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Public input prompts changes at libraries in the townships

Elmira branch library staff members Carol Campbell (left) and Bette Cummings will be working different hours and handling various new programs suggested by the public. [elena maystruk / the observer

Responding to input from the public, the Region of Waterloo Library will be making some changes at branches in the townships, including longer hours and more diverse programming.

The improvements reflect user feedback, including the results of a survey carried out last year, said Lucille Bish, director of community services, noting the library has been looking into making changes for some time.

“We were able to partner with the Region of Waterloo’s citizen service group to use some of their resources to undertake a full survey to better understand what both our patrons and non-users are interested in seeing at the library,” she said in an interview this week.

Mulling over the results since last September, library management decided to streamline hours of operation at the various branches, as currently each branch is open at different times. There is also talk of introducing more youth and adult programming.

Elmira branch library staff members Carol Campbell (left) and Bette Cummings will be working different hours and handling various new programs suggested by the public.  [elena maystruk / the observer
Elmira branch library staff members Carol Campbell (left) and Bette Cummings will be working different hours and handling various new programs suggested by the public. [elena maystruk / the observer
Overall, staff are happy with the comments they received.

“[Results] showed first of all, that the people think that the libraries are doing a great job. We had overall about a nine-out-of-ten rating for our service,” Bish said.

The public survey showed that patrons were happy with the caliber of service offered by library staff. Bette Cummings of the Elmira branch said patrons see the library as an important part of the community.

“We try to serve the community, we listen to what our patrons say to us, we try to be friendly and helpful,” she said.

The Elmira branch library has already incorporated an electronic sign on its door so that patrons can have a clearer view of the schedule. This allows people to see from a distance if the library is open or closed for the day, Cummings explained.

Plans for new programs are still in the preliminary stages, but Cummings said all-day kindergarten, with its impact on youth programming, may be one of the deciding factors. She suggested mom-and-baby programs as potential additions, for example.

The community survey also noted that patrons want to see more book clubs, hardcover books and a larger variety of e-books and online resources for adults. It also called for more youth involvement.

“For teens it’s a little bit more challenging to think of what will engage them. There could be some practical things like résumé writing, for example, or even more opportunities for them to be able to get more volunteer hours,” Bish said.

The 1,200 households surveyed from four townships also requested more morning hours at their respective branches. Bish said the current hours can be hard for people to remember as they are different at almost every branch.

“What people said was that they wanted more consistent, easier to remember hours. Overall, across the system we’ve been able to add 12 hours a week in total and that’s over 600 more hours a year,” she said.

The hours will become more consistent for the library’s rural community branches, with changes in place after Labour Day.

Elmira, New Hamburg, Ayr, Wellesley and Baden branches will be closed on Mondays and open on Tuesdays through Saturdays at 10 a.m. Closing time will be 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays across the board as well. More details will be released by the library as the changes are finalized.

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