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Use of library holds strong despite COVID

GLOVERSVILLE — Despite its closure to visitors for four months due to the coronavirus, use of services at the Gloversville Public Library over the past year held strong from previous years according to data compiled in the library’s annual report for 2019-20.

Library Director Valerie Acklin on Tuesday presented highlights from the recently prepared annual report to the Board of Trustees, noting that the report was compiled in a new format due to the dramatically different circumstances of the fiscal year ending in June covered in the annual report from those of previous years.

“It’s a hard year and it kind of stands alone. You can’t really compare it with anything that’s come before and it will be difficult to compare what comes next year,” said Acklin. “Very difficult to put our numbers in the narrative that I know has been done before so I tried something new and tried to make it easily understandable.”

Although the library closed to visitors on March 17 before offering only curbside pickup service beginning on June 21 and then reopening for restricted browsing on July 20 after the end of the fiscal year covered in the report, visits to the library remained strong for 2019-20 at 53,282. Before the library closed its doors for the final quarter of the fiscal year, visitation was on pace to meet or even exceed the 68,776 visitors to the library in 2018-19.

The library experienced growth in hits on the library’s website at 9,538 and computer/wi-fi use at 22,053, Acklin pointed out, as the library shifted to providing remote services in the spring.

Attendance of programs and events over the past fiscal year nearly doubled from the previous fiscal year, coming in at 11,781 for 2019-20, up from 6,870 in 2018-19. The library regularly hosted in-person events throughout the year before March when staff members quickly introduced virtual programs and events and reimagined the summer reading program.

“Our meeting attendance was very, very strong because we had virtual programs over the summer and that’s not even including all of the children who took part in the story time stroll because that happened 24/7 almost and we weren’t able to keep track of numbers,” said Acklin.

The Board of Trustees members commended staff for their efforts to launch an array of virtual programming that included several performance hosted over Facebook live, a regular story time and a remote craft program that saw patrons pick-up craft kits to complete at home with direction from Sally Fancher over the library’s Facebook page.

The library also partnered with local businesses to organize a summer story time stroll that saw families visit downtown businesses on their own where weekly activities were posted in locations that could be viewed outdoors at any time.

“I just think we ought to thank the staff for their hard work, they really did some wonderful things,” commented board Vice President Merry Dunn Brown.

“Positive experience throughout the whole shutdown, watching Facebook videos and stuff with Sally, it was very good, and I think we’ve adapted well,” agreed Trustee Greg Niforos.

While library staff are looking forward to the safe resumption of in-person activities in the future, Acklin noted the library will also plan to continue offering remote programming.

“Virtual programming is never going to go away. It always now from this point forward is going to be a part of what we do,” said Acklin. “The fact of the matter is, we did reach new people that way, people who if we hold these programs in the building will never come in.”

While Acklin has previously stated that in-person programming will not take place inside of the library through at least the end of 2020 due to the coronavirus, whenever the library is able to safely resume activities and events inside of the building Acklin said the library will strive to strike a balance between offering in-person and remote programming.

“We have invested a lot of time and effort into building these programs and there’s no reason not to continue with them. Will they be the majority of what we do? No, but nothing we’re doing is going to be wasted. If we didn’t learn from this situation, it would be foolish,” said Acklin.

The library is currently gearing up to launch new remote programming for the fall geared towards patrons of all ages, including a new grab and go craft program for adults that will begin this week.

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