Meeting the Changing Needs of Patrons

As technology advances, awareness increases and demand grows, the libraries are changing.

The MakerLab. Photo courtesy of the James Blackstone Memorial Library.

The 21 public computers at the James Blackstone Memorial Library in Branford are constantly in use. Children and adults, alike, use computers for a multitude of reasons. Over the course of a month, more than 3,000 computer sessions are logged.

"Back say 10, 15 years ago people were learning how to use the internet," says Library Director Karen Jensen. "Now they come in, they use the computers for job searches, for research, checking their emails, looking at videos, staying connected to social media."

It was in 1996, when the library was renovated, that the building was wired for internet access and the library had its first website.
Today, the library boasts of a multitude of ways they are keeping up with the digital age.

The library is a member LION (Libraries Online, Inc.), a consortium of area libraries that share an integrated library system allowing sharing of patrons and materials. This allows patrons to use the card issued by their hometown library at many other libraries in the area.

"You can pop into Guilford or Branford or Stony Creek and use that same card and you don't have to re-register it, you can have the same privileges," says Jensen.

This consortium includes a subscription to OverDrive. Patrons can download the OverDrive app to access ebooks, as well as audiobooks. These services continue to grow in popularity.

"It is really popular," says Jensen. "In fact, in the past six months, the circulation of OverDrive books has increased by 20%. In our library alone, yes, and OverDrive as a whole."

For magazine readers, there is Zinio where over 100 different magazines including HGTV Magazine, Good Housekeeping, Martha Steward Living, New York Magazine, The Economist, and The New Yorker can be downloaded on tablets, iPhones, or computers or from within the Zinio app.

"For the library, we will have maybe one subscription to each magazine and it can only be used by one person at a time," says Jensen, "but Zinio can be used by multiple people at the same time so we can all read the latest issue of Martha Steward Living or Business Week or whatever we want."

For those who want to learn a new skill, hands-on, there is MakerLab, the library's mobile maker space. This space offers the use of two 3-D printers, sewing machines, soldering irons, digital cameras, laptops, and much more.

All the equipment is available for use by the public and in classes that are offered through the library.

"A lot of libraries have historically offered some sort of hands-on craft experience, whether it's knitting or storytime crafts," says Katy Dillman, development and outreach librarian, "but we're really becoming more aware of the value of hands-on learning, so we're trying to increase the programs and those experiences that we offer."

Blackstone Library has received funding from The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven through The Great Give® and sponsorship of its Hogwart's Halloween on October 20th & 21st at the library.

As technology advances, awareness increases and demand grows, the libraries are changing.

"I personally find it very exciting," says Jensen. "It's challenging, of course, that you're always learning new things and trying to change and that can be difficult, but it's exciting because librarians as a whole enjoy learning, themselves, so if they can help other people learn it's even more satisfying."

Jensen and Dillman both agree that keeping Blackstone Library up-to-date on the changing needs of their patrons is an ongoing process.

"We're all kind of reassessing where the money's going. What are we putting our funds to and where's the demand?" says Dillman. "We're trying to constantly monitor what people are looking for and what they're borrowing, whether it's print or digital, and then reassessing our fund allocations."

Learn more about the Library by viewing its profile.

Did You Know?

78% of those 16 and older say libraries should "definitely" offer programs to teach people how to use digital tools such as computers, smartphones, and apps, while 75% say libraries have been effective at helping people learn how to use new technologies.