LIBRARY NEWS: A Flourishing Local Library – Pagosa Daily Post

At this time of year, Meg Wempe, library director, prepares an annual report for the library’s board of trustees summarizing the highlights of the past year. The information also is used when your library applies for grants and it is required to be shared with state, county and town governments to keep them informed.

Of course, 2020 was not a normal year. COVID-19 demonstrated the need for organizations to be nimble, flexible and adaptive as closure mandates and operations restrictions were required to keep everyone safe.

Your library staff demonstrated an impressive talent for re-imagining and rethinking services to our patrons. When the library had to close, and later operate at reduced capacity, staff took advantage of technology to arrange virtual programs like Zoom for adult book clubs, Facebook Live for family storytimes and Google Meet for Dungeons and Dragon for teens. They established curbside pickup to keep books, CDs and DVDs in circulation. And they arranged small, by-appointment-only sessions for programs Tech Time, GED and ESL because face-to-face was required.

Here are more details about the 2020 operations. (You can pick up a shorter infographic version at your library.)

The COVID effect: Not surprisingly under COVID conditions, in 2020 our patrons downloaded 7,440 e-books and e-audio books, more than 60% over last year, and logged 2,071 sessions on our electronic databases… a whopping 96% increase.

Major objectives achieved: Last year’s income exceeded expenses, the HVAC system was replaced, we began to update our strategic plan, we started to update our operations and procedures manual, and we moved reserve funds to COLOTrust for investing.

Resource sharing: AspenCat allows our patrons access not only to the 28,072 items in our collection but also to more than 1.5 million items in the other 122 AspenCat libraries. The Colorado Library Consortium courier service provides daily delivery to subscribing libraries throughout the state. In 2020 we borrowed 6,745 items and loaned 1,981 items. By taking advantage of the purchasing power of the State Library and Colorado Library Consortium, we subscribed to multiple educational databases including EBSCOHost, Learning Express and the Encyclopedia Britannica at substantial savings and subscribed to ShoutBomb for text messaging to our patrons about holds and overdue items.

Collection development: Providing our patrons with materials that are current and relevant to the diverse interests of the community is one of our principal goals. We have 28,072 total items in our collection. In 2020 we added 2,926, including 162 from donations, and deleted 8,156 worn or outdated items. Our materials budget for 2021 is $64,500 or 11.5 percent of our total expenses.

Usage stats: 35,186 patrons walked through our doors last year, down about half from last year because of COVID restrictions. We checked out 63,942 items, a decrease of 36% from 2019, again lower because of COVID. We welcomed 25,732 website visits.

Programming: Providing programs for all ages is a very high priority. With COVID, our programming dramatically changed. We increased the number of virtual programs, began take-and-make programs, and limited in-person programs to by appointment. Our programming budget for 2020 is 1.2% of our total expenses.
Donations, grants and volunteers: We are very fortunate to have the ongoing support of the community. In 2020 we received $24,237 in donations and $34,749 in grants, 9% of our total revenue. Our volunteers contributed 1,000 hours, valued at $27,200.

Continuing education: To continue to provide our community with the best possible service, several of our staff attended a variety of educational and networking opportunities last year, many via webinars to avoid travel. We also hosted two staff education days.

Spotlight on board books today
Board books are fun and unique. They are created to be sturdy, attractive learning tools – and often they are both a toy and a book. Learn more by watching a video or joining the all-ages Board Book Reading Challenge today, Thursday, February 18, at 4 p.m. on the library’s Facebook page.

T-shirt design contest
We’d love your help in designing a t-shirt for this year’s Summer Reading Program. The theme will be “Tails and Tales.” This is an all-ages contest. All designs must be original. The winning t-shirt will be worn by staff during the summer, given to the winning designer, and a limited number will be available for purchase. For details and a blank t-shirt template, pick up a flyer at the library or go online to our website. Deadline for submissions is March 8.

Online Spanish conversation
Next Monday, February 22 from 4-5 p.m. our online Spanish conversation group will gather on Google Meet to practice their skills together. You can access the meeting using the Google Meet app or by visiting – and contact Brad at the library if you have questions about using Google Meet.

New all-ages writing challenge
On February 22 we will post a new writing challenge on the library’s Facebook page. We hope you will challenge your creativity by participating. This is a free all-ages activity.

Calling all teens
If you enjoy reading books, learning new skills and helping your community, we hope sixth-12th graders will sign up to volunteer at your library. You’ll write book reviews, make artwork for the teen area, help plan new programs, judge our pumpkin decorating contest, prepare crafts for kids’ programs and help keep the library organized. Please stop by the library or apply online.

Tech Time
Make a 15- to 30-minute appointment for one of three free in-person slots available noon-1 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Brad will help one person (or one couple) at a time resolve issues with your computer, smartphone, tablet and other electronic devices.

Dungeons & Dragons
Wednesdays from 4-6 p.m. Dungeons & Dragons is free for teens and young adults on Google Meet.  Contact to learn how to join. If you don’t have internet access, contact us anyway – we may be able to accommodate you in the library.

“First Platoon” by Annie Jacobsen exposes government secrets in the age of biometrics databases. “The Princess Spy” by Larry Loftis is the true story of an American World War II spy who becomes a countess. “Crossing the Line” by Kareem Rosser documents the author’s path to becoming part of the first all-Black national interscholastic polo championship team.

Mysteries and thrillers
“Three Hours in Paris” by Cara Black features a rural Oregon woman who takes on Hitler. “Shiver” in Allie Reynolds focuses on a reunion weekend in the snowy French Alps. “The Residence” by Andrew Pyper follows President Franklin Pierce and his wife’s unusual grieving in the White House after their son’s death.

Other novels
“Pale” by Edward A. Farmer follows the lives of white plantation owners and Black cotton pickers in the summer of 1966. “Nick” by Michael Farris Smith features narrator Nick Carraway’s life before Gatsby and West Egg going back to the trenches of World War I..

Books on CD
“Robert Ludlum’s The Treadstone Exile” by Joshua Hood is the second novel in the Treadstone ops series. “Faithless in Death” by J.D. Robb is a new Eve Dallas police thriller.. “The Unwilling” by John Hart features a man trying to escape the violent fallout from three tours in Vietnam.

For their generous monetary donation, we thank Susan and Terry Arrington. Please put your material donations into the dropbox at the library – not at City Market, which is reserved for returns. Donations undergo the same rigorous three-day quarantine process as returns.

Quotable Quote
“There is a fountain of youth: It is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.” – Italian actress Sophia Loren.

For more information on library books, services and programs – and to reserve books, e-books, books on CD and DVDs from the comfort of your home – please visit our website at

Carole Howard & Library Staff

The Ruby Sisson Memorial Library has been located at 811 San Juan Street (corner of S. 8th and Hwy 160) since 1989. The library is overseen by the Upper San Juan Library District, a tax-funded special district in Archuleta County.