Coping with Change

By: Blythe Schubert
Kate Love Simpson Public Library/McConnelsville

Technology continues to challenge all library staff members, not to mention library budgets, and use of space.  Since about 2005, our library has been coping with the demand for movies and audiobooks in more than one format. Our library patrons still use their VHS players and check out our VCR tapes. Other patrons must have DVD’s. Books on Tape and books on CD offer the same challenge.  Eventually, digital downloads may provide the solution.  However, for our older patrons especially, the digital world has been a mysterious world only their grandchildren could divine.

The Kate Love Simpson – Morgan County Library is third from the bottom on the Public Library Fund list. Morgan County, Ohio, population just under 15,000, has its county seat in McConnelsville, on the Muskingum River, 35 miles north of Marietta and 26 miles south of Zanesville.  The Morgan County Library system consists of two libraries, the Kate Love Simpson main library in McConnelsville [population 1,676] and a branch library in Chesterhill [population 305]. We also operate a once-a-week bookmobile service with 4 different routes in the county, delivering books to shut-ins and visiting Morgan County’s 3 elementary schools.

Like many other libraries, our library has augmented our State of Ohio funding with grants.  At the urging of the manager of our local telephone company, Century Link, I successfully applied for a grant for 10 laptop computers, a grant requiring no match.  Receiving these lovely, free computers gave us the opportunity to incorporate technology, all but forcing us to try something different.  In the past, while adults worked on computers in the adult area of the library, their children remained unsupervised, whined, cried and wandered around the library, sometimes into the parking lot. Meanwhile, adults supervising kids in the children’s area had no access to computers and limited access to adult books.

My vision was to establish multi-generational computer centers. With the help of Library Design, we established a family computer center in our children’s area.  With 2 AWE children’s computers in the center on each side and adult computers flanking them, we established a six-computer center.  Now Mom, Dad or another caregiver could check email, send an assignment to a college professor, apply for a job, print photos, and surf the net while a toddler used a learning program and an elementary school youngster used a data base or Google for a school project.

Home schooled children and groups love the family computer center.  We also have 2 old Gates computers for children in this same area.

In our teen area, we ruthlessly weeded more than 25% of our junior non-fiction. With the Google generation, research projects no longer are book-based.  Library Design dropped down the former bookshelf top to serve as a long counter and installed a half-width top on the remaining side of our bookshelf.   We then had a space for adult computers, an AWE desktop computer, and a power strip docking area for our laptop users.

Our teens like to work together at the adjacent computers, as do family groups.  Also parents and other caregivers who want to browse in the adult nonfiction and fiction stacks can now park their children on computers.

In addition to the computer challenge, we are now faced with helping adults with an ever-expanding list of electronic gadgets.  EReaders were the gift of choice Christmas 2010 and 2011.  We could use an IT team to cope with the many questions and needs electronic gadgets provide. Patrons simply need more help than we can provide at the circulation desk.

The need for one-on-one help caused back ups at the circulation desk.  Ebooks and computer user needs often go unanswered when the circ desk is busy. At times, even with extra personnel, the circ desk became crowded and inefficient, frustrating folks waiting in line for a simple transaction, the patron who needs extra help, and the staff members trying to cope with many demands.

Our library did not have a research or information desk nor did we seem to have room for one.  To establish one, we were faced with many changes, including removing and then relocating shelving. The extra space allowed us to install a u-shaped interactive information/help desk in this area with seating on both sides and electrical ports on the desk to plug in and charge patrons electronic devices.

The reference librarian/technology specialist sits inside the U-shaped desk; patrons sit at computer stations on the outside of the U.  Folks bring us their laptops, Kindles, Nooks, Smart Phones, and other devices. Library staff members can sit next to the puzzled patron on the outside of the U to offer one-on-one help.  Registering devices, downloading apps, accessing library resources, and other tasks become more manageable for our patrons.

If we had not passed a local tax levy, the funds to add a help desk would probably not have been available. As trusted stewards of public money, updating our library’s services is essential.  While we will still have folks who want to borrow that old VCR tape or a new book on CD, many of our patrons can now download their own audiobooks, movies, music, and information.

Thanks so much to Blythe Schubert, Director of the Kate Love Simpson Morgan County Library for sharing how they are changing amidst budget cuts and consistently changing technology.

Have any of you had to make cuts and changes?  Do you have any ideas you’d like to share?


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