Library issues down; downloads up

Giselle Steiner, of Dunedin, looks at a book at Dunedin City Library. Photo by Craig Baxter.
Giselle Steiner, of Dunedin, looks at a book at Dunedin City Library. Photo by Craig Baxter.
Visits and issues at most Otago libraries are declining as readers shift from printed to electronic material.

Dunedin City Council library services manager Bernie Hawke said Dunedin's public libraries were visited 7.5% fewer times (1,119,008 to 1,034,638) and had 5.1% fewer items loaned (1,639,839 to 1,555,617) between 2011-12 and 2012-13.

Total loans included downloads of electronic books, audio, music, videos and journals available online.

The downward trends were not unique to Dunedin and were evident at libraries nationwide because people were downloading more library items, resulting in a decline in library issues and visits, Mr Hawke said.

The council had embraced the change and had recently introduced an electronic book collection of about 1600 titles to the catalogue.

''Rather than fighting that trend of electronic usage, we are actually supporting it and we are encouraging people to borrow electronic materials and we are redirecting some resource away from what we would have otherwise spent on printed books to downloadable content and that trend will increase over time,'' Mr Hawke said.

The decrease in physical borrowing would not mean fewer staff were needed, he said.

Clutha District Council spokesman Jamie Shaw said the district's public libraries had 8.7% fewer items loaned (172,636 to 157,425) and 9% fewer visits (88,918 to 80,914).

The council was not concerned about the downward trends and it had not investigated changing any policies or levels of service at the libraries.

''While there are trends for more information being available online, many of our rural communities do not yet have reasonable access to broadband.

''Therefore, for rural communities such as ours, libraries are expected to remain focal points for the community for longer than they might in larger areas.''

The Clutha District Council libraries, with the exception of the Balclutha Library, were in the same building as council service centres, which allowed the council to maintain the library service ''at little extra cost''.

Waitaki District Council libraries manager Philip van Zijl said although there were nearly 10% fewer visits to the Oamaru, Palmerston, Hampden. Kurow, Otematata and Omarama libraries, there were 1% more issues.

The number of electronic book downloads at the libraries had ''grown phenomenally'', Mr van Zijl said.

Central Otago District Council community services manager Anne Pullar said the fewer number of issues at the Central Otago libraries could be because of electronic books, which had been available since last year.


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