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Downturn in economy good news for public library

By DAVID TEWES
April 17, 2010 at 2:02 p.m.
Updated April 16, 2010 at 11:17 p.m.

Victoria Public Library Director Dayna Williams-Capone says she expects business to continue to improve for the library.

CHANGES TO LIBRARY

Users of the library will find that facility open fewer hours later this month and operated by a smaller staff as the city deals with budget cuts.

Future cuts include reducing operating hours on Wednesdays, when the library is normally open from 9 am. to 9 p.m. Beginning April 21, the Wednesday hours will be 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

The other hours will remain unchanged.

"It's going to be interesting to see whether that will shift things to a different evening or if Saturdays are going to get even busier," said Dayna Williams-Capone, library director. "I don't really know."

The economy might have hurt some businesses in the Crossroads, but it has been a boon for the Victoria Public Library.

And Director Dayna Williams-Capone said she's expecting business to only get better.

"I would like to say I'd expect to see us have big increases like that maybe for the next year or two," she said. "But I really can't predict that."

The library has been fighting for years to increase the number of people using the facility and its services, with only minimal increases from about 2007 to 2009.

But Williams-Capone said she compared the gate count, computer use and book checkouts from October through February to the same period a year earlier.

It showed a 10 percent overall traffic increase in the gate count, a 10-percent increase in checkouts and a 24-percent increase in Internet computer use.

Williams-Capone attributed the increases to the economy and to a more aggressive marketing effort.

Retiree Larry Young said he goes to the library nearly weekly and he's also noticed the increased use.

"I know that the computers down there are constantly full," he said. "There are always people waiting to use them and that's a very visible indicator."

Young, 78, said while the number of trips he makes to the library has remained steady for the past 10 years, his use of the services has increased. He said that's especially true for books, magazines and newspapers.

"That Wall Street Journal has gotten so expensive that I just dropped my subscription," said Young, who used to work in the insurance business. "So, now I just go to the library to read it."

Williams-Capone said libraries in general know that when there is a downturn in the economy, there's usually an increase in library use.

"We're just seeing a lot of families in here," she said. "They come in here and they use us for the recreational reading needs to read to their children at home."

They're also checking out music and movies to avoid those costs, she said. They're also cutting cable service at home and using the library's Internet computers instead, including the wireless network.

Williams-Capone said all this has coincided with the marketing plan she began when she took over as director just over a year ago.

Part of that plan includes being more consistent with the message being sent to the media, advertising and upgrading the website.

"I really saw a need to be consistent and to promote the services, because I didn't feel like what had been done was being done as well as it could have been," Williams-Capone said. "We've just been talking about promoting what we're doing."

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