Chesterton Tribune

Slumping economy boosts library use here, board told

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By PAULENE POPARAD

Westchester Public Library director Phil Baugher’s suspicion that this year’s statistical reports weren’t quite right proved to be correct.

A glitch in the program has been fixed and it now shows that overall February WPL circulation was up 40 percent over February, 2008 and year-to-date WPL’s circulation is up 17 percent. At Thomas Library in Chesterton alone last month circulation totals jumped 51.06 percent.

Baugher told the Library Board on Thursday, “We have good confidence these numbers are right and I think they’re pretty amazing.”

Part of the February boost is due to 118 percent and 169 percent jumps in computer use/adult and computer use/juvenile, respectively, at Thomas. Baugher said on weekends there often is a waiting list to use public-access computers; some people are using the computers for unemployment, updating resumes or filing taxes.

Hageman Library showed a disappointing 49.31 percent drop in February circulation and -37.78 percent year-to-date. Baugher said the Porter branch was without a librarian for some months last year and new manager Suzi Chomel is coming up to speed. It’s taking time to get new materials back on the shelves and programming underway, explained Baugher, but he expressed confidence Chomel will do that and build her own relationship with the patrons there.

Through February, 59,230 items have been circulated at Thomas and 2,106 items at Hageman. Each opportunity to serve a patron is defined as one public service unit. Year-to-date PSUs have increased 14 percent over 2008 to 141,440. The statistics are based on fewer patrons borrowing more; visitor count year-to-date at Thomas is 21,833 or -10 percent and 2,734 at Hageman or -14 percent.

‘R’ movies defended

Baugher addressed a Wednesday Voice of the People letter in the Chesterton Tribune that rapped WPL’s policy of offering DVDs and movies, some R-rated. The letter also said the library tax rate is substantially higher than others in the area, and it questioned WPL staffing.

“The library does own and circulate a number of “R” rated DVDs, but they are among the most popular items we have,” said Baugher. “We own 9,496 DVDs and have something that would possibly offend almost anyone, but having the good and the bad is our purpose.”

Last year, Baugher told the Library Board, WPL circulated DVDs 135,995 times or an average of 14 circulations per title owned. “I think we should consider that the public is getting their money’s worth from our services.” He said the library aims to “give people not only what they need, but what they want also.”

WPL’s last approved tax rate was $0.1271 in 2007 compared to $0.1039 as the average 2007 tax rate for all libraries in the state. Baugher said he believes WPL’s collections and the services it offers “stack up to any library our size and are better than many of the larger libraries in the state.”

Baugher noted WPL has advertised higher tax rates since 2007 but Hoosier government units typically seek the maximum knowing state tax officials can and do make cuts.

As for staffing, Baugher said there were three people at the Audio-Visual Department desk today, two of them volunteers.

In a related matter, Baugher told Library Board members that attempts in the Indiana General Assembly to force consolidation of libraries didn’t make it out of committee, but library officials need to watch that objectionable language isn’t put in another bill, especially during conference committee negotiations.

Thomas open for Oz

Baugher recommended and the Library Board concurred that Thomas library will remain open during the revived Oz Festival that returns to downtown Chesterton Sept. 19 and 20.

In previous years it was WPL’s practice to close the library during the festival because of parking access and traffic problems. Also, “It’s always been a bit of a mess. The restrooms always get trashed pretty badly,” according to Baugher. He said in addition to a rest stop, if it’s hot outside festival-goers used Thomas as a cooling station.

Baugher said he plans to have WPL employees park in its overflow Library Service Center lot and spaces not needed can be used by the public after employees arrive. The director said he realizes it’s a disruption for Thomas patrons but with the festival having new organizers he’s willing to stay open this year and see how it goes.

In other business Thursday:

*In a 2009 reorganization of board officers, Vern Odom was elected president; John Corso, vice-president; Keith Davison, secretary; and Claire Jolie, treasurer.

*Marie “Ruby” Plourde was appointed reference manager at Thomas. “She’s a very enthusiastic person, to say the least,” said Baugher.

*March 28-29 the Friends of the Library is having a sale at Thomas of audio-visual materials that weren’t circulating much any more. As at other public libraries in the state, said Baugher, most WPL video and audio tapes are being phased out to make room for the preferred CD and DVD formats.

*The board voted 7-0 approving a Capital Projects Fund plan for 2010-2012 described as very similar to the current plan that budgets allocations for building/grounds repair and replacement; equipment lease, purchase, maintenance; and computer hardware/software purchases. In 2010, $254,994 is budgeted and $242,900 in each of 2011 and 2012. A tax rate of $0.0121 is projected each year. The plan requires additional approvals throughout the year.

*Baugher reported WPL received a check for $116,000 from Porter County this week although it’s not clear what the distribution represents. “We expect a lot more --- a lot.” Reconciliation 2008 Porter County property taxes are in the process of being paid and 2009 taxes will be late as well. Baugher said WPL can weather the delay; the library has $4,165,111 in all funds.

 

 

Posted 3/13/2009