As National Library Week came to a close Friday, Cumberland County officials sat down to breakfast with local lawmakers to celebrate the library system’s successes over the past year.
Those successes include ranking No. 1 for “users per capita basis” — meaning no county library system in the state sees higher resident participation than Cumberland County.
“Achievements large and small abound in the library system,” said Executive Director Jonelle Darr. “A lot of people come to visit us every day and they borrow things at very high rates. This last year we saw more than 3,000 people come through our doors every day, and that’s with Bosler (Memorial Library) being closed 21 days because of construction services.”
Darr said the library system focused on growing its youth programs and senior citizen services in 2012, with great success. The Bosler Memorial Library in Carlisle just completed its “Building a better Bosler” expansion project that doubled the building’s floor space to 38,000 square feet and added a new children’s wing triple the size of the original. The $6.5 million project broke ground in November 2011 and also included expanded access to high-speed Internet.
“There’s been a real shift in the American mind,” Darr said. “Not only are we clearly the place to get books, but we are clearly to the place to access Internet resources at no charge.”
Darr said residents use library computers to browse the Internet, apply for jobs, complete research assignments, check email and access health information.
A county study of the library users found that 66 percent of cardholders used the Internet for school or work research, 63 percent browsed the Internet just for fun and 36 percent applied for jobs.
“You can really see why libraries continue to be important in our communities,” she said.
Abigail Best, a preschool teacher and mother of four, first became a fan of Cumberland County’s library system as a child at the Amelia S. Givin Free Library in Mount Holly Springs.
“So it was a natural thing for me to bring my family to the library,” she said. “It’s something we have enjoyed for 10 years now.”
Best said her family checks out 30 to 40 books and movies on their library card every two weeks — obliterating the average 48 books borrowed per youth card holder in one year. As a teacher, Best said the library is an “invaluable resource” that allows her to borrow books from any branch throughout the county without having to leave Carlisle.
“As you can see, the library plays a really important role in my family’s life,” Best said. “The best part of the library, no matter how many times we come here, every time we come here is still an adventure.”
For volunteer Heidi Stadnicki, Cumberland County’s STAR Program connects homebound citizens to reading in a way that enriches their lives.
“It’s so rewarding because they are so thankful, they are so appreciative,” she said. “They said I should just tell you how much they like it, how much they need it.”
The STAR program delivers books to home bound seniors and disabled citizens for no charge. Stadnicki says she delivers 500 books a year to Claremont Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center residents.
The outreach program, Darr says, is just another example of the system trying to improve its services to meet the needs of its most avid users.
“These are the people that really use our services the most, the people who enjoy our services the most,” she said.
As the county looks to 2014 and beyond, Darr said the library system will continue to serve its “core audiences” with self-check stations, online services and a brand new website debuting on May 23.
“There’s a real gap between the public’s knowledge of what libraries provide and what we actually we provide,” Darr said. “Just making sure the public is aware of what the library can offer is a critical step.”