Westchester Public Library is testing the digital waters when it comes to
promoting its services and programs.
Meeting Thursday, Library Board members learned information technician Mike
Acsbok and staff are testing 23-inch, flat-screen monitors outfitted with
computer software that can be used in various WPL departments to let patrons
know about upcoming events and ongoing offerings.
When not in use, said Acsbok, screens on the public-access computers also
could be programmed to display the messages, which could be customized for
individual departments or for general use.
Library Board president Drew Rhed voiced a preference for the
less-intrusive, smaller screens. Member Abbe Trent said she doesn’t want the
buildings to look like a sports bar.
Director Phil Baugher explained some libraries are installing large, color
digital signs outdoors to reach their target audience. He said WPL could do
the same, the most visible spot being on the brick retaining wall of the
Library Service Center at Calumet Road and Indiana Avenue, but vandalism and
town zoning codes could be a problem.
The board briefly discussed but didn’t pursue advertising on the new digital
Chesterton/Duneland Chamber of Commerce sign adjacent to Indiana 49 south of
Porter Avenue. Despite having 30,000 vehicles per day pass the sign, Baugher
said many of the motorists are not WPL’s primary audience of Westchester
Although more and more libraries are embracing digital-sign technology,
Baugher added, he’s not aware of studies having been done to track a
correlation between electronic messaging and increased patronage.
He reported for the month of May circulation at WPL’s Thomas and Hageman
libraries was down and year-to-date shows just under a 1 percent increase.
Board member Michele Corazzo asked if it’s valuable to track statistics for
lesser-circulated materials. Baugher said all statistics are important and
used by those at WPL who purchase materials to know where the demand is.
With periodicals down 19.91 percent at Thomas last month, he continued, that
demonstrates more patrons are using e-readers and WPL is ordering more
pre-loaded e-readers to circulate.
Baugher noted libraries are walking against a headwind considering all the
alternatives people have for information and entertainment today. “That’s
not to say libraries will be obsolete in 10 years, but things are changing.”
It was announced the expansion and modernization of first-floor Thomas
restrooms to make them handicapped accessible are completed, and bids are
being solicited to replace the fixtures and tile in the second-floor Thomas
Last month Baugher recommended the Library Board consider a small expansion
of Hageman Library in Porter that would include new handicapped-accessible
restrooms, additional storage and a new meeting/programming room; the
current meeting room could be used for public-access computers.
WPL has over $4 million in its Library Improvement Reserve Fund, more than
sufficient to pay for the Hageman upgrade without a bond issue or increase
in taxes although under new laws the Porter County Council likely would have
to approve the project.
Baugher reported WPL received a total spring tax draw of $1,354,858 with $7
million now in all funds. Preparation of the 2013 budget has begun and the
director preliminarily included a 2 percent pay increase for staff, a new
library telephone system and tentatively a Hageman restroom remodel.
Baugher said while some may think WPL has too much money, the long-term goal
is to expand Thomas Library as well as provide a cushion against future
property-tax downturns so services could continue. After weathering the
devastating 2001 Bethlehem Steel bankruptcy, “I look at the economy today
and it scares me to death.”
There are still four, 4-foot by 4-foot public plots available for planting
at Hageman’s new community garden. Patrons are asked to sign an
application/agreement for use of the raised beds.
The Friends of the Library group maintains carts at Thomas Library with free
books for patrons to keep. During May approximately 1,200 books were
downtown Chesterton’s Thomas Park, WPL sponsors a free concert by the
Valparaiso University/Community Band at 7 p.m. followed by the film “The
Smurfs” at dusk. June 22 Patti Shaffner and Friends will present jazz music
preceding the movie “Zookeeper". Both films are rated PG. The Friday night
concerts/movies continue through Aug. 10.