Construction takes toll on library

Amanda Weihl, left, of Grand Junction helps her son, Dawson, 10, search for a new book from the teen science fiction series “The Lab” while her 14-year-old daughter, Miranda, explores the shelves on a second computer at the central branch of the Mesa County Public Library temporarily located at First Street and Gunnison Avenue.

For the first time in half a decade, the number of people using services at Mesa County Libraries did not increase year over year—but the numbers for 2012 might be slightly deceiving.

A new central branch is springing up at 530 Grand Ave., and the library moved into a temporary location last year at First Street and Gunnison Avenue, the previous home of Ashley Furniture. For more than a week in August, there was no operating central branch, skewing the numbers.

“It’s amazing how much of an impact being closed for even a short period of time has on our community,” Mesa County Libraries Executive Director Eve Tallman said last week.

Specifically, checkouts across all eight branches of the library reached nearly 1.36 million in 2012—down from the more than 1.39 million in 2011. The 2012 numbers were still higher than what was recorded in 2010, with checkouts at a little more than 1.27 million.

With the soon-to-be expanded central branch expected to open to the public the first week of June, Tallman said, she hopes 2013 is a record year for checkouts.

“We really want to hit a million and a half, which I think we’ll do this year, as soon as we reopen,” she said, adding that even though 2012 checkout numbers are down slightly, the library tallied a record month for checkouts in October last year with 112,195 items checked out or renewed.

Even in its temporary location, the central branch counts about 1,400 people coming through its doors every day.

“It’s really one of the very busiest buildings in the county,” Tallman said. One statistical area that is seeing a big expansion at the library is wireless use. More than double the number of users accessed the library’s free WiFi in 2012 over 2011.

Wireless access is available at all eight library locations across the county. In other data, the number of library card holders continued to grow in 2012, rising 1.2 percent to 74,204 county residents with cards. That’s about 50 percent of Mesa County’s total population, but with some urban libraries reaching closer to the 60-percent mark, Tallman sees some room for improvement.

“We’re actually crunching the numbers to figure out targeted audiences where we can increase our library card holders across the county,” she said.


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