The Southington Public Library has a higher circulation (items borrowed) per capita than Connecticut towns of similar size, and Southington is higher than the statewide average. With the 18th highest circulation in the state, Southington lends over 50,000 more items annually than cities like Hartford and Bridgeport, which are nearly three times as large.
This comes at a time when library circulation per capita has been steadily decreasing statewide for most of the last decade.
That does not mean the need for libraries, or their usage, is decreasing. Instead, usage is seen in annual visits and visits per service hour. Seated within the top 20 percent of Connecticut libraries for total visits, Southington also soars ahead in visits per service hour, nearly doubling the statewide average. And yet, Southington falls well below the statewide average in visits and program attendance per capita.
The Connecticut State Library compiles the aforementioned statistics into an annual report with the diligent help of 179 public libraries which track and report the same figures.
The discrepancy between items borrowed and annual attendance could be explained in many ways. However, two large weaknesses are demonstrated by this statistical annual report. First is that only 41 percent of Southington residents have library cards. The second is that the Southington Public Library has less than half the square footage than the statewide average, while the nearby town of Berlin has a population less than half that of Southington, has a bigger library than us.
These facts alone beg the conclusion that the Southington Public Library is not effectively serving the community. Fifty-nine percent of the town is not taking advantage of the services provided by the library, either because they are not the most needed services, or because this 59 percent is unaware of what the Library’s services are.
The lack of space at the Southington Public Library speaks to the evolving role of libraries as a community gathering place. In today’s library, you can look around and see any number of groups gathered in the corners of the café and mezzanine—tutors with students, groups of knitters, people needing public spaces to meet, and individuals still in need of traditional library services fill most open spaces in the library.
And while there is still enough shelving for books, the distances between the aisles in Southington’s library are not ADA compliant. Recent visitors may have noticed certain collections relocating. This is being done with a goal of making some areas more accessible.
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Kristi Sadowski is the director of the Southington Public Library. To learn more, visit them at www.SouthingtonLibrary.com.