From: Jason Hatton, Bartholomew County Public Library director
I strenuously disagree with a recent guest columnist’s assertion that libraries are struggling to remarket themselves to younger audiences. While I cannot speak specifically for the Allen County Public Library that is cited in Leo Morris’ comments, I can say that the Bartholomew County Public Library is more vital and community oriented than it has ever been!
First of all, I will point out that the author must not have seen the research from the Pew Research Center that millennials (ages 18-35) were the most likely generation to have visited a public library within the past year. This age grouping beat out Generation X, Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation in public library usage.
As to Mr. Morris’ suggestions that libraries focus on strengthening the community center role, concentrate on local and state history and promote the loaning of e-books, the local library is succeeding in all of those.
In 2018, the total number of visitors to our Main Library, Hope Branch or Bookmobile increased over 9 percent from 2017 to over 311,000. Our meeting room usage increased 14 percent and the number of reference questions increased 8 percent.
As part of our strategic plan, we have been putting much more of our resources toward programming, especially to offsite locations. In 2018, we conducted 1,782 programs that were attended by over 40,000 people. This is an increase of 53 percent and 37 percent, respectively. The number of library programs conducted at other locations increased over 141 percent from 2017.
In regard to local and state history, our record is clear that we take this commitment to preserving the historic record seriously. Our recent merger with the Columbus Indiana Architectural Archives, in which the library agreed to take all necessary steps to continue to make these important documents available to the community, perhaps best exemplifies this. We hired an archivist and have consolidated the collection into the Main Library. Through other partnerships, we will work to digitize and process these collections to ensure access for generations to come. We work hand-in-hand with the Bartholomew County Genealogical Society, the Yellow Trail Museum, the Bartholomew County Historical Society and other interested parties to host many great programs including our annual Steps Through Time.
As many residents know, we have been expanding our digital collection for many years. In fact, our digital collection of e-books, audiobooks, magazines, music and more now accounts for over 22 percent of our circulation. Digital items circulated more than 163,000 times in 2018!
While we always have room for improvement and growth, I encourage Mr. Morris or any non-believer to visit the Main Library at 3:15 p.m. on a Monday afternoon. You will very much see a vibrant, active library that is not struggling, and is in fact excelling at serving our community.