said the library joined other public, university and community college libraries for a one-year, province-wide pilot, “Borrow Anywhere, Return Anywhere.” Overdue notices are computer generated and emailed to save postage and staff time.
The AVRL offers evening Teen Lounges through a grant from the Department of Justice.
“We’re the only library in the province to get the grant. It’s been renewed for a second year,” Newman said. The lounges offer “fun, free, supervised activities for teenagers.”
French “Little Reader” bags are popular, and, making good use of social networking tools, the library has started communicating with members through Facebook and Twitter.
The library hopes, in July, to offer downloadable audio books and ebooks. Like other library services, it will be free.
“It’s a good service and we’re very excited about it,” Newman said. “People have asked for this.”
Councillor Chris Parker, who serves on the library board, commended Newman on her leadership.
Deputy Warden Diana Brothers asked how many users of town libraries were residents of the county. Newman said, in general, about half of the users of town libraries come from the county, especially in Kentville and Berwick. Brothers asked if the library was exploring the use of the Valley fibre optic network. Newman said it isn’t at this point, as Eastlink and Aliant provide high-speed service.
Councillor Jim Taylor asked if the audio book service is similar to the CNIB’s. Newman said the library complements it, but “would never replace it.”
Councillors expressed appreciation for bookmobile services. Councillor Wayne Atwater asked if the service is under any threat. Newman said they’ve looked at every route and are trying to streamline service. The AVRL is now using “marked gas” from the towns of Kentville and Bridgetown in the bookmobile, resulting in cost savings, about 70 cents per litre opposed to $1 per litre. Michelin gave the AVRL six new tires for the bookmobile.
“We know we can’t take it away,” she said. “Too many people rely on it.”
The bookmobile service makes 110 stops throughout the region, 59 in Kings County (21 community stops and 38 institutional visits, on a four-week rotating basis).
Newman said they monitor the use and, if they’re not being used, they’re discontinued. However, AVRL “won’t leave anyone in the cold.”
Books by the numbers
There was “very good, steady usage throughout Kings County,” Newman said in 2009/ 2010. There were about six items borrowed for every man, woman and child in the Valley last year.
• 25,599 items were checked out in Kingston
• 32,260 in Berwick
• 80,285 in Kentville
• 15,503 in Port Williams
• 76,064 in Wolfville.
All branches offer wireless internet and there are 67 public access computers.
• Wireless use for 2009/ 2010: 23,163 hours, up 39 per cent from the previous year.
• The 67 computers saw 49,618 hours of use.