Despite unprecedented challenges in the last three years due to COVID-19 and a national surge in book bans, Kent District Library has continued to provide residents of all ages with access to millions of resources, directly supporting community development, entrepreneurship, early literacy and more.
KDL serves residents in 27 municipalities through 20 branches, a bookmobile, an Express Library, its main service center, 5,000-plus annual in-person programs and a host of patron-focused services, from in-branch printer/Wi-Fi access and loanable mobile hot spots to early literacy initiatives and an extensive collection of talking books and Braille resources.
Since 2014, KDL has seen utilization of its services grow in all areas, from circulation and branch visits to card holders and event attendance. In 2022, library patrons saved an average of $1,348 by using KDL’s resources, though its value goes far beyond monetary comparisons.
“The library is so much more than a building,” said KDL Executive Director Lance Werner. “We are a place for people to gather and connect, a gateway to ideas and critical thinking, and an inclusive space where all are welcome and valued.
“We’re proud of the millions of resources, programs and services we are able to provide residents of Kent County. As that critical ‘third place,’ we are honored to give Kent County residents millions of opportunities to learn, grow and come together.”
In the last nine years, total circulation of KDL’s 700,000 physical items has increased by 20%. Its digital collection has doubled to include more than 15.6 million items and posted a circulation increase of 300%. This collection is not limited to books, music and movies; it features a wide range of educational materials including video courses, language lessons, online databases, research and at-home learning materials, Wi-Fi hotspots and a Talking Book & Braille Center.
These resources – and more – support early literacy and education and improve accessibility for residents. At-home learning materials support children learning how to read in a non-traditional classroom setting. Wi-Fi hot spots allow individuals who do not have access to internet at home to connect to online resources, which was particularly critical during the pandemic. Braille resources give individuals with vision impairments a chance to experience the joy of reading.
The library also serves as a hub for thousands of programs, community gatherings and more each year. Program attendance at the library’s 20 branches has increased by 62% since 2014. In 2022, more than 5,000 in-person programs were hosted by the library, ranging from weekly storytimes and teen movie nights to mental health seminars and lab experiments for students.
These programs help build community and connection across the more than 440,000 residents who live in KDL’s service area. Whether it’s parents with young children building camaraderie during an afternoon Babytime, students forming friendships during Teen Zone or young professionals connecting over shared interests, the library provides a safe space for people of all ages, demographics and backgrounds to come together to learn and connect.
Kent District Library is pursuing a reduced-rate millage in November 2023 to support operations for through 2034. To learn more about the proposed millage, which is expected to save taxpayers $3.1 million annually, visit kdl.org/millage.