In the 20-plus years I’ve been on the Collingwood Library board, I have watched the functions of the library and its role in the community evolve and change to keep pace with the needs and demands of its growing number of users. It’s been a remarkable, exciting journey.
Of all our civic institutions, I believe the library has best adapted to the new technologies and the changing community demographics. In sheer numbers, it is our most popular, most well-used community facility.
And the library continues to grow in popularity as visits, uses and borrowing expands in leaps and bounds. From the Collingwood Public Library annual report for 2013, presented to Council on Monday night here are a few statistics:
- 190,121 patron visits (up 6%);
- 283,467 items borrowed (up 3%);
- 7,580 e-books borrowed (up 44%);
- 5,095 program participants (up 26%);
- 10,663 uses of library computer workstations (up 13%);
- 13,746 uses of library Wifi network (up 34%);
- 159,150 visits to library website (up 52%).
Did you also know there are many free online courses available through the library’s website? All you need is your library card to take them. I signed up for Latin! Plus there are databases and online magazines you can read or use for research. And, of course, a large collection of movies on DVD, music on CD and even audiobooks you can check out.
All of this is good news for the community: it shows our library remains on the forefront of the technology wave; adapting and enhancing its services – thanks to terrific, dedicated staff and a supportive, active and engaged board. Plus the library has an excellent relationship with the town’s IT superb department to help make technical and technological decisions and upgrades easier and more efficient.*
The growing community use in all aspects and areas of the library show how prescient the 2003-06 council was in approving (albeit not unanimously**) a new, expanded, award-winning, LEEDS-gold-certified library – long overdue, too.*** According to Ministry standards, our library had outgrown its space around 1990. It took more than 15 years to get a new building with enough space to accommodate the town’s growing population and the library’s own collection.
A modern library is not simply a warehouse for books – themselves often but wrongly portrayed as an aging technology in the era of the e-reader. It is the beating heart of the community. As a page on the Southern Ontario Library Service (SOLS) says about the public library:
Today it is a cornerstone of the community that benefits everyone. Residents of all ages rely on their public library to provide what they need to face the future with the resilience that comes from new knowledge, information, skills, and abilities.
The literacy map for Collingwood is reasonably healthy. According to the Canadian Council on Learning, we’re doing better than much of the country, and the library is one of the main reasons scores have improved over the last several years. But we can’t relax our vigil and take it for granted.