Rolling with the changes, Pember deals with renewed attention
Tough times, services draw patrons back to lending library
By Matthew Rice
The lagging economy and rapidly advancing technology have vastly changed the role of the Pember Library over the last three years and have resulted in more and more people using the library – for a wider variety of needs.
Those changes, especially the shaky jobs situation, have refocused the attention on the free, local services it provides to the community.
Ardyce Bresett, the head librarian, said the Pember has seen an increase in usage over the past three years as the economy has driven some people to cut back household expenses and look for cheaper forms of entertainment.
Of a collection numbering between 20,000 to 21,000 items, Bresett said about 3,000 books, CDs and DVDs go out in an average month.
However, the biggest single reason people come in to the library now, she said, is to use the library computers, or their own, to access the Internet.
The Pember has 3 desktop computers and 4 laptops but also provides Wifi service with a bubble reaching outside the library into the street for those with their own way to access the service.
Those people parked in front of the library on West Main Street late at night, with faces lit from below are checking email or otherwise connecting to the Internet with Wifi.
Grants covered the cost of the equipment and Time Warner cable donates the Internet service.
Resident Josh Ferguson said he comes to the Pember Library every day it’s open to use the computers for Internet access. Without a connection at home, Ferguson said it is the only way he can get online for everything from email to entertainment or social networking.
Chris Mulligan said he comes to the Pember Library frequently as well for the online access.
Although he has an Internet connection at home on Taylor Hill, it is dial up, and far to slow for website works he’s doing for a home business called Lobsteropener.com. The recent college graduate said he also uses the Internet for job searches and posting his resume online.
Bresett said those without cable or dialup connections at home come in for any number of reasons whether it is to simply surf the Internet and browse websites or for other reasons.
“Some people come in to check e-mail, others come in to check in with unemployment because you do that over the Internet now or to apply for jobs –some employers only take applications over the Internet,” Bresett said.
On a daily basis Bresett said patrons come through the door chiefly to use the computers or wireless connection for Internet access.
Although she is not sure, Bresett said she estimates the number of people using the library rose about 10 percent over the last three years as more people take advantages of the services the library provides.
With the expected influx of e-readers panning out, Bresett said impromptu classes have sprung up to help people learn to operate the latest rage in reading – electronic readers such as the Amazon Kindle or Barnes & Noble Nook, known collectively as eReaders.
Bresett said the staff has been keeping up with the various types of eReaders so they can be familiar with the way each one works at some level.
“We’ll be offering a 90-minute class on eReaders Friday, January 27 at 10 a.m.,” Bresett said. The class will help users learn about their devices as well as how to use SALON – the Southern Adirondack Library ON-DEMAND service to get to the e-editions. Space is limited so Bresett asks those interested to call ahead.
Giving the people what they want sometimes means providing DVDs.
Thanks in large part to generous donations Bresett said the library stocks about 1,000 DVDs in its collection. “When the price of Netflix went up some people started coming here for movies,” she said.
The library also provides CDs.
“You can’t get books on tape any more – when’s the last time you saw a tape player in a car?” she said.
An area which might have been expected to see growth remains flat, Bresett said. The library continues to lend books at roughly the same rate it has for the past several years, she said.
Although the library continues to spend about the same on books each year, those books are more costly meaning fewer hit the shelves, she said. Of the roughly 21,000 total items in the library, Bresett said an average of 3,000 are withdrawn each month.
A big part of keeping the shelves stocked with books and getting what the patrons want to read is being part of the consortium.
The Southern Adirondack Library System allows the Pember to pull in books from any other members as soon as those new volumes become available for lending. The consortium covers Hamilton, Saratoga, Warren and Washington county public libraries.
Money remains tight at the Pember however, as Bresett said the decision had recently been made to close one additional day each week to reduce the amount of money being spent on heating fuel.
The library will now be closed on Thursdays until spring. The library is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday, noon to 5 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.