Responding to a recent guest commentary in The Times, we believe the Porter County Public Library System serves the residents well. We believe discussing the points raised with the director or board members before writing the article would have been most appropriate and beneficial to all and would have let the writer discover how much the library already does.
While the library does have cash reserves, much of that has been in the capital projects fund and by law is limited to expenditures for buildings, property, etc. These funds accumulated over many years, with the annual approval of the Porter County Council, so future buildings could be constructed without bonding and thus save the taxpayers interest money.
The current bond has been refinanced twice. the remainder owed is under $2 million and will be paid off early next year.
The library works with many homeless, unemployed, etc., people daily, helping them write resumes and file for benefits, government services, job applications and health care. The public computers are very busy, and many residents use these services.
It should be noted that the library is not a social service agency. Porter County is blessed with many such agencies with trained personnel who provide such services very well. The library works with many of these organizations.
The library also works with many schools. Classes come to the library, and staff go to the schools. Districts using “accelerated reading” programs or similar programs also are supported during the summer.
When the library is closed, some databases and the library’s catalog can be accessed through the library’s website. E-books and E-magazines can be checked out 24 hours a day. The library works with various organizations and vendors to secure these electronic resources at the lowest possible cost.
Sunday hours have been examined in the past and will continue to be considered. A survey the library did several years ago indicated most did desire Sunday hours but did not want other hours reduced to accomplish this.
In 2013, we circulated 1,598,233 items — a 1.2 percent increase over 2012. We held 1,784 adult and children’s programs attended by 34,482. Additionally, 118 programs at locations outside the libraries were attended by 11,652. Our meeting rooms held 4,835 meetings attended by 25,591. Staff answered 48,502 reference questions, and 138.5 hours were spent proctoring tests. Volunteers worked 2,924 hours to help us serve our 89,033 registered borrowers. In all, 662,324 people came through our doors.
We have a very well known and respected genealogy department which drew in 7,669 from Indiana outside of Porter County, 5,921 from other states, and eight from foreign countries. Many of these people spend multiple days, thus contributing to the local economy.
Is there room for improvement at the library? Absolutely! All organizations need to continually evolve to remain relevant and best serve their clientele. The library is not what it was 20 years ago, nor what it will be in 20 years. What is clear though is that the library is serving a great many people in many ways — a great resource for all Porter County residents!