Library ponders drop in card patronage

The New Milford Pulbic Library is experiencing a lessening in library patrons over the years.

The situation is not unique, according to statistics recently released by Bibliomation, the largest library consortium in the state, with 66 library members.

“It’s a drop in the number of people with active library cards,” said Mark Hasskarl, the library’s executive director. “It reflects patrons who haven’t used their cards in three years.”

The average decrease for Bibliomation’s state library members is 12.6 percent.

New Milford’s library has seen a 14 percent slide.

Hasskarl said that fact is a puzzle since overall library usage is up.

“Our overall use of the library was up between 2013-2014 and 2014-2015,” he said.

“Overall, total use of circulation, attendance at programs, visitors to the website, etc. saw an increase of just over 10 percent.

“So the drop in patrons using their cards over the past three years is a mystery.”

Carl DeMilia, director of Bibliomation and former longtime New Milford library director, said two factors may be at work.

First, the recent “purge” conducted by Bibliomation was the first one done in four years, since the consortium went to a new computer system.

“Percentages would look higher because no patrons’ card numbers had been purged in such a long period,” DeMilia said.

Then there is the fact, he said, New Milford Public Library is considered a “regional library,” with patrons of smaller libraries, such as from Bridgewater and New Fairfield, possibly using the larger library to find book titles not carried in those towns — then those out-of- towners do not return to New Milford’s library again for a number of years.

“Once they use their local library card in the New Milford system, it registers with us,” DeMilia said. “Neither Bridgewater nor New Fairfield’s libraries are Bibliomation members.

“Danbury Public Library isn’t either, so patrons from there using their library card in New Milford would similarly register with us just once or twice.”

Another possible explanation would be demographics. A Pew Research study released in June 2014 found older Americans are less likely to use libraries.

A survey conducted in libraries around the country for the study found those aged 65 and older were less likely to have visited a library in the past 12 months than those younger.

Still, Hasskarl wants to see those prodigal patrons return.

A new sign board is planned, similar to the one the Friends of New Milford Library have at the front of the library, listing programs and events.

Regular meetings will begin next month hosted by the Library Modernization Committee. Hasskarl hopes interest in the library will be renewed.

“We know that, with every library that undergoes renovation or expansion, the use of that library increases,” Hasskarl said.

“At budget time, we heard from Town Council members that many residents contacted them supporting funding for the library.”; 203-731-3352