It's hard to compete with a sunny climate and world-famous attractions, but San Diego County Library (SDCL) seems to be holding its own.
In three years, from 2005 to 2008, SDCL's circulation rose 63 percent, to a substantial 7.3 million items loaned. During the same period, the library added 75,000 new cardholders, reaching a total of 640,000 card-wielding library fans.
With competition from the Internet, electronic devices, and sandy beaches, how has SDCL managed to thrive? The answer may be as simple as developing a library system and programs tailored to the needs of their patrons.
Library patrons — customers, as they prefer to think of them in San Diego County — expect SDCL facilities to function as more than just book repositories. In recent years, SDCL has managed to expand existing collections while simultaneously transforming libraries into community centers geared toward meeting the entertainment, social, and recreational needs of value-conscious visitors.
Popular services now include free DVD rentals, summer reading programs for children and adults, teen zones, wi-fi access, and library-sponsored concerts and cultural events. One of the library system's most innovative services, the national award-winning Food for Thought program, invites older community members to enjoy yoga classes, healthy gourmet lunches, and social gatherings at the Vista Branch.
SDCL facilities have expanded to accommodate these ever-growing services and keep the satisfied patrons coming. As circulation and community programs expand, the need to streamline day-to-day operations has become paramount to achieving the library's goals.
The library hired Backstage Library Works to retrofit their collections with RFID tags, which enable more efficient self-service library use as well as better tracking of roving materials circulated throughout the county.
"Our increase in circulation has corresponded with an increased workload at our branches. With outside staff taking care of the relabeling and other costly and time-consuming aspects of this project, SDCL will be able to continue focusing the efforts of our skilled staff on directly serving customers," explained San Diego County Library Departmental Budget Manager, Daniel Knowlton.
"Our experience so far has been a real relief. SDCL branch staff have reported very positive experiences with the Backstage crew — they go out of their way to help us keep functioning during the tagging process and are extremely knowledgeable. They are able to work around our programs and even when there are many children running around the library, they get the job done. As we convert all 35 of our branches to RFID, working with Backstage will help us compress the process from many years down to about one year."
With RFID tagging out of the way, the SDCL staff is free again to connect with customers and envision the next evolution in library service. After all, between providing invaluable cultural and educational opportunities and answering the 1,800 questions submitted daily to their Ask a Librarian service, San Diego County Library's dedicated library workers deserve a helping hand.
To learn more about SDCL's mission and programs, surf over to: sdcl.org