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Stow Library Use Going Strong… Oct. 11, 2017

*The following is an updated/corrected version to what appeared in the print publication on Wed. Oct. 11. We apologize for the print errors.

By Nancy Arsenault

Stow is known for apple orchards and golf courses, but the town is also strong in providing a myriad of library services that, even in this digital age, Stow residents are utilizing regularly. Randall Library Director Melissa Fournier reviewed the increase in Library patronage across the board of services in 2017 at the Board of Selectmen meeting on Tuesday night.

“The idea of how we use a library, in the traditional sense, is still very alive in Stow,” she said, but added that the electronic side of the town’s Library offerings is growing and expanding with new technology and services, both within the Randall Library and through the Minuteman Library Network, of which Stow is a member.

Of the over 97,000 objects held by the library, which includes everything from hardcover books to e- books, audio books, DVDs and other medium,  Randall Library checked out over 73,000 items this last year, with electronic format items accounting for 11 percent of that total.  While some might consider the Stow library collection to be small or limited in scope, Fournier contends that a Minuteman Stow library card brings the collections of dozens of member libraries, right here to Stow.

Stow's Randall Library
Stow’s Randall Library

“We brought in 14, 248 pieces from other Libraries, requested by our patrons, but we also lent 16, 521 items to other libraries,” she said, explaining that the attention paid to keeping Stow’s collection current and varied has drawn others to request materials from the Randall shelves.

Fournier said that people often claim that libraries are outdated and not being used. She said that claim does not apply to Stow where 48 percent of the population holds a Stow library card. That Stow card also brings benefits, many of which Fournier and her staff are still working to educate the population about, especially the special services available only to Stow card holders.

Fournier mentioned that two of the most popular perks for Stow cardholders are the Hoopla and Overdrive electronic media services.  These services enable readers who do not wish to wait for a book on a Minuteman waiting list to become available to select the e-book form from these sites. “Hoopla has no waiting period,” she said, while the list to wait for a popular hardcover book in the Minuteman network could stretch to weeks or even longer.  Streaming music and other digital media options are also available at no charge from these sites through the library.

Libraries continue to be sites of research, even if that research extends beyond the shelves of the physical building. Fournier said that the Randall Library has an membership as well as Consumer Reports Buyers Guide, otherwise requiring a private paid subscription, available to all Stow library card holders.

Many of these additional services are provided through sources such as the Hale Reference Trust fund and the Randall Library Trust, along with what is available through the Minuteman Network. The membership fees for the Network are paid for within the library’s portion of the town budget.

Fournier added that the Wi-Fi has been greatly improved, computer access and activity has increased and overall use of the Library is continuing to grow. Part of that growth is the youth reader segment,  with the Summer Reading Program awarding 162 young readers for participation in the program from start to finish.  Emphasizing the importance of student reading throughout the year, Fournier cited a Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction statement, based on a study by John Hopkins University, that stated, ““Summer reading loss is cumulative. Children don’t ‘catch up’ in fall because the other children are moving ahead with their skills. By the end of 6th grade children who lose reading skills over the summer are two years behind their classmates.”

With physical improvements to the facility completed, and lighting, furniture, and air quality issues addressed, Fournier is looking forward to the approaching historical renovation of the oldest parts of the building. She said that while the Randall Library is certainly a great place now, it is going to be an even better place in just a short time and she expects that Stow residents will continue to embrace this treasure in the heart of the center of town.