New Sugar Creek library seeing record circulation

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NEW PALESTINE — Books and movies have been flying off the shelves since the Sugar Creek Branch of the Hancock County Public Library opened early last month. Patrons old and new are showing a renewed interest in the much larger and well-illuminated library, the branch manager says.

When doors opened on Feb. 11, visitors to the new library circulated 1,899 items in the 11-hour work day, five times more than usual, said Jeanette Sherfield, branch manager. The former library, located about a mile east of the new branch at 5731 W. U.S. 52, used to circulate 300 to 400 items a day.

“It’s pretty much been an increase on everything,” Sherfield said.

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Circulation was up 25 percent in February compared to February 2018. Sherfield said that increase included the library being closing for a week for the move into the new building. The branch also issued 62 new cards for patrons in February — an 88 percent spike — and card renewal increased by 26 percent last month, she said.

Usage has leveled off a bit in March, Sherfield said, but the library has still been averaging 500 to 800 items circulated a day, almost double the daily check-outs at the previous Sugar Creek branch, a former drugstore and post office in New Palestine measuring 7,480 square feet.

Patrons are enjoying the 15,000-square-foot facility, which is full of natural light that illuminates the shelves, Sherfield said. The collection is also laid out in a more spacious fashion, with room to grow.

“Things are standing out more than they used to,” Sherfield said.

Families also have their own space at the library. The children’s room is separate from the main library area and is full of books, games and computers. A large blue-and-green clubhouse purchased with help from the Friends of the Library stands tall in the corner of the room as a play area for younger kids.

Debi Tucker and Elizabeth Riley chatted near the clubhouse on Tuesday afternoon as their grandchildren played inside. The New Palestine residents said they like the children’s room, which boasts a larger area with lots of activities. Tucker said her daughter brings her children to the library on Wednesdays for story time. Riley has already visited the library twice since it opened last month.

Barb Roark, a youth librarian, said the children’s room has quickly become a destination for families. It can hold large groups and has a multi-purpose children’s programming room.

The $4.8 million facility was made possible through a $3.5 million gift from the estate of Dr. Ralph and Grace Rea. The library paid for the rest of the cost from rainy day funds and restructuring bonds.

The library will have a building dedication on May 19, Sherfield said. Officials had to shift the dedication about a month from the original date in April due to the facility needing more furniture and signage.

Library officials also plan to install a history wall above the cafe seating area near the building entrance, showing the timeline of the branch from when it started as a volunteer library to what it is today.