Thursday, 20 April 2017 04:44

Annual report shows Swift Current library is an important community hub

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The Swift Current Branch Library provided a variety of programs and services to promote life-long learning during 2016 and the number of in-person visits continued to grow.

The library’s annual report for 2016 was presented at the Swift Current Branch Library Board annual meeting, April 6. The report provides details about library usage and the different programs for children, youth and adults.
Swift Current Branch Library Manager Andrea McCrimmon said 2016 was a busy and successful year at the library.
“We’ve had three straight years of increases in in-person visits, circulation and people using the public computers,” she told the Prairie Post. “So 2016 was a very strong year.”
The library was open to the public for 3,335 hours during 2016 and there were 99,449 in-person visits. The library has been using an electronic people counter since 2014 to determine the number of in-person visits. The data indicates a steady increase in visits from 80,636 in 2014 to 90,678 in 2015 and another increase to 99,449 in 2016.
“It was very, very busy here,” she said. “I think we accomplished a lot. People loved coming here and really had fantastic opportunities to learn new things, improve their skills, including their digital literacy skills, their reading skills. There were lots of opportunities to learn new things that people otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to do. We had a great year in terms of people borrowing materials and also making great connections within the community.”
In-branch circulation of books and other material increased from 103,624 items in 2014 to 109,954 in 2015 and then to 123,129 items in 2016. The use of public computers at the library increased from 10,596 user sessions in 2014 to 11,040 in 2015 and to 14,802 user sessions in 2016.
“Our public computers are free for anyone to use,” she said. “The City of Swift Current installed three new public computers in 2016 to help reduce the wait times because we had a lot of people waiting frequently to use the public computers and it still happens frequently. Our public computers are very well used. They’re full on a regular basis.”
Swift Current library patrons borrowed 17,324 eBooks and eAudiobooks during 2017 . The library registered 638 new users.
According to McCrimmon, there are a combination of reasons for the increased use of the library services.
“I think people love coming to the programs and we’ve been really trying to have more technology-focused programming because I think that’s a real need in our community and something that isn’t available anywhere else,” she said. “We have opened up the library to community groups. So the library is always busy and it’s a busy community hub. Those people come here and then they are accessing other services like checking out books and finding out how they can borrow eBooks and eAudiobooks and then they see that we have other programs they can attend and so they start attending other programs.”
She added the increased use of library services in Swift Current is also related to an increase in the city’s population. According to recent Statistics Canada data the city’s population increased from 15,554 in 2011 to 16,604 in 2016, which is a growth rate of 6.8 per cent.
“Often the library is the first place people come when they move to town,” she said. “They get library cards and they start attending our programs and making community connections and finding out what else is happening in their community and accessing very important resources like our books and our internet.”
The Swift Current Branch Library provided 678 programs during 2016 and there were 8,956 attendees.
One of the focus areas is technology programming and services. The library hosted an information technology intern from October 2016 to March 2017.
The position was fully funded by the Ministry of Industry through Carleton Trail College. The library purchased a 3-D printer in 2016 and the intern started the 3-D printing program.
“People have been so thrilled and excited that they have access to an emerging technology that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to access,” McCrimmon said. “So we’ve taught a number of classes on how to design your own model on the computer that you can send to the 3-D printer and people have designed things from scratch and then have gotten them printed.”
The library provided one-on-one technology training sessions to 167 people during 2016 and it offered 30 technology programs on various topics such as computer basics for seniors, iPad for beginners, Facebook for beginners, Skype for beginners, how to make a website, basic computer coding skills and Arduino programming.
“We started to do computer coding sessions, which I think are really important. Digital literacy is one of the skills that is really important for people to be learning to keep up with modern society and the only place in the area you can learn to do that is at the library.”
There were various programs and services for children, youth and families during 2016. There  were 227 children’s programs with 4,198 attendees.
These activities varied from story time for different age groups to a children’s writing club and a visit from the Saskatchewan Science Centre’s science outreach team.
The library held 33 programs specifically aimed at youth attended by 209 individuals and hosted the Sage Hill Teen Writing Experience.
A large variety of adult programs took place during 2016. There were author readings, a fundraising event with acclaimed author Sharon Butala to purchase six iPads for the library’s technology programming, a memoir writing workshop with 19 participants, as well as a book club for people with intellectual disabilities. This group met 43 times during the year on a weekly basis and the total attendance was 564.
“We have a staff member who leads the group and they take turns reading, if they’re able to, or they just follow along with the book that’s selected for that week,” McCrimmon explained. “So we gear it to whatever reading level people are at. ... It’s enjoyable for people and their assistants have noticed that their reading levels are actually improving, which is really exciting.”
Several community-led activities took place at the library, such as bridge and whist, a scrabble club, stitch and chat, and the knitting and crochet group.
The library has a senior outreach program to deliver books and other library materials to seniors in the city who are unable to come to the library.
Staff and volunteers made regular visits to eight seniors facilities and a few one-on-one visits to people who are homebound. They checked out a total of 4,903 items to patrons of the senior outreach program.
The Swift Current Branch Library has four full-time and seven part-time staff members, one casual employee and dozens of volunteers. Most of the program supplies, including the 3-D printer, are purchased with money from fundraising events.
“We also have started purchasing books to supplement the library collection with fundraising money,” she said. “All the adult programs supplies are paid for with fundraising money. ... We do a lot with very little money and I think the impact on the community is just invaluable. I see that every day in people’s lives when they come and the library changes people’s lives for the better.”
McCrimmon is concerned about the impact the recently announced funding cuts to the provincial library system will have on the library in Swift Current.
For example, the reciprocal borrowing and lending service between libraries across the province was stopped April 10. She noted this service was well used by Swift Current library patrons, including participants in the senior outreach program who read a lot and also depend on large print material and audio material that are not available locally or within the Chinook Regional Library.
Despite these challenges for 2017, she is confident the Swift Current Branch Library will continue to provide a quality service to users and that people will continue to use their library.
“We have a very strong library and the people of Swift Current love their library, and 2017 will be a difficult year with the provincial budget cuts, but our library will remain strong and we will find a way to get through this with the help of our community,” she said.

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Matthew Liebenberg


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