Struggling Economy Makes For More Library Users

DUNEDIN – As the economy grew tougher, the community leaned harder on the Dunedin Public Library reports the Tampa Bay Weekly.

Anne Shepherd, library director, said libraries have quickly become sources of e-government – governmental services that now deal with business online whereas before there was an office people would visit to do business.

This first started with early voting, Shepherd said, which was the first time the library was particularly impacted by large amounts of people coming for nontraditional library services. Then the economy changed.

“In the past, what we saw was people coming in to read their e-mail, print boarding passes, kind of fun or recreational uses of the computers,” Shepherd said. “And now, starting about three years ago, we saw a big change, where people are coming in desperate. Sometimes in tears. ‘I have to apply, I don’t have a job, I want to apply, I don’t know how to use a computer.’ And at first we were kind of shocked, like how could these agencies have done this to these people, but then we decided we couldn’t do anything about that. Instead, what we’ll do is learn how to help these people.”


At our library the number of people signing up for beginner's computer classes is rising steadily. At least one patron a day comes in wanting to apply for jobs and they have freeze at the thought of using a computer. I feel terrible for them - they are always so overwhelmed with having to apply and look for jobs online and our librarians really don't have the time to sit there and help them because of how busy we are at the desk and with other patron questions.

This is one reason why anti-library articles drive me up the wall. People have no idea what libraries really do. Patrons are being sent to us from everywhere for everything - notary publics, DMV forms, applying for unemployment benefits, legal documents, tax forms, literacy tutoring, etc. Stuff they used to be able to get elsewhere - now all these agencies send them to the libraries. We have become a one-stop shop.

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