Libraries’ use continues to soar

Two-year-old Alden Meyer of Fruita points to a globe of the world he wants his mother Tina to get for him in the children’s area of the Fruita branch of the Mesa County Public Library on Wednesday.

Photos by Gretel Daugherty—Sharon Tinsman of Grand Junction wanders along a bookshelf near a bank of computers filled with users as she searches for reading material at the Fruita branch of the Mesa County Public Library on Wednesday.

The Mesa County Public Library District set another circulation record in 2011, thanks to a combination of opening a new branch, exponentially expanding the lineup of available materials and marketing itself as an inexpensive form of entertainment during a sluggish economy.

Customers checked out a little less than 1.4 million items last year, a 9.5 percent increase over 2010 and nearly double 2007, when 750,419 materials were circulated online and at the library’s eight locations.

Nearly half of the jump in circulation came from the new $1.9 million Fruita branch, which moved from the Fruita Civic Center to a new, larger space within the Fruita Community Center in February. Circulation in Fruita leapt 57 percent last year.

“I think it really is a combination of factors,” library spokesman Bob Kretschman said. “Clearly the new location for the Fruita branch was a huge boost.”

Circulation was up at every branch last year except Palisade, which closed in September and the beginning of October for a move downtown. Circulation was down 12 percent for the year but up 3 percent in November and December, Kretschman said.

Also last year, the library launched Prospector, a catalog that gives users access to 30 million items in libraries throughout Colorado and Wyoming. That’s roughly 10 times the amount of books, music and other materials previously available.

Kretschman also pointed to the library’s efforts to offer relevant programming and keep up with the latest media technology. He said 110 people jammed into the central library’s downstairs program room one night earlier this week for an eReader workshop.

“I think there’s an economic component, too,” Kretschman said. “Libraries are a good value in a slow economy.”

After focusing for several years on enhancing branches, officials will focus this year on a makeover and expansion of the central library at 530 Grand Ave. The proposed $5.5 million project would add 9,000 square feet to the 36,000-square-foot facility that opened as a grocery store in the 1950s. Plans call for a new multipurpose room, small study rooms, outdoor patio space and expanded areas for reading and studying.

Construction should begin this spring and be complete in the spring of 2013.


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