Library use soars in Saratoga County

If you'd just lost your job or were feeling strapped for cash, would you rather pay for Internet access, entertainment and learning, or would you rather go somewhere where you can get them for free?

That place, of course, is the library, and while residents of Saratoga County technically pay for their services through taxes, more and more are seeking a return on that investment, resulting in a dramatic spike in library usage that has lasted for months.

Residents are not just there to check out what they used to buy at the store they are also taking advantage of library programming to hone their skills while in job limbo.

At the Saratoga Springs Public Library, the computer training center is often crowded with the recently unemployed, said Library Director A. Issac Pulver.

The computer use is really skyrocketing," he said. The free training courses offered by the library run the gamut from basic to advanced use of cameras, Windows and Photoshop, just to name a few.

"A lot of people are taking advantage of those to keep their computer skills up, especially if they're between jobs," said Pulver.

While circulation at the SSPL has increased a healthy 7 percent year-to-date, computer use has gone up 21 percent, program attendance has risen 15 percent and questions to the reference desk (many of which involve job searches) have gone up 25 percent.

The story is much the same at the Clifton Park Halfmoon Library.

"We're seeing 10 percent increases in our use each month," said Library Director Alexandra Gutelius. "Our circulation is just skyrocketing."

The library now serves about 41,000 cardholders and averages 300 new members each month. One area that has seen a marked surge has been periodicals, where use has risen about 20 percent from levels a year ago.

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