Summer programs boost library attendance in Florida

There aren’t many empty seats at the South County Regional Library in Estero, Florida. The library recently reported a significant increase in traffic during the summer months.

More than 2.8 million people have visited the 13-branch Lee County Library System this year with South County Regional Library boasting record numbers this summer.

Terri Crawford, Deputy Director of Lee County Library System said the response of the community has been great this summer. She said attendance has been through the roof because of the popularity of summer reading programs and other kid-friendly events offered by the library. The programs are designed for kids to keep up with their reading skills for the fall when kids head back to school.

Similar results have been seen in Collier County, where the library system welcomes about 5,000 visitors a day. Library Director, Marilyn Matthes said she has gone to great lengths to get people excited about coming to the library. It’s not always an easy task to get kids excited to be inside and read. This is especially true in the summer months when they could be playing with friends at the pool.

“We’ve had a lot of kids in this summer, which is great, because it’s incredibly important for kids to read in the summer,” Matthes said. “It’s called ‘the summer slump,’ where kids lose their reading skills because they’re not as engaged as they are during the school year.”

Collier libraries try to stave off the so-called summer slump by hosting fun science experiments and museum exhibits. These kid-friendly programs combine both reading and science. Students participating in these events are said to be at an advantage since area public schools are putting an emphasis on educational programs that deal with science, technology, engineering, and math.

It hasn’t just been children filling up area libraries, teens and adults are showing up in record numbers as well.

Barb Farrell Swenson, manager of Lee’s South County Regional Library said the numbers can be attributed to library systems making a conscious effort to ensure the experience is more inviting and comfortable. The environment is not unlike what one would see at a local coffee shop.

“We’re a public place, a lot of people come here for recreational reading, and the more scholarly work,” Farrell Swenson said. “We try to make it as inviting and comfortable as we possibly can to attract everyone, and we also have programs for everyone.”

The regional library has a robust entertainment and music section with roughly 140,000 items on display, including nearly 15,000 DVDs. It also has an online database on its website. With a library card, members can stream music and watch videos in the comfort of their own home.

Even with the summer months coming to a close, the numbers at area libraries are sure to remain steady with students heading back to school. Program directors said they already always prepared and already have a full schedule of events planned for the fall and winter months.