2023 Year in Review

Letter from the Director

2023 was a year of expanding access, increasing sustainability, and continued growth for the Westerville Public Library.  

It’s clear that demand for books, movies, and music is as strong as ever within our community. Digital items are continuing to grow in popularity with a 16% increase overall, and a notable 69% increase in digital music. And readers were busy with participation in reading challenges increasing by 35% 

“I’m elderly and home bound now. Borrowing ebooks has saved me. Thank you, dear Westerville library! Now I have a great selection of books at my fingertips - keeps me from being lonely and I learn something every day.” 

Person browsing for books in the stacks

Library-hosted events were also a huge draw, with a 59% increase in attendance compared to 2022. For the Meet the Authors series, cookbook writer and blogger of Smitten Kitchen, Deb Perelman, told behind-the-scene stories about her recipes in March. 

“Given the nature of cooking and recipes, I feel like I have a personal connection to her because she’s behind the banana bread that I love or the cookies my kids devour.”  

Deb Perelman on stage with local blogger Nick Dekker

Then David Grann – author of Killers of the Flower Moon and The Wager - captivated his audience with vivid descriptions of scurvy, mutiny, and captain's logs in May. Members of a Lewis Center book club who recently read The Wager together were over-the-moon excited to meet the author together - so much so that they arrived an hour early for the event! 

Author David Grann talking to two fans during the book signing

In October, the sixth annual Wizards & Wands Festival brought magic to life with technology. Features included a 6-foot-tall dragon egg hatched in partnership with The Point at Otterbein University, a Haunted Mansion-inspired fortune teller showcasing my disembodied head, and 3D-printed replicas of staff members as various fantasy archetypes.  

A glowing 6-foot-tall dragon egg created in partnership with The Point at Otterbein University
The Madam Francora fortune teller kiosk created by library staff

Over 4,300 visitors traveled from near and far to marvel at the otherworldly attractions and create their own magic with Dungeons & Dragons character building sessions, DIY fantasy poster design sessions, a tutorial for crocheting dragon scale gloves, and an 8th grade art show.  

“My sister and I joke we share custody of our four kids. Mine are teens and hers are younger. It can be hard to find activities for them all to do together but they all loved the dragon egg and the displays and the three eldest were able to play bingo together. We have such great libraries in and around Columbus, we are so lucky!” - Laura

View of a COSI science experiment in progress on the library's front lawn

Expanding Access

In 2023, the library continued to focus on ensuring that residents across our entire service area have equal and convenient access to the library’s events, services, and collections. 

In March, we made it easier for you to reach us by phone during peak and off hours. For 530 callers, this helped reduce the time you spent on hold or waiting for a return call.  

In June, we stopped requiring registration for storytimes to resounding cheers from parents and caregivers. We hosted 356 storytimes with 15,532 attendees, ensuring that more families have access to this core service.  

"This has been a wonderful event for my little one. He loves hearing the music, moving around, and seeing the other babies play. It's a great activity for his development and he has so much fun! Every week he is jumping with excitement for library day!"

A librarian reading to kids and parents

In the fall, we added a new service called the Reading Table to encourage kids to practice reading with a volunteer. This is an extension of the Homework Help Center offerings. 1,622 students received homework help or reading practice in 2023.   

A student and library staff member working on homework together in the Homework Help Center

To maximize use of our existing spaces, we converted the former gaming room into another meeting room and upgraded the furniture and amenities in two other rooms. 11,415 meetings were held at the library in 2023, a 19% increase in comparison to 2022, in part due to the additional space available.  

“Our organization has struggled to find convenient, workable meeting spaces...The workspace at the library is wonderful, and the large digital monitor and easy hook-up for our laptops have made it easy for us to collaborate. Our group has been able to accomplish so much more by being able to meet in person in your study rooms where we can easily share our work together.”

A group of people meeting together at the library

Throughout the year, we took our services on the road by delivering items regularly to 141 locations and hosting or attending 589 offsite events 

In addition, we made significant changes to our collections so you can more easily find what you are looking for, whether on the shelf or online. Some collections were moved or relabeled, and some received enhanced records. Changes included reorganizing popular graphic novels by universe (like Marvel or DC) and character (like Superman), adding better descriptions and cover images to movies, and adding more ways to highlight hidden gems with appealing displays and featured lists. Many collections were expanded as well, including readalongs, graphic novels, and digital movies.  

Two teens browsing the book shelves together


Another important focus for the library is environmental, fiscal and social sustainability. 

Environmental Sustainability

In 2018, the library embarked on a multi-year plan to replace all light bulbs in the building with LED lights. The library invested $114,998 and received an additional $12,761 from the Westerville Electric Division’s BusinessWISE incentive program and $22,241 from Plug Smart’s incentive program to help pay for the upgrades. Looking at our energy costs prior to switching, we are now saving at least $4,000 per month. This change has also ensured that we spend significantly less time replacing bulbs. The expectation is that it will take just 2 years to recoup the costs of making the switch.

The kids area is now significantly brighter due to new LED lighting

In 2022, the library and City of Westerville Electric Division began work together on a pilot program to reduce energy usage by increasing the efficiency of our HVAC infrastructure. The electric division paid for a study to identify tangible action items that would help the library reduce our energy bill and improve indoor air quality. Then the library invested $20,633 and received an additional $2,665 from the Westerville Electric Division for the recommended upgrades. Analysis performed in October 2023 indicates that the library will reduce electric usage by 98,900 kWh per year. Based on current energy rates, this means a savings of $690 per month. The library will recoup our costs within 2.5 years.  

Both the lighting and HVAC energy reduction projects helped us meet the needs of the community by improving comfort, reducing noise and air pollution, and maintaining good stewardship with taxpayer dollars through reduction in operational costs and utility bills, while also reducing our impact on the environment 

The home deliveries van has been showing signs of age. To replace it, the library - with generous support from Friends of the Westerville Public Library - has purchased an electric van and installed a 208v Level 2 charging station in the garage. This change will help us save on fuel and maintenance costs, ensure a longer service life, and lower our carbon emissions thereby reducing air pollