Seligman library to close, offer books digitally

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

City plans to use space for court proceedings

After much consideration, the city of Seligman is taking steps to close its part-time library, which has been available to residents at city hall since about 2007.

The reason, according to Seligman City Clerk Brian Nichols, is lack of use or demand for books and materials, and lack of volunteers to staff the library.

According to Nichols, the last paid employee the city had to staff the library left to take another job, and since then, the library has been run by volunteers.

"It's connected to [city hall], but after that, the [board of aldermen] changed it to where it was volunteer-run, and we don't have any volunteers to keep it going," he said. "It's just not in high demand, the Internet is in demand. There's a lot of opposition if we do close the library. The volunteers quit because there wasn't anyone coming in. Before that, it was open on Fridays only and before that three days a week."

Nichols said the city set up OverDrive, an online, public library consortium that's digital, which allows residents to check out books the same way, but by downloading them electronically.

"They have live streaming video and online books," Nichols said. "It costs the city $1,700 a year and $1,000 of that goes into the purchase of new material. They can go to www.overdrive.com. We've been doing it for a year now. I did 129 library cards that have signed up for it and they're being active."

Checking out items electronically and using the Internet has remained popular, but people checking out books and materials has significantly declined.

Nichols said since October 2013, only 44 books had been checked out. Movies and DVDs are more popular, but only two were checked out the month of July.

"The last couple of months are not really good numbers to go by because [the library] hasn't been open," Nichols said. "Even before that, I had data I presented to the board and there wasn't a lot of material being checked out. And, even at that time, we had a paid employee that was running it before we switched over to the volunteers.

"This is not just a spur of the moment thing. It's been coming. I could probably go back in history, but it's been a long time before we've had a request for new material, at least a good two years. And, I've always held to, if you like to read this series, we'll get it for you."

Nichols said the only people they've heard from on the issue of closing the library are a couple who do not want to see it go, but who are not coming in to check out books.

"The notice has been out there for awhile, with no feedback," he said.

The board of aldermen held a public hearing Monday night on the issue, but no one attended or had any comments.

"There wasn't an official vote for closure, so we're going to explore ways to donate the material to where it's beneficial to another organization or to where the public can come in and take any of the books they want to," Nichols said. "I don't have a confirmed date yet. Once we finish with that, then we'll contact organizations to see if we can give away the material for donation or repurposing. We'll go that route and if all else fails, then we'll look at recycling centers."

In the meantime, the city will continue offering Internet usage during business hours of 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and offer OverDrive for checking out items digitally.

"They can give me a call and I can set up a library card for logging in to OverDrive," Nichols said. "Then, from their house, they can go to www.overdrive.com, punch in their card number, and download material. It's all digital, so it has an expiration date. For instance, if they check it out and it has a two-week expiration, then its no longer available."

Nichols said with the space left over after the materials are removed, the city is looking to expand its courtroom.

"Our courtroom is too small for what we need," he said. "If the library goes by the wayside, we can convert that into a court and counsel room for the board of aldermen. We'd have just a little bit of construction. That's an idea we're toying around with, granting there's enough public support. We need more room for court. It's the same issue going on with every small town around."

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