If you’re going to the Indianola Library for a book, that’s fine.
But these days, you can get your books delivered to you at home, and go to the library for its social atmosphere, according to Michele Patrick, the Indianola library director, during a recent talk at the Indianola Rotary Club.
E-books are now a big part of the library’s offerings, she said. While in the early years of e-books, they amounted to about 5 percent of the library’s collection and just .5 percent of the books that got circulated, that’s changed.
“Last year, 2018, we went more digital than print,” she said, offering more than 46,121 e-books and audio books, compared to 39,490 physical items. Digital check outs still lag behind print ones, at 18 percent of the total, but they give patrons access to books that won’t fit into the physical building.
“The library building is full,” Patrick told the Rotarians. “When we buy new books, old books go out.”
The digital books allow the library to grow its materials without increasing its physical space. It’s easier to access the e-books as well.
“It’s all very one click,” Patrick said. “You go to the app and click."
While patrons may get their books on their electronic devices, they come to the library for other reasons.
“We are seeing an increased number of people coming in to the physical building and once in the building they’re staying longer,” she explained. They settle in to work, using the high speed WiFi on their laptops or attending programs or meetings. All of that creates a new challenge.
“How are we going to accommodate all of these people who are starting to use the library as a community space to gather and connect with one another?” Patrick asked. The library now has two community rooms, one reserved for children’s activities and the other in high demand for nonprofit and community groups that want to meet. That strains to meet the need for community reading rooms and study spaces.
More active story hours and programming add to the demands, she added.
“Today, people want to interact,” she explained. “We’ve changed from a traditional story time to more interactive. The most popular ones make kids think.”
A typical program now might involve giving kids materials, telling them to “make a catapult” and then letting them work from there, she said. During the fall, the library hosts trunk or treat, which brings in lots of visitors, as does the kickoff of the summer reading program, featuring a band and other entertainment.
All of the needs likely will mean changes to the physical building in the future, said Patrick. The library is considering moving the main entrance from the east or street side of the building to the west, where the parking lot is. The need for more space for police and fire could cause the city to look at moving its administrative offices to a new site that isn’t as landlocked as city hall, added city manager Ryan Waller, including possibly the library or activities building.
The library also is experimenting with checking out passes to the Blank Park Zoo and the Science Center of Iowa, said Patrick. The Friends of the Indianola Library, a nonprofit group that supports library programs, purchased season passes for the community.
“As a family you can check out with your library card a pass for two adults and two kids to go to the Science Center for free and the Zoo for free,” she said. “If this goes well and gets used pretty well, the Friends would like to expand that and include the Living History Farms and the Des Moines Botanical Center.”
It still does come back to the books though. The library also is reminding people that All Iowa Reads is coming up, with the goal of choosing a book the entire state will read and discuss, said Patrick. This year’s book is “This Blessed Earth: A Year in the Life of an American Family Farm” by Ted Genoways.
The book is available both in print and as an e-book through the Indianola Public Library.