Libraries Already Doing More With Less

By Denise Davis, Director of the Cecil County Public Library

When I came to Cecil County to lead our public library system in 2001, the community was examining how best to lay a foundation for the success and well-being of our citizens, communities and businesses in the 21st century. One of the strongest messages was that our economic success would be based in large part on the quality of our county’s education system. In the 21st century, businesses that offer good salaries and benefits would locate in counties where the workforce is educated and engaged in lifelong learning. Those well-educated employees would demand the best of their county’s educational institutions for themselves and their families. Although the recession set us back, it is not a reason to give up on our aspirations.

As we now emerge from recession, my hope is that we can reflect on the valuable insights of those discussions and, as part of our plan to facilitate strong economic and community advancement, protect funding for education.

One of the strengths of public libraries is how quickly they can adapt their educational services to any era to give our citizens and communities an edge. Literally tens of thousands of Cecil County citizens are using Cecil County Public library for exactly that reason today.

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2 responses to “Libraries Already Doing More With Less

  1. Denise Davis has revealed that there are 55,900 active users of the Cecil County library. That is truly an amazing number considering that the population of Cecil County is currently around 100,000. I’m curious though of what the definition of active is. Does active mean weekly, monthly, yearly or once every 5 years? Also, does active mean that those people physically visit the library or does it include people who call or access the library through the internet? Also, does it include the Cecil County public school students who have access to, and use, their own school library? Are those school students using both their school library and the public librrary? Just trying to verify.

  2. Thanks for your excellent question. Many measures give insight into the ways citizens use our public libraries. Together they show that CCPL reaches a large portion of our County’s citizens. The number of active users is based on the number of CCPL card holders. To keep card data fresh, library cards are automatically required to be updated every two years, and those that are unused for four years are no longer counted as active. This gives us a good idea of how many citizens are library users holding our public library cards, but not a complete understanding of usage rates and may even underestimate total user numbers. Often, for example, one member of a family holds a card for themselves and younger children or other family members, so a single card can represent two, three, or more users. There are also many citizens who use the library, but may never have or use a library card. They may attend library programs on business, job seeking, etc., or use the library’s website, ask reference questions, use meeting rooms, wi-fi, do work on the road, read newspapers or magazines, or use the library to study or read a book—strong indications of usage and value–none of which require using a card and so are not necessarily included in the 55,900 number. So the library measures many types of usage— e.g. in FY 2010 number of library visits was 531,293, number of reference questions was 86,389, public computers were accessed for 172,716 sessions, and 6,975 people attended independent meetings in CCPL’s meeting rooms. Library check-outs (which require a library card) have increased impressively. In FY 2009 and again in FY 2010, CCPL reached its highest check-out level in history, with over 1,000,000 check-outs or over 10 check-outs per capita each year. To clarify, CCPS data is not part of CCPL’s data. I hope the explanation and data helps.

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