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Riverside Regional Library sees increase in new cardholders

The Riverside Regional Library's main branch is located in Jackson. Photo by Jay Forness

The Riverside Regional Library, which serves citizens of Cape Girardeau County, Perry County and Scott County, saw an increase in card holders in 2021 despite the continued effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on operations.

In 2021, the library saw a 2.95% increase in library cardholders, bringing the library system up to 40,415 active members, or around 47% of the total service area population. The library’s current legal service area population in 85,846.

“In our last five-year strategic plan, we were shooting for 40 percent and we’ve passed that,” Library Director Jeff Trinkle said. “We thought it was pretty lofty goal, but when we go back and do our next five year plan, we may have to go for 50 percent or more.”

Trinkle said Riverside Regional Library has continually increased its number of cardholders over the past decades, including when the City of Jackson became a part of the library’s service area in 2013.

“When we took the City of Jackson as our service area, many people already had library cards with us because we had not been charging them the out-of-district fee,” Trinkle said. “Our main library was already in Jackson and it didn’t feel like a fair thing to do, so even though our service population went up, we could now count those cardholders without any kind of issue.”

Cape Girardeau County exceeds the library system average – with 48.65% of Cape Girardeau County citizens having a Riverside library card, excluding those in the City of Cape Girardeau who have their own public library.

Trinkle said the increase wasn’t due to any specific campaign to add more cardholders, but through strong word of mouth and people coming into the libraries to ask about getting their library card.

“We haven’t done a real card campaign – it’s almost a daily thing for us,” Trinkle said. “We are always trying to improve our collection, our programs and our resources to get more people in the library.”

The library has increased its digital collection by 22% – including more downloadable audiobooks, e-books, magazines, music and online databases for research including genealogy.

“We have seen an increase of our digital collection – that’s downloadable audiobooks, e-books, magazines, music, online databases for research including genealogy. You see a lot of people using those resources of ours.

“We have grown our online collections to try to reach younger families that are busy, and we see a lot of people using those resources,” Trinkle said.

While not reaching the same amount of item checkouts, library visits or number of programs offered from before the pandemic, the library did see a rise in all of those figures compared to 2020.

“Circulation went up, and I think that has a lot to do with people starting to get back out and feeling comfortable coming into the buildings,” Trinkle said.

A total of 178,544 circulation transactions occurred across the library system in 2021, an increase from 161,381 in 2020 and a decrease from 317,484 in 2019. More than 100,000 of the checkouts last year were from the Jackson location.

While all Riverside Regional Library locations remained open in 2021, many services such as in-person programing were limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Trinkle said the library system increased services as the year progressed and was back to full operation at the beginning of 2022.

“Since the first of the year, we decided to go back to full service,” Trinkle said. “The only program we did in-house last year was the AARP tax service. Of course we did that again this year, but we are now doing our own in-house programs and opening our meeting room up for the community to use it again.”

Trinkle said the library has continued offering the new services created during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as virtual programing and curbside delivery, despite returning to pre-pandemic operations.

“We have found that those services are still popular,” Trinkle said. “During the pandemic, we put a lot of energy in building up virtual program – bolstering our social media and learning how to stream. We even had people from the United Kingdom and Australia watching our YouTube channel.”

Jay Forness covers education, county government and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Jackson for the past four years. He can be reached at cbjedit@socket.net.

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