Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Why does Plainfield need a new, larger Library?

How has Plainfield changed since 1991? How has daily life changed? The Library building has not changed to keep up with 25 years of technology and advancement!

When construction on the Library began, the official Library district population was 14,123, with 5 schools in Plainfield School District 202. Today, the Library serves 75,337 with 30 schools in Plainfield School District 202. Over 60,000 more people are being served by the same 27,000 square foot Library. When the Library opened, it offered 2 word processing computers and typewriters for public use and collections included cassette tapes and VHS. Modern email did not exist. Today, more than 30 public computers are used for more than 24,000 hours of public computing sessions annually. Formats include DVD, BluRay, MP3, downloadable books and audiobooks, streaming music and video, ereaders, Rokus, etc. The Library has over 209,000 items in its collection today, possible only due to virtual rather than physical items. That’s four times the 1991 opening day collection of 41,558.

People sometimes ask “Why do we need libraries when we have the Internet?” The Internet cannot provide the personalized help and hands-on instruction of the 21st century Library. In 1991, 2,236 reference questions were asked and answered at the Library. In 2015, it was more than 56,000, over 25 times the number asked in 1990. Today’s questions are more complex because the easy answers are readily available. Complex questions, such as help with devices and teaching new technology skills comprise answers to today’s questions at the Library.

Classes and programs are a huge part of 21st century public library service. 1993 was the first year the Library kept program attendance statistics – with 2,214 attending programs that were only for children. In 2015, over 50,000 attended a library program, spanning all ages. That’s 22 times more people attending programs in 2015.

With more services and devices and formats in demand than ever before, per capita purchasing power has declined. In 1990, the Library District’s median home value of $100,000 paid $103 in property taxes to the Library, about $30.17 per capita. Today’s median home value of $300,000 paid $192.89 in property taxes, about $44.93 per capita. Adjusted for inflation, 1990 per capita revenue would be $51.99 in today’s dollars.

In 2015, the average Plainfield Public Library resident checked out more than 8 items, attended a library program, used a public computer for an average session of 43 minutes and asked a question. That is $256.87 in value for materials and services received for the $44.93 per capita investment in the Library.

Serving five times more people in the Library District, doing 22 and 25 times the business in core services and holding a collection four times larger than when it opened, the physical building has not changed. Its systems have reached and exceeded their useful life. It was not designed for today’s technology and lifestyles. A Library that is designed to support today’s technology, learning environments and opportunities for connecting as a community is the most efficient and cost-effective solution to continue providing quality library service that meets Plainfield’s needs in the 21st century.