Numbers up at Whittemore

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The numbers of patrons, programs, and circulation at the Whittemore Library in Naugatuck all increased in the 2011-12 fiscal year. –FILE PHOTO

NAUGATUCK — The numbers are all pointing up at the Whittemore Library.

The numbers of programs, patrons, and circulation all increased at the library in the 2011-12 fiscal year compared to the prior fiscal year.

Library Director Jocelyn Miller feels that there are a few reasons for the increase in numbers.

“It’s partly because, in a bad economy, libraries are used more,” Miller said. “People need libraries more. They don’t have money to buy books or DVDs. They don’t have a computer at home or can’t afford to replace a computer that breaks.”

Miller also said that the library has seen an increase in the number of people who come in to look for jobs either online or in the newspapers. Some of these people need help uploading their resumes to websites or faxing applications to prospective employers.

However, the economy is not the only reason that the library has seen a spike in numbers.

The increase in patrons is also in part because of the library’s extended hours.

Miller explained that last September the library began opening up on Mondays for six hours. That was the first time the library had been open on Mondays in over three years since budget constraints forced them to close.

Miller said the sheer amount of programs the library was able to host last year attributed to the increase in attendance.

According to an email Miller sent out, the number of children’s programs increased from 266 to 323, and attendance increased from 4,328 to 5,012, young adult programs increased from 29 to 107, and attendance increased from 480 to 1,670, and adult programs increased from 42 to 81, and attendance increased from 782 to 1,634.

Miller explained that the library now offers more ongoing groups, such as Tai Chi, chair yoga, and a writer’s group.

“We’re trying hard to come up with variety of programs,” Miller said.

Miller said that, while all of the programs were well attended, there were some that drew large crowds. Visits from Saloma Miller Furlong, author of “Why I Left the Amish”, and Denis “Oil Can” Boyd, former pitcher for the Boston Red Sox, drew large crowds. A visit by the Connecticut Soul Seekers drew so many patrons that the library had to turn people away, she said.

In fact, Miller felt that all of the programs the library held in 2012 were well attended.

“There’s nothing in particular that wasn’t really popular that we wouldn’t do something on that topic again,” Miller said.

The popularity of library programs has Miller hoping to extend the library’s program schedule to include events on Sundays as well. While the library is closed on Sunday, Miller said that a staff member would be able to open the library for the event. Computers and circulation would not be available on Sundays, but patrons would be able to attend events such as recitals, Miller explained.

Miller hopes that these increased numbers translate to not just increased programs, but increased funding as well.

The borough funds roughly 80 percent of the library’s budget, but the library is not a borough department. It is considered an “association library,” meaning the library must come up with its own funds to do any repairs.

“We will ask for more funding,” Miller said. “I came up with statistics that I presented to the Board of Finance, but it did not help us get more funding. We will try again this year.”

Miller hopes that the board sees what such a large increase in numbers means about the borough.

“We want to show them that the library is indeed still needed and still used. We need funding to provide service that the patrons need and want,” Miller said.