FREEPORT – A survey of Freeport residents taken at the polls on Nov. 4 netted at least one result that might come as a surprise in this day and age: Of the 202 respondents who said they use the Freeport Community Library, most said they do so to read books – the kind of books that have an actual cover that you can open and pages you can turn.

What’s even more encouraging for the Friends of the Freeport Community Library, which conducted the survey, is that a solid majority of the 236 people who responded – an impressive 86 percent – indicated they use the library. Nearly half, 47 percent, said they go to the library sometimes, and 39 percent said they are frequent visitors.

“Those are good numbers,” said Heather Sylvester, president of Friends of the Freeport Community Library.

The point of the survey, though, was more about if, how and when residents use the library. The group conducted the study to raise awareness about the programs and services the library offers. Two important questions – why people go to the library and why they do not – were answered.

The No. 1 reason given for those who visit the library was to read books, Sylvester said. Listening to music and watching movies came in second and third, respectively. Then came the kind of books you can only hear, audio books. Children’s programming was fifth, followed by reading magazines, the opportunity for quiet study, art shows, the chance to purchase new books and last, computer usage. Actual books first, computer usage last.

The survey also asked people what services they thought the Freeport Community Library offered. Sylvester said that most did not know the library has free passes to the Maine Wildlife Park in Gray and the Portland Museum of Art, and reduced-cost passes to the Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine in Portland.

“What we found really interesting,” Sylvester said, “was that some people found out about things they didn’t know the library provided. In addition to the passes, some didn’t know the library has a Facebook page or an updated website.”

People who do not go to the library said they were simply too busy, their children are now adults or the library hours are not convenient, Sylvester said. Library hours are 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday and Wednesday, 10-5 Tuesday and Thursday, noon-5 Friday and 10-2 on Saturday, Labor Day to Memorial Day only.

Sylvester said that Friends of the Freeport Community Library decided in October to have a table at the polls.

“We wanted to get the general public’s view on the library, not just people who go there,” she said. “We brainstormed the questions, then our treasurer, Katie Spaulding, put together a rough draft of survey questions. We decided to ask people if they go at all, and if it was never and if they did go to the library, why. Our final question asked if there was anything they wished the library provided.”

Sylvester said that the group believes it has accomplished something.

“It has shown us that we can assist the library in doing some public relations work in educating people about the library programs and give some people on the library staff valuable information on what people are using at the library,” she said.

Spaulding said that the 236 responses to the survey exceeded expectations.

“I listed the top eight reasons for going based on the number of responses to each,” she said. “The books and the music were far and away the most popular.”

The No. 1 choice doesn’t come as a great surprise to Spaulding.

“I go into the library with three young children and we leave with a huge stack of books,” she said.

Spaulding said she was surprised, however, that many people wanted the library to offer certain things – such as eBooks and Kindles – that it already has on hand.

Friends of the Freeport Community Library is an advocacy, fundraising and support group for the library’s programs and services, Spaulding said. The group meets at the library on the third Monday of the month, at 6:30 p.m.

“We welcome and encourage anyone to join us and bring their thoughts and ideas,” she said.

A survey by the Friends of the Freeport Community Library showed that the No. 1 reason patrons visit the library was to read books.  


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