Library file photo

Cooper Marlatt, (center) age 8, sorts through Legos with his mother, Nancy and John Leonard, age 10, during a 2016 Lego Club meeting at the Albany County Public Library. Since then, youth participation in the summer programs has risen 20 percent, and the library has also seen increases in youth circulation of books and audiobooks.

When Albany County Public Library Director Ruth Troyanek started as a librarian 15 years ago, she said there was a bigger focus on providing more programming for teenagers.

Now, she said many of those former teens are bringing their own children to the library, fitting with a national trend of increasing millennial and youth patrons at libraries in recent years.

In its last fiscal year, between July 2017 and June 2018, the Albany County Public Library saw 81,000 check-outs of youth materials, consisting of half of the library’s overall circulation.

Beyond physical books, many of the youth checkouts are audiobooks and other physical materials as well. Troyanek said her son often mixes reading physical books and listening to audiobooks, and youth services librarian Monica Owens said when her nephew was around 10 years old, he liked reading along in a physical book with the audiobook to hear different voices and pronunciations of words.

“I think kids of today are used to maybe reading in multiple formats,” Troyanek said.

The library also offers picture book programs on their computer that pair each story with fun animations, bright colors and read-along features, another way to mix technology with reading.

No matter which style visitors prefer, Owens said the library has tried to adapt its services to meet the needs of either reading preference. She added she’s noticed many millennials prefer the break from technology provided by a paper book as it provides an opportunity to “get away” from the technology so saturated in everyday life.

At the same time, those who are comfortable and really do prefer the technology, we’ve had such a big growth in our offerings for e-books and audio books and other downloadable material,” Owens said. “So, whichever side they’re on, we’ve got something for them.”

Youth attendance at the library’s scheduled activities and events have also increased in the last fiscal year. The summer reading program saw 750 children, from babies to 18-year-olds, who participated in the challenge, a 20 percent increase.

In the same year, the library offered 588 programs aimed for youth ages 0-12 in addition to 62 programs for teens, with steady attendance at an average of 25 youth and 16 teens per event, respectively.

Owens said one of the contributing factors to the increased attendance is the library’s outreach to different demographics, including providing Spanish reading material as well as programs for new parents. Over the past year, she said she’s continued to try to make programming more accessible.

“One of the things when I was hired that was a big priority for me is to have more programs for working parents,” Owens said. “We’ve tried to have some more things on Saturdays and evenings, so that might add to the attendance as well.”

Looking forward, Troyanek said the library continues to adjust its programming to suit the community’s needs. The library tries to work with partners around Laramie to save resources by not duplicating services, Owens said, including Big Brothers Big Sisters as an example.

This week is National Library Week, and the library is looking to highlight books and libraries during its regularly scheduled activities, including pajama story time 7 p.m. tonight.

The library’s website, www.acplwy.org, has event schedules, e-book access and other resources.

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