Dallasites Are Staying Away from the Library in Record Numbers

Categories: City Hall

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Funding-wise, the Dallas Public Library is starting to recover from the financial crisis. After four straight years of cuts, the system has gotten more money in each of the past two years. The $22.4 million allotted for next year is far from the $32.4 million peak six years ago, but it's progress.

The number of people who are actually visiting the libraries, on the other hand, is still dropping, from 5 million three years ago to just over three million this past year.

Some of the drop can be chalked up to the reduction in library hours to 40 hours per week for most branches. But that happened several years ago, and the downward trend continues.

Luckily, library director Mary Jo Giudice has an explanation: The people-counting devices are in the wrong place.

"I personally feel the numbers are low," she told Dallas City Council's Arts, Culture and Libraries Committee on Monday afternoon, saying that the people who attend gatherings and programs in rooms near the library entrance are often missed.

The numbers should be higher next year, she promised, once staff gets done moving the people counters to the front doors.

That would have been a good time for Giudice to point out that the usage of library materials -- including books, music, and other media accessed online -- inched upwards last year, if only slightly (she mentioned this later).

Still, it's not enough to explain why fewer people are showing up at the library, and it doesn't give any hints on how to reduce the trend.

The first step, at least, is obvious. The city needs to restore the library hours of five years ago. But that requires extra staff, which requires extra money, which the City Council has to agree to set aside.

So, maybe next year.

Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.


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27 comments
lux.cathy
lux.cathy

The way to update the library is to offer access for online journals and e-books that can be "borrowed" for a set time period and are not allowed to be copied.  In my doctoral program the library pays for access and it can be utilized by the members 24/7 from home once you have established an online account and are in good standing.  There are ways to offer journals that make it very hard to infringe on the copyright (e.g. Google Books or DeepDyve for professional journals.)  It might even be possible to charge small fees for more current materials. I dread graduating (well, a little bit) because access to the professional journals through my program has been invaluable. I also like the suggestion from an earlier poster of opening in the afternoon and evenings, when people are off of work and out of school.  A coffee bar might actually be a way to make some money. 

Obummer
Obummer

Yo duh; da Bridge fo' da homeless peeps should gots been built near Parkland hospital.

DonnaH
DonnaH

The hours of operation do not coincide with reality. The City of Dallas and many City's for that matter, still operate the library the same way the swimming pools are being operated. As if this is the summer of '42. 

We need to change the hours of operation to reflect how people work. If we opened the libraries from 1 - 10 pm and added coffee and sandwich bars within each branch, they would be robust.  A free book, and the ability to purchase coffee and cake after dinner or work? What's not to like about that? 

Most  people work during the day, however, we close most days before people have a chance to get there, after dinner. It does not make financial sense to open up early.  We need to reverse our hours of operation and open a few mornings early for the elderly and toddler crowd. The majority of days, need to reflect how the rest of the world lives.

MikeB
MikeB

Needs to be relocated to a building on Main Street or on the Main Street Park. There are plenty of relatively successful downtown or urban libraries. But they're actually next to something, like housing, businesses. And what makes them worth maintaining is the white folk, educated, intellectuals, hipsters, bookworms, office workers, downtown residents all going to it and making it a happy, fun place of community, knowledge and self-satisfaction.

Instead, ours is a frightening concrete mausoleum next to a few bombed-out buildings and parking lots. The millions of dollars we spend, lose on it per year could be used to move it somewhere else less foreboding.

duanewmurphy1
duanewmurphy1

Hey Eric, Why don't you go over to the main branch in the morning some time and ride the elevators up to the 6th or 7th floor, with it being full of the homeless and transients, then wait about 30 -45 minutes and go into any of the restrooms. Then come back and re-write this blog like you have actually experienced the subject matter. After all it is a library and you are supposed to be a writer and resident of this fair city. i would spend much more time at the downtown library if it weren't for the horrible stench.

bifftannen
bifftannen

Nobody in Dallas knows how to read, not surprising.

Tim.Covington
Tim.Covington

I think part of it is a technological and demographic shift. More and more readers are switching to electronic devices. I can read on my computer or phone from any number of sources (free or relatively low cost). And, if I am researching something where I want a physical copy, this means I usually want to own the reference material.

