Last week, the Kawartha Lakes Public Library Board presented our proposed 2020 operating budget to City Council. Part of our proposal is a request for additional funding to create a new manager of public services position.
Far from libraries dying out or become redundant in the digital age, usage of our library system has grown over the last several years. Our branches are often one of the few places in our communities where everyone is welcome. Whether it is a place to study and do research, to find a new book to read, or learn a new skill, our libraries offer something for everyone.
Many changes have occurred in our library over the last several years. Between 2014 and 2017, the City directed the library to conduct a core services review. During those three years, the hours and collections of four library branches were consolidated from 18 into 14. Prior to 2014, the 18 library branches were open to the public an average of 284 hours per week. Now our 14 library branches are open to the public an average of 326 hours per week, an increase of almost 15%.
Since 2014, with four fewer branches, the library has increased the number of yearly visitors by nearly 7%. In 2018 we welcomed over 236,000 visitors to our branches, that is the equivalent to more than twelve sold out Leafs games at the ScotiaBank Arena. While we have maintained circulation levels, we have seen an increase in the use of eBooks by about 175% over five years.
We recently surveyed our users, asking them what they felt the library’s priorities should be moving into the future. Collections ranked first, with programming a very close second. And over the last few years we have been able to increase the number of programs we offer by about 50% and increased the program attendance by about 35%. There are programs that you would expect in a library, such as Storytime and other literacy programs. But it is also things like robotics, computer coding, mobile device training, and even sewing. All of this with the same staffing numbers as in 2001.
Like other communities, Kawartha Lakes has an aging population. Developing programs for older adults and seniors to keep people connected and healthy is a key part of the library’s mission. With the new manager position, we would be able to expand our programming for seniors and our library exchange visits at care homes.
Prior to amalgamation, the public library service in this area was supplied by both the Lindsay Public Library and the Victoria Country Public Library. Both systems had a manager to run their respective libraries. With amalgamation in 2001, these positions were combined into one library director position and this has remained so for the past 19 years. The library director continues to manage all other library staff, who report directly to the position.
The Kawartha Lakes Public Library is a fiscally responsible and well-managed library system, and has been so since it was created two decades ago. With continued and growing demands on our library system, the board believes the creation of this new position is now necessary. The position would further expand and develop new programs at our branches, it would assist in training and mentoring our current library staff, and would work to increase our all-important community partnerships. This would be the first new staff position added to the library’s budget since its creation in 2001.
–submitted by Susan Ferguson, chair, Kawartha Lakes Public Library Board