Increase in Sewickley library use touted as need for help cited

Bobby Cherry
| Wednesday, March 26, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

As circulation numbers grow and usage increases, so, too, do costs to operate the Sewickley Public Library, leaders say.

In an appeal to Quaker Valley school board members last week, library Director Carolyn Toth and board of directors President Wayne Murphy touted increases to circulation, higher numbers of program attendance and increases of personal donations.

But they noted the need for routine maintenance upgrades — new carpet and replacing an aging boiler — and the consideration of a marketing coordinator position.

School directors allocate $497,000 of the library's nearly $1 million budget. They've given the same amount to the library for four years, Murphy said.

“Obviously, we've got a place to use it,” he said. “We would like to see more of that. We also know that in the past — when we've had issues — that the school district has stepped up to help a great deal.”

So far, $497,000 again is allocated for the library in the 2014-15 budget. School directors will finalize next year's budget in June.

“All I can say is, we appreciate the help,” Murphy said.

“As you know, we would like to have more.”

Circulation for books, DVDs and movies reached 329,000 last year, Toth said. The library's personal collection includes about 91,000 items.

More than 3.4 million usage minutes were recorded on desktop computers — up 11.5 percent from the previous year, she said.

“Which is kind of amazing to me, with the advent of people with their own devices,” Toth said. “What we're seeing is a lot of wireless use, but still they're coming for our desktops.”

Attendance for library programming increased nearly 2 percent — to 255,000 people overall attending more than 1,500 programs.

The library offers programming ranging from storytime for babies to youth-, teen- and adult-oriented offerings, including about 1,400 tutoring sessions offered last year.

“We are seeing people from as far away as Bethel Park and Fox Chapel come to the Sewickley Public Library to be tutored, and we can't quite figure out why,” Toth said.

As the library's purpose evolves from primarily a book depot to a community center, Toth said the library continues to help more adults seeking jobs.

“We provide a lot of resume help for job-seekers, (and) we help people with cover letters,” she said.

Interest in computer programming classes for older adults and assistance devices, such as tablets and smartphones, continue to increase, Toth said.

To continue offering the types of programs the library does, she and Murphy said more space is required.

As use rises, so, too, are individual donations, Murphy said. Personal giving exceeded $110,000 last year.

But Murphy and Toth said donations could increase more if library leaders had a designated staff member to help.

“That's why we're looking at a marketing position,” Murphy said. “We have to tell the message. We have to be very clear on the way we tell it to the community on the value that we provide.”

Bobby Cherry is an associate editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-324-1408

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