From book clubs to story times, to author visits to art displays, it seems there are always a variety of activities going on inside the Newton Public Library.
Barth Hague, president of the library's board of trustees, said the library's programming continues to evolve and adapt to the needs of the community, redefining itself in the digital age.
"What once was just a collection of books and periodicals is now a technology-based learning center," Hague said during a recent year-end report to the Newton City Commission. "It's a busy place at Newton Public Library."
Hague told commissioners while some have a perception that people don't read books as much as they used to, public libraries continue to play an important role in their communities. The Newton library's average attendance per week in 2013 was more than 2,500, and the average annual checkout per resident was 8.7.
Digital content continues to drive growth at the library. According to the library's 2013 annual report, the library saw a 50 percent increase in eBook check-outs and a 30 percent increase in non-print checkouts, such as DVDs and video games. The library also added 245 new DVDs and 87 new video games to its collection.
The library is offering new ways to access content, even if patrons don't actually walk through the doors. The NPL web page had about 98,000 views in 2013, and the library also served more than 200 homebound seniors.
One of the library's current challenges is an aging building with heating/cooling issues, leaks, outdated elevators and failing plumbing. Hague said the current building was designed as a "book warehouse" and its usability in the digital age has been maxed out.
Mayor Jim Nickel said building a new library might be difficult to accomplish without a tax increase, but he said a building remodel also could be pricey — perhaps $2 million.
"I know we're living on borrowed time," he said. "Marianne (Eichelberger, library director) and her staff are to be commended for their programming. ... We commend you for using 'Band-Aids and rubber bands' to hold the place together."