SHERIDAN — While library usage by U.S. adults has remained steady over the last few years, leaders at the Sheridan County Public Library System hope to grow the facilities’ roles in the community.
As part of that process, the library staff has partnered with Arete Design Group to complete a facilities needs assessment, including outreach to the community on what library users would like to see in the future.
Two public meetings will take place this week — one Friday from 4-5:30 p.m. and one Saturday from 10-11:30 a.m. in the Inner Circle of the Fulmer Public Library. The two meetings will be the same so those interested can choose the time that works best for them.
Library director Cameron Duff said the meetings will allow members of the community to point out things they really like about the library and would perhaps want to see enhanced or suggest changes they’d like to see. For example, some might want more public meeting spaces or more spaces for children’s programming.
In May, architects, engineers, electricians and others completed an assessment of the Fulmer Library’s existing state. Arete Design Group principal Karen Kelly said overall the library staff has done a good job maintaining the building.
Duff noted that library staff will hear an initial report on that assessment in August, with an outline of what needs to be addressed and when. He expects that Arete will detail immediate needs, items that need to be addressed in the next five years and beyond.
Kelly said each of this week’s meetings will open with a presentation from a library specialist with Humphries Poli Architects of Denver, a company that works with library systems around the world. The presentation will include a look at trends seen in libraries across the country.
“The world keeps changing and information keeps changing,” Kelly said. “The library really wants to stay relevant in the community. That’s what this portion of the effort is about — listening to the public.”
According to a 2016 Pew Research Center study, library usage among U.S. adults has remained steady over the last few years. In 2013, about 53 percent of individuals 18 and older visited a library or bookmobile in a 12-month span. In 2016, that figure was 46 percent. Millennials in America are more likely to have visited a library in the past year than any other adult generation.
The Pew Research Center survey data from fall 2016 showed 53 percent of millennials (those ages 18 to 35 at the time) said they used a library or bookmobile in the previous 12 months. That compares with 45 percent of Gen Xers (those born in the 1960s and 1970s) and 43 percent of Baby Boomers and 36 percent of those in the Silent Generation. The wording of that question in the survey specifically focused on use of public libraries, not on-campus academic libraries.
Once Arete Design Group has compiled its reports and findings for the library, it will conduct another public meeting in September to share the results. This will allow one more chance for the public to provide feedback. Then, the library and its foundation will be able to map a plan moving forward and set fundraising goals and priorities for the library’s future.