Before arriving in the library I held some preconceived notions about what a typical library should be and look like. Upon entering the library, my assumptions were quickly denounced. Once I was given a tour of the facility, I was completely amazed at the vast amount of technology in this place. There were:
- Computer labs equipped with all the latest technologies and/or programs such as:Microsoft Package-Excel, Power Point, Front Page, Word, Publisher; Adobe Dreamweaver; Lotus Package, etc.
- Auditorium with state of the art sound systems, projector, wireless microphone, portable podium with ability to control all medias in the auditorium.
- Computer training courses on file management, computer security, Microsoft programs, HTML, Email basics, etc.
Not only was the center centrally located in downtown Akron, but the hours were convenient as well. The library is open Monday through Thursday 9am-9pm; Friday 9am-6pm; Saturday 9am-5pm and Sunday 1pm-5pm. In short the library is open seven days a week, except for holidays. There is a certified media specialist on site during all of those hours except on Sunday. On Sunday there is a student assistant there from the University of Akron; she is currently enrolled in their Library and Information Science Master's program.
They have various programs that they are held year round at the main location as well as the branch locations. They are based on age, skill level, library location and interests. They have family(Grandparent's Day Craft, Toddler Story Time, After School Fun, Family Movie Nights); special interest (Journey to Freedom, Self Defense Basics, Angels Among Us, Hearth and Home)and school programs (Computer Training, Decorate Your Locker, After-school Fun, Read with Willow the Dog). The best part is, there is usually no charge for the programs and if there is one, it is very minimal ($5.00 or less).
There is also an variety of computer training programs that are available to the public at no cost. However the class sizes are limited to 15 people, so you must get there at least 1/2 hour before the class start time to ensure entrance into the class. What I thought was great, was that on the computer training website one can view and/or print out handout materials to supplement their learning endeavors. This is very beneficial to those who learn by reading and doing. It will also allow for patrons to look over the materials before attending class and get a feel for the material beforehand. The library even offer online tutorials online. I felt that this site was very informative and useful to all patrons.
For patrons that are deaf and would like to attend the computer training classes, there is a interpreter available but one must notify the library before attending the class so this can be arranged in advance. The schedule is posted every three months and programs are created and developed at least 6 months in advance. However for programs that non-library employees would like to utilize the library for, they will need to notify Mark Derr who is the marketing events supervisor at least 14 business days in advance to do so.
The libraries polices are very thorough. There are policies from borrowing library materials, the library meeting rooms to patron behavior guidelines. However, there is not a handout that is readily available to patrons; they have to access the libraries homepage to view the material. There is a short policy handout given to new patrons when they receive their library card about Internet usage and borrowing of books. I think that the policies should be more visible, so that patrons are more aware of them.
I was shown MANY book collections while at the library. They have collections for just about every topic that you can think of. Some of the more popular collections are as follows:
- Arts & Entertainment
- Business & Government
- Science & Technology
- Popular Culture
- History & Humanities
- Special Collections
- Language & Literature
- Religion & Philosophy
- Language & Literature
- Legal Information
Each collection is organized and ran by a certified librarian who specializes in that particular concentration. I thought that was very helpful because he/she is very knowledgeable of the collection and should be able to effectively recommend materials to patrons. This is extremely important when collaborating with teachers on lesson planning. The librarian will be able to align materials that will have substance and usefulness for the classroom. This also very beneficial when teachers are able to bring the students to the library to work on class assignments. Because the collections are divided by subject content, that means that the librarian and teacher can host the students in one area and maintain a visual on all students.
UNIQUE SERVICES OFFERED
The library has a lot of unique services that are available for their patrons, the most popular ones are as follows:
- ACORN/Internet Service- known as the Akron Community Online Resource Network: offers access to local/community information; Internet access and free web hosting for non-profit groups/organization.
- Ask-A-Librarian- a portal that patrons can access to ask brief questions to librarians. It has a 24 hour response time where they either answer your question or suggestions of where to look.
- Book Club to Go- canvass bag with 10 paperback books for those in the book discussion groups.
- Bookmobile & Van Services- vans visit preschools, day cares, Head Start, elementary schools and senior housing centers. Also there is a Library Express Delivery Service that is available for patrons who cannot come into the library because of medical reasons.
- Books in Boxes- a set of children's books that can be checked out up to 4 weeks. There are specific titles that are included in this program.
- E-mail Notification- a patron can sign up to receive e-mail notification when a book is available, due or ready for pick up.
- Kits for Kids- comes in a blue bag with 6 books, videos, audio cassettes and a toy or puzzle all centered around a theme. Comes with an activity sheet and suggestions for other materials that relate to the theme.
- Know it Now 24/7- a comprehensive reference service that connects to librarians to answer your questions.
- Learning Express Library- interactive online learning platform with immediate scoring, answer explanations and individualized analysis of your results.
- Patent & Trademark Services- access to resources from the U.S Patent & trademark Office granted since 1790.
The staffing at the library ranged from Directors down to student assistants. All ultimately reporting to the Board of Trustees. The staff's educational background ranged from associate to master degrees. Each department has different qualifications and specification for their staff members.
The librarians must have their master's degrees in order to work in the library and their library media staff member must have proper certifications before they can be employed at ACSPL.
Overall the staff seemed to be very knowledgeable of their job duties and was very welcoming to my questions. They seemed to have a passion for their jobs or careers and was eager to share their expertise.
I was not able to gather current information about their budget, but I was told that it does not change much. The information that was given to me was finance report from the 2006 fiscal year. I was amazed to find out that the library collects over $600,000 a year in fines and fees. There expenditures totaled $25,008,826 which includes salaries, supplies, library materials, etc. Specifically:
- Salaries and benefits = $15,050,438
- Supplies = $$587,348
- Purchased and contracted services = $4,809,714
- Library materials and information = $3,440,102
- Capital outlay = $930,010
- Other expenditures = $191,214
Interesting enough the number of registered card holders jumped from 192,755 in 1998 to 309,111 in 2006. There was 140 available computers in the library in 1998; as of 2006 there are 475 and to date there are over 650 currently in the library. The last tidbit of information that was shared with me was that the operating expenditures on increased $500,000 or so from 1998 to 2006.
Overall, the visit to the Akron Summit County Public Library was quite an enlightening experience. I would recommend it to all those who live around the area to visit it sometime and see what all it has to offer.
Till the next time.....