Boom time for Mesa County libraries

Upgrades, not economy, drive rising visit numbers

CHILDREN GATHER FOR A recent program at the Mesa County Libraries downtown Grand Junction location, 530 Grand Ave.

While many businesses are seeing a lag in sales, Mesa County Libraries are seeing somewhat of a boom.

As of October, visits to the library have increased by 17 percent over the same time last year.

And that is not all: Circulation is up, Web site visits are up, young adult visits are up, attendance at computer classes is up.

It must be because of the economy, right? Wrong, said Eve Tallman, library director.

“Our numbers didn’t really show that, even though nationally (public libraries) are seeing an increase because of hard times in the economy,” Tallman said. “I think that our brand is really starting to stick with folks, and our publicity efforts are starting to make a difference.”

For the past year, the library has been on a mission to make its facilities more user-friendly.

Plans are proceeding for new Fruita and Orchard Mesa branches, as well.

At the library’s downtown location, 530 Grand Ave., the library has invested in improvements both outside and inside. The library is also promoting itself more through advertising and positive word of mouth.

“We’re selling it,” said Linda Davidson, president of the library’s board of directors. “They are just doing better and better merchandising of the materials all the time.”

The library has extended its hours, is offering more classes and has expanded its circulation with such items as back issues of magazines and movies.

“It is my hunch that things are booming because we have more to offer and we have better hours,” Tallman said.

She added, “It is the best value that you have already paid for,” referring to the taxes paid by residents to support the library system.

The library is taking a few cues from retailers to promote business. Gone are the humdrum librarians ready to shush the unruly. Librarians are moving out from behind the counter and on to the floor, seeking out patrons who may need help.

“We are taking tips from Wal-Mart,” Tallman said.

In the coming year, library officials anticipate even more visitors. And for 2009, the economy may be the kicker.

“For 2008, I do think it has more to do with marketing and customer service and branch layout,” said board member Mark Martin-Williams. “In 2009, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a continued spike in the numbers due to the economy.”


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