This is an article for the Friends’ Newsletter that the Director of the Library, Audrey Betcher, wrote to be published in our autumn newsletter.
The citizens of Rochester have a long history of library service dating back to the mid-19th century. The Rochester Public Library was formally established in 1895, and three years later the first library was built. The library moved three more times, in 1937, 1972, and 1995. Each new building was in direct response to the need for greater access to library resources from our ever-growing, ever-changing community.
The existing library building was completed in 1995. Some still call it the “new” library despite the fact that it’s already 15 years old! When you think about 1995, it seems like a long time ago: Windows 95 was released, the DVD format was announced, the OJ Simpson trial took place, the Murrah Federal Building was bombed in Oklahoma City, and “Braveheart” won the Oscar for Best Picture.
A lot has changed in the library since 1995, too. Here is a sampling of what is new since that time:
DVDs (23,000 in the library’s collection)
Public internet access (27 computer stations on-site)
Wireless capability throughout the building
Homework assistance (in the library three nights per week and online)
Early literacy story time kits
Little Tykes computers
Reference by email, instant messaging, and texting
Downloadable audio, video and music
Adult and young adult programming
Book discussion kits
And library use continues to grow. In 1996 (the first full year in this building), 1,133,993 items were circulated. In 2009, that number was 1,647,333, a 45% increase. In the past ten-plus years, our circulation grew faster than the area’s population!
As we look to the future, we know the city and county will continue to expand. Rochester Public Library must do so as well in order to meet the new and continued needs of our residents.
More than 550,000 people walked into the Rochester Public Library last year. Compare that to Mayo Clinic with approximately 350,000 patients in 2009 or the Rochester airport with 63,143 passengers in 2009.
The public library holds an important place in our city. It is an essential component of the highly-regarded quality of life in our community. It provides free access to information while also providing a physical space downtown to learn, meet, and imagine. Rochester Public Library provides great value for its taxpayer support. Let us continue to grow together.
Your support of the Library expansion is very important. The meeting of the Sales Tax Advisory Committee will be Wednesday, Sept. 1 at 11:30 am. (City Hall, Room 104). Airport projects are first on the agenda for September 1, with the Library to follow on that date if time permits. If the Airport runs over then the library would be the first item on Sept. 8th at 11:30 AM. (City Hall, Room 320). Please attend if at all possible.