library experiences a significant increase in use | Local News

Over 122,400 items were borrowed from the Keene Memorial Library in the 2020-2021 fiscal year.

This is an increase of more than 12,400 articles over the previous year.

Data from the library’s annual report shows further significant increases – particularly in children’s books with more than 7,000 excerpts this year than last. Wi-Fi usage and visits to the library’s website also increased significantly.

Members of the library’s advisory board heard these and other statistics when they met Monday evening.

They also unanimously approved that the library work with a company to develop a plan to respond to community needs in order to remain accredited with the Nebraska Library Commission.

During her report, Laura England-Biggs, director of the library, noted the increase in borrowed items.

“This circulation of 122,000 is up from 110,000 last year,” said England Biggs. ” I think that it’s good. I want to point out that we have been open 50 days longer – 304 instead of 254 days. Last year we were dealing with the COVID shutdown, so that impacted us.

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She focused on the essentials.

“At the end of the day, we got more stuff circulating,” she said, adding, “We’ve had really good growth in the circulation of children’s material.”

Digital circulation increased by approximately 6,000 articles for the year.

England Biggs said WiFi visits increased by 3,000 to a total of 23,556. The library had 6,001 internet/computer uses. England Biggs said internet/computer usage fell by 1,400.

“I think the reason Wi-Fi is on the rise so much is that more and more people are bringing their own devices and are on our Wi-Fi, which is increasing Wi-Fi usage,” said England Biggs.

Visits to the library’s website increased by 46%, from 39,000 last year to 73,400 this year.

“That’s a lot of people using our website,” England-Biggs said. “And that’s just hitting the homepage. It’s not going to use up all the rest of the resources there. It’s incredible growth.

Board member Linda McClain noted the increase.

“It speaks to the people using the resources,” McClain said.

England-Biggs also spoke about the online learning available through the library.

“Last year e-learning sessions – there were 707. This year there are 2,961,” she said.

The library offers Niche Academy, which accounts for 2,127 such sessions.

Niche Academy offers training videos on a variety of topics. It includes a Homeless Academy to help library staff work better with homeless people.

England-Biggs has made it a requirement for his staff. That may explain some of the numbers, but not all of them, she said.

Additionally, the academy offers sessions on developing Excel spreadsheets and customer service. England-Biggs said there are plenty of free trainings and the library could start budgeting to add paid trainings.

England-Biggs pointed to further increases.

The public printing press saw an increase of 4,000 pages printed for a total of 21,852.

“I think there are a lot of people doing job applications and resumes,” England-Biggs said. “I think that partly explains it.”

The library also offers outreach and home-based services, meaning it brings books and materials to housebound people of all ages, unable to drive or due to disabilities.

England-Biggs said those numbers have increased by 50 this year.

Elisa Cruz, Circulation Manager, brings materials to people unable to get to the library. Cruz makes several visits in a week. Once a month, she and Ann Hoppe, library assistant, deliver materials to residents of the Fremont Towers, who have no means of transportation.

The annual report also indicates that programming was down.

There were 234 programs last year and 134 this year, but attendance at these events has grown from 2,799 last year to over 3,000 this year.

“For a hundred programs less, I think that says a lot,” England-Biggs said.

In other matters, the board voted unanimously to support the advancement of strategic planning with Mission Matters, a company that would facilitate the process – knowing that funding would be secured by donations.

No city funds would be spent as none were budgeted for this.

In December, England-Biggs told the board that the state library commission requires accredited libraries to have a community needs response plan (formerly called strategic planning) to remain accredited and receive state assistance.

England-Biggs said the last time this was done was in 2017 and that plan expired in 2020.

She told the board last month that the library was looking to hire Mission Matters to help with the update process, and it was a company highly recommended by Melissa Diers, executive director of the Fremont Area Community Foundation.

England-Biggs said she hopes that process will be complete by the time the library has to temporarily relocate due to the expansion project.

The board agreed to use professional services, but asked last month that the library request additional quotes for help with strategic planning.

At the Monday evening England-Biggs meeting, she had made calls and sent emails, but proposals were not received. One person is looking to retire and mentioned two other people, who have limited availability by April.

“Given the time sensitivity, I would appreciate the leeway going forward,” England-Biggs said. “I’m working on some details with the funding.”

The price could range from $3,800 to $10,000.

England-Biggs said she thinks the whole process could be paid for with a mini-grant from the Fremont Area Community Foundation, help from Friends of Keene Memorial Library and an anonymous donor who agreed to support a much of the cost.

She added that continuing to seek other offers could result in a delay of two to three months.

Using Mission Matters, she thinks the process could start in February or March.

England-Biggs said she hopes to have key informant interviews and focus groups from February to April, as well as a stakeholder survey. A planning retreat will be held in May to review the results. The plan would be made in June before the planned move.

The company would draft the document for the NLC.

A community response plan must be completed by October 1 to maintain library accreditation.

McClain said the process is extremely important now that the library is heading for expansion.

“There are myriad reasons why this year, at this time, it is important that this be done with an outside person who specializes in strategic planning,” McClain said.

England-Biggs noted that this plan would set the direction of the library for the next five years. She added that by 2026, the library would be sure to build a plan to meet community needs within the budget.

Tom Adamson, chairman of the board, also asked if the company could provide the board with progress reports. England-Biggs said she would find out about it.

Council members also learned that the Friends of Keene Memorial Library is planning its annual book sale for March 24-27 at Christensen Field in Fremont. This Thursday is the member/pre-sale event.

The next library board meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. on February 21 in the library’s main meeting room. Meetings are open to the public.