Library thrives in first year at new location

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By Calen McKinney



The Taylor County community is using its public library more than ever before.

On Tuesday, library staff members paused to celebrate that and the one-year anniversary of the opening of the new library building on Broadway.

Taylor County Public Library staff members opened the doors to their new building on March 18, 2013. Since then, nearly 90,000 items have gone in and out of the building, into the hands of residents wanting to read a good story.

"It's certainly been a whirlwind year," Taylor County Public Library Director Julia Turpin said.

Since opening, she said, the library has seen record-setting circulation figures each month. And she said that shows residents are enjoying the new library and all its amenities.

From March 18, 2013, through Tuesday, Turpin said, 88,429 items have been checked out at the library. That computes to a 5- to 10-percent increase in circulation each month.

The young adult, digital books and DVD section have proven very popular, she said, and also produced record numbers. Young adult circulation increased 41 percent in February when compared to January. Turpin said she attributes this to that section of the library demographic being given its own reading space. That wasn't possible at the library's former location.

"They're catching on to it," she said. "It's a space they're using more."

Since opening in their new building, library staff members have issued about 6,000 new library cards. Turpin said about 200 cards are issued each month, which shows her that there are residents discovering the library for the first time on a nearly daily basis.

"So we're hoping to get up to 10,000 by the end of the year," she said. "I think we'll get there, too."

Circulation numbers aren’t the only ones that have increased since the library building opened on Broadway. Turpin said the numbers of programs library staff members host has increased exponentially.

Before moving, she said, there were four to five programs for adults each month. Now, there are 15 to 20, not including the popular yoga classes. With those, the number of programs peaks at more than 30 each month.

The number of children’s programs has also increased. Before moving, library staff members offered 12 to 15 each month. Now, Turpin said, there are 20 to 30, and they are well attended.

"So it's just been great," Turpin said.

Before the library moved to its new location, Turpin said she warned her staff members that they were about to get a lot busier, and that has proven true.

"I had a suspicion we were going to be very busy," she said.

Turpin said she hasn't added any additional staff members to her lineup, but there has been a shift in the way the library is manned, to make sure all work is done and patrons get the help they need.

And that has meant library staff members have had to work harder. Just a year ago, Turpin said, it wasn't unlikely for library workers to read a book or complete a crossword puzzle at work.

"There's no time for that now," she said.

Now that the new library is open, Turpin said, and no money was borrowed to pay for the renovation of the former Gabehart Lumber building, more money is being used to buy books. There is a display up front to show patrons the new selections.

"People come in and see exactly what they were looking for right away and can get on with their merry way," she said.

Being able to buy more books has helped eliminate waiting lists for popular titles such as the "Divergent" series. Turpin said she recently bought more copies of those books because they have grown in popularity.

"That's something we would have not necessarily been able to do before."

She said offering so many more programs and books just wouldn't have been possible if the library hadn't moved to a bigger space.

"We were so limited by our space," she said. "We just have so much more freedom."

Repairs to the new building have been limited during the past year, Turpin said, except for replacing part of the roof, which was expected. Landscaping was done around the front, she said, and a picnic table was placed around back.

"We've been pretty lucky," she said. "Everything's run smoothly."

Since opening its new building, utility costs at the library have decreased. Insurance costs have increased a bit, Turpin said, because the library's building is worth more now. And the cost of office materials, cleaning and equipment has increased.

"We're still financially healthy," she said.

Most of the library's funding comes from a local tax. The library also receives some state and federal funding, but state funding has consistently decreased over the years.

And to make sure residents benefit from their tax dollars, Turpin said, plans are always in the works for more programs - which are all free and open to the public.

Since yoga classes have proven so popular, Turpin said, more fitness classes will be offered in the fall. And a Check Out Taylor County program is in the works to help residents learn about what their community has to offer.

"We want to give them what they pay for," Turpin said. "We hope to have something for everyone in a very literal way."

Library staff members are in the process of planning this year's summer reading program. Last year's programs, the first summer reading events at the new library, attracted many more children than during previous years.

"We had a great time last summer," Turpin said. "We're expecting 1,000 kids."

For those who want to get involved with the library, a Friends of the Taylor County Public Library group has been formed. The group will have its first annual meeting in July.

"It's been an exciting year, though the next one will be even better," Turpin said. "We're working really hard. And it's so much fun."