Posted 2/29/12 (Wed)
By Kate Ruggles
Farmer Staff Writer
Libraries aren’t just for quiet research and studying anymore, at least not in McKenzie County. The area’s recent changes have pole-vaulted its library system into being more than a place to check out books.
“We are busy from open to close,” states Judy Murie, who has worked at the McKenzie County Public Library for 29 years.
Traditionally, the library has appealed mostly to teenagers and mothers with young children. But now the library system finds itself attracting a whole new group of users.
Due to the fact that a rising portion of McKenzie County’s population resides in campers and man camps, many men find themselves without access to a computer. Or, even if they have a computer, they lack access to the internet, making the McKenzie County Public Library an unlikely get-away for them.
According to Murie, the McKenzie County Public Library has had roughly 3,000 more computer users in 2011 than in the previous year.
“And since the beginning of this year, we’ve had a little over 1,800 people come in to use the computer,” states Murie.
However, those numbers only reflect the number of patrons who have signed in to use a computer station. About eight months ago, the McKenzie County Public Library added wireless internet use to the list of services it offers. Which means that there is no official record of computer users with their own laptop, tablet or Smartphone.
Murie states that the library does try to keep track of the number of people who walk through the library doors, and in 2011 that number was 1,012 more than in 2010. But even that number doesn’t totally reflect the number of wi-fi users the library actually has, because not only do library workers see a lot of people using the library’s wi-fi during business hours, but Murie states that patrons take advantage of the wireless internet access after business hours.
“We see people sitting outside of the library with their laptops to connect to the internet,” states Murie. “It isn’t password-protected because we wanted people to be able to use it whenever.”
Diane DeFoe, who has been working at the library for over a year, states that patrons will use the internet for everything from paying their bills back home online to searching and applying for jobs.
According to Pam Haugen, owner of Raw Energy which also provides wireless internet access, her customers love being able to have a place to connect with their family.
“We have people come in every day to use the wi-fi,” Haugen states. “They are able to keep in touch with their families through e-mail or skype, or just hang out and search the internet.”
Though the library’s computer usage has skyrocketed, it isn’t all internet use. According to Murie, the McKenzie County Public Library has seen a lot of new families as well.
“We have given out 61 new library cards since January of 2011,” states Murie.
Some of the other services the library has seen a rise in are faxing and simply giving out information.
Murie states that oftentimes a newcomer will be searching for a location or service, or just information in general about the town in which they now reside.
Whatever function the McKenzie County Public Library is helping to provide, its service is just as essential as ever before.
The McKenzie County Public Library is open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., on Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.