Article from the Abilene Reporter-News on Wednesday, November 13, 2019 by Timothy Chipp
Change is coming to the Abilene Public Library, both in the short term and in the future.
While librarians and city officials continue working toward building and opening Abilene Heritage Square in the former Lincoln Middle School, they'll do it with a new head librarian.
Lori Grumet, who has been in charge of the library system for the past five years, is retiring next week.
She's leaving it in great shape, she said, with an investing fan base, growing circulation, and strong online presence.
"The library's been doing great," Grumet said before Tuesday's annual meeting for the Friends of the Abilene Public Library. "It's as popular as ever."
Grumet leaves Chris Gibson (Assistant Director of Community Services for the City of Abilene) in charge on an interim basis, with Janis Test, the city's senior librarian, there to assist.
Grumet's final year in charge brought with it a growing library. From this time last year, 5,924 new library cards were issued to patrons, a sign of recruiting new visitors.
In 2018, the library attracted 5,334, according to the annual report released last year.
Likewise, growth happened in circulation (almost 830,000 items in 2019 vs. 803,000 in 2018) and digital downloads (246,000 items vs. 210,000).
Event attendance dipped this year, though, with 61,000 attendees, down from 66,000 last year. Reference questions dropped by about 1,000 (48,300 vs. 49,200) and visitors decreased from 531,000 in 2018 to 514,000 this past year.
While the numbers may be a mix of good and bad, Grumet is leaving having helped implement one of the biggest programs the library has been a part of in a while.
Now in its second year, the library has partnered with the Abilene Independent School District to provide a free library card to all students simply through their student identification.
And students who may not be able to visit the library for whatever reason, Grumet said, can request and receive their materials through their classroom.
"And they can return them the same way," Grumet said. "Year One showed us students want physical books. I think we will see even more books circulating because of this program.
While gathered for lunch Tuesday, the organization dedicated to helping the library system behind the scenes made a change of their own.
Led by Emerald Cassidy and Kristina Campos-Davis, the Friends of the Abilene Public Library unveiled a new logo, a circular rendition of an opened book.
The group elected Garret Smith its president for 2020. He takes over for Judith Phaneuf.