Columbus Metropolitan Library Sees Increased Library Traffic

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One organization that’s seeing an increase in business during this downturn is the Columbus Metropolitan Library. Circulation is up, and branches are seeing more and more job seekers using their computers. WOSU’s Kim Fox reports.

The increased library use falls into two categories – a way to save money and a way to find work. The Columbus library system has seen a nearly four percent increase in book circulation since last year as readers choose to borrow rather than buy. Last month, the library circulated more than 547,000 books for adults. Another 339,000 children’s books were checked out.

Kim Snell handles media relations for the Columbus Metropolitan Library, “the circulation numbers are really up with, believe it or not, the biggest increases are in books and books on cd. A lot of people I think, assume that the library is doing well because we have dvds for free or cds for free and that’s true. Those are popular. But the biggest increase is in books.”

On average, books on cd borrowing is up ten percent. Michael Blackwell manages the Dublin Branch. He has a theory on why more books are being checked out, “I think that the economic downturn may have meant more people are willing to wait a couple of months to read the best seller rather than buy it themselves.”

Additionally, the library system is seeing larger attendance at the children’s story times sessions. But during this recession, one of the busiest rooms in the library is the new Job Help Centers – which each branch opened in January.

So far 4000 people have signed on to the centers to search job databases, update a resume or get career advice. Keisha Jenkins manages the Martin Luther King Branch on East Long Street. “We’re seeing now that a lot more companies are saying go to the library, you need to fill this out online. You have to come in and have more time. They get a hundred and twenty minutes on the computer, which allows for them to have more time than the regular 60 minute time to fill out applications.”

Raj Rai recently lost his job and was preparing for a job interview at the Dublin branch, “The main reason I come the library …it’s easy to work when you’re away from home or family and at the same time. I’m used to getting out from our home and going to work, so I want to keep that habit.”

Rai’s clearly not the only one making frequent trips to the library. Dublin branch manager Michael Blackwell, who I spoke with previously, concurs that more people are coming through the library’s doors, “Our computers are getting a lot more use than they ever did before. And we see people using them for job help or job enrichment. But also more social networking going on. More people involved with some of the social networking sites like Facebook of MySpace”.

And all this increased traffic comes as the Columbus Metropolitan Library deals with economic reality itself. This year the library system’s budget was cut by one and a half million dollars.

Kim Fox, WOSU News.