Local Library Going Strong, Embraces Tech Options
By Jacob Mathias
Despite the proliferation of screens, pods and pads, the library is still a destination location for the public.
Comprised of its main branch in downtown Stevens Point, the Portage Co. Library also has satellite branches in Plover, Rosholt and Almond.
According to Director Larry Oathout, the library’s attendance and services has increased over the past year.
“The library has always been a go-to place for people to increase their learning, for their recreational reading and we’re seeing it more and more as a place to just gather,” said Oathout.
According to library data, attendance at the Stevens Point and Almond branches currently on par with 2016, when Point saw a circulation of 321,299 and Almond saw 8086.
Plover’s circulation in 2016 was 49,126 and Rosholt, 15,724. This year, the Plover and Rosholt branches are on track to increase traffic by seven and nine percent, respectively.
Many library patrons do not visit the library in person, instead choosing to take advantage of Overdrive, the library’s digital content lending service. Between digital books, audio and video, PCPL racked up 47,807 Overdrive checkouts in 2016. As of July 31, 2017, ebooks were 31,199 of total checkouts for the year, a nearly 10 percent increase over the same period in 2016.
“That’s the one area, besides programming and meeting use, that’s really going up,” said Oathout. “They don’t even have to come in here like in the days of old.”
Using library internet resources is also a big draw for the PCPL. The libraries in-house computers logged in 54,136 sessions while their WiFi saw almost 156,000 connections in 2016.
Over 750 groups used the library’s meeting rooms in 2016, with more than 19,000 visitors viewing the libraries various programming including book clubs, game nights and lectures.
And it doesn’t stop there, he said. One program, a children’s zoo event, saw so many attendees that some had to be turned away. This summer, over 600 people attended the Sentry Theatre for the PCPL’s presentation by the Bubble Guy.
Book clubs continue to be a draw, with different clubs drawing between six and 25 readers. An online book club is also in the works, Oathout added.
A new addition to the library, a collection of tabletop and board games, has brought a new sect of the community seeking a library card. The library’s weekly game night has seen good attendance as well.
“I think people like to be part of a group doing things,” said Oathout.
While the library will at some point offer more DVDs, music and streaming services, Oathout said books will always be the major draw.
“I see reading being our main brand forever, and that’s a good thing,” he said.
To learn more about patrons’ wants and needs, PCPL will soon be developing a strategic plan by conducting surveys to learn how and why people are using the library.
“[We want to know] when people come, who comes, and how do they use the library,” said Oathout.
PCPL locations, hours and catalogs can be found at www.pocolibrary.org.