Library Sees Usage Up During Economic Downturn
Like libraries around the nation, the Contra Costa County Library has seen a significant increase in the number of people taking advantage of free access to books, CDs and DVDs, the Internet, and job search assistance. Attendance at library programs like small business workshops, book clubs, special performances and children’s programs is at an all-time high. Library circulation reports show an overall increase of nearly 10% in the number of library books, DVDs, CDs and videos checked out over the past year. The circulation statistics at some of the county’s twenty-five community libraries have realized even greater increases of between 10-15%.
The San Pablo Library is one of the libraries that has witnessed tremendous growth over the past year. Due in part to the addition of Sunday hours beginning in September of 2008, Community Library Manager Heidi Dolamore notes that the San Pablo Library saw a 15% increase in the circulation of library materials from January, 2008 to January, 2009. Dolamore said of library usage patterns, “More residents are coming to the library as a free source of information and entertainment, with some of the most popular collections focusing on activities such as cooking and crafts. Our Spanish language computer classes are incredibly popular, and we’re getting more and more requests for materials on how to start and run your own business.”
Seng Lovan, Danville Library’s Senior Community Library Manager, can attest to the increase in job search assistance. “During the past few months, the computer docents – volunteers who provide 2 to 4 hours of assistance each week to help people with their computer needs – have been swamped!” said Lovan. Danville Library volunteer Duane Gates reports that many people are coming in to ask for help with starting an online job search or completing an online application. Gates said, “I have had numerous people sign up for an appointment to learn Excel because many positions now require some knowledge of the program. Others are looking for assistance in how to join professional social networking sites such as LinkedIn or how to submit resumes online.”
Library Business Specialist Valerie Zito has also noticed a surge in the number of people attending the Library’s small business workshops. “When layoffs increase, an option many people consider is starting their own business. They, along with existing business owners, attend the small business workshops sponsored by the Library and the Contra Costa Small Business Development Center,” said Zito. The Library’s Business Subject Guide Web pages, curated by Zito, are a popular destination, with over 1,400 “visitors” in January. Also seeing heavy usage is the Library’s Job Seeking Subject Guide, with more than 1,300 “visitors” this year.
Kathy Middleton, Acting Community Library Manager for the Antioch Library, echoes the trends seen at other community libraries. Middleton said, “We are seeing an increase in visitors and more people are asking for job-related assistance such as help with creating a free e-mail account, filling out online job applications, and creating and printing job resumés. Many of the questions we are getting are about job-related resources, such as how to start small businesses. We are also seeing an increased interest in college education and technical school materials.”
American Library Association (ALA) President Jim Rettig said, “During tough economic times, people turn to libraries for their incredible array of free resources, from computers to books, DVDs and CDs, for help with job hunt or health information. The average annual cost to the taxpayer for access to this wide range of resources is about $31, the cost of one hardcover book. In good times or bad, libraries are a great value!”
For more information about the programs mentioned above and other Contra Costa County Library programs and services, go to www.ccclib.org or contact your local community library.