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DL Library serves thousands of all ages

Where in town can you travel to anywhere imaginable, see a famous celebrity and hear about the biggest news in history?

Where in town can you rent a movie, get a book, look up something on the computer and learn something new from a particular organization all for free?

The answer to all of the above? The Detroit Lakes Public Library.

"I feel it is important to have a public library in town because it is the one place in town where things are free," Deb Wahl, public services supervisor at the Lake Agassiz Regional Library in Detroit Lakes, said.

"There is a wealth of knowledge and adventure in a library. I have always said that through reading you can go anyplace, anywhere, anytime."

And there are quite a few people in the surrounding area that would agree.

A popular place

The library conducts "output measures" four times a year -- counting the number of people coming in the door, whether it is to check out books, use the computer or use the study rooms.

During the week of July 12-17, 3,103 people came through the doors, and in May, the count was at 2,700. It averages out to about 480 people a day using the library.

The library usage has grown so much that besides the main library in Detroit Lakes, area towns also host LINK sites. Cormorant, Frazee, Ulen and Lake Park all host LINK sites.

Usage is up from previous years, too.

LARL's Director Kathy Fredette said circulation was up 5 percent in 2009, and is already up 8 percent more as of August this year. During the month of August, 16 non-library related organizations and 22 library-related groups used the library's meeting rooms.

"More and more people are coming to the library -- and they're making use of the library," she said.

There is plenty to use at the library too. It's not just about books anymore.

You want it, they got it

Books, DVDs, CDs, audio books, newspapers, children's area, meeting rooms, study rooms, classes, computers -- the library has it. And they are all popular and well used.

"Some people gravitate more towards computer use, while others are movie watchers and still others just love printed material," she said. "Graphic novels seem to be popular with teens. Our Summer Reading program again had another record year."

So, how does the library decide what books to have on its shelves, and what does the library do with all those books once the new ones come in?

Fredette said LARL's Collection Development Policy guides what goes into the collection.

"Also, a large number of items purchased are recommendations made by our customers," she said.

Items are removed from the collection when they are damaged beyond repair or the information becomes outdated -- like medical and legal information, for example.

"Periodically the collection development staff will do an overall maintenance, what we call 'weeding,' to remove older materials from the collection," Wahl said. "If we have duplicates of something or if a newer version of something comes out -- i.e., a road atlas, an antiques price guide book -- the older version will be taken off the shelf."

Statewide lending

There is also what the library calls the "floating" collection, where if someone requests an item from another library or LINK site, and then returns it to the Detroit Lakes location, it "floats" at the DL location until it is requested at another library.

Customers can get materials from any library in the state if they so desire, Wahl said. Materials from other libraries, other than LARL, have to go back to their home libraries, though.

The number of copies the library has on hand also varies. Depending on popularity and demand. Some of the more popular ones at the Detroit Lakes library include "Freedom" by Jonathan Franzen -- "because of all the publicity. We have 72 holds on seven copies and have ordered more."

She continued that Stephenie Meyer's "Twilight" series was quite popular for a while; "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett still gets a lot of requests; William Paul Young's "The Shack" was quite popular, and James Patterson books are popular.

"Different genres appeal to different people."

Christian book readers like Karen Kingsbury; Debbie Macomber is a popular women's author.

People come in requesting books they have heard about on MPR, heard about on a talk show or read about in a magazine or newspaper, she said. Movies also generate interest in certain books.

"For example, we had more requests for Diary of a Wimpy Kid after the movie came out," she added.

'Banned Books' Week

When it comes to censorship and book bans, the library has a policy for books and one for computer usage.

The library's Collection Development Policy says: "LARL endorses the American Library Association's Bill of Rights, and seeks to reflect differing points of view within its' collection. LARL welcomes expression of opinion by customers but will be governed by the Collection Development Policy when adding or removing items from the collection."

Wahl said the collection is meant to meet the "diverse needs and interests of a population spread across seven counties."

Going on now through Oct. 2 is Banned Books Week at the library. The purpose of the yearly celebration is to celebrate the "freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment," according to the website, "Banned Books Week highlights the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted bannings of books across the United States."

The books featured during that week are books that people have attempted to have banned in the past.

Keeping it clean online

As for the Internet and computer usage at the library, there is an Internet & Computer Use Policy, which means some sites are blocked for those 17 and under per the federal Child Internet Protection Act. For adults, Wahl said library staff can manually unfilter sites as needed.

When the public logs onto the computer to use it, the Internet & Computer Use Policy comes up automatically. It states that the computers cannot be used to display anything obscene, pornographic or harmful to others.

They cannot be used for gambling, to violate copyright laws, for business of commercial gain or to invade the privacy of someone else.

Besides being used for social networking and such, the computers play a large role in the lives of people who may not be able to afford a computer at home.

"As more and more forms and applications are only available online, the library really meets customer needs in this area," Wahl said. "We have people come in and fill out job applications, prepare resumes, file for unemployment, get tax forms, use our databases for research -- just get access to loads of stuff information and resources they might not otherwise be able to access."

Free software classes

With such a variety of items, the library serves people of all ages. There is storytime each week for little kids, study rooms for students (or anyone, really), proctor tests for college students and the books, DVDs and computers for everyone.

"Libraries foster literacy. Our children's and youth programs are geared to increase the interest and reading levels of young people and to help them become lifelong learners," Wahl said.

"I see libraries as a place of learning and helping people to keep up with the new technologies."

To help with that, library staff teaches a variety of programs such as Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, Internet Searching, how to use Ebay, how to use email, how to use Google and how to search for genealogy databases.

The meeting room upstairs, which is heavily used for meetings, is also a spot for artists to display their work to the public.

"The beauty of all these, including our library-offered classes, is that they are free," Wahl said.