Everything old is new again, and anything free is popular again as money gets tight. A library is free and area residents are returning gleefully to them, checking out books, music and movies they once bought.
Everything old is new again, and anything free is popular again as money gets tight.
A library is free and area residents are returning gleefully to them, checking out books, music and movies they once bought.
“We’re issuing more new cards than ever,” said Paula Cullen, administrator of the Fall River Public Library, who said the library has about 34,000 active users.
“We’ve seen about a 5 percent increase in circulation this year,” Cullen said. Five percent is a big number in libraries, where circulation often stays steady or increases 1 or 2 percent annually for years.
That increase came after last year’s budget cuts made it necessary for the library to lay off a full time staffer, lay off all of the Fall River Library’s pages and sometimes call in staff from the South and East branches to cover shifts.
“There are only three full time staffers in the adult circulation area,” Cullen said. “There should be four.
“It’s busier than ever but the staff here tries to offer the same services,” Cullen added.
In addition to increased borrowing of books, movies and CDs, Cullen said more people are spending more time on the main library’s 14 public computers.
Cullen said resume software is especially popular among those using computers, and she noted that the childrens' section of the library is doing particularly well.
“We’re here at least three times a week,” said Francina Harrison, 24, Fall River. “There’s a lot to do.
“If we had to pay for it, we wouldn’t be here as much," she said.
“You can’t really buy books,” said her husband, David Harrison, 30. “They’re too expensive.”
“It’s something free to do with the kids," said Fall River resident Tara Peterson, 34. “They have books, movies. We come all the time.”
In Somerset, the library has seen circulation increase by 7 percent, said Library Director Bonnie Mendes.
With this year's budget level funded at about $500,000, the library has cut the hours worked by pages, part-time library helpers.
“We’re doing a lot more childrens', and books on tape, DVDs,” Mendes said. “Big time up is the our museum passes to Buttonwood Park or Roger Williams Zoo.
Mendes said resume and job search uses of free computers are up, too.
Thirty year-old Swansea resident Rachel Martin was in the Somerset library Friday with one year old son Benjamin.
“We used to rent movies, go to Wal-Mart," she said, admitting that economic times are tougher than they once were. “This is the gratification of buying something without buying it.
“I don’t even buy magazines anymore," Martin said.
At the Tiverton Public Library, Acting Director Prudence Fallon said the economy’s impact on library services shows up in various ways.
“A lot of people are coming in to use the computers to look for work,” she said. “Fewer people are ordering books online.
“We’re seeing a lot more interested in DVDs and music," Fallon said.
“We just wrapped up our summer reading program,” said Janet Kosinski, childrens' librarian in Tiverton. “We had 400 children. Last year, we had 360.”
Fallon said the Tiverton Public Library loaned 129,764 books and other items last year and 157,130 this year, a nearly 20 percent increase.
“More people are coming in to get a new library card or update an inactive library card," said Susan Branco, director of the Westport Public Library.
Like others in the area, Branco said her library has been level funded.
“But we haven’t cut back,” she said. “We’re trying to manage without additional staff.”
“We’re very busy these days,” said Kevin Lawton, director of the Swansea Public Library. “We’re up 20 percent in circulation. We’re really stretched."
Level funded in the last town budget, the Swansea Public Library has cut the hours of pages.
“Movies are way up,” Lawton said. “I guess people are looking for things to do for free.”
E-mail Marc Munroe Dion at firstname.lastname@example.org.