by Amy Haigh
Shrinking library budgets combined with Google’s easy information access and the explosion of e-readers might seem to signal a decline in library patronage. But the bustle at Palm Beach State College’s Edward M. Eissey campus library suggests otherwise.
“While I think much of the public imagines libraries sitting empty, they’re more vibrant than ever,” says Joanne Cameron, a reference and instructional librarian at the Eissey campus library learning resource center in Palm Beach Gardens. “In the middle of the day, Monday through Thursday, we are packed.”
Cameron, who has worked at the library for 12 years, attributes its buzzing atmosphere to several factors.
For one, the building that houses the Eissey campus library underwent an extensive renovation between June 2008 and August 2009. The library’s pre- and post-remodel circulation numbers reflect a 35.18 percent leap in transactions between the 2007-2008 and 2010-2011 academic years, even higher than the Eissey campus’s 28.35 percent net enrollment increase during that same period.
But circulation statistics tell only part of the story. The library’s nine spacious study rooms and more than 120 computer stations also draw crowds. At a commuter school such as Palm Beach State College, students cannot retreat to dorm rooms, Cameron says. “So they need a place to go between classes, or to meet up with friends, or to work on group projects. And so, this building is designed to provide all of that.”
The new space also includes a state-of-the-art computer classroom where Cameron and her fellow librarians teach students to use the school’s extensive collection of reference databases, among other skills. And when class is adjourned and the need arises, the classroom computers are made available to students.
If patrons want to take home some of the library’s technology, they can check out one of the 32 Kindles, two Nooks, 10 iPads or 11 laptops, including a Mac. Lending times range from three weeks for a Kindle to five hours for a laptop. Demand for Kindles is particularly high, partly because some instructors now require students to read a book on a Kindle, says library assistant Terry Ductan. But the wait for an iPad at the Eissey campus has shrunk to about a week.
Also available is a media services center with more than 3,500 DVD titles that can be checked out for seven days. Students can take the DVDs home, or they can watch them on one of the nine media lab computers provided specifically for that purpose.
All of these offerings keep students coming back to the library. Cameron says she is grateful to work in Palm Beach State College’s academic setting, where the library’s importance is still recognized by students, faculty and administration.
“I know there is a lot of talk about the death of libraries,” she says. “But I’m not seeing it right now.”