Range of services . . . Waitaki District Libraries manager Jenny Bean is proud of the work her team does at the Oamaru Public Library. PHOTO: KAYLA HODGE

Waitaki District Libraries is going from strength to strength.

Over the past year, there has been a 150% increase in in the number of people attending events held at the library – from 322 people in March last year to 805 people in March this year.

Manager Jenny Bean was thrilled with the turnouts for events, which ranged from talks and meetings to book launches.

“We are quite deliberate about the sorts of activities we’re running and people seem to be really responding to that, which is really cool,” Ms Bean said.

“We’ve had some really strong events but I think it’s probably even more that people want to come out now [after lockdown] .

“The library is a community space – we exist because of the community. People want to be part of those events and activities.”

Waitaki District Libraries also had an incredible team of staff for whom Ms Bean was very grateful. A library survey undertaken last November revealed the “friendly and helpful staff” were what 73% of people liked the most about the libraries.

“I’m massively proud of the team – they’re incredible.”

There had been a 52% increase in the number of people using Waitaki District Libraries’ online catalogue.

“I think because of Covid people have become . . . aware that they do need to be digitally literate and that shift was happening already.”

Staff had helped connect 163 families throughout Waitaki with subsidised Skinny Jump modems, which indicated there was a need for them in the community, Ms Bean said.

One of the biggest triumphs for the library was having 65% of residents signed up as members – a 6% increase increase from last year.

However, of the 14,055 members only 5417 were active users. On average, active users borrowed 28 items per year – one of the highest borrowing rates in the country.

“What we are doing with those 5500 people, we’re doing really well so that’s fantastic. However there is a gap.”

Ms Bean planned to talk to the community about the impact the library has on people’s lives to encourage members to use the library more, and to sign up new members.

“I’m really interested to find out … they’ve got a membership but how come that membership’s not active?

“It’s a bit of a mystery at this point, really.”

Ms Bean had recently returned form a tour of North Island libraries which gave her plenty of ideas for new opportunities in Waitaki.

However, it reinforced to her just how amazing the Waitaki staff members were.

“I gave them some feedback [on Monday] morning and said how you make people feel welcome is outstanding.”