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Somerset Public Library: Library as community

On Tuesday, Oct. 11, there was a public input meeting and presentation by River Architects, Inc. here at the library on the preliminary drawings for an expansion of the Somerset Library. Also present was the director of the Indianhead Federated Library System, who gave us some history and statistics about our situation and library in Somerset.

Our current library building opened in 1993, so that makes it 23 years old. The building is 3,500 square feet. There were some interesting numbers presented, including the fact that in 1994, Somerset’s population was 1,200 people. 21,616 items were checked out that year, and the library owned: 6,723 books, 450 audio materials, and 300 video items.

Fast forward to 2015, and you’ll see how much we’ve grown! The village’s population was 2,654 people. 55,612 items were checked out in 2015, and the library owned: 15,184 books, 1,003 audio items, and 1,739 video items. The number of village residents has doubled, and the number of items we own has more than doubled. Our circulation has grown by about two and a half times.

However, we’re still at 3,500 square feet. There is a definite lack of space for materials, people, and programs. There are other things that need updating, including quiet study spaces, equipment and space for new technology, and increased meeting space for the community.

Being part of a library system is a great advantage to our patrons because it vastly expands the number of items we can share, but it also necessitates an amount of processing space to handle that workflow. For example, in 2015, the Somerset Library brought in 14,473 items for patrons here, and sent out 15,712 items to other libraries. Even our Somerset Schools avail themselves of the ability to order many copies of certain items. Just last week I ordered 26 copies of a certain book for high school students. The numbers presented above were from the Indianhead Federated Library System’s presentation.

Certainly technology and the internet have changed what a library is and how we do our jobs, but the value of a library to its community goes far beyond just the books and audio/visual materials we have. We see a great number of people come through the Somerset Library every day. People come here for a myriad of reasons, ranging from meeting with job counselors, meeting with a tutor, attending meetings and programs and classes, coming to story time, hanging out after school until it’s time to go home, and of course, checking out materials. They use the public access computers and our copier/printer/scanner, and some people even come here to read the newspapers!

People connect with each other here. Somerset is still a small enough place, so chances are pretty high you will see someone you know here. We want to continue to be an integral part of the community. One of our latest examples is the fact that we provided historical photographs of the Somerset area to the First National Community Bank so they could copy and enlarge them to decorate their walls. Even if this isn’t your bank, it’s well worth a stop to go take a look at them. They turned out fabulous!

Susan Stepka is Assistant Librarian at the Somerset Public Library

Jordan Willi
Jordan Willi is a reporter for the New Richmond News. Previously, he worked as a sports reporter at the Worthington Daily Globe in Worthington, Minnesota. He also interned at the Hudson Star Observer for two summers and contributed to the Bison Illustrated sports magazine at North Dakota State University.
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