DECATUR – Decatur Public Library patrons saved $8,212,000 by using the library last year.
Assistant city librarian Robert Edwards came up with the idea, and his own checkout ticket shows that he has saved $14,828 using the library.
“That's a lot of money,” Edwards said. “It's the best deal in town. I was talking to the director (city librarian Rick Meyer) and he's added programs, and when you add the programs that we offer, it came to $22 million (annually). I don't think, at that time, it even included the free hotspots we offer, the free internet.”
Besides books, DVDs and computer access, Edwards said, the library also provides devices that can be checked out for 30 days that will provide Wi-Fi service; free tax programs; lectures and classes.
“It's amazing, isn't it?” he said, smiling.
In big cities, the libraries might have dozens of the internet devices, Edwards said, but Decatur has only 14, so there's a waiting list and a time limit, but the devices can be taken anywhere and will work.
The computer system at the library keeps track of patrons' savings by figuring how much a person would spend to buy a book or DVD that they've checked out. The library, of course, gets those items at a lower cost than the general public.
Debbie and George Roberts are regular users of the library, particularly George, who volunteers by reading to children at several schools and therefore borrows a lot of children's books, plus the books and materials he uses for his own reading. Debbie Roberts is an avid reader as well.
His most recent receipt showed that George Roberts saved $6,744 last year, while Debbie Roberts saved $1,822.
“I really like that we are shown how much we saved by using the library. I think it proves our tax dollars are well utilized and we get quite a big bang for our buck,” Debbie Roberts said. “Plus, I'm a data person, so that ties into knowing this. I checked out three 14-day books and as I say, living dangerously, because I'm always afraid I won't finish them in time. But, three of my favorite authors had new books out and they were actually on the shelf. I have finished two and almost finished with the third. None of them have disappointed me.”
Those 14-day books are the newest releases and patrons can't keep them as long as older books in the collection, so as to give other patrons equal chance to read new books, too.
The savings tally is individualized by patron, so the amount on your receipt is your unique amount, Edwards said.
“If you bought a DVD, it would probably cost $15 or more,” he said. “If you'd bought this, this is what it would have cost you, but by checking it out, this is what you saved.”
The reactions from patrons have been uniformly positive, Edwards said.
“I think people are starting to realize it,” he said. “We want everyone to take advantage of their library.”