Mesa County Libraries are bursting at the seams.

Computer lab a big draw for system

Mesa County Libraries are bursting at the seams.

The library system is experiencing almost across-the-board increases in use of its services, with total circulation of library materials for January up 30 percent over January 2008 and library visits up 20 percent.

Computer services are leading the library’s increased use, with 42 percent more people using the system’s computer labs this January over last, and attendance in the library’s computer classes up 58 percent.

“We are just seeing a ton of people,” said Shana Wade, public services director for the Mesa County library system. “Especially if you look at circulation. We’re talking about going from around 66,000 for January a year ago to 87,000 this year. It’s a huge number.”

Wade said a number of factors contribute to the boom in business for the library system, starting with a $1 million remodeling in 2006. The project included building the computer lab at the main branch, 530 Grand Ave. The lab has had a lot of traffic, Wade said. The renovation also provided space for more events, such as a monthly community cinema, which was begun in January.

The library didn’t purchase new materials for circulation during the remodeling, Wade said. It saved those funds and increase purchasing by 10 to 20 percent in 2008.

“Now that we have the space to do these things, we’re going to do them,” Wade said.

The numbers of visitors to computer labs seem to be inflated by the rough economic waters many are finding themselves in, she said.

Several computer classes offered at the library branches cover desirable job skills such as Internet use and word processing. The library moved its class schedule almost exclusively to mornings to leave open the afternoons, when the labs are used the most, Wade said.

“The staff said they are seeing a lot of people doing job searches and resume building in the computer labs,” Wade said. “But people use the computers when they are looking for free entertainment, too.”

The main branch has 12 computers in its lab. The library system added eight computers when it opened a new Orchard Mesa branch at 230 Lynwood St. The 3,000-square-foot branch opened at the end of January. The branch library used to be at Orchard Mesa Middle School.

Wade said the Orchard Mesa branch is exceeding expectations for circulation, having checked out 4,500 items of the total 85,000 items checked out of the library system for February.

The library system proposed bond measures in 2003 and 2004 so it could build new facilities and was shot down by about 800 votes both years.

Wade said even with increased use of facilities, there are no plans to put a third bond to voters.
Instead, she said, the library is focusing its resources on building a 7,000- to 9,000-square-foot branch in Fruita.

A new Fruita branch has long been a part of the proposed Fruita recreation center, which was passed by voters in November, and construction will be funded by library system funds, she said.

Regardless of the economic picture, Wade said she hopes usage at the library continues to increase.

“In a bad economy, people realize how valuable the library is,” she said. “The library is a vibrant part of the community, and we hope people keep coming in during the good times, too.”


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