The Journal Gazette
 
 
Monday, December 06, 2021 1:00 am

Five questions for Susan Baier

Director, Allen County Public Library

1 You've been in your new position for about 10 months now. What's been the biggest surprise about the library system and about Fort Wayne?

I've lived in big cities and small towns, and there are pros and cons to each. What's been a pleasant surprise about Fort Wayne is that for a good-size city, it's easy to meet people and make connections. I was surprised and delighted to learn about the economic and workforce effects ACPL has on the region. The Genealogy Center is a huge tourism draw, resulting in a multi-million dollar economic impact. Our Team Read teen summer employment program gives youth their first job opportunity and teaches success skills they will carry throughout their career. Many local workers in the broadcasting industry developed their skills for free as volunteers for our ACPL television station Access Fort Wayne.

 

2 Circulation numbers fell sharply as a result of COVID-19 restrictions. Have they rebounded? Are people returning to the downtown library and its branches?

Patrons are returning to our libraries, particularly as we reintroduce indoor programming. I've had moms and other caregivers tell me how grateful they are that storytimes are back, providing a much-needed social and emotional outlet for both children and their grown-ups. As programming resumes, we anticipate circulation to trend upward. The circulation of physical materials is one of many outputs we review to measure our use. Others include the circulation of e-materials, Wi-Fi and public computer sessions, program attendance and meeting room usage. An example of where we are seeing significant growth is in Wi-Fi  sessions – 71,121 in October 2020 grew to 81,867 in September 2021.

 

3 The library adopted some new operating procedures during the pandemic. Are there any changes or procedures that proved to be popular and will be continued?

I'm impressed with how quickly and deftly our staff responded to our patron needs despite the considerable challenges of the pandemic. The virtual programs born out of necessity have flourished and have brought ACPL to a worldwide audience. It's common for groups as large as 500 to tune in across the globe to a virtual program presented by our genealogy staff. Curbside materials pick-up, started in response to COVID, is still available and is particularly appreciated by patrons who may have mobility challenges or little ones bundled up in car seats.

 

4 There are increas-ing reports of efforts to censor material from library collections, particularly school libraries. What should we know about libraries and challenges to the materials they offer?

To best serve its communities, a library should have a diverse collection with resources from many points of view. All library patrons have the First Amendment right to borrow, read, view and listen to library resources. We trust that parents and caregivers are the best judges of what their children should read. One family's favorite book may not work for another, and that's OK – we at ACPL are here to serve everyone.

Our role is to ensure that we have a robust collection with the necessary breadth and depth to serve the entire Allen County community. Particularly with young readers, books should serve as mirrors and windows. They need books that reflect their own lives, and they need books that open them up to new ideas and experiences.

 

5 What are you most looking forward to in the next year in terms of library programs?

The Rolland Center for Lincoln Research, opening at the Main Library in the next few weeks, will absolutely astound and delight casual history buffs and esteemed scholars alike. I can't wait to see school groups visit it – I will probably try to tag along on all their tours. I also look forward to continuing the dialogue with our community about the Facility Master Plan and how we can ensure our libraries support ACPL's mission of enriching the community through lifelong learning and discovery.

On a personal note, I am hosting a series of Walk and Talk book discussions at partner locations around Allen County such as Turnstone and hope fellow readers and walkers join me.


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