Timberland sees increased usage last year, has high hopes for 2014


East County residents who are hoping for a greater library presence in Oakville are in luck.

After years of discussion, debate and fundraising, Timberland Regional Library Director Cheryl Heywood says that the library will finally carve off a chunk of the school building in Oakville and devote it to library purposes.

A town hall meeting is slated for 6 p.m. on Wednesday, March 19, at the Oakville School with city, school and library officials all in attendance. The Friends of the Oakville Library have raised about $65,000 and the Confederates Tribes of the Chehalis are donating $19,000.

“The city, Timberland and the school are working out their roles,” said Timberland Board of Trustees member Corby Varness. “That’s what this meeting is about.”

“There’s been a lot of work on this and we’re excited to get the details out for public review next week,” Heywood said.

Piecing together the future of the Oakville Timberland Library was just one of dozens of things on Heywood’s plate last year. Heywood took over in December of 2012 and has been working on a strategic plan and a capital facilities plan.

Heywood reviewed the past year in a presentation before the Grays Harbor County commissioners Monday afternoon.

With a more stable budget, Timberland has been looking at its 27 libraries and determining its service levels and whether hours should be restored. A more concrete plan is expected to be introduced this spring with potential hour changes put in place by July, Heywood said. For instance, Aberdeen is the only library on the Harbor with open hours on Monday, a complaint repeated by library users for years.

“Right now, we have the results of what library managers are recommending and we’re looking at that now so I can make final recommendations to the board at the next board meeting in March,” Heywood said. “And then it’ll take at least two months for us to turn it around and make those hours real for the public.”

Meantime, Heywood said the library continues to see more use when the library doors are not even open.

For instance, Wi-Fi usage has skyrocketed with the number of sessions jumping from 20,826 in 2012 to 33,934 in 2013 across the five-county library system. In Grays Harbor, usage jumped by nearly 90 percent to 75,820 sessions.

The increase use could be a combination of increased smart phones and tablets. However, the library extended its Wi-Fi hours from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. to midnight last year. That means someone could park in front of a library and use the Internet without the building ever being open.

For the Harbor, more people are using their own computers than the library’s computer, with sessions down 6.5 percent to 83,890 in 2013.

Circulation increased 6 percent to 514,377 materials, and patron visits increased by 1 percent to 383,745. For the five-county region, there was a 5 percent increase in visitors to 2.8 million and a 1 percent increase in library materials to 4.35 million.

Additional library services offered:

• 50 new Nook readers are now available for checkout across the libraries, each pre-loaded with specific content;

• As of November, Timberland now allows its users to access the Microsoft IT Academy, offering hundeds of online certificate courses from basic software applications up through courses designed for IT professionals;

• Timberland now has its own mobile app for tablets and smart phones called Library Now, bringing the features of the Timberland website to another accessible platform;

• Timberland’s partnership with Freegal, allowing two free mP3 songs to be downloaded was expanded to include three hours of online streaming of various music albums;

• And Timberland formed a partnership with wa.boopsie.com to access and download e-books and audiobooks.

 

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