Cape library's usage up; promotional campaign planned

Thursday, May 13, 2010
Ernest Woodard views a multimedia website Wednesday in the computer lab of the Cape Girardeau Public Library. (Fred Lynch)

One year after it opened, Betty Martin considers the rebuilt Cape Girardeau Public Library a success.

With more than twice as many computers available to the public, Internet use has more than doubled. The number of items checked out by patrons is up 26 percent, and 60 percent of the books, DVDs and CDs are being checked at self-service terminals.

She can't be sure, but Martin thinks that foot traffic has doubled as well. With additional meeting spaces ranging from small study rooms to larger gathering places, the number of scheduled events increased from 240 adult meetings in 2006-2007 to 542 in the past year.

Despite those measures of success, Martin wants more. A recent consultant's report prepared by Hendrickson Business Advisors showed that people who haven't visited the library or have done so only once have a much less favorable impression than regular users, whether they hold a library card or not. The report was based on surveys of library users with a card and the public at large, both in focus groups and through written surveys.

"There is a perception among some people that public libraries are for children," Martin said. "No matter what your age, we have something for you."

The construction project cost about $9 million. The library was doubled in size, from 19,000 to 39,000 square feet. The project included additional conference rooms, bringing the total to five. Parking was reconfigured, a drive-up window for picking up and dropping off material was added and the children's area was greatly expanded.

During construction, the library was in temporary quarters.

No major event marking the anniversary is planned, Martin said. But she does want to begin a public awareness campaign to promote library use for all ages, emphasizing contemporary DVD and CD collections, the availability of popular magazines and new books and that the library is a quiet place to get things done. The campaign will use billboards, direct mail and other advertising to attract new users.

"If they are made aware of what we have, maybe they will think the library does have something to offer," Martin said.

In addition, the report suggests that longer operating hours -- being open on Sunday in summer and later on Fridays when the library closes at 5 p.m. -- would help bring more people.

Two Southeast Missouri State University students -- one a middle-aged man returning to school to learn new job skills and another a traditional student in her fourth year of study -- worked quietly at the library Wednesday. Both said they came to the library to escape the busy atmosphere at the campus library.

"I like the ambience," said Kevin Hindman, who is studying to become a teacher after working for AmerenUE. "It is a nice place to sit and study, and it is not loud."

Hindman said it was easy to work at the library and he enjoys the open architecture with large windows.

Regina Bollinger, who was busy on a research project, also said she likes using the library as a place to study. A Jackson resident, she said it isn't easy to go home between classes.

"The atmosphere here just seems friendly to everybody," she said.

rkeller@semissourian.com

388-3642

Pertinent address:

711 N. Clark Ave., Cape Girardeau, MO

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