More users as libraries embrace new technology

SOPHIE SPEER
Last updated 05:00 18/02/2013

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Wellingtonians are bucking the trend as libraries around the region enjoy a rise in use.

While Porirua, Masterton and Upper Hutt are seeing increased usage, Wellington Public Libraries has noted a 20 per cent decrease in new enrolments in the past five years.

An increase in the information available online is one of the reasons cited for the drop in user numbers.

Porirua City Libraries manager Brian Anderson said it was seeing a big increase in the number of online transactions, particularly since it joined its collection with those of Lower Hutt, Kapiti, Wellington Institute of Technology (WelTec), and Whitireia Libraries through a Smart system.

"Our borrowers are able to access a significantly larger pool of materials - up from 150,000 items that Porirua holds to 500,000 items held by the Smart collaboration. And we are getting very positive feedback from borrowers using the service."

In 2007, it had 2397 new users, compared with 5476 this year. The new users are predominantly aged between 5 and 14, and almost two-thirds are female.

Wellington Public Libraries acting manager John Stears said its fall in new borrowers was partly attributed to the fact that memberships used to expire, to allow libraries to check customers' details, but they no longer did so.

In 2007, 2.8 million people entered the library, and in the year to June, that number had dropped to 2.6 million.

Mr Stears said many people used online tools to browse and reserve books, decreasing the need for physical visits to the libraries.

Masterton District Library manager Sandy Green said it was seeing an increase in the number of people visiting and borrowing from the library. Circulation figures were up from 276,167 in 2007-08 to 290,601 in 2011-12. Most library users are over 60, but this was due to an above-average number of over-65s living in the region.

"Fiction reading is an area of growth with many readers saying that poor quality television programming prompts them to read more," Ms Green said.

Upper Hutt City Library manager Debbie Duncan said that in the last three years, visits to the library had increased by 14.7 per cent to October 2011, while in the past year they have increased by 11.2 per cent.

The key to keeping the library relevant was to keep up with changes as users demand new technology and services, she said.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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