(Columbia, PA — January 23, 2023) The value, impact and health of a small-town public library can easily be overlooked when there is so much more to occupy our day-to-day thinking. Rarely do we stop to consider who uses a library, how they use it, and how often it is used—especially at a time when libraries “compete” with so many sources of information and entertainment. Which is why, at a time when thousands of libraries in America are struggling to remain relevant (and in some cases open), the success story of the Columbia Public Library is one worth telling.
The number of library members rose by an impressive 9% in 2022 to more than 5,000—healthy growth by any measure. However, the manner in which the local community utilized library resources in 2022 was truly impressive:
• 26,493 people visited the Columbia Public Library in 2022…an increase of 39% over 2021.
• 10,980 library patrons borrowed 46,760 items in 2022…up 19% and 22%, respectively, over 2021.
• 10,688 children and adults attended community programs and events…56% more than in 2021.
“Given the dedication of our staff, the range of our services, and the flexibility that enables us to respond to emerging trends and challenges, we know we make a positive impact,” says board President Steve Sherk. “However, sometimes that impact can be difficult to quantify. I think these numbers not only underscore our value to the community, they also tell you that Columbia is a place where people understand the value of a resource like the library.”
Library Administrator Lisa Greybill says that the library’s electronic footprint also proved to be a vital engagement tool.
“We circulated over 4,167 ebooks last year”, Greybill reports, “and more than 5,000 library visitors utilized our wifi and computers. Our webpage, columbiapubliclibrary.org, had 20,725 visits in 2022, and the total number of its page views was more than 35,000. Folks of all ages are embracing technology and the library is evolving to keep up with that trend.”
Roughly a quarter of the funding required to run the Columbia Public Library comes from state, county and municipal sources. The rest is supplied by local businesses, charitable organizations and personal donations, as well as the fundraising efforts of library staff and volunteers.
“We are able to do what we do—and do it well—because people have been incredibly caring and generous with their money and time,” Sherk confirms. “People understand that the nature and function of the small-town library is changing all over America. It is no longer just a place where you check out a book. Years ago, we recognized our role in the future of Columbia would be as a community resource. That means different things to different people, which is why we work so hard to provide something of real value to everyone.”
[Source: Columbia Public Library]