Why County's Libraries Are Thriving
King, Jason, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Jason King Daily Herald Staff Writer
Paul Deane admits the numbers are rather surprising.
In the past three years, his Round Lake Area Library has seen its circulation increase by 20 percent to 25 percent each year.
And this year, despite a reduction in hours that limits the library's operating schedule to 40 hours a week, circulation is up again.
"It's running counter to what everyone was saying, about libraries being replaced by the Internet," he said.
And it's not just in Round Lake. Libraries across Lake County - and across the country - are reporting jumps in circulation and overall patronage. According to a trade survey, 20 percent of public libraries reported at least a 10 percent boost in circulation in 2002.
For a variety of reasons - the economy, access to technology and a change in marketing philosophy - libraries are happening places again.
Librarians are quick to point out that in economic downturns, public library patronage always tends to spike because people look for cheap diversions and entertainment.
"When money is tight, people recognize the value of the library," said Roberta Thomas, administrative librarian for the Grayslake Public Library.
But the economy isn't the only reason libraries are experiencing a renaissance. Libraries have embraced new technologies such as the Internet, giving access to the Web to people who might not otherwise have it. And libraries have figured out new ways to market themselves to patrons, said Sarah Long, director of North Suburban Library System.
"The American Library Association has really led the way on that," Long said. With the association's "@@ your library" campaign, "we really used it to get the word out that libraries are computers and videos and DVDs, as well as books and other materials."
Indeed, rather than being taken over by the Internet, as was predicted by some, libraries have been quick to embrace the technology.
According to the American Library Association, 95 percent of the country's public libraries offer free Internet access, seen as a gateway to increased usage of traditional library services.
For Carol Norquist, a Round Lake Beach resident, the opposite was true. A lifelong user of libraries, she now uses such technology to search for a job.
But, she said, traditional library services are just as important to her.
"I don't have Internet access at home, so I come here to use their computers to look for work," she said. …