Story by Connor Medernach
Despite fears that libraries could become obsolete, Drake University’s Cowles Library and the Des Moines Public Library have both noticed more in-person visits to use online resources and e-books.
According to the American Library Association, 41 percent of states noted a decrease in public funding for libraries in the U.S, including Iowa, in the 2009 fiscal year. The resulting decrease in staffing and hours open to the public, however, will not affect the amount of resources or use of libraries.
In-person visits to Cowles increased over the past seven years, said Carrie Dunham-LaGree, the campus coordinator of instruction in information literacy.
The 2013 spring semester saw an increase of 28 percent.
However, Dunham-LaGree said the student and faculty need for Internet and online services has forced Cowles to reevaluate its spending.
Improvements are prioritized to ensure the library is up-to-date with the shift to online resources.
The library has undergone several improvements, including the addition of an after-hours study space, expansions of online resources and the future housing of Senator Tom Harkin’s papers to continue attracting students.
The after-hours study space was a student movement driven by the lack of study space elsewhere late at night.
Student Senate pushed the issue to the forefront and caught the attention of the Drake administration.
Drake student Hannah Adams said students had to leave all areas of the library at 1 a.m.
“The added hours were a lifesaver for my roommates and I,” Adams said.
Keeping up with the digital media age has shifted more material from print resources to online resources.
Dunham-LaGree said Cowles spends over $1 million in subscriptions to online e-books.
“Students get the material when they need it, rather than just in case they need it,” said Dunham-LaGree.
Cowles cut costs by having e-books in its databases, but the library doesn’t actually pay for them until the material is used, or a certain amount of viewings are reached.
The library is also planning to remodel the main floor.
Meetings will be held for students to voice their opinions on improving study space.
The Des Moines Public Library is defying misconceptions about declining library use.
Although the library has undergone budget cuts, layoffs and hour reductions, use of the library has increased.
Visits to the six Des Moines library branches rose 14.5 percent from 2010-12. The circulation of material also increased 1.8 percent. The library added services that allow guests to check out digital books and e-readers.
American Library Association President Maureen Sullivan detailed how important libraries are.
Public libraries, Sullivan said, “offer a lifeline to people trying to adapt to challenging economic circumstance by providing technology training and online resources for employment.”