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Schools' snow days often boost business at libraries

Thursday, February 6, 2014 - 7:03 am

In many departments and at many branches of the Allen County Public Library, snow days mean more visitors and more work.

Weather conditions were bad enough in January that the library was closed on four days when it normally would have been open. And the same snow drifts and bitter cold that persuades school districts to close sometimes make it difficult for enough staff to make it to work at all the branches, as was the case Wednesday.

The Pontiac and Tecumseh branches and the radio reading service hosted by the library all were closed Wednesday because of staffing problems. Four other branches – Dupont, Little Turtle, Monroeville and New Haven – closed at 5 p.m. Wednesday.

But the county's schools were closed even more often, including today, and snow days at school seemed to send many kids – and often their parents – to the library.

Cheryl Ferverda, the library's manager of communications and development, asked administrators throughout the system how operations have been affected by having classes canceled so often so far this year.

In Business, Science and Technology at the main library – not traditionally an irresistible lure for kids – staff members have the impression that there were many more children there in January than ever before. More people appear to be staying there for longer periods of time, and some families with young children are in the department most of – if not all of – the day, Ferverda was told.

Regulars at library branches frequently are not deterred by rough weather, unless travel alerts are keeping people off the street.

At the Dupont branch, snow days have been busy, much busier than typical weekdays at this time of year. The extra traffic comes not just from kids but also from teachers and entire families, Ferverda learned.

But at another north-side branch, Georgetown on East State Boulevard, staff are seeing the opposite. There the door count is hundreds of people a day fewer than they typically see in January.

At Access Fort Wayne, the television operation that provides services for public-access cable channels, staff know how much viewers insist on programming, so even when the library was closed, someone from Access Fort Wayne made it there to set up programs for broadcast. When the Fort Wayne City Council canceled a meeting, Access Fort Wayne ran a repeat of the previous week's meeting, she learned.

Closing down for a few days doesn't save the library system any money, because staff get paid the same even in the (until this year) rare instances when the library is closed due to the weather. In fact, it's likely that the subzero cold and frequent snows will cost the library more for heating, for plowing snow and for melting ice, Ferverda said.