Library provided $6M value to patrons last year

Published 11:09 am Friday, December 30, 2011

The Southwest Georgia Regional Library (SWGRL) system, which includes the Decatur County-Gilbert H. Gragg Library, provided more than $6 million worth of value to the citizens of southwest Georgia in the 2010-2011 fiscal year.

According to statistics provided by the SWGRL, there were 168,352 books borrowed from SWGRL libraries in the fiscal year from July 1, 2010, to June 30, 2011. At an estimated “value” of $25 per book, based on the average price of a book if a patron had purchased it from a store, the value of those borrowed books was approximately $4.2 million.

Additional value estimates were attributed to other library services. Some of those values included $247,205 for videos borrowed (at a $4.99 value per video, similar to the cost of a rental), $477,084 for computer usage (at a $12 per use value estimate) and $261,548 for reference questions answered (at a $7 value per question).

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According to the SWGRL’s research, the total value of all free library benefits was exactly $6,003,195.51. The system’s operating budget for the fiscal year was a little less than $1.2 million.

“The library is still one of the best deals in the world, especially in these harsh economic times,” said Susan Whittle, director of the Decatur County-Gilbert H. Gragg Library. “We’re just happy to have the support of all of our partners, the county, the city, and our board, to help get that value out to our citizens.”

One relatively new service offered by the system is a pass program that allows card-holding patrons to get free admission to some Georgia attractions. In March, the system’s three libraries began offering a Zoo Atlanta pass, good for admission to the park for a family of four — two children and two adults (a $73.96 value). The pass cannot be reserved and each library only has one pass, but they have already proven to be quite popular. Families who check out the pass also are required to borrow an informational DVD about the zoo.

“It’s been very popular since the program started,” said Taryn Brown, youth services and communications librarian at the Decatur County library. “It was more popular in the summer, obviously, with more people going on vacation. But we’re still getting it checked out quite frequently, even here in the fall and winter.”

Brown said there are also similar passes for various Georgia state parks and fishing areas, and those passes typically also include free parking. According to the SWGRL’s statistics, 36 patrons borrowed the Zoo Atlanta pass and 22 borrowed a state park pass.

Whittle said one especially popular service offered by the library is its computers, particularly by patrons who are looking for employment.

“We have a lot of people who come in and look through jobs through the computer networks,” she said. “Others come in to take tests for employment. It’s a service that we’re happy to provide and that a lot of people are using.”

Other statistics of note included the following:

• In the 2011-12 fiscal year, the system had 28,977 registered card holders.

• The system added 15,258 new materials.

• The system’s libraries were used 290,950 times.

• The system’s computers were used 39,757 times.

• A total of 188,493 people visited the library during the fiscal year.

The SWGRL includes the Decatur County library, the Miller County James W. Merritt Jr. Memorial Library, the Seminole County Public Library, the Bookmobile and the Southwest Georgia Library for Accessible Services. It serves a population of 44,008 citizens, over an area of 1,118 square miles.

The Decatur County-Gilbert H. Gragg Library is located at 301 S. Monroe St. in Bainbridge, and its phone number is (229) 248-2665. For more information on the SWGRL, visit online at