BY TOM KNAPP, Staff Writer
Some things haven't changed.
People still like libraries, a new study has revealed, and they still want books on the shelves, reference librarians behind their desks and even the occasional librarian shushing other patrons who get too loud.
Bill Hudson, administrator of the Library System of Lancaster County, shared the findings last week with members of the system board.
The findings come from a study by the Pew Research Center and the American Life Project on library services in the digital age.
The study, based on a telephone survey underwritten by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, found that 91 percent of people surveyed believe public libraries are important to their communities, and 59 percent said they have either visited a library or used a library website in the last year.
Surprisingly, Hudson said, 80 percent of those surveyed said having books to lend is "very important."
"We are still strongly identified with the physical book," he said.
Other findings include 80 percent of recipients believe having reference librarians available is very important, 77 percent favor free access to computers and the Internet, and 73 percent say they still browse the shelves for new books.
That last statistic shows how important it is to fund new book purchases, Hudson said, but he noted that libraries are having a hard time finding the money. It's also difficult to keep new books on the shelves, he said, when materials often are loaned out through interlibrary agreements.
Nearly half of respondents said they believe libraries should continue to offer quiet spaces for patrons to read or study, he added.
"People still want staff -- good, competent staff -- in the library," he said. "But, pretty much, all of the libraries in this county are doing these things to some degree."
In other business, Hudson said system and county officials are exploring grant options to replace the aging Bookmobile. The system in 2012 projected spending some $200,000 on the new vehicle.
Also, board treasurer Andre Fouchet noted a favorable balance in the 2013 budget. The system stands some $4,300 to the good, he said. The system saved some money because of unfilled positions, he noted. However, he said, a portion of the balance is slated for pay increases that have been delayed until performance evaluations could be completed. Those funds will be paid to staff retroactively, he said.
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