County Life: Public Library Growth by the Numbers

Bessie’s Books and Other Things

As early as possible every year, I write an annual report about the activities and accomplishments of the Haliburton County Public Library the previous year. Writing this report gives me a chance to look back and analyze what worked, what didn’t, where progress was made, and where we have to reassess our effectiveness.  I also look at all the statistics gathered over the year and compare them to other years.  We love statistics in the library world and we collect them both for interest and necessity.  They are a necessity because we are required to report extensively to the Ministry of Culture in order to qualify for a rather significant operating grant.  They are of interest because analyzing statistics is a great tool in helping to choose the path moving forward.

In 2014 the library had….

HCPL Infographic

…6,222 cardholders. (This number represents more than a third of the people in Haliburton County)

…circulated 147,649 items including 26,889 digital items. (These include ebooks and downloadable audiobooks. The digital circulations could mean that you didn’t even have to leave your house to use the library.  There is a significant spike in these numbers in bad weather.)

…added 7253 items to the collection. (This includes new purchases as well as very gently used donations.)

…50,668 items on its shelves across eight branches.

…245 programs that 4373 people attended.

…supported a Friends of the Library Group of 136 members who raised $16,334.00 for enhancements to the library system.

…54 formal and informal community partnerships allowing HCPL to be co-operative and efficient while offering a broader range of services.

Haliburton County is an interesting library microcosm as the inequalities amongst the population derive far less from economic situation and much more from being in a rural and remote area.  People using library computers and Wifi may or may not own their own equipment, but are not as likely to have high speed connections as they are if they lived in a more urban area.  People are more isolated in rural areas and rely on public spaces to alleviate the sense that they are alone.

Public Libraries are the main players in contributing to the area’s digital literacy. Digital literacy is not just about computers, but encompasses every way in which technology affects our everyday lives.  Whether we like it or not, libraries have become the leaders in adaptation to technology.  For example, because we offer ebooks, we have been forced to also be experts in the myriad of devices sold to access ebooks. Often we are scrambling to keep up as technology rapidly changes.

Although it is sometimes difficult to prove a public library’s economic value to a community, there is clear indication that having a strong public library attracts newcomers, resulting in increased real estate sales. Our own surveys revealed that on days that the library is open, restaurants and stores are busier.  A strong foundation for a community includes a skilled and knowledgeable workforce. The library supports this by supporting literacy in all its forms, including reading and digital literacy.

In small, isolated communities people need lots of reasons to spend the gas money to go into town.  By looking at our numbers we continue to try to make all of HCPL’s branches destinations of choice and strong contributors to the economic well-being of the area.

*Originally published in County Life on April 9th, 2015.

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