How is the economy affecting your public library?

Greetings to Public Librarians,

(Though this may also apply to school and academic librarians)

The latest newsletter of the Canadian Library Association includes two articles about the upsurge in public library use during these economic hard times. You can read both articles at: (scroll down to the news under CLTA).

I have heard similar stories from some of you, but want to have more complete data and anecdotal information to provide for the governor, the State Board of Libraries, and the news media. With that end in mind, I’d like to hear about your library. Specifically, what changes do you see in the use of your library as a result of the economy?

Some sample questions that you might want to answer:

  1. Are you seeing changes in circulation patterns since September? If so, what % changes are you seeing from a year ago – and for what kinds of materials? Adult fiction; AV; new bestsellers, job search books, etc? Any stories or narrative that you can provide to explain this?
    • Are you hearing about a greater need for escapist entertainment?
    • Are folks cancelling their Netflix accounts or making similar changes in their purchasing habits?
  2. Are you seeing any changing patterns of library use? (people coming to the library instead of the bookstore; more use in the evenings or weekends; patrons coming for warmth; more children’s materials going out because folks are not travelling; people using the library internet connection instead of paying for their own at home; increase in new library cards, etc.)
  3. What changes are you making to cope with library budget shortfalls and reductions? And what are the consequences of those changes?
    • Reducing hours?
    • Reducing staff (or not filling vacancies)?
    • Reducing or cutting programs?
    • Extending or changing hours to meet demand?
    • Turning down the thermostat?
    • Other?
  4. What is happening in your computer centers? Increased use? If so, can you explain why and how they are being used?
  5. Are you getting more reference and information (including ILL) requests for help with budgeting, job searches, back-to-basics skills, educational/job training opportunities, etc. that is related to the economy? If so, what has been your experience?
  6. What, if anything, do you predict in your libraries this winter – and what changes are you considering? What are your concerns?

Thanks (in advance) for your stories and information. It will be a tough winter for many Vermont families, and public libraries will be more important than ever in your communities. I know that many of your libraries are also struggling – with budget reductions, high energy costs, and increased demand. Based on what I read, I may be calling some of you for more information so please include your name, library, telephone number, and email address.




Martha Reid
State Librarian
Vermont Department of Libraries
109 State Street
Montpelier, VT 05609-0601
Tel: (802) 828-3265
Fax: (802) 828-2199