Libraries and printed books—most of us grew up with them. The feel and smell of ink and paper are part of our collective experience. Spending time in the library stacks is a rite of passage for generations of readers and scholars. Yet libraries face increasing changes as eBooks, computers and servers replace traditional modes of reading and storage. Despite the arrival of the digital age, however, community libraries continue to thrive.
“We attract readers and learners of all ages,” says Denver Public Library Marketing Communications Manager Chris Henning. “In 2015, we had 4,195,777 visits to our 26 locations. We get more than 320,000 in-person visits per month and our Summer of Reading program attracts more than 45,000 children who log the books they read and attend special programs and activities that help keep their minds active.”
“Electronic materials can be accessed online, so a trip to the library isn’t always required,” he adds. “We get about 1,116,485 visits to our website per month. For customers who like accessing books online, they can browse, check out or put a hold on a book wherever they are—at work, on the go or from home.”
Despite the convenience that computers allow, Henning says the Denver Public Library is the most visited cultural institution on the greater Front Range.
According to research librarian Kit Cusker of Stapleton’s Sam Gary Branch Library, the DPL system circulated over 9 million materials in 2015, with the Sam Gary Branch Library lending more than 700,000 of those. Cusker says that after the central library in downtown Denver, Sam Gary is the most heavily used neighborhood branch for DPL with more than 300,000 visits during the first six months of 2016.
As communities such as Stapleton continue to grow and develop, the local library also plays a critical role as a center for intellectual life.
“I can’t tell you how important it is for our residents that they live near the library,” says Assistant Community Director Jennifer Ortavsky at The Grove, an apartment complex in Stapleton for tenants above the age of 55. “They visit the library for different events as well as just to read and continue to learn. It lends to the overall quality of life.”
While the draw of the library extends to all ages, children are among the most frequent library users in Stapleton.
“The Sam Gary branch offers programs for all ages, from birth to adults, with a strong emphasis on children’s programming,” says Cusker. “As the Stapleton neighborhood has lots of kids, it’s no surprise that children’s materials check out significantly more than adult materials.”
Librarian Susan Bertsche at Lowry’s Schlessman Family Branch Library is on the same page, so to speak. “We are currently in the middle of our Summer of Reading program, which gives us an amazing opportunity to get books in the hands of children. Every day we see children from birth all the way through high school light up when they get a brand-new book that they get to take home with them.”
As technology continues to evolve, people will no doubt continue to take advantage of what the electronic sphere has to offer, though the appeal of the traditional experience remains.
“Libraries walk a fine line between printed and online materials,” says Henning. “To meet the needs of customers, we need to offer both and continue to add electronic resources as our budget allows and the demand warrants. Our Collection Development department works with our branch locations and monitors trends to determine what kind of resources are needed to make adjustments. We offer classes as well as one-on-one help with electronic devices to get people comfortable with and proficient in the use of laptops, tablets and smartphones. We often find that our customers want to try reading a book or magazine on their devices but need help with the particulars. Our Community Technology Center at the Central Library and many of our branch locations help customers navigate this new era and become comfortable with the technology and process to access our collections.”
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