Throughout the pandemic, Emma DeVos, a member of the library’s board of trustees, said there were a number of library services that were increasingly used by community members, helping identify areas where there is room for improvement. Among the library’s programs and services that have been growing in popularity include bilingual activities, computers, children’s story time, online mobile printing and farther-reaching Wi-Fi access.
According to DeVos, the number of people utilizing all of the library’s services and programs jumped by more than 16,000 in 2020 compared to 2019.
“Our services are reaching a lot more people now than they were before,” DeVos said during a recent City Council meeting. “In 2019, we had an involvement of about 6,600 people coming to the library. And in 2020, we had 23,600 interactions with our programs. That’s a huge jump, and this year we’re at about 19,000.”
Since taking on the role as the library director roughly a year ago, Kevin Kenkel set a goal to bring more people to the library and provide more services to the community. Upgrading the technology services and computers at the library has helped foster the type of growth that the library has experienced over the past year, which Kenkel has been doing with the help of grant funding.
After securing a $15,000 federal grant through the American Rescue Plan, it’s helping fund upgrades to the library’s existing computers.
“We’re upgrading our computers, and one new service we are implementing is online mobile printers that allow people to print papers at the library from anywhere in town, which they then can pick up later,” Kenkel said.
While many businesses and entities have taken a hit during the pandemic, the library experienced the opposite. As more people turned to computers for work and virtual interaction, DeVos said the library became a popular space.
“We also hit on come workforce areas, as people come into use those. The computers have been helping people get back into the workforce because they are able to come in and do their resumes,” she said.
That also means Wi-Fi access is more important than ever for many community members to navigate through the pandemic. To provide more resources for the community, DeVos said the library recently expanded its Wi-Fi to be accessible outside of the 221 N. Duff St. library building such as the parking lot.
“You can now get Wi-Fi in the parking lot, and that’s really nice for people who can’t afford Wi-Fi at home,” DeVos said.
DeVos highlighted the broad scale impact of the library’s free computer access and bilingual programs, which she said can help more people who speak another language learn English and become “more a part of the community.”