Due to limited space in the children’s section of the Carroll Public Library, programs are held in the main area of the facility. A new report indicates that activities can be disruptive to other users of the library and that additional space is needed.
Due to limited space in the children’s section of the Carroll Public Library, programs are held in the main area of the facility. A new report indicates that activities can be disruptive to other users of the library and that additional space is needed.
August 29, 2013

At the Carroll Public Library, children's books line shelves that are higher than small hands can reach. They surround a table with four miniature chairs - red, blue, green and purple.

Kelly Fischbach, the library's director, wants to offer more - but she doesn't have room.

"If you're a fourth-grader, you have to crawl on a stool (to reach the top shelves)," she said. "If you're 4 years old, your chances of seeing the new books on top are basically nil."

Fischbach recently released the library's fifth-annual report for fiscal year 2013. It details an increase in visits to the library and items checked out, despite a 2½-week period during which the library was closed while new carpet was installed.

The report also emphasizes the need for a larger space. Right now, programming at the library, whether children's story time or Crafty Library Ladies, takes place in the library's main open areas, among individual visitors who want to browse through books or quietly study.

"We ask elected officials to decide what direction the Carroll Public Library is going," the report states. "Whether we look to progressive communities who have invested in citizens of every age and socioeconomic background in developing a library for the future, or we choose to remain a book warehouse in our current building, the Trustees and Director need help in charting the future."

Visitors to the library, along with the numbers of items they check out, have steadily increased for years, Fischbach said.

During fiscal year 2013, 1,297 people visited the library during one week in April, and 2,434 people visited during a week in July. The year before, the count was 1,277 visitors for the week in April, and 2,356 for the week in July.

"It isn't a huge (increase), but you're always excited when it keeps steadily going up," Fischbach said, adding that the change between 2013 and 2002, when the library began tallying visitors, is much more drastic. "People who haven't been using the library for a long time don't understand how it has evolved."

Between July 1, 2012, and June 30, 2013, patrons checked out 123,820 items, up from 116,369 items checked out the previous year, a 6 percent increase.

During the past fiscal year, visitors to the library checked out more children's material, magazines, young adult and adult books, although they checked out fewer books on tape, DVDs, and CDs compared to the previous year.

The report adds that the lower DVD-checkout numbers could reflect a change in May 2012 that allowed patrons to check out DVDs for five days instead of three.

Fiscal year 2013 was a good year for library grants, according to the report. The library received about $10,000 for a children's computer, online learning programs, children's books, summer reading program materials and programming.

Programming, both for children and adults, is a large draw for the library, Carroll Mayor Adam Schweers said.

"(The library is) doing a great job of bringing programs to town people normally haven't seen, and I think the general public is really appreciating that," he said.

Fischbach said she hopes the library will soon offer programs that will teach people how to use newer technology, such as iPads, and allow adults who have been in the same career for several decades and are interested in a change to discuss their options.

As those programs and others are implemented, the need for more space will be even more apparent, Schweers said.

"We're really focused on the fact that oftentimes, when the library offers programs, it takes up a portion of the library, and patrons aren't able to privately work with tutoring," he said. "More programs will mean more inconvenience to general citizens; we recognize the need for that space, as a way to enhance trying to provide learning."

The next step is proposing a space-needs assessment to Schweers and City Council, said Tom Louis, president of the library's Board of Trustees. An assessment, which an independent firm would conduct and which might be paid for by the Library Foundation, would determine if more space at the library is needed and if it makes more sense to expand the current location or start over at a new spot.

This discussion has been going on for years, Louis said, but he hopes it will turn into action soon.

"I think Kelly and her staff are doing a great job with the facilities they have," he said, "but I think they could do much better with better facilities."

In addition to providing spots dedicated to programming, additional space would benefit people hoping to study individually or tutor others, as well as those who want a space to sit and work on a laptop, Fischbach said. Right now, the library has only one small private study room.

"I think we can be more of a community gathering place for people who don't even realize they need a library," she said. "Once we have that space, people will wonder how they ever did without it."