Falling in Love with the Local Library
February was Library Lover’s Month, and for the staff at the Forest Public Library, the month-long celebration was one of the biggest of the year. Last year, library lovers surrounded the library with love by lining the sidewalks and steps for a newspaper picture that had to be taken on a ladder from across the street. This year, library lovers were asked to participate in a book drive for 100 new nonfiction books, and we are more than halfway to our goal. For me, watching children and adults fall in love with the library is what this month is all about.
I love the library, because I love to read; however, more than one-half of the 49,500 people who walked through the library doors last year did not check out a book. The 20 percent increase in patron visits (from 39,372 in 2017 to 49,503 in 2018) reflects the multipurpose significance of the library. Over the past two years, 14,005 people attended library programs — an average of 7,000 per year — thanks in part to valued partnerships with the Hispanic and African American communities, the arts community, and the business community.
Computer users increased by 39.1 percent from 12,810 users in 2017 to 21,051 users in 2018, and these numbers do not include the thousands of people who use the library’s free WIFI. Rounding out the library visits are the people who fax important documents, make necessary copies, print online copies from the library’s 12 public computers, and print wireless documents from their laptops and phones.
Study groups range from tutors with children as young as kindergarten to area nursing students obtaining their degrees. Low-income students with no internet access receive the same online assignments at school as students who have access to the internet with their home computers. These students spend their afternoons in the library, securing a public computer to make sure their online homework is completed by the assignment date. Many afternoons, all public computers are in use from the end of the school day until the library closes.
And last, but certainly not least, are the library’s readers. Last year, the check-out circulation increased from 28,326 to 32,626 — an increase of 13.2 percent. With an effort to provide new and current materials, including adult bestsellers, award-winning fiction and nonfiction, and imaginative children’s books, the library is relevant and welcoming for readers of all ages. Our job is to connect our readers with the best books that money can buy, and we do our best to achieve that goal.
Despite all these increases, library money decreases every year. A state newspaper recently ran a headline across the front page that read, “Every Library in the State Has Suffered.” For library lovers, that is heartbreaking. When people develop a love for their local library, they do not imagine a day when that relationship might end. As with all relationships, it takes work.
For many years, I served as an editor of a weekly newspaper in Smith County. I have always respected the power of the pen, and I have read many editorials in the local newspaper that moved me to immediate action. I know that the library has the support of this newspaper, and we credit the continued publicity as part of our success. This week is the final week of February and Library Lover’s Month. The Friends of the Forest Public Library’s book drive ends March 5, Fat Tuesday, with a festive Mardi Gras Party – a BACK DOOR event – from 7:00-9:00 p.m. If you love your local library, let it show! Show Us Your Books!
Assistant Branch Manager
Forest Public Library
2019 Branch Employee of the Year
Central Mississippi Regional Library System