Take that, Google: Library still thriving Print
Community
Written by DAVE BOEHLER   
Wednesday, 08 November 2017 20:47

Oscar Grady finds ways to remain relevant by keeping up with the times

    For those who feel the library could become another endangered way of life because of the internet, think again.
    “I wouldn’t say that,” Saukville resident Heidi Rettler said. “I would just say you have to be enlightened to the wonders of the library.”
    The 48-year-old Rettler uses the Oscar Grady Library multiple times a week, and it isn’t just to take out books.
    She’s held weekly Girl Scout troop meetings there for five years, is a member of the library’s cooking club and even made a bird house there from an old paperback book.
    “I was like, ‘oh, that is super cool,’” Rettler said.
    Unlike daily newspapers, snail mail and major shopping chains that are slowly shrinking or disappearing because of the world wide web, the library in Saukville is thriving.
    In 2016, a total of 4,333 children participated in story times and other events. According to Library Director Jen Gerber, that is the highest number ever recorded in the building.
    Teen and adult programming increased 41% last year compared to 2015, visitors to the library’s website were up 10.1%, more than 10,000 residents used the library’s computers, and 61,012 people came to Oscar Grady, which is an increase of 3% and equates to approximately 200 patrons per day.
    And Gerber says 2017 has been even better.
    But how and why, especially with Google on phones, watches and tablets?
    “Libraries are not places of ready-reference any longer,” Gerber said. “They have evolved into something bigger. There are some who like to portray libraries as dying institutions, being in the final throes, that the digital world has made no longer necessary. Those who think that like to reflect back on memories they have of the library as just a place that housed books and were quiet—a building and an idea that kind of stood still in time.
    “But libraries are not that place any longer. They have evolved, changed, grown, and we now find that we are busier than ever. Yes, libraries still house books. But those books are not archived and put on a shelf for safe-keeping. Those books are circulated within the community, along with DVDs, media, books on CD, music CDs. The newest best-seller by John Green, the newest Marvel movie on DVD, the entire series of ‘Stranger Things’ or ‘Breaking Bad.’ In this community, not everyone’s financial situation could afford them a subscription to Netflix, cable TV, the newest $25 hardcover or access to the internet. They rely on their library for this.”
    They also rely on crafting or after-school events, instructional courses and workforce placement sessions, among other things.
    The library was given the 2016 Wisconsin Governor’s Award for Innovation in recognition of its Digital Media Conversion Lab. It was the first such lab in the state that provides all of the equipment and training necessary to view and digitally preserve pictures, slides and film.
    Television station CBS-58 recently did a story on the library’s collection of over 250 donated vinyl records that can be checked out like a book or movie.
    And one can even visit the Milwaukee County Zoo for free just by stopping at the library. Oscar Grady circulates transferable admission passes plus parking for up to eight people for all Saukville residents with a library card.
    “These are all services that are unique to our library,” Gerber said. “Other libraries not only across the state, but also across the country, have tried to replicate (the Digital Media Conversion Lab) as a service for their own communities. The zoo pass is new for us this year and we have had an excellent response to that as well. Families love it. And the vinyl record collection fills in a void for music lovers who may have never heard this format before. With vinyl records seeing a surge in popularity again, it’s great to be able to offer this collection to an entirely new generation. There is nothing quite like the sound of vinyl and I think some are hearing music in this format for the first time.”
    There is also one more thing that gets people like Rettler to the library.
    “The staff is amazing, the staff is wonderful,” she said. “We may be a small town here, but the librarians really take the time to get to know the patrons. It doesn’t matter if you’re a 5-year-old kid or a 50-year-old adult.
    “They’re so responsive to patrons and are super helpful.”