Libraries’ focus goes far beyond books Demand increases for electronic resources

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Regional Librarian for Kings County Grace Dawson, , has noticed shifts in trends, looking back on 2020.

“The big trend which is reflected in the numbers is this year’s rise in digital and electronic resource use,” Ms Dawson said. She added this is likely because of COVID-19 and the related shutdowns.

Islanders used 49,200 more electronic resources in 2020 compared to 2019. That’s a jump from 179,527 uses to 228,759.

On the flip side, new memberships to Island libraries and physical book loans were down this year.

Libraries offered 4,163 new library cards in 2019 but only 2,033 in 2020. They also loaned 300,652 physical books in 2020 compared to 471,380 in 2019.

Physical items could not be borrowed from libraries between mid-March and early June 2020 when the facilities closed their doors to the public.

In June, library services started to gradually reopen with some locations offering curb-side pickup. Eventually all 26 locations reopened and welcomed browsing. But libraries reverted back to curb-side pickup during the December COVID-19 circuit breaker when restrictions were heightened again for Islanders.

Despite these interruptions, overall, borrowed library materials increased this year from 819,987 in 2019 to 980,800 iitems borrowed in 2020.

Ms Dawson said the growing use of non-traditional library materials such as musical instruments, telescopes, snowshoes, etc increased.

These types of items have been available through the province’s libraries since 2018.

“I think their popularity reflects the evolution of libraries as a provider of a broad range of materials and items to the entire community,” Ms Dawson said.

“Libraries have always been inclusive spaces that provide information and access to all individuals but now we are seeing the public wants information and resources in a wide variety of formats.”

The following is a breakdown of non-traditional items loaned this year:

• Musical instruments: 2,781

• TCAP Fitness passes (available at Montague Library): 995

• Radon detectors: 165

• Telescopes: 403

• Snowshoes: 731

• Museum passes checked out (July & August 2020): 143

• Books delivered through Library’s Early Learning and Child Care Centre Book Delivery Service (which was started in July 2020): 3,799

• Books delivered through Library’s Community Care Book Delivery Service : 2,671

Ms Dawson said it’s worth noting that it has been difficult to draw conclusive trends from this year’s data given the restrictions libraries have faced due to the pandemic.

Krystal Dionne, a branch technician with the Montague Rotary Library, says it has been fun to see the joy kids and adults get out of borrowing less traditional items from the library such as musical instruments.

Rachel Collier, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Graphic