Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Books, books, books!

Photo found online
Palmer's stacks are much more neatly arranged! 

Bibliophiles, imagine having $40,000 a year to spend on books. Where would you begin?

The Palmer Public Library, the largest and one of the busiest libraries in the Valley, received $40,000 from the City of Palmer during its end-of-year budgeting process to buy books. The library also received a donation of $16,130 from the Palmer Friends of the Library, nearly $11,000 of which will be used for book purchases.

For comparative purposes, Wasilla, which has a smaller library but slightly more patron traffic, allocated $72,000 for books in 2011. About 66 books per hour are checked out in Palmer versus about 73 per hour in Wasilla. 

Beth Skow, library and arena director for the city, does most of the book-buying for the city. Skow said she tries to take a broad approach to buying books. Many of her choices come from recommendations made through state and national library associations, and from Booklist, a magazine and website that offers reviews of thousands of books by American Library Association experts. Each genre has its own websites listing the most popular books – say, in Christian romance or westerns.

“I try not to focus on any one specific genre,” Skow said. “I try to even it out.”

Skow said that money has to cover a lot, from magazine and newspaper subscriptions to movies, audiobooks and books for both the adult and children sections of the library.

Katie Schweisthal, children’s librarian at Palmer Public Library, does the book-buying for the children’s section, Skow said. She wasn’t sure off the top of her head exactly what percentage of her book budget goes toward the children’s section but said she and Schweisthal are in the process of updating the books available there. Some books will be retired in favor of newer titles, she said.

“Weeding,” or combing the stacks for rarely circulated or out-of-date books, is something that happens frequently, Skow said. But one room is off-limits for “weeding” purposes. The Alaskana room, home to hundreds of books about Alaska or written by Alaskans, is a safe refuge for the books that reside there.

Skow said some changes are afoot at the library, aimed at bringing new tech tools to patrons. Using a state library assistance grant, Skow said she bought a large-screen television for the library’s “Foreign Film Society,” which shows foreign films Fridays at 7 p.m. Next up: Protektor, on Jan. 13.

The television will also get pressed into use during the children’s reading programs (for showing song lyrics, primarily), and additional state grant money was used to get new furnishings and decorations for the Baby Lap-Sit and children’s reading programs. A bonus for parents: The library also bought a few puzzles, one of which will be installed near the check-out counter to keep little hands occupied while books are being checked out.

“And we bought a Wii,” Skow said. As part of the library’s effort to encourage teens to visit the library and do constructive things there, they’ll be checking out video games (of the PG variety) and allowing teens to use the Wii in the meeting room. A schedule for Wii use should be appearing soon.

Skow said she’s also working out ways to better use library space. Palmer is taking part in a statewide video conferencing system that will allow patrons to video-chat with doctors or take online classes. But the library needs meeting rooms both for one-on-one doctor visits, for example, and space for group training sessions.

“That’s a big push,” Skow said.

And the children’s section is in need of more space, she said. She plans to expand that area as well. It’s too early to say when, however.

“There’s so much that has to be done before we can even get close to (talking about dates),” she said.

There’s more to come! Skow said she would provide a list of the most popular titles checked out over the last year. The list will be posted when it’s available.

 Next week the Palmer Post will talk to Schweithal, who became Palmer’s new children’s librarian in the fall, about how she captures the attention of the library’s littlest patrons and instills a love of books from an early age. Stay tuned!

No comments: