Library patrons value space, computer access
Library officials encouraged patrons to not keep quiet as they discussed future planning for the Kitchigami Regional Library Wednesday. Almost 50 people attended the input session led by library consultant Mark Ranum in the Park Rapids library ba...
Library officials encouraged patrons to not keep quiet as they discussed future planning for the Kitchigami Regional Library Wednesday.
Almost 50 people attended the input session led by library consultant Mark Ranum in the Park Rapids library basement.
Kitchigami Regional Library set up the meeting as part of a series of nine discussions throughout the region.
"The library board is determined to dig into each community to find out what its needs are," said Ranum.
Ranum began the meeting with a presentation on the operations and advantages of regional libraries.
State-funded libraries belong to one of 12 regional library systems, explained Ranum. The regional systems disburse federal and state funding to individual branches and coordinate efforts through interlibrary loans to provide a larger catalog selection for patrons.
"The whole idea is we can do better together than we can alone," Ranum said.
He then asked what kind of services patrons valued or would like to see at the Park Rapids branch.
"Good government depends on good decision making. And good decision making is based on having the right information and facts," said Ranum.
Some patrons spoke out about the need for more computer access.
Park Rapids Friends of the Library board member Frank Moody said the shifting nature of reference materials requires more Internet access.
Ranum acknowledged the high demand for electronic information.
He recounted the decision of the Southdale library in Hennepin County to add an extra 30 computers to its 60-computer lab. The demand grew to fill the additional computers in very little time, he said.
Patrons also talked about the need for additional room at the library.
"We're kind of squeezed for space," said Moody.
Gary Worster of Menahga said while he is able to download books from the Internet for free, part of the reason he enjoys visiting the library is the tactile feel and the "way I can interact with books on the shelves."
Other patrons remarked on emphasizing services for children and students.
Charles House said he would like to see increased cooperation with schools for pre-literacy programs and after-school resources.
The Kitchigami Regional Library engages with schools, day cares and after school programs, but awareness and participation levels could be raised, reasoned Ranum.
"It may need to be more visible if people decide that needs to be a priority," he said.
Tracy Bethel expressed interest in more educational programming about computer usage.
"A lot of people don't know how to use the computers," he said. He added classes may help save librarians' time.
Park Rapids Area High School student Scott Walpole said he visits the library primarily for music and periodicals. He also thought a larger television for viewing video materials would benefit patrons.
Gary Walpole raised the issue of seasonal residents. He said the four to five months seasonal residents live in the area greatly impact how the library is used and "can be overwhelming, at times."
Ranum acknowledged the situation, and said seasonal fluctuations would be taken into account for final recommendations.
The next step, Ranum said, is to evaluate comments from the sessions and data from more than 500 surveys to determine how to transform the system.
"We will develop models to achieve outcomes and how to respond to meet those outcomes," Ranum explained.
He said he and other consultants will present the models at another series of public discussions in November for more feedback. "We want to validate what's happening," said Ranum.