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Library system asks how it can serve communitys needs
Tami Robart, left, checks out books Friday afternoon at the Hall County Library System's main branch from library clerk Barbara von Eppinger. The Hall County Library System is working on long-range planning and wants to get input from the public via an online survey.

Everyone knows there are libraries in the community, but many may not be aware of the diverse services offered through the Hall County Library System.

Assistant Director Lisa MacKinney said the library system is trying to reach out to library users and nonusers alike to assess what changes can be made to draw in more people and better serve the needs of the community.

Through focus groups and online surveys, MacKinney said most people responded they would like to see more library branches closer to their neighborhoods.

"People like having a library in their community," she said, citing the benefits for children and busy adults and the space libraries provide for community organizations. "It’s really ideal to have one within a real limited space." People also were interested in more training for online databases.

"‘We really want you to teach us what all we can do with GALILEO,’" Georgia’s virtual library database, MacKinney said people responded during focus groups.

But the open focus groups, moderated by an outside facilitator, were only drawing current library users.

"We were only getting people who were already invested in the library, people who were already using it," MacKinney said.

She hopes online surveys will help bring input and ideas from people who don’t visit libraries. She said the library system would really like to know why these people do not use their services.

"You’re paying tax dollars toward supporting the service, how can we serve you better?" MacKinney said. "We hope it’s just a lack of awareness about what we’re offering."

MacKinney said the Hall County Library branches offer a number of options and activities that many would not associate with a traditional library.

"Our adult programming has just boomed over the last year," MacKinney said. "We try to accommodate people who are busy by offering online services. You can download video and audio books from our Web page as long as you have a library card; you don’t even have to come in to do that. You can also get e-books. So we do offer things for people who just cannot get to the library."

Other library programs include computer classes, crafts, genealogy and book clubs.

"We have three book clubs going now," MacKinney said. "Hopefully something appeals to everyone."

Hall County Library System Director Adrian Mixson said in the tough economy, many people see the library as a cheap way to get entertaining, best-selling books.

"Half of public libraries’ services is still popular reading, that best-seller or that popular author. ... It’s good, clean entertainment. It’s better to spend some time during the week with your family: attend a library program, checking out books and bringing them home."

Mixson also pointed out that all of the Hall County Library branches have high-speed Internet access.

A new library in North Hall, likely in Clermont, in is on the list of proposed SPLOST VI building projects.

Commissioner Steve Gailey said the new library likely would be about 7,500 square feet and cost about $3 million. He said it would be "quite a bit larger," than the old library currently run by the city of Clermont.

"If we looked at another one later down the road, it would be somewhere in the southwest Hall side of the county," Gailey said.

Mixson said the most recently built library, located on Spout Springs Road, has been received very positively by the South Hall community.

"They’re happy with the services we’re offering over there," Mixson said.