Haliburton County Public Library (HCPL) users flocked back to the books last year, according to HCPL’s 2021 annual survey.

In total, 64,441 physical items were checked out, a 27 per cent bump over 2020.

Patrons also withdrew out 43,901 ebooks and audiobooks, an 11 per cent increase.

Membership increased too, with 788 people acquiring library cards in 2021.

HCPL CEO Christopher Stephenson said the increase is largely due to existing members renewing their cards and a resurgence in library usage after the early lockdowns of 2020.

He’s heard from HCPL branches that some patrons just began returning to the library in late 2021.

The library also introduced online membership forms.

“This was a new way that libraries across Canada were supporting their communities and ensuring safe service through the pandemic,” Stephenson said.

Library vehicle could improve service

At an April 13 HCPL board meeting, Stephenson explained how a library courier vehicle might benefit patrons and staff.

He said a vehicle acts as advertising for the service, adds flexibility to programming and creates a more equitable work environment for staff who currently must use personal vehicles to drive around the County or courier books.

“It’s very normal that libraries have their own transportation for this reason,” he said.

“We’re asking a lot to have staff put wear and tear on their vehicle.”

Stephenson’s presentation was for information only, and the idea is likely to be discussed at future strategic planning meetings of the board.

Grant boosts Highland Grove web speed

The HCPL’s Highland Grove branch will get a provincially-funded internet upgrade thanks to a grant the library applied for in 2020.

Stephenson said the grant means the branch will get a revamped service that aims to hit 50 megabytes per second and will be funded for one year.

“It will be great news for Highland Grove,” Stephenson said.

Website nearing completion

HCPL will soon unveil its new logo and branding, as well as a completely overhauled website. Both projects have been underway since 2021.

Stephenson said the website will be easier to navigate for patrons and staff, with a more efficient content management system and editing process