Submitted by William H. Teschek, Acting Library Director
2007 was another successful year for the library, although not without a few great difficulties. In June Library Director Catherine Redden was diagnosed with cancer and has been on extended medical leave while she battles her illness. The library staff has stretched itself thin in an effort to pick up the slack of this missing full-time position. While the basic and most critical operations of the library are being accomplished, some tasks are being postponed or put on the back burner.
The year began with cleanup from the December 28th plumbing accident that flooded a large section of the lower level. New carpeting had to be installed throughout the downstairs lobby, children's room, and Wheaton Lane meeting room only three years after they were damaged in a previous minor flood. Fortunately no books were damaged this time. After environmental testing and cleanup was done, the library's sewage ejector system was fitted with alarms that are monitored offsite to assure that we have no repeat of this accident.
The library's heating and cooling system has been in frequent need of service and repairs at a cost of nearly $20,000 this year, far more than ever before. As part of the Town's capital improvements program the Library Trustees are putting forward a warrant article in 2008 for $350,000 to replace the existing system, which is nearly 24 years old and approaching the end of its service life. A new system will also help to deal with issues of excess humidity, which has caused the library to spend additional thousands to deal with drips, leaks, and mold remediation. Money granted to the library at the 2006 Town Meeting was spent in an effort to deal with the long-standing issue of snow and ice sliding off the slate roofs onto our handicap ramp. De-icing cables were installed in the roof gutters over the ramp as a partial solution to the problem.
This year the library joined a recent trend in public libraries around the country in doing away with fines for overdue materials, because fines discourage many people from using their public library. It is much more user-friendly to do away with all the nickel-and-diming, the arguments over whether or not a fine has been paid, and the tens of thousands of small financial transactions that charging fines requires us to do every year. And while people may keep some books a little bit longer, they do bring them back at the same rate they did when we charged fines. Donation boxes have been added to each checkout desk and library users are encouraged to make donations in lieu of paying fines.
During 2007 the library experienced another busy year, circulating 150,666 items, in over 128,000 visits by residents and visitors to the library. We loaned 1969 items out to other NH libraries and borrowed 967 items for Hampton residents from libraries as far away as California. We registered 1114 new patrons.
Adult Services saw modest increases in the use of many of our library materials. Changes in formats are reflected in our circulation statistics, with DVDs becoming more popular and videocassettes much less so. The same can be said for the switch from books on tape to books on CD. At the beginning of the year we added a new downloadable audiobooks service, through which we can offer a larger number of titles for far less money. Library cardholders now have the convenience of checking out and downloading audiobooks at home through their own computer and copying them to an MP3 player. See the library's website to learn how. Adult Services supervisor Darrell Eifert and his staff of Barbara Chapman, Mary Twomey, Elli Cyr, Claudia Cyrus and Janet Anderson were assisted by the substitute work of two former staff members, Sandra Kent and Jean Keefe, who retired last year. Darrell put together a wide variety of programs for adults throughout the year, some of which were a Saturday film festival in the winter, a talk by local photographer and publisher Peter Randall on his book "New Hampshire: Then and Now," a talk by a conservation biologist on marsh bird migrations, lectures on coin collecting and parenting, and popular talks by best-selling authors Nathaniel Philbrick and Michael Tougias on their new books. Our adult fiction and non-fiction collections were heavily weeded of books that are no longer circulating in order to make room on our crowded shelves for new titles and formats.
Children's Services said goodbye to Teen Librarian Cheryl French in May and hello to Kirsten Corbett the following month. Kirsten has been busy beefing up our young adult book collection and will now lead our Teen Advisory Board, teen book groups, "Reading Buddies" program and "Reader's Theater." Our Children's Services supervisor Paulina Shadowens was on hand to accept a Gold Circle School Partnership Award this year for "exemplary educational partnership" with Odyssey House. Our summer reading program, "Reading Road Trip USA," was popular with many and included a wildlife encounter program, puppet show, a weaving class, and a performance from the ever-popular Wayne From Maine. Paulina and her assistant Joanne Mulready continue to offer storytimes throughout the year for toddlers and other young children, as well as talks at local schools. New this year is a program of bringing therapy/reading dogs into the library for the enjoyment of the children. "Tosca" and "Petey" have been well received by the kids.
Reference Services, led by Marija Sanderling and assisted by Alice Alford, report that the use of our inter-library loan service has doubled over the past four years. With our ILL service we can borrow just about any book someone wants from another library. Our success rate at locating and borrowing the books that are requested is around 99%. Our popular magazine collection was completely rearranged so that titles on similar topics are shelved together rather than simply throwing them all onto shelves alphabetically. While it can sometimes be a bit more difficult to find a specific magazine, they are now much more browsable, and as their usage is up 13% compared to last year, it appears to be popular as well.
Technical Services supervisor Bill Teschek has been very busy as Acting Director since June, and is thankful for the cooperation of our 20 public and 13 staff computers, as well as our four servers, for (mostly) continuing to run without trouble. A few that did break down were replaced this year at a cost of only $300 each, purchased as parts in a kit that Darrell Eifert put together. This seems to be a much more cost-effective way of acquiring new computers than our old method of leasing, although it does involve more work up front. Our public computers are sporting comfortable new rolling office chairs, thanks to a generous $5000 donation by a library patron who found our old ones uncomfortable. Additional funds from this donation will be used to purchase new seating in our magazine reading area. We upgraded the DSL speed of our Internet connection this year to help deal with the popularity of streaming video and gaming on our public Internet stations. Usage of these computers has gone up considerably this year. By the end of November we already had over 28,000 signups, which is more than in all of 2006. This fall we added a public access fax machine, which is run through a service that provides it at no cost to the library. Our cataloger, Isabel Danforth, has been kept busy processing over 9000 new books, magazines, videos, audiobooks and other items for our growing collection.
The elected Trustees of the Library are Bridgit Valgenti (Chair), Sara Casassa (Vice-Chair), Mary Lou Heran (Treasurer), Linda Sadlock (Secretary), Bob Frese, and alternates Dot Gooby and Sue Hughes. The Trustees meet monthly on the 3rd Thursday of each month at 7 o'clock p.m. in the New Hampshire Room or Dearborn Room of the library. Judy Geller, who had served on the Board for six years, finished her two terms in March. The Board has been busy working on library policy, building issues, landscaping, budget and personnel issues all year.
The Friends of the Library continue to be a very active group. Gloria Goudreau took over the job of President from Kris Sawyer, and Debra Perry puts together an excellent newsletter that is available on the library's website. They have raised thousands of dollars for the library through book sales, bake sales, raffles and other fundraisers. Some of the money has gone to purchase DVD carousels to hold many of our very popular TV series and movie sets, which prior to this were very susceptible to theft. They have also purchased a love seat, ottoman, and child's love seat for the Children's room, as well as several museum memberships for the library so library users can get free or reduced-price admission to these places. If you aren't a member of the Friends already, please consider joining to support the library.
For some people these days their public library is becoming a "third space," a place to spend some quality time when they are not at home or work. Some go to the gym, or the bookstore, or the coffee shop, or even Marelli's, but many now also come to the library. They come to use our public computers, read the newspaper, browse our magazines, attend an adult lecture or children's program, frequent the Senior Citizens' Center, or even bring their own computer to use our free wireless Internet access. And of course they come for our thousands of books. You can check us out on the web at www.hampton.lib.nh.us.
William H. Teschek,
Acting Library Director