- Associated Press - Saturday, March 26, 2016

ALEXANDRIA, La. (AP) - A big increase in the public using online resources helped drive growth in the Rapides Parish Library system last year, a new report shows.

Overall usage of the library system was up 8.13 percent in 2015 compared with the previous year, according to the 2015 Annual Report.

Online Resources transactions increased by 57.47 percent in 2015, and four branches experienced gains in transactions of more than 10 percent.

Laura-Ellen Ayres, director of the Rapides Parish Library system, this week highlighted areas of the report and announced two upcoming celebrations.

The addition of the Main Library to the National Register of Historic Places will be celebrated with a reception at 10 a.m. April 7, Ayres said.

A week later, at 10 a.m. April 14, library officials will conduct the official grand reopening of the J.L. Robertson Branch Library in Tioga. The Robertson Branch reopened Feb. 15 after being closed for about six weeks so that workers could wrap up the renovation and construction project that doubled the size of the library and added several new features.

The 2015 Annual Report provides usage statistics, financial data and other information about the library system. Copies of the report were given to the Police Jury, and Ayres briefed jurors on the library system’s progress.

Transactions in the library system in 2015 totaled 1,654,105, representing an 8.13 percent increase over 2014’s transactions totaling 1,519,668, the report said. Book circulation increased from 605,988 to 673,183, an increase of 11.09 percent.

In June, the library system added an e-Branch that the report says “consolidates all our e-resources to one page” and can be found at the library’s website at www.rpl.org.

Concerning the e-Branch, Ayres said, “Of course, we have e-books, but we also have magazines and newspapers. We have music, downloadable books, video downloads as well as paid data bases such as Ancestry.com . and Britannica as well as Online Homework Help.”

Branch libraries which saw the largest gains in transactions in 2015 were the Boyce Branch, a 15.13 percent increase; Martin Library in Pineville, a 13.56 percent increase; and Westside Regional Library in Alexandria, a 10.82 percent.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Branch in Alexandria had an adjusted increase of 21.31 percent, with numbers adjusted to accurately compare usage for when it was open in 2014, which was only for part of the year because of a construction and relocation project.

The only libraries with decreased transactions in 2015 were the Main Library, down 31.55 percent as it was closed part of the year for renovation; McDonald Branch in Glenmora, a 21.56 percent decrease; and the Hineston Branch, down 8.88 percent.

The Preschool Outreach Plus program usage was up 12.24 percent.

Ayres noted that fliers that the library hands out to patrons and during special events highlight three key areas of progress in 2015. They are events at the Main Library at 411 Washington St. in downtown Alexandria; the renovation and expansion of the Robertson Branch; and the Maker Space which features 3-D printers.

The Main Library turned 50 years old in 2015. It was closed on Nov. 2 for renovation, primarily new carpet and tile in the public area as well as the addition of a glass-walled media lab. The Main Library reopened on Jan. 19.

Last month, the Main Library was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

The $1 million renovation and expansion of the Robertson Branch began in late July. The branch was able to stay open most of the time while work was going on in 2015, and then it closed in late December for the final stages of the project before reopening in mid-February.

The Robertson Branch doubled in square footage from 3,200 to 6,400 and now features more space for books, a drive-thru window, additional computers, an enhanced children’s area, a teen area, two study rooms, a community room and more parking spaces, in addition to improved bathrooms and more office space.

The 3-D printers, funded by a $15,000 grant by the Martin Foundation of RoyOMartin, were unveiled in the Maker Space at the Main Library in April, and printing began in May.

“At year’s end, we had printed over 230 print jobs. It’s been an adventure for us,” the report said, noting reference staffers look forward each day to seeing “where someone’s imagination will take me for that day.”

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Information from: Alexandria Daily Town Talk, http://www.thetowntalk.com

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