Economy woes increase library traffic flows

Nick Stroman

The recession has triggered a flurry of new patrons logging time on the computers at the Morton Public Library.

Library director Janice Sherman said library computers saw 2,257 users come through the doors in June.

That is compared with 1,642 in June 2008 — a 37 percent increase.

Sherman said June has always been a peak month for the library because of increased summer reading for adults and children, with items checked out up more than 10 percent over last summer.

However, Internet usage has been their main attraction.

“We’re seeing that people either don’t have the Internet anymore for cost-saving or they didn’t have it, but now need it for applying for jobs,” Sherman said.

“We still have usages for e-mail or recreational, too, much like you would if you still had it home,” Sherman added.

Just in time for the rush, the library installed a computer management system.

The new system — PC Reservation — not only makes the machines run more efficiently but, Sherman said, it saves people time so they can get to computers faster.

“The transition from one user to another is really fast and the computer keeps a list of who’s up next. At times when computers are full, the customer always knows their place in line,” Sherman said.

Janette Godin, who works at the reference desk, said PC Reservation allows customers to seamlessly check e-mail, update Facebook pages or search the Internet without having to first stop by her desk.

“Customers appreciate being able to take care of their computer needs themselves. They need not write their name on a waiting list and hope the librarian remembers to call out their name,” Godin said.

The library currently has 15 computers for public Internet usage.

 After logging on, the computer may be used for 30 minutes with time extensions available by clicking a button.

“Travelers passing through who just want to spend five minutes to check their  e-mail now can be in, out and on their way with ease,” Godin said.

Godin said the new computer management system is also making her job easier.

“Librarians are free to actually help customers with searches, help customers find books and educate people on all our services. Any necessary maintenance to the system may be done from our computer which keeps us available at the desk for service,” Godin said.

Customers like Mike Frazee are also impressed with the technology makeover at the library.

“I like the convenience of not having to sign up — just walk in and off you go. I can make my own reservation and don’t have to ask the librarian to ask someone to leave so I can have my turn,” Frazee said.

Karen Kaiser added she likes not having to use her library card if she wants to simply check her e-mail.

“It’s more convenient than stopping at the desk to sign in and I like the amount of time I get to use the computer too,” Kaiser said.

Three computers in the children’s area of the library are also proving to be popular with parents.

“One of the computers is specifically there for Internet access for parents. They can check their e-mail quickly or browse the Web and still be supervising their kids while they’re doing it. Meanwhile, the kids are learning games and educational stuff,” Sherman said.

“I think it’s a difficult time for some people and everyone seems to have really expressed thanks for all we’ve been doing here,” Sherman added.

For more information on Morton Public Library, visit www.mortonlibrary.org, or call 263-2200.