COLUMN: A sleepless night at the library

The Nelson Library has a number of books and resources to help with insomnia.

We have a number of books and resources in the library to help with insomnia. The Nelson Public Library’s Annual Report isn’t one of them.

If I was wide awake at 2 a.m. —and I often am — I wouldn’t pick up the Annual Report because it would get me thinking. Which, of course, is what it’s meant to do: think about your library, how it’s changed, and where it’s going.

I have two things on my plate right now that do keep me up at night, but only because I want to do them both justice.

One is to design our 2013 Annual Report, compiled by Chief Librarian June Stockdale, into an engaging little booklet. The other is to compile our Nelson Library history (from 1985, which is where Frances Welwood’s history left off), written by board member Eileen Holland, into a somewhat larger booklet. Looking at one offers an interesting lens on the other.

Membership numbers, items circulated, and library program stats are the sorts of things that have always been in Annual Reports. But the numbers tell stories, and they aren’t always the bedtime variety.

The advent of computers must have kept librarians up in the ‘80s, with their steep  learning curves, public access expectations, security issues, hardware and software costs, and the challenge of how to keep ahead of the galloping digital world. Now, these things play a major part in any library’s reporting.

Added to circulation stats for library items last year (down very slightly at 218,596) are eBook and audiobook downloads (almost doubled since last year at 9,215 downloads), eMagazine downloads (new last year, at 4,533 downloads), and database usage (about the same as last year). None of these things were in the 1986 report, when a sleepless librarian could just count a few analog sheep to start snoring.

Our first public computer was beside the circ desk in our old library in the Civic Centre, where we librarians eyed it warily while word spread to the after-school crowd. Now, you log on to our seven public computers about 25,000 times annually. And you visit our website 45,000 times.

So are librarians today more rested, with all this eBooking? Not so. Maybe it’s because of all the things we do at the library — wait for it — in person. Because the library isn’t any  less of a people place than it was in ‘86 — it’s more.

We offered 112 children’s programs last year, delighting almost 2,300 kids. Who says teens aren’t engaged? Our 28 teen programs had a total attendance of more than 200. And total attendance for our 38 adult programs was 570.

We gave research and reference assistance 8,000 times. Ask anyone: our library is full, busy, and not especially quiet — which is what happens when you fill it with enthusiastic kids, teens, and adults.

And just to keep everyone on top of the learning curve that is this computer age — so you don’t lose sleep over it — we held 252 one-on-one training sessions through our Community Access Program in addition to group sessions on all things computer and eBook.

Makes me tired just thinking about it; perhaps I can give my digital sheep a night off.

If you do need something to put you to sleep, try the books Sink into Sleep by Judith Davidson, Quiet your mind and get to sleep by Colleen Carney, the CD Deep Sleep by Kelly Howell, or the downloadable A Good Night’s Sleep: a drug-free solution by Jan Sadler, among others.

But don’t try the Nelson Public Library’s 2013 Annual Report. There are no sheep here.


Anne DeGrace is the adult services coordinator at the Nelson Public Library. Check This Out runs every other week. For more information go to

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