SHERIDAN — The Sheridan County Fulmer Public Library held two workshops this weekend that asked local residents to “re-imagine” the library and, according to library director Cameron Duff, the community does not imagine the library changing significantly.
“The community likes the building, they don’t want to go from scratch building some glass monstrosity,” Duff said. “The size of the building is good for the community.”
Inside the library, people asked for more meeting room space and for either more natural light or new lighting to replace the old fluorescent lighting in the building.
Duff said residents liked The Wyoming Room and the children’s area in the library.
“The end result was, we weren’t really surprised with the comments made, but it helped us gear our approach,” Duff said.
The aim of the workshops was to specifically address the needs of the building, which has had a number of maintenance issues in recent years.
“This came about because we had a boiler go out last year and we reacted to that, instead of planned for it,” Duff said. “We knew we needed a [new] roof, and at the same time we wanted to ask if there was something else the community wanted changed; and we’re not seeing people ask for a whole lot of physical changes.”
The library has partnered with Arete Design Group to complete a facility needs assessment and Arete Principal Karen Kelly said the group is compiling recommendations but echoed Duff’s assessment that the community was not looking for drastic changes to the building.
Though the workshops did not address the services the library offers, Duff said Fulmer is working to evolve those services to account for digital advances, but he does not see the role of the library changing significantly, either.
“If you go back 15 or 20 years, the internet comes in and everyone said libraries are going to become obsolete,” Duff said. “And what we have found is, even with the amount of e-books and downloadable audios and magazines we offer, certain segments of the population really love them and others don’t. All we’re doing is providing another niche…But we have not seen any indication that books are going away.”
He added that both publishers and the community prefer print books, which lines up with national trends.
“Over the past 10 years, we’re at an 8- to 10-percent usage rate for anything electronic, and it hasn’t climbed from that,” Duff said. “We plateaued and I’m not seeing it going up. And this is not unique to Sheridan.”
The library also offers a number of services and programs beyond book rentals, and Duff said access to computers and wireless internet are two of the most popular services the library offers.
“It’s not just physical desktops people are coming in to use; they want the Wi-Fi, and we have the whole building set up with hot spots, and after-hours people can even use it outside,” Duff said. “We’ve increased our backbone on that so we have fiber and we have gigabyte speed so that people can access it and have a lot of people access it at the same time.”
Duff said the library also functions as a community gathering place for a variety of local groups and is seeing an increase in people making use of the library as a place for meetings, which lines up with the community demand for more meeting rooms.
Duff said Arete plans on having a preliminary report with recommendations for the library board of trustees Aug. 15 and will present those recommendations at a public meeting Sept.19.
Duff said right now the library has not secured funding for renovations, in part because it does not know what they will cost yet.
Depending on what the final bill is on the renovations, the library may have to look to private donors for funding.