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Hard times a boon for the library
More people using the facility for job searches
Kay Quall of Gainesville uses the Internet for e-mail and other purposes at the Hall County Library because she is currently in “tough financial times.” The Hall County Library System has recently seen an increase in patrons due to the state of the economy. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

For the past week, 25-year-old Travis Loyd has been spending his afternoons at the Gainesville branch of the Hall County Library.

In his search for employment, the library has become Loyd’s go-to place to search for jobs, fill out online job applications and find free recreation reading the books and magazines that surround him there.

With the downturn in the economy, more people like Loyd are flocking to Hall County’s libraries looking for jobs or free recreation, said Adrian Mixson, director of the Hall County Library System.

In July and August, there were 21 percent more visitors to Hall County’s libraries than there were in the same two months last year, Mixson said, and many of them are coming to use the computers, Mixson said.

In July and August, library patrons were on the Internet for 28,035 hours, and computer use as a whole rose 14 percent, Mixson said.

"That’s a lot of usage," he said.

From a walk-through of the Gainesville branch Wednesday morning, Mixson said he watched patrons use the computers for a variety of different reasons, but many were looking for jobs or building resumes.

"There’s a lot more job-hunters here," said
Michael Fouch, a four-year library assistant at the Gainesville branch, who sorted through books near the second-floor computers Wednesday.

These days, there are lots of people asking Fouch for help with online job applications and resume writing, he said. Many of them are in their 30s and 40s.

Circulation has increased by 18.7 percent this fiscal year as people begin looking for cheaper recreation opportunities.

When he is not on the computer looking for jobs, Loyd still finds plenty to do at the Gainesville branch.

Without a paycheck, Loyd said he goes to the library where he knows he can read the magazine and take home books and movies for free.

"I don’t got the money," he said.

Even the library’s revenues from fines are reflecting the increased traffic. Based on last year’s fine revenues, which were about $50,000, the system plans to bring in about $55,000 from patrons paying for lost items or late returns this fiscal year, Mixson said.

In the first two months of this fiscal year, patrons had already paid the system $18,000 in fines, Mixson said.

Although some of the library system’s increased traffic can be attributed to the new branch on Spout Springs Road, Mixson said that increase is leveled out by the road construction near the Blackshear Place branch.

Since construction began, use of the Blackshear Place branch has been down by about 20 percent, Mixson said.

That’s not to say the bad economy has not taken its toll on the county’s libraries.

The state cut approximately $38,000 from a planned $168,000 in book funding for the county’s library system this year in an effort to loosen a tight economic budget.

Hall County Commissioners did not cut the system’s budget this year, Mixson said, but the county’s hiring freeze has kept the Spout Springs Road branch without a circulation manager.

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