County libraries offer new service since patrons can’t browse selection in person

FERGUS – In many ways, usage at Wellington County’s public libraries changed in 2020, but in other ways it stayed the same.

Between curbside pickup and outright closures, circulation is down overall, said Rebecca Hine, the county’s chief librarian.

But there’s still demand, and staff has been working hard to meet that demand.

Hine said the libraries booked 36,752 curbside pickup appointments in 2020, and as in-person visits are still prohibited, staff has come up with a new service called Just for You.

Library patrons can connect with staff either on the phone or online, let staff know the content they like, and staff will hand-pick some alternate titles that might fill the bill.

“The more information that is provided the more likely it is that we can suggest books, movies and TV shows the patron and their family will love,” said Hine.

“It’s one thing we have done to mitigate the fact that patrons are unable to come into our branches to browse the shelves.”

In terms of what library users are borrowing, “it’s been pretty consistent” with other years, Hine said. “The only big change is that DVDs have fallen back about 50 per cent. I think that’s because there’s been no new movies.”

Hine said adult fiction is still the number one item borrowed from libraries, followed by adult non-fiction, picture books, TV shows and then DVDs. In previous years DVDs were number two on the list.

Thrillers and mysteries continue to be the most popular adult fiction, she said.

Hine said they don’t break down non-fiction into genres, but anecdotally, gardening books, cookbooks and self-help books continue to be popular, with the collections librarian reporting that cookbooks have been on the “high holds list” for most of last year.

“American politics books are very popular right now. President Obama’s biography was by far the most circulated non-fiction title,” she said.

The board game collection continues to be well-used as well, she said.

Ancestry remains the library’s most popular database and normally it can only be accessed in a library branch. Hine said throughout the pandemic they have given access to library patrons from their homes.

“Kanopy, our online movie streaming resource, is seeing higher than usual usage. I don’t know whether that’s for educational or entertainment purposes. Probably a bit of both,” she said.

Some libraries are considering doing away with late fees, which they view as a barrier to service. But that’s not the case in Wellington County, Hine said.

“The other side of the coin is that late fees are an incentive to return items that other people are waiting for.  If a patron decides not to return something in a timely manner because there is no penalty, then that affects the availability of that item to other members of the community,” said Hine.

She added such a move  would be a library board decision and it’s currently not on the radar. However, she noted no one is accruing late fees during curbside-only service.

So what are people reading? Hine provided a list of the top circulating titles for January:

  • The Law of Innocence by Michael Connelly;
  • The Sentinel by Lee Child;
  • All the Devils are Here by Louise Penny;
  • the most popular children’s material was the Bob early readers;
  • People was the most popular magazine followed by Hello and then Canadian Living;
  • Season Three of the Crown was most popular TV show; and
  • Mulan was the most popular movie.