I have to agree with reducing the number of locations (say cut the number in half) and focus resources on the locations that see the most use.

ruddski
ruddski

It appears that this is opposite the national trend. But what everyone really wants to know is where Dallas stands in comparison to Houston.

s.aten
s.aten

I am not surprised that the numbers are down.   My local branch is only open one night a week & the wait for books can be lengthy if it is a popular book.      The library system needs to restore hours and staff so it can serve the community.    When my library is open, it is quite busy.

sarahsweetheart
sarahsweetheart

Have you seen the people who stand outside this library? Also, i don't think anyone would park on that shady side of town... I know this because I used to live by the Farmer's Market.

There are homeless shelters & food for the needy so close by.. Of course you're bound to get in the riff raff that also comes with that.

I've been heckled many times outside of this library that is poorly located so far away from everything. I decided it wasn't worth the trouble -- maybe other ppl did too.

Nobody likes being bugged for money at the library or annoyed by loud people using the free internet while doing projects. No. Thank. You.

P1Gunter
P1Gunter

Well you see, there is this new thing called the Internet. It makes a lot of things the library offers obsolete.

I love the concept of libraries and they do have some purpose still but I haven't set foot in one since college, and even then it was to "study" which translates to checking out girls, not books.

They need to close some branches and focus their efforts on a few really good branches. The money would go a lot farther.

observerlibtard
observerlibtard

"Still, it's not enough to explain why fewer people are showing up at the library" >> because the homeless shit in the sinks and jack off in the stacksand it doesn't give any hints on how to reduce the trend.>>> stop the homeless from shitting in the sinks and jacking off in the stacks...

But then the observer libtard "Social Justice Progressive Advocacy Bloggers" would screech "oppression" and "racism". FUCK YOU. Enjoy the shithole your policies created asshole

Bobtex
Bobtex

Restoring the reduction in hours is only part of the equation--the other part is to restore the budget for purchase of materials.  What is the use of travelling to the library when the book, cd, dvd, or other material that you want is not on the shelf?  And, contrary to the belief of some on this blog, not all of the world's information is available on the Internet.  And,contrary to the belief of some on this blog, not every person in Dallas has access to the Internet at home.  Our public library system is part of our public education structure, but it is usually the most overlooked and neglected part. It has NEVER received the priority that it should have in the city budget.

pak152
pak152

how much traffic is the website handling? Are they growing the archives located on the 7th floor?

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

Did you ask (not her) about the impact of the mega homeless shelter nearby (within 2,000 ft.), or the resource center?

Would you drop your kids off?

Some things in the neighborhood have to suffer when you concentrate the homeless downtown.

In fact, ask some of the staff at City Hall.

ruddski
ruddski

ask an intern if this reflects a national trend.

carina41
carina41

I think beyond the hours, they need a wider collection; the last few reads in my book club weren't available, or else there was only 1 copy (unavailable). Again, boils down to the $$$$

Montemalone
Montemalone topcommenter

Who reads?

People barely have the attention to read twitters that are only 140 characters.

juanmayeaux
juanmayeaux

@duanewmurphy1 I agree and was surprised that this writer seems to have never visited the downtown homeless shelter (Library).

losingmyreligion
losingmyreligion

@Tim.CovingtonActually, libraries are also used for polling centers, after-school child care, job re-education, film screenings and English-as-a-second language classes. Because they are, more or less, the last public spaces in America, a lot of functions get dumped on them -- few of which can be resolved easily online. That's one reason the public use of libraries has gone up the past decade - except in Dallas - despite the predictions of people who can afford to own computers.  

observerlibtard
observerlibtard

Hope you get shot by gang bangers while you ride your hipster bike AGAIN

Bobtex
Bobtex

@holmantx Do you realize that the Central Library downtown is only one of 29 public libraries in Dallas, and that most of the kids who use the public libraries in Dallas use a branch in or near their neighborhood?

casiepierce
casiepierce

@carina41 A lot of the popular books can be easily found at the branch libraries.

Bobtex
Bobtex

@Montemalone You read this post, didn't you?  It appeared to be more than 140 characters.  

tdkisok
tdkisok

 @Bobtex  

There are two close that we use. No homeless folks that I have seen.

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