Washington County libraries adapt to the digital age

Santa Clara Library, Santa Clara, Utah, Jan. 23, 2014 | Photo by Alexa Verdugo Morgan, St. George News

WASHINGTON COUNTY – Libraries are more than hallways filled with books; they’re treasure troves that spark intelligence and imagination in readers of any age. And perhaps best of all? Nearly everything is free; all you need is a library card.

Cassidy Malufau’s family visits the library at least once a week. “It’s important to check out books with your kids because it gives them an activity to do instead of just turning the TV on,” she said. “It gets my kids excited to read.”

Santa Clara Library, Santa Clara, Utah, Jan. 23, 2014 | Photo by Alexa Verdugo Morgan, St. George News
Santa Clara Library, Santa Clara, Utah, Jan. 23, 2014 | Photo by Alexa Verdugo Morgan, St. George News

“It teaches (my children) the importance of reading, responsibility and respecting books,” Nadia Y. Crawford said. “The library is important to me because it was one of my favorite things to do when I was small. My babies love the library.”

Today, libraries offer many tools and programs to remain a valuable community resource even in the digital age.

Staying relevant

With e-books and other technological advancements rapidly gaining popularity as an alternative to traditional reading materials, it’s not a question of if, but how, libraries adapt.

“We have embraced e-books, databases and other similar technology,” Washington County Library System director Joel Tucker said. “As the library seeks to offer relevant material for the residents of Washington County, we realize that people are buying Kindles, Nooks, iPads, iPods, smartphones and a wide assortment of other possible devices. As part of our collection development, we are investing into e-books and audiobooks with the intent to offer that mobile technology to the public.”

Currently, the library uses a trio of free e-book apps, each with something a little different:

  • Library cardholders can use Axis 360 to browse over 100 titles in the fiction, nonfiction, children’s and teen sections on the iPhone, the iPad, Android tablets and Windows PCs.
  • OneClickDigital provides a far more comprehensive catalog of both e-books and online audio books for the Kindle Fire, Nook, iPhone, iTouch, iPad, Android devices and Windows and Mac PCs.
  • Access all of Pioneer: Utah’s Online Library via OverDrive, an app with thousands of e-books, audio books and videos, available for every major mobile and desktop platform.

Anyone needing help navigating these apps can contact their local library for assistance.

An online catalog allows patrons to conveniently search for, request and renew checked out materials. The library also offers access to more than a dozen free online resources, including ReferenceUSA, Heritage Quest, Utah’s Newspapers Portal, the Student Research Center and UtahFutures.

“The Washington County Library System (provides) a safe place for the community to find information, learn and grow,” said Abe King, manager of the Santa Clara Library. “Washington County’s libraries are here for everyone.”

Washington County’s libraries

Santa Clara Library, Santa Clara, Utah, Jan. 23, 2014 | Photo by Alexa Verdugo Morgan, St. George News
Santa Clara Library, Santa Clara, Utah, Jan. 23, 2014 | Photo by Alexa Verdugo Morgan, St. George News

Local residents are served by seven branches of the Washington County Library System: St. George, Santa Clara, Hurricane, Springdale, New Harmony, Washington City and Enterprise. Each offers a unique catalog of materials, along with activities.

“By listening to the community we serve, we can offer services, programs and a collection that is vibrant and responsive,” King said.

Among the many features of the library system are:

  • Story Time for young children
  • Arts & Crafts for kids and teens
  • Young Adults Club
  • Book clubs for numerous interests (anime and manga, classic literature, foreign literature, contemporary books, young adult books, etc.)
  • Seminars and workshops
  • “Meet the Author” events
  • New books
  • New movies and TV shows on DVD
  • Materials en Español
  • Public computers
  • WiFi
  • Community rooms
  • Private study rooms
  • Printing/copying/faxing
  • Resources for job seekers
  • Help for students working on research projects

“My question is always, ‘What could we provide that we aren’t currently offering?’” Tucker said. “If there’s something you would like to see, bring the idea to your local library and we will do our best to make it a reality.”

“We’re really lucky to live somewhere where there’s a great library system,” Santa Clara Library staff member Andrea Johnson said.

If you still can’t find what you’re looking for, the Dixie State University Library at Holland Centennial Commons is another option, with cards available to Washington County residents for $25 per year.

Funding and budget

The library is truly a community resource. Funded through a mill levy, every taxpaying citizen of Washington County helps keep it open. Many volunteers also contribute their time and talents.

“That’s why we want to offer the information and programs that our residents find valuable,” Tucker said. “It is our intent to wisely manage the funds entrusted to us to provide this library service to our patrons in an effective manner.”

Santa Clara Library, Santa Clara, Utah, Jan. 23, 2014 | Photo by Alexa Verdugo Morgan, St. George News
Santa Clara Library, Santa Clara, Utah, Jan. 23, 2014 | Photo by Alexa Verdugo Morgan, St. George News

In 2012, the operational cost of the library system was around $700,000, plus $2 million in wages and benefits. An additional $350,000, approximately 15 percent of the budget, was spent developing the catalog.

Community events

On Feb. 15, the Washington County Library System will host a Super Reader Party in the park behind the St. George Library (88 West 100 South) from 10 a.m. to noon. Highlights include a Science with Seuss program, a mime performance and bouncy castles. Children from preschool through fifth grade who have accomplished their reading requirement for January will receive free pizza. 

1,000 Books Before Kindergarten is a new library program that encourages all Washington County families to jump-start their children’s literacy and give them the tools to be successful, lifelong readers. Register at any local library, track your child’s progress and receive prizes as they keep reading.

“We want to make reading and literacy fun,” Johnson said.

Resources

For more information, visit the Washington County Library System website.

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Email: avmorgan@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.

Santa Clara Library, Santa Clara, Utah, Jan. 23, 2014 | Photo by Alexa Verdugo Morgan, St. George News
Santa Clara Library, Santa Clara, Utah, Jan. 23, 2014 | Photo by Alexa Verdugo Morgan, St. George News

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