Library Adjusts to Changes as Digital Downloads Increase

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If you’ve visited the Portage Lake District Library in the last several months, you’ve probably noticed that a lot has changed. Due to the COVID19 pandemic, in-person library programs have been suspended. The library’s Michigan Room remains closed to the public to ensure there’s a secure area for the quarantine of returned library materials. The library remains in the third step of their four phase reopening plan, which offers grab-and-go access to the public. Until restrictions are eased on public gatherings and social distancing, the library expects to stay in phase three.

“We’re doing our part to ensure our staff and library users are safe,” Said Library Director Dillon Geshel. “It’s difficult to not have the same level of engagement with our patrons day-to-day or at special events, but following the guidance of health officials is the best way to ensure we can return to some level of normalcy in the future.”

During the first full month of the library’s reopening, library staff began to notice substantial changes in the way patrons used the library. Circulation of digital materials, such as eBooks, digital audiobooks and streaming films increased substantially, while the circulation of print materials and in-person visits dropped sharply.

Compared to July 2019, circulation of digital library material was up 59% in July of 2020, with more patrons taking advantage of digital materials and online resources. Circulation of physical library materials, such as books, magazines and DVDs, dropped by 46%.

“The Library was closed for less than a month when we decided to invest in additional digital content,” Said Geshel. “We went from a collection of about 14,000 digital eBooks and audiobooks to more than 750,000 overnight. It’s been great to see new and long-time library users finding these additional resources so helpful.”

In April, PLDL began offering Hoopla, a digital lending library that includes eBooks, digital audiobooks, graphic novels, music albums and feature films. There are no holds or wait times for library cardholders to access this content, which includes hundreds of thousands of titles. Patrons can check out up to 4 titles every month from the Hoopla catalog.

Now, the library is happy to report incremental increases in print circulation over the last several months. “Since our reopening in July, we’ve seen circulation of print and physical material increase by 15% on average every month,” Said Geshel. Meanwhile, use of the digital collections has stayed about the same since the noted increase in July.

You can learn more about the library’s suite of online resources at pldl.org/downloadabes. All are welcome to visit the library during their regular open hours. Masks are required for entry, and patrons must limit their visit to 30 minutes or less.

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Effective Nov. 18, the library building is closed, but curbside services are available. The Hancock Library remains open. Click here for more information.