A push to create a “destination experience” that adheres to a more technologically-driven demographic is the goal for the Kyle Public Library.
As a result of their work, the KPL claimed a state-wide award signifying efforts to change with the times.
In March, library officials received the Achievement of Excellence Award for 2017 from the Texas Municipal Library Directors Association. Founded in 1966, the organization aims to promote public library professions, improve library service and to maintain high standards of ethics.
Winners submitted an application that demonstrated their library’s excellence in 10 service categories, which include digital inclusion, providing resources to underserved communities,
introducing new services or enhancing existing ones.
Of more than 550 public libraries in Texas, the Kyle Public Library was one of only 52 to have its work recognized in 2017.
As the Kyle community changes with society as a whole, the library must make its own changes to properly serve residents, said Library Director Paul Phelan.
“People think libraries are a thing of the past,” Phelan said.”They’re really not, they’re just changing. But they’ve always changed, so it’s really nothing new.”
Last fiscal year, 191,275 items were checked out or renewed at the library, a 27 percent increase over the previous year, which was also record-breaking, Phelan said. So far, 2018 numbers look to be on par.
Much of that has to do with Kyle’s growth, Pheland said. However, numbers for events and programming held at the KPL are equally growing.
According to statistics, 153,998 people came through the library doors in 2017 and staff reported 2,700 adult program attendees.
Programming and events help make the Kyle Public Library what Phelan calls “a destination experience.”
“One of our goals here is not only to provide reading materials. We want you to not get a book and leave, we want you to come here and have an experience,” he said. “Sit in the butterfly garden or have a cup of coffee in the foyer and read, like you would at a Starbucks or any other coffeeshop.”
As more and more of the workforce uses a computer to complete daily tasks, our world can feel more isolated, Phelan said. Events and programming at the public library give residents a space to come together to pursue their interests.
“A lot of people enjoy coming to the library and participating at the library. I think people like meeting with people and interacting with their community,” Phelan said. “People need a space to come together and pursue their interests and intellectual endeavors. People want to a place to get out of their house, and not pay $50 or $100 to do that.”
To help create that experience for residents, the library and the city are in the process of installing a 50-square-foot butterfly reading garden on a plot of land located north of the building that could be open as early as July.
They have partnered with a gardening club that meets at the library to help select plants native to Texas that will attract butterflies and require minimal watering and irrigation. The garden will include benches and an internal walking path, Phelan said.
The butterfly garden will be located in a section of land acquired in the tailend of 2017. Phelan said the roughly acre-and-a-half of land not only improves the area’s aesthetics, but allows the library to hold large, outdoor events. One such event coming up this summer is the fantasy-themed summer reading program kickoff party, scheduled for June 9.
“Like public schools, (libraries) are a great equalizer and it really helps,” Phalen said. “All of our citizens, regardless of their socioeconomic background, come to interact and socialize. That’s becoming a focal point of the library.”