published Saturday, February 16th, 2013

Bradley leaders check out the Cleveland/Bradley County Public Library

Kyle Elliott lays his head on his girlfriend, Elizabeth Mayton, while the couple reads a book Friday afternoon. Elliot and Mayton, both freshman at Lee University, like to come to the library to read and not be disturbed.
Kyle Elliott lays his head on his girlfriend, Elizabeth Mayton, while the couple reads a book Friday afternoon. Elliot and Mayton, both freshman at Lee University, like to come to the library to read and not be disturbed.
Photo by Connor Choate.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Cleveland/Bradley County Public Library leaders recently gave a "State of the Library" address to county commissioners, with specifics ranging from the increasing popularity of electronic downloads to long-term goals.

Officials reviewed the expanding ways in which the library seeks to serve its patrons in an increasingly technology-driven culture.

"I truly feel like our library enhances the quality of life here in Bradley County," said Tara Brown, chairwoman of the library board. "The library of today and of the future may look a little different than it did in the past, but I really feel strongly that its importance to our community remains the same."

Library Director Andrew Hunt said the facility is transitioning to providing electronic books and related e-materials.

The ratio of ebooks downloaded compared to actual book checkouts was about 1 to 10 in the 2011-12 fiscal year, he said. However, the 24,228 ebook downloads from last year more than doubled the number from 2010-11.

The ebook growth is driven by the increasing popularity of electronic book readers such as Kindle, Nook and other display devices. With its 24/7 access to electronic materials and various online databases, part of the Cleveland/Bradley County Public Library exists as a "virtual library," according to David Ingram, the library's technology coordinator.

Hunt said the growing high-tech factor hardly diminishes the library's role as a place dedicated to the "personal enrichment, education and enjoyment" of all the area's residents. Many resources and programs are available onsite and face to face for patrons to learn and share ideas.

The library offers children, family and adult programming geared toward reading, arts and entertainment, Hunt said. Patrons also may participate in workshops on computer know-how, job-searching skills and personal finances.

For children who may not be able come to the library, the recently revamped bookmobile made 22 stops at day cares, preschools and neighborhoods last year, Hunt said. Those trips resulted in nearly 4,700 visits and more than 8,200 items checked out, he said.

When it comes to public funding, Hunt asked Bradley County commissioners to be aware that annual increases in insurance, maintenance, utilities and benefits eat away at the library's budget, restricting its ability to replace worn books and buy new items. As for staffing, two requested positions -- teen librarian and adult program coordinator -- have never been filled as planned when the facility expanded four years ago.

In the last four years, Hunt said, the library has received a 1.66 percent increase to its budget.

In the meantime, the library board is considering adopting radio frequency identification technology -- similar to that used in mall security systems and "fast pass" payment devices -- for improving material circulation and inventory functions.

The technology offers the advantage of increasing time that library staff members have for visitors and doing other tasks, Hunt said.

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