Citizens Continue to Discover Community’s Treasure
When Deanna Lee was a girl, she checked out Nancy Drew mysteries at the downtown library, located in what is now the Harris Dean Building at 7th and Lakeside. “An old house was donated to the city to catalog its books,” she said. “Each time you took a step, the wooden floors squeaked – that was my first memory of a library.” Many years later, Deanna Goodlander, the City Council’s Library Liaison, is honored to have been part of the effort that built a new public library in Coeur d’Alene.
That was a little over two years ago, and since then, the success of the library is difficult to express in words – but numbers are a start. Based on data from July 2007 when library operations were at 201 E. Harrison Avenue, compared to July 2009 at the new building, the door count, check-outs, and reference requests are more than twice what they were, the number of hits on the library’s website has tripled, and the number of books on hand has increased by over 11,000 volumes.
Library Director Bette Ammon said the community was starving for a great library. “There were 300-to-400 people a day coming into 9,000 square feet of space,” she said of the former location. “We only had nine internet stations, and staff and the public were elbow-to-elbow.” She said that people are grateful to have the space, but that the space is more than the room in the building. “It’s the space all around the building,” she explained.
Goodlander agrees that the physical area is unique. “It was important that the library be located here with other community treasures like McEuen Field, Tubbs Hill, the lake – it’s a place where you can rest your soul,” she said.
It’s no surprise to some that the library’s growing role, especially with Wall Street woes, is as an economic life-line. “We have 38 internet connections, and there’s more demand than ever for people doing their résumés, job searches, and on-line job applications,” said David Townsend, Communications Coordinator. “It’s been very beneficial.” He added that in almost every category, people are checking out books and magazines they can no longer purchase or using services they can no longer afford.
Ammon said it is a pure pleasure to connect someone with what they need – an internet site, a piece of valuable information – but it’s also part of the challenge. “People want information in all different formats,” she explained. “The real challenge for us is to keep pace with that, and it takes technology, funding, and training.” She said that libraries straddle a lot of different worlds. Many people still listen to books on cassette, so the library can’t replace all its cassette books with books on CD. They provide both formats. Yet, citizens ask for new information modalities all the time. “Joining with the Cooperative Information Network (CIN) gave us the best bang for the buck,” she said.
If the next two years are anything like the first two, 702 E. Front will see nearly half a million people enter its doors. What will they find? When Councilman Goodlander, Director Ammon, and Coordinator Townsend were asked what three words they would pick to describe the Coeur d’Alene Library, the one word they all had in common was: Service.