Only about 22 per cent of City residents have a library card – and that’s a statistic new CEO and library director for the City of Kawartha Lakes is intent on changing.
The Kawartha Lakes Public Library system will soon be undergoing a major outreach and community engagement initiative, with one of the primary goals to increase the number of library card holders, and to increase usage of its services.
“The users we have are active,” says Anderson, but the library wants more of them.
Anderson came from a large, rural library system in B.C. The library card take-up there was closer to 30 per cent.
Perhaps surprisingly, Anderson wonders whether or not Ontario’s Junior Kindergarten program might be partially to blame.
In B.C., which does not have Junior Kindergarten, parents are looking for things to do with their kids right up until their children head off to school. So they’re often found in the library, taking advantage of children’s programming. By the time they reach Kindergarten, going to the library has become an ingrained habit for families.
“Whereas in Ontario, kids are off to JK by age 3 and a half,” Anderson says. “I think having parents with a child at home for that extra year might play a part in this.”
While a 2015 public opinion poll conducted by Market Probe Canada shows that 73 per cent of Ontarians report having a library card, Anderson says it’s harder to make sense of numbers like that in relation to the hard data.
“Libraries typically count ‘active patrons,’ so these are people who have used the library in the past 12 months,” says Anderson.
“Of course this number does not capture the people who use the library space on a daily basis without having a card. Libraries don’t require people to have a card to use the facilities or materials within.”
The CEO says in 2017 there were 230,000 visitors to Kawartha Lakes’ branches.
“This number is harder to get a handle on, whether or not every one of those people are returning card holders.”
According to the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture, and Sport, almost five million Ontario residents have active library cards.
Anderson says libraries are trying to get away strictly from transactional numbers and also try to look at the impact their services are having on the public.
Pew Research (which has done a lot of polling research for US libraries over the past decade) typically finds that libraries are often very highly regarded by the community and seen as an important institution, Anderson notes.
There are countless e-books available at Kawartha Lakes libraries now, and many current issues of magazines (available through Flipster).
On of the newest services at Kawartha Lakes Library is that card holders can download the free hoopla digital mobile app on Android or IOS devices or visit Hoopla to begin enjoying thousands of titles – from major Hollywood studios, record companies and publishers – available to borrow instantly, for instant streaming or temporary downloading to smartphones, tablets and computers.
For more on other library services, check out this piece from the Advocate’s libraries columnist here.