Library sees slight bump up in new patrons since elimination of fines on adult materials

Published 10:56 am Thursday, April 25, 2024

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The Albert Lea Public Library has seen a 7.5% increase in new patrons since eliminating fines on adult materials in September, the library’s director told members of the City Council during a tour Monday of the library.

Annice Sevett shared highlights of the happenings at the library from the last year from an annual report library staff conduct each year. The report is required by state statute to be submitted to the Minnesota Department of Education.

Sevett said in addition to the new patrons, there has been an increase in positive interactions with patrons, and there hasn’t been a large drop in return rates.

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Though late fees are eliminated, cardholders can still be charged for missing books. She said a book is marked lost when a book is more than 30 days overdue, and the replacement cost for the item is charged to the cardholder. The account cannot be used until the item is returned or the fee is paid. In the case of hotspots that are late, the service gets turned off once they are due, so they cannot be used, so they are typically turned back in quickly.

The breakdown of cardholders has remained consistent with 75% of cardholders being city residents. County residents make up 25% of cardholders, and reciprocal borrowers make up 5%.

She said about 31% of county residents have library cards, and in total there are 10,023 cardholders. Library staff hope to increase that number as that has stayed fairly consistent in recent years.

Circulation stayed pretty steady from 2022 to 2023, with about 150,000 items checked out in 2023 in print or digital. She said about 19% of the total circulation is digital.

In the last year, the library added a collection of Spanish and Karen books for both adults and children through a Library Services and Technology Act grant, which she said will be an asset to the community.

The library has also seen increases in the library’s public computers and wireless internet sessions, with a 31% increase in the number of public computer sessions from 2022 to 2023. Wireless internet sessions were up 51%.

Sevett said these numbers show how critical the need is for these services. She also pointed out how the library is the only if not one of only a few places where people can go to print something. The library also offers remote printing. Copies are 10 cents for black and white copies or 25 cents for color.

They have also seen an increase in programs offered for adults, as well as an increase in program attendance for both adults and children. A little more than 13,500 adults and children participated in a program through the library in 2023, including things such as book clubs, storytime and the summer reading program, among others.

The children’s library has expanded its use to a conference room near the former fire quarters for some of its youth book clubs.

Circulation statistics

Children’s circulation: 70,837

Adult circulation: 50,703

Other: 958

Total physical circulation: 122,498

E-book circulation: 14,231

Audio and video circulation: 13,611

Total downloadable circulation: 27,842

Total circulation: 150,340