Watkins Glen Public Library wants to hear from residents

Apr 26, 2023 at 09:23 pm by Observer-Review

Kelly Povero, director of the Watkins Glen Public Library, wants to know what county residents are thinking about the library at 620 South Decatur St. How often do they walk through its doors? What are they looking for once they’re there? What do people love about the library? What can they do better? Or more of?
The Schuyler County native began her work here in mid-2021, when the pandemic was still very much part of the landscape. She and her staff of workers and volunteers assembled reading materials for curbside check-outs, made masks and test kits available to the community. They kept the library going while waiting to be able to open to the public again. Now amid the “new normal,” it’s time to evaluate where they are and how they may best serve the community in the immediate future. The process is called strategic planning.
Surveys are available as paper copies in the library or may be accessed and filled in online at watkinsglenlibrary.org. They take only five to ten minutes to complete and they’re informative, enumerating many services you might not have realized are—or could be—available at a library. For example, during the pandemic, the library purchased several mobile wi-fi “hotspots,” gadgets like smaller, wireless routers, available to be checked out. The library currently has a seed supply, filed in the former card catalog drawers. Any family is welcome to take up to five seed packets. A library Povero knows of, offers a KitchenAid mixer that may be borrowed.
“A lot of people think libraries are just books and music,” she says. The children’s section is a good illustration of the variety on tap, with its array of learning toys, games, sensory materials, and playthings to hone fine motor skills. “And we have a very strong children’s and juvenile section, fiction and nonfiction,” Povero says. “I’m very passionate about that. That’s the jewel.”
Library statistics show the children’s department enjoyed an 86 percent increase in circulation from 2021 to 2022, with more home-schooling families, among others, making use of its resources. Librarians need to keep track of statistics to measure their effectiveness.
The library even has headphones available for babies and toddlers—and adults—who need to filter out noise and distractions around them in order to enjoy the library’s offerings, effectively allowing each person the opportunity to make the library’s environment more user-friendly for them. One-on-one “sensory story times” are held by appointment, so that a child in need of a quieter reading experience can enjoy stories that meet their needs. (A child crying in the library is most likely to be the one just told it was time to go home.)
So far the survey, available at least through mid-May, has generated about 200 responses. “It’s nice to see people give us concrete advice,” Povero says. Some have suggested games and graphic novels they’d like to see added to the children’s section. The library has been praised for its large print book collection. Adult programming has also been suggested, with some crafts classes currently being planned. This winter the library hosted a popular adult cookbook club, whose members shared recipes and themed meals once a month.
There have been some post-pandemic changes in library use. Collections are being updated, from the books being “weeded,” a process of removing books from shelves if no one’s taking them out, which creates space for newer materials, to the updated career center.
And in the future, there are what Povero describes as “a lot of moving pieces,” and emerging trends like the rise in popularity of streaming services which have made DVDs a less popular commodity at the library. The current survey offers the library a way to gain perspective about the community will.
“We’re hoping to take all criticism as good information,” she says. “And we want the community to feel ownership.”
Another way to do this is to come to the library to vote on their budget on May 9. This is a separate vote from the school district vote. The library is asking for a modest supplemental budget increase of $9,567 this year to help support ongoing operations and maintenance, both of whose costs have felt the pain of recent inflation. “Our utilities doubled last year. Every organization has had this experience,” she says. If enough people do not turn out to vote, the library will need to make do with the previous year’s budget, which means many good things will need to be cut to accommodate the shortfall.
More information on library programs, events, and the survey can be found at the library’s website listed above, as well as on their Facebook and Instagram pages. The Watkins Glen Public Library is open Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
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