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Library News

By: Sheila Hoffmeyer, President
For: Red Rock News
Date: March 20, 2009

What’s Changing at Sedona Public Library?

Every morning 15- 20 minutes before the Library doors are unlocked, patrons start gathering on the porch in anticipation of the daily opening.  What library staff and volunteers have always known as “the morning rush” is now just the tip of the iceberg.  Quiet times at the Sedona Public Library are rare indeed as the Library has been experiencing double-digit increases in usage over the past year.

The uptick is not unique to our community. News reports indicate libraries across the nation are seeing increases in attendance – and in some cases, circulation – as people reach for the library card instead of the credit card when they’re looking for a new book or DVD. This, despite popular wisdom that says fewer people are reading books than did some decades ago.

Here in Sedona, circulation has increased 11 percent over last year, with an average of 22,685 items being circulated each month.  The number of patron cards issued has increased by 24 percent, and we’ve seen a 19 percent increase in attendance at programs held at the library – programs that are typically open to the public at no charge.  

Just a small example of the teeming demand was my brief experience last Tuesday. While sitting in a morning meeting in the Quiet Study at 10 a.m., I looked up to see the rush of people moving to claim the first sessions on the computers.  Next, a knock on the door was followed by a reminder for us to wrap up, as the members of the Daughters of the American Revolution were waiting for the room to clear.  I walked down toward the fireplace to look for a book and saw that the desks and work spaces were occupied by patrons with laptops using the free wireless connection. Returning to the main entrance, I noticed the constant traffic into the Si Birch Community Room.  On closer inspection I observed a bustling session of the AARP Tax Preparation service.  All preparers were busy with filings while another 10 -12 people waited patiently for their turn for assistance.  This tax preparation and counseling service for low- and moderate- income tax payers, with special attention to those older than 60, is just another way the Library is being used to service our residents.

While the increases in attendance can pose challenges as the use of resources gets pushed to the limit, they are also presenting opportunities for the introduction of new services.

One such experimental program is an Information Assistant, a volunteer “greeter,” to welcome patrons to the Library, offering quick help and direction.   In addition to providing general information on the current programs, events and displays, the Information Assistant is also able to quickly direct patrons to a specific department or staff to get help.  

If you’ve come to the Library in the past couple weeks, you’ve probably noticed the information table just inside the front doors near the main desk.  If a greeter isn’t on duty, you’ll find useful information on how to use the library, including a map of the library, the monthly events calendar, library brochures, and requirements for library cards.  The idea for this new service came from two of our long-time, experienced volunteers, Joyce and Joe Murphy who, with the assistance of Liza Vernet, a troubleshooter and member of the Volunteer Advisory Council, presented a project description to Mia Fliers, our Circulation Department Head.

A second service initiative you’ll see operating in the next six to eight weeks is Patron Self-Printing. With the installation of a dedicated print station, patrons will no longer go to a central desk to have volunteer or library staff release their printing and collect the fee.  Instead the patron will go directly to a print release station and follow the self-printing instructions to retrieve their printing. This system, which is already in place in libraries in Prescott and Cottonwood, ensures patron privacy while freeing up staff time for other service priorities.

Changes are also happening behind the scenes.  Thanks to a generous donation from the Barstow Foundation that was made possible by Dr. Richard and Veda Barstow, the kitchen in the Si Birch Community Room is receiving needed repairs.  This kitchen often is used by organizations holding programs in the community room, and we are pleased that the upgrades will continue to give the library the ability to offer meeting space with an attached commercial kitchen.  In another area of the library, the room that formerly held the magazine back issues is being transformed into a staff work area with modular furniture.  The goal is to give staff dedicated work space behind the scenes so they can concentrate on specific tasks when they are not staffing the public areas of the library.

Outside the Library you’ll also be seeing signs of growth and progress.  A much-needed expansion of the parking lot is about to begin.  Our Building & Grounds Committee, chaired by Marvin Hofmann, has just about completed the process with the City to secure the needed approvals to expand the parking lot to relieve the pressure on the existing lot.  The Library is indeed fortunate that the original donation of $326,000 by Sedona resident Ethel M. Low to buy the land on White Bear Road in 1986 includes sufficient space for this addition. While there will be added congestion in the parking area during the construction process, the addition of parking will greatly benefit patrons.  Once the construction begins, we ask for your patience during the process and request that you please drive with extra care and caution for your and the work crews safety during the project.

Sheila Hoffmeyer
Sheila Hoffmeyer, author of this week's article,
is President of the Board of Trustees of the Sedona Public Library.

Library News appears each Friday in the Red Rock News
and is also presented on: Gateway to Sedona and Sedona Biz.