The Washington Public Library was busy adding books to its collections during the 2018 fiscal year.

Claire Miller, library director, said she and the staff have been working on expanding the library’s large print, audiobook, adult nonfiction, adult graphic novels, science fiction and fantasy, and horror book collections.

“We pulled out quite a bit of outdated material to make room for new titles,” she said.

Prior to this project, the library had a small collection of adult graphic novels with no newer titles.

Miller watched a webinar that showed what titles libraries should be carrying now. She also asked for recommendations from the library’s patrons.

Another project was expanding the library’s large print collection. That project required the entire staff and a board member.

The collection is made up of books in larger font.

Miller said typically a book is written in 12-14 point font whereas these books may stretch to 16-18 point font.

The collection is there to help those with visual impairments. Miller said the library has a large demand for bigger font-sized books.

The collection has been growing at a pace of roughly 10 books per month, she said, and the library gained 234 large print titles total last year.

In total, the library added 3,977 books and 287 audiobooks last year.

More DVDs, CDs

Books aren’t the only items growing in numbers.

With the help of Friends of the Library, 685 DVDs were added last year.

“Our DVDs are checked out constantly by patrons who can’t afford cable or satellite,” Miller said.

The library also expanded its CD collection with the addition of 54 CDs.

The total number of physical items available for checkout is 58,000, which includes movies, books, and books on CD. 

Patrons checked out nearly 139,000 items last year.

Miller said the library had roughly 128,000 visitors over the fiscal year, which runs from October through September.

The numbers show a slight decline compared to the year prior.

However, Scenic Regional Library reported a 9.7 percent increase in e-material circulation. Patrons in Washington are able to access those e-materials because of the reciprocal agreement the library has with Scenic Regional Library.

“This doesn’t mean that physical books and movies are going away,” Miller said. “Our hold shelf is a testament to this. It’s always crammed full of items ready to be picked up.”

Computers

The library’s public computers were used nearly 15,000 times over the last year.

Miller said visitors also connected to the wireless internet offered at the library nearly 13,000 times.

“People often forget that some of our patrons aren’t able to afford personal computers or internet in their homes,” she said. “We’re currently waiting on testing to see if virtual computers, once used by the city, are compatible with our computer management software.”

If the virtual computers are compatible, the half-cent sales tax funds designated to replace the library’s public computers can be spent on something else.  

Programs

The library hosts a variety of programs for all ages.

Last year, it offered a total of 360 programs with almost 9,000 people in attendance throughout the events.

“If you spread the programs out on a calendar, we were five squares shy of covering the entire calendar,” Miller said. “That’s pretty impressive to me.”

Over the summer, it’s common for the library to have six or seven programs scheduled in the same week.

“This requires strategic scheduling and lots of planning by our programmers,” Miller said. “They do a wonderful job.”

The library also added some new programs last year, many of which are returning.

Those programs are the Washington Wordsmiths and Dungeons and Dragons.

“Both programs are bringing in healthy numbers,” Miller said.

Miller noted that Tot Time is the largest growing program at the library right now. 

The program is designed to fit the needs and attention spans of children ages 3 and under.

Additionally, the library had to double up Tot Times, offering two different times each event day, to be able to accommodate how many people were showing up.

Since Scenic Regional Library doesn’t offer Tot Time, said Miller, so people from even as far away as Sullivan were showing up for the program.

Eventually, the number of attendees exceeded the room limit which led to a second Tot Time.

The library also offers four adult book clubs now — Daytime Book Club, Wednesday Night Book Club, Literary Classics Book Club and Mystery Book Club.

A U.S. Citizenship 101 Class also was added last year. The class is offered through a partnership with Y Literacy through the Four Rivers YMCA.

“The program started when I approached Diane Schwab of Y Literacy with information about our U.S. Citizenship kits,” Miller said. “This discussion evolved into a class that assists patrons in studying for the written and verbal U.S. Citizenship exams. So far we’ve had three patrons gain citizenship and this is so exciting for us.” 

New Projects

There are a few new projects on the horizon for the library.

Miller pointed to a 3-D printer cart she had set up in her office.

“It’s going to be exciting to see what people will create,” she said.

The library will be offering the 3-D printer sometime within the next year.

Miller added there will be policies in place for its use, as the device will not be used for making weapons, and the library will offer training to staff and the public.

The library also will replace the early literacy stations in the child area with a touchscreen TV.  The tablet-like screen will be used for learning games. Children will be able to touch the screen and interact.

Telescopes also are on the horizon. Before summer, Miller is hopeful the library will be able to offer access to two telescopes.

The telescopes will be used during a special event May 31, but also will be available for checkout. 

“As long as someone 18 or older signs for them,” Miller noted.