News Feature

Originally published in Castine Patriot, November 15, 2012
Witherle Memorial Library earns Library Journal stars

Monday morning knitting club

Despite being closed for Veterans Day, November 12, director Anne Romans, standing, opened the library for its Monday morning knitting club. The library earned a three-star rating from the 2012 Library Journal Index for its library services.

Photo by Anne Berleant Order prints of selected PBP photos.

by Anne Berleant

For the first time, Witherle Memorial Library has its name on the Library Journal Index of starred national libraries.

Library Journal, a major publication of the library community, publishes the Index each year, awarding libraries one to five stars based on how they measure against other libraries with similar operating budgets in the quantities of library services they deliver.

Witherle library received three stars from the Library Journal Index for libraries spending $100,000 to $199,000 annually, based on 2010 data. It was one of six libraries in Maine named to the 2012 Index.

“I’m not sure why they picked us this year,” said Anne Romans, director of the library.

The Index compares data on the number of patron visits, attendance at program events, Internet terminal use, and library items checked out among U.S. libraries.

“It should tell us we’re doing something right,” said Romans.

Romans submits Castine library statistics to the Maine Library System each year. The Institute of Museums and Libraries compiles these numbers for all U.S. libraries.

In turn, Baker & Taylor, a library material distributor, uses the data to compare U.S. libraries on the quantities of services they deliver, and Library Journal designates the star ratings.

Overall, 262 libraries received star designations in the 2012 Index.

“It’s not a bad thing,” Romans said.

The Index is designed to recognize and promote America’s public libraries, to help improve the pool of nationally collected library statistics, and to encourage library self-evaluation.

According to Library Journal’s website, the LJ Index scores do not indicate the quality, effectiveness, or value of library services, nor whether the quantities of services provided sufficiently address community needs.

But in October alone, the library counted 2,011 visits by adults and children, using a counting device in the lower and upper level entrances, and 85 adults and (mostly) children attended its Halloween program.

As Margery Read, chairman of the library board of trustees, put it: “Hooray for the library and Anne Romans and the staff.”