Want to use a library computer? So does the rest of the county, seemingly.
As a result of the recession, citizens have flocked to the Madison County Library for free internet use, making the computers there a hot commodity.
“There’s a lot of people that Internet is one thing that they’ve cut from their household budget,” Madison County Library computer specialist Alisa Claytor said.
Patrons logged 34,606 computer sessions in 2008 — double the use from 2005 — and are averaging around 3,000 computer visits a month this year.
That means the library’s 17 public use machines are constantly occupied.
“Busy,” Claytor said, describing the scene at the library. “We stay busy.”
Like a restaurant on a weekend night, sometimes there’s a waiting list. Those wanting computer time must take a number.
The library used to assign nos. 1-17, but employees soon started running out of numbers to give out.
“So we had to make nos. 1-30 because we had so many people waiting for the computers,” said Madison County Library manager Suzi DeGrasse.
Each ticket allows users an hour, generally. Most of the time, those occupying the computers are students taking online classes or job hunters.
The library has arranged for a specialist to teach a course next month on résumé writing and Internet job searches to accommodate this niche, Claytor said.
LIBRARY NUMBERS UP THE PAST FOUR YEARS
The overall traffic at the library started increasing four years ago when the local economy began to struggle, DeGrasse said.
Back in 2005, DeGrasse and her staff expected a quiet period after the summer reading program concluded.
“That never happened,” she said. “It never slowed down … And it hasn’t slowed down since then, to the point that we’ve had to hire additional people.”
The library added an additional evening worker, “because it was a madhouse,” DeGrasse said.
The library’s overall circulation of materials has nearly doubled since 2005.
And people just aren’t after books.
The library has become a de facto Blockbuster Video during the recession since rental of its VHS tapes and DVDs is free with a library card.
People can rent up to six tapes or DVDs per card or 12 per family.
“A lot of people don’t have cable or dish,” Claytor said. “That’s another thing they’ve cut. Instead of going to the video store, they’re coming to us.”
As times toughen, the library seems to becoming more popular.
DeGrasse said she’s seeing entire families coming through the doors now.
“The kids are doing homework on the computers; the mom is working on a resume; the dad is applying for jobs online and then they’re checking out movies to watch at home and books to read,” she said.