Wednesday, July 18, 2012
A little more than a year ago the city of Collegedale was unsure of whether or not it would have a library after the Chattanooga Public Library pulled its support from the branch.
To keep the local library open, the City Commission approved a property tax increase for Collegedale residents and a fee for non-residents who choose to obtain a library card, enabling the library to reopen two weeks after the Chattanooga Public Library branch closed.
“We are so happy to have the library open,” said library Director Joanne Stanfield. “The city of Collegedale has absolutely embraced the library and they are very quick to help with everything from landscaping to our facility and resources.”
Although Stanfield said the charge for non-resident library cards has been the new library’s biggest challenge over the course of the last year, she said the library has brought in $21,215 in revenue from the charge implemented for non-residents — several hundred of whom have signed up to be able to continue using the library.
“It’s been a real shock for people, and we hate to see them walk out unhappy,” said Stanfield. “We’ve had people leave crying and mad and all of that, but the good news is that we’re open and that in many cases the cost for non-residents is probably less than what Collegedale residents pay in increased taxes.”
The non-resident library card fee and a special summer reading card that has brought in an additional 164 temporary non-resident library cards this summer have been an integral part of sustaining the library over the course of its first year in operation.
“The real test will be seeing how many people renew their non-resident library card, but I think so far people have been happy with the library,” said Stanfield.
Becoming an unaffiliated library has allowed the Collegedale Library a new sense of control that wasn’t present while part of the Chattanooga system, according to Stanfield. Although she said becoming autonomous came with some challenges for employees as they learned new processes required for an independent library, the change also created a newfound sense of freedom with daily operations.
“When we see a change that needs to be made, we just do it,” said children’s librarian Judy Luster. “We now have the ability to do what serves our people the best without asking for permission first.”
For the first time ever, the staff of the Collegedale Library developed its own summer reading program. There are currently an estimated 550 children enrolled and an additional 225 adults and teens participating.
Becoming an independent library has also allowed the Collegedale Library to partner with the East Ridge and Signal Mountain libraries to form an e-book coalition called the Hamilton Digital Library.
“Our goal is to get e-books up and running for patrons in the next couple of months,” said Stanfield. “The idea is that all three of the libraries will have a joint collection of e-books and patrons of the three libraries will have access to all of those.”
The Collegedale Library, Stanfield said, has also become a place for the community to gather.
“We have lots of different groups of people that come in and use our space for tutoring or for small meetings,” she said. “We have a lot of people who just come in to read the paper or a magazine, and if you read a lot the library is much cheaper than buying books, plus we have movies, computers, printing capability and free Wi-Fi.”