The Pekin Public Library is a prime example that something does not have to be completely new to have relevance for the community.
The library renovation and addition started two years ago. This is the first full year the library has been open since it was overhauled from head to toe. The renovation and addition was a shot in the arm to the facility and officials have the numbers to prove it.
“One of our goals was to have better experiences and opportunities for children and young adults,” said Jeff Brooks, library director. “We needed programming space for that because there was a lot of competition for the one large room we had.
“We could only have one program at a time in there. Now we have two large spaces that can be divided into four smaller spaces. So the number of our children’s programs are up 30 percent, our young adult programs are up 259 percent. We have The Domain — that’s an additional teen room off the lobby. They have programs, kids come in and study after school. There are six Macs in that space, a gaming center. Anything that helps bring in the youth. I’m sure parents would much rather their kids be playing video games at the library than at the house of somebody they don’t know.”
Adult programs are also up 25 percent.
The number comparison is from the last full year the library was open prior to renovations — Fiscal Year 2014, and compared to this last year. The newly renovated and expanded library has been open one year now.
“We wanted to compare apples to apples,” said Brooks.
Brooks said that so much has been added so many new programs that it takes two calendars to hold it — a children’s calendar and a young adult calendar.
The state has changed the way it counts library patrons, so there is no apples to apples comparison for library memberships. There are counters at the door to determine how many people come and go at the library. The gate count is up 6 percent from last year at the same time.
Children’s book checkouts are up 18.5 percent than previous years. Kids come for programs and find books they like, said Brooks.
“It’s just a much more exciting space,” said Brooks. “We have more programming opportunities, it’s brighter in that space and it has a much better layout.”
The children’s programs are multifaceted. They get the children involved, help them learn to read, have story time and teach them how to sit so they are prepared for the school atmosphere, said Brooks.
The library has developed a new autism program for children ages 3 through 6. It is a sensory story time with Johnica Haynes.
Electronic books circulation has soared. Up until now the library has circulated 9,628 books in 2017. During the same time in 2014 that number was 5,733 that were distributed. People do not have to come to the library to get the e-Books. They go to the library’s online catalog where they can get the app for browsing the digital collection, which is free. The patron can download them to any device.
E-book distribution at the library started in 2010. In the third-quarter of 2010, the library circulated 74 e-Books. The following year it grew to 822 and “has grown exponentially since then,” said Brooks.
Other new equipment includes a 3-D Printer and a large format printer for signs. The library also has a video conversion lab where residents can convert their old movies to CD.
The goal for the 3-D printer is to bring companies to the facility to use it.
Follow Sharon Woods Harris at Twitter.com/sharrispekin