Education / Schools

SBC Free Library sees increased usage despite pandemic

Annual report shows physical item checkouts, card holders and more are up compared to last year.

The COVID-19 pandemic has not slowed the San Benito County Free Library as residents are increasingly checking out items and using its online services. According to its annual report, the library’s physical and online resource checkouts, library card holders and library visits have increased compared to last fiscal year. 

The biggest single-year increase was checkouts of online resources such as e-books, audiobooks and streaming videos, from 18,334 in 2018-19 to 32,958 in 2019-20. 

“That’s due a lot to the pandemic shelter-in-place,” librarian Erin Baxter said at the Nov. 3 meeting of the San Benito County Board of Supervisors. “Although our library was physically closed people were still able to check out e-resources the whole time throughout the pandemic, so we saw a lot of utilization of that.”

The library also saw an increase in usage compared to last fiscal year in the these areas:

  • Physical item checkout: 210,210 (4.1%)
  • Library card holders: 43,242 (23.1%)
  • Library visits: 115,007 (0.38%)
  • Class and program attendees: 20,832 (6%)
  • Website visits: 147,864 (23.3%)
  • Computer users: 33,185 (0.77%)
  • WiFi users: 16,392 (2.2%)

“People are still using our resources like crazy,” Baxter said of the increased library usage despite being physically closed to the public for the last three months of the 2019-20 fiscal year because of the COVID-19 restrictions. 

Baxter also said infrastructure upgrades the library has gone through over the years has led to the increased use of the library online.  

“The staff has been able to receive technological training and it’s been giving us the ability to constantly improve our website, constantly reevaluate the resources that we are providing via the website,” she said. “We see lots of students, especially, using our educational resources.”

County librarian Nora Conte said children account for 45.7% of card holders, while teens account for 9.8%. 

Conte also highlighted $1.5 million in funding received from grants and other sources. The San Benito County Free Library received grants from the Institute of Museum of Library Services, several from the California State Library and one from Pacific Library Partnership

In her presentation, Conte said the library partnered with PG&E for the ninth year of the Architecture at Zero competition in which architects, professionals and students worldwide submitted designs for the library. It received submissions from participants in the U.S, as well as Turkey, Poland, India and Taiwan.

Conte said the designs were not to be used or emulated, but were a way to “peek” at what the library could look like in the future. They can be viewed here.

“I very much want to thank [County Administrative Officer] Ray Espinosa for his leadership and guidance in the area of technology, which has helped us to reach out to the community and provide services,” she said.


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Noe Magaña

Noe Magaña is BenitoLink Co-Editor and Content Manager. He joined BenitoLink as reporter intern and was soon brought on staff as a BenitoLink reporter. He also experiments with videography and photography. He is a San Benito High School alumnus with a bachelor's in journalism from San Jose State and a Liberal Arts Associate's Degree from Gavilan College. Noe also attended San Jose City College and was the managing editor for the City College Times, the school's newspaper. He was a reporter and later a copy editor for San Jose State's Spartan Daily. He is a USC Center for Health Journalism 2020 California Fellow.