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Encouraging numbers from library

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I am one of those who is concerned about how technology is affecting the written media, such as newspapers and magazines. And of course, books.

With that, I am concerned about the future of the public library. With the invention of the e-reader and the different devices now equipped to perform that function, how much longer before holding a book or magazine in our hands will be so obsolete that libraries and bookstores will not be needed?

Last year, on our TV program, I interviewed now-former Peoria Public Library director Ed Szynaka about the future of libraries. At the time of the interview the

Peoria system was nearing completion of a multi-million upgrade, which included a new North Branch, that made the local library as technologically advanced as any public library out there.

Szynaka was confident that the future of libraries was secure.

Well, numbers coming out now show that apparently was correct, at least for the near-term future.

The city manager's office on Friday put out some very encouraging numbers, even if they are somewhat skewed. By that I mean it is difficult to do an apples-to-apples comparison in year-to-year library usage because of that upgrade that kept a couple local branches closed for part of 2012.

Still, like I said, the numbers are encouraging.  

For example, the city said the Main Branch downtown re-opened in December 2010 and  numbers show that 138,308 people used that branch in 2011. Through the end of November this year, 181,619 library users entered the Main Branch. "With a month to go that is an increase of about 31 percent," the city said.

Another category that can be accurately compared, the city said, is online renewals of materials since it doesn't county people through the doors. "It shows a 42.5 percent  increase as the public has grown accustomed to this simple-to-use feature," the release said.

Last year, with only two branches open for the majority of the year, the Peoria Public Library circulated one million items for the first time, attaining that landmark in early December 2011. "This year that milestone was reached toward the end of September," the city said.

"Although there is no valid comparison for 2011, it is noteworthy to see that 102,814 public computer sessions have been recorded and many are taking advantage of the free Wi-Fi with their own devices," it added.

I think this is great news. As long as libraries continue to stay ahead of the curve on what the public wants them to be, they should continue to exist as one of the most important public information outlets in the country.

I look forward to seeing the year-end numbers, on which I will report.

In the meantime, let's give kudos to library staff for getting the word out and bringing people in.

Another encouraging report

Another encouraging report from the city is that work is proceeding on the infrastructure in the Warehouse District.

The Illinois Department of Transportation awarded a contract for nearly $9.9 million to R.A. Cullinan Construction for work to be done on the roads and other infrastructure on Walnut and Maple streets between Jefferson and Adams, right in the heart of the Warehouse District.

The Cullinan bid was the lowest of two bids received for the project. The other bidder and the amount of the bid were not identified in the city manager's report but that information is public through IDOT.

Also, the report said, IDOT has signed a contract with Terra Engineering for the phase III construction engineering services on this project.

Paul Gordon is editor of The Peorian. He can be reached at 692-7880 or editor@thepeorian.com

About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).