County library has big impact

GREENFIELD — For Hancock County resident Jayme Kramer, the best thing about the library is the children’s section — both the selection and the play area her three children love.

For someone like Jenny Smith, a Vincennes University proctor who tutors at the library two days a week, it’s impressive to see the tutoring that takes place and the services offered to patrons regularly.

The Indiana State Library ranks Hancock County Public Library one of the best in the state for its size, and patrons agree.

The library is ranked in the top 15 in terms of circulation offerings and employs one of the most educated staffs in the state, 2015 statistics from the state library show.

Kramer, who previously lived in Marion County, said she prefers Hancock County’s library system over the libraries she used to visit.

“For Hancock County, they have a lot to offer,” Kramer said.

The library system, which includes branches in Greenfield and New Palestine, serves about 57,000 Hancock County residents — the Fortville-Township Public Library, which is not part of the HCPL network, serves residents in Vernon Township — making it the 25th biggest library in the state.

Hancock County Public Library is considered a Class A library — the highest classification — based on the number of residents it serves. About 30 of the 237 libraries in the state are Class A, said Jennifer Clifton, Indiana State Library consultant.

In 2015, Hancock County’s library was ranked 14 in the state for its total circulation of nearly 900,000 items, which include physical and digital copies of books, magazines, CDs and DVDs.

And as the library’s circulation continues to grow — it increased by about 6,000 items between 2014 and 2015 — it may soon break the top 10 list, Gray said. It has already cracked the top 10 for electronic circulation, coming in at No. 9 in 2015, with about 94,000 electronic checkouts.

Not only does the library rank well in terms of circulation, it also boasts a staff of librarians with master’s degrees, the statistics show.

The library employed 20 librarians with American Library Association-accredited master’s degrees in library and information service in 2015, Clifton added.

Hancock County’s number of librarians with accredited master’s degrees is comparable with other central Indiana libraries, including Kokomo, Carmel and Vigo County, but they all have larger service populations, Clifton said.

And there are only 12 Indiana public libraries that employ more librarians with accredited master’s degrees than Hancock County, said Dave Gray, Hancock County Public Library director.

The library’s dedication to hiring professional librarians benefits its patrons, said reference librarian Paul McNeil. It allows certain librarians to focus on very specific areas of study — for example, McNeil has come to be the go-to guy for questions about local history.

“I think it goes to show the quality we’ve come to expect here at the library,” McNeil said. “I think the fact that we’ve maintained that staff has really benefited us by the numbers.”

And patrons should know they’re in good hands when they visit their local branch, Smith said.

“I think this place is very impressive,” she said.

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Rorye Hatcher is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at ​317-477-3211 or rhatcher@greenfieldreporter.com.