Library’s use grows with recession

November 10, 2009

By Chantelle Lusebrink

If the Issaquah Library feels a bit more crowded than it used to, that’s because it is.The Issaquah Library’s usage has grown by 59 percent in the past year, said Marsha Iverson, a spokeswoman for the King County Library System.

“It’s the biggest jump they’ve had,” she said of Issaquah’s branch.

The library’s number of checked out items went from 41,130 in September 2008 to 65,275 this September.

The system’s Bellevue Regional Library is always the busiest. It had 116,455 checked out items this September. The system has 43 libraries, mobile services, technical labs and a call center.

Issaquah wasn’t the only library to experience growth. Libraries, like the one in Federal Way, grew by 164 percent in checked out items. However, Iverson pointed out that the library had just reopened after remodeling.

The library system had several libraries closed during remodel or construction projects, so when they reopen, their rate of growth in checked out items is great, she said.

The system’s Sammamish, Snoqualmie and North Bend libraries also experienced growth similar to Issaquah.

Sammamish experienced 11 percent growth in the past year. In September 2008, there were 54,956 checked out items compared to 81,218 this September.

Similarly Snoqualmie’s library went from 14,391 checked out items in September 2008 to 14,915 checked out items this September and North Bend grew from 19,773 checked out items in September 2008 to 20,861 checked out items this September.

“We attribute most of the growth to the economy,” Iverson said. “Collectively libraries across the nation have seen a dramatic increase in use. We started to see the spike in September of last year, when the financial crisis hit.”

People began turning to the library more because it’s a free source of information, and here in King County, Iverson said, librarians took that to heart and launched a program last spring called Look to Your Library.

The program kept libraries open extra hours, provided special seminars about re-education, job searching, resume building and how to financially plan for tough times.

It also featured an extensive online component, which linked people with such services, reference materials, books and databases.

“It was mostly to help our patrons,” Iverson said. “We’re here and we work to provide the resources we’ve always had.

“Our librarians recognized a need and they were profoundly determined to help,” she said.

The library system’s public and community relations team recently won a national award for the outreach program. They were given the NonProfit PR award, sponsored by PR News, in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 2.

The library system also recently received $50,000 in grant funding to develop and launch an online resource center to help struggling and small business owners and entrepreneurs, which will make the libraries’ resources even more accessible.

The new site, InfoBiz, will offer streaming videos, tutorials and podcasts at the convenience of users. Those include detailing business strategies, resources and concepts presented by local business experts, according to a press release.

The project is a partnership between community agencies providing content and the library system.

Librarians will organize on-demand videos that will be more convenient for users, allowing them to view subjects when and where they choose.

Topics for the InfoBiz site will be selected in consultation with organizational partners and the reference librarians working on the project. Topics for consideration include:

-How to create a business plan

-How to find and keep customers in hard times

-Collection strategies for small business

-How to fund a start-up

-How to utilize library materials for market research

-Marketing a small business through online social networking

-Introductory pieces about how various partner agencies can assist small businesses.

Librarians will also create online videos and tutorials to teach small business owners to use the library’s resources to help their businesses succeed.

By making useful information easily accessible online at any time, InfoBiz will resolve a variety of obstacles and connect small business owners with the assistance they need.

InfoBiz was created with funding from the Washington State Library as part of the Renew Washington Project, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

“As people find new needs, we’re able to find more ways to help them use the library,” Iverson said. “We want to take the search out of research.”

Chantelle Lusebrink: 392-6434, ext. 241, or Comment at

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