I believe every community needs a library. Tuftonboro has a good library, but it could be better. I don’t think it is keeping up as well as it could with what is happening in the world.
Peak book circulation at the library occurred in 2009, at 23,981, while book circulation for 2017 was at 18,880; DVD and CD circulation peaked at 18,929 in 2011 and was down to 11,403 in 2017.
Meanwhile, in spite of the declines, the total number of items in the library collection has gone up from 29,258 in 2009 to 32,661 in 2017. In the same time frame, database/Internet “circulation” went from 602 to 7,101, and that is reflected in the circulation statistics. If you set aside the Internet usage, the current circulation is down by more than 10,000 items since 2009. That is a huge difference! (These statistics are not my creation, they were compiled by the library.)
The last time we discussed building a new library, at Town Meeting in 2015, the library staff expressed concern that there was no space for a break-room for staff so they could have private time away from the public. A month or two later, it was reported that they did create space for a break area by reducing the collection by about 700 items. However, by the end of the year the collection had increased by almost 600 items. Why are we accumulating more books when book circulation is declining?
Where is the future need for these items going to come from? There is a regional and even statewide decline in young people. The school-district population has steadily declined for about 10 years. In 2005, there were 2,889 students in the district; in 2017, it was 2,326. In 2005, there were 16 tuitioned students attending our schools, and in 2017, we had 142. Tuftonboro School has gone from 191 students in 2005 to 117 in 2017—another huge difference.
Meeting-room usage at the library has been increasing. Statistics show that average attendance for meetings and programs has ranged from a low of 10 in 2016 to a high of nearly 17 in 2014; in 2017, an average of 12 people attended. The present meeting room seats 45 people with room for a couple of tables to be set up. (The room also has full rows of books covering 2 walls plus some rolling racks of books plus extra chairs.) I have heard that the Polar Express, which is held in December, has high attendance and more seating is needed. Do we really need to build a function room to seat 85 people for one or two or even three events? The Polar Express could be held at the school gymnasium or the school cafeteria or at one of at least five other available places in town (Melvin Church, Willing Workers Hall, Tuftonboro Corner Church, Town House, Todaro Center).
Technology is the future. I don’t know how anyone can fail to see that. For Internet usage, do we need more space, let alone double the present square footage? The library needs to reduce its collection and increase its technology offerings including training and service. That will attract young families to the library. Building a huge, costly addition is not the answer.