October has been a big month at the Emmett Public Library. Not only did they unveil a new outdoor apparatus last week that will effectively expand service hours for the heavily used library, it received a statewide honor as well.
The Idaho Library Association announced that it has selected Emmett Public Library as is Public Library of the Year.
The honor is presented annually by the state association “to a public library, library system, or network that exhibits distinguished achievement in service, the development of innovative partnerships, or the implementation of physical facilities resulting in better services,” according to a release from the ILA.
Among the items considered for the selection appear to be the remarkable increase in services and usage at the Emmett Public Library during the past two years when many facilities have been curtailing or limiting services due to COVID restrictions or advisories.
In its release announcing the honors, the ILA cited nomination information it received.
“The Emmett Public Library, under Director Alyce Kelley, has made it a priority to serve our community at 110%. Over the last couple of years it has been challenging. By May 2020, our library joined the pioneering movement and through collaborative efforts with the Idaho Commission, City of Emmett staff, CDC, SWDH, and our Library Board, the Emmett Public Library was among the first public libraries to open our library.”
“We certainly made a lot of changes to adapt to health concerns,” said Library Director Alyce Kelley. “We were fortunate to have a lot of cooperation from the community which allowed us meet those changing needs.”
Emmett Mayor Gordon Petrie in an open letter to the City Council and the community last week expounded upon the successes of the library.
“Staff reinvented the summer Reading Program and continued their outreach to underserved families. Staff also continued to promote literacy and offered STEM kits to the summer reading families. Indeed, 200-plus “take and make” kits were handed out each week through an eight-week cycle.” Petrie wrote. “On the reading side of the program, over 300 registered children racked up over 193,000 minutes of reading. Remember, Emmett only has a population of 7000.
“Without question, we get more bang for the buck from our library. This is the fruit of how the staff is a real team, eager to serve, and always looks for better ways to get tasks accomplished. They, indeed, live up to their motto of being the “Heart of the Community””
And the library has now added more “bang for its buck” with the unveiling of a service patio in front of the library that includes an automated remote locker system.
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The 17-unit, all season, outdoor locker system will extend library accessibility by overing self-service options like browsing, pick-up and returns 24 hours a day. For those who are unable to come into the library during normal 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. hours, items can be checked out online and then accessed through the new remote system by scanning your library card.
The automated lockers were made possible by a Community Challenge Grant of $13,518 from the AARP Idaho.
Kelley calls the new lockers a “best practices” measure that other libraries have tried and shown great success with. “We found that it has been a great asset elsewhere and we like tried and true practices when we find them.”
The service patio creates all weather access to the lockers and even creates an additional meeting space for the library.
“With the incorporation of the benches we have another seating place,” Kelley said. “It can be utilized for small informal meetings, and just a nice place to sit when the when the weather is good. You have full WiFi access on the patio.”
Kelley deflects personal credit for the success of the library. “This has been something that has been growing here for years. I look at the 37 years of dedicated service from Loretta Lewis. Even now in retirement she is always willing to be here to support our efforts. The support we get from the community through the Friends of the Library efforts is unmatched.”
The Library has experienced a significant increase in usage, as reflected in numerous pieces of data. Total circulation of items – books, audio, video, games, etc. – reached 133,082 in 2021. Up from a 2017 count of 66,172 items. The number of patrons – both Emmett residents and non-residents – has risen from 5,318 in 2017 to 7,818 in 2021.
While there are has been an increase in demand for many different forms of media, physical books are still the center of the library. Checkouts of books has nearly doubled in the past five years from 48,412 in 2017 to 91,399 in 2021 and the trend is consistent in all age groups.
The growth is even more remarkable in that the staffing levels have not changed during the same period of time.
Petrie wrote “they are an extraordinary team, deserving of every consideration you can give them for Idaho’s Library of the Year, as each month, they still continue to increase circulation, services and programs.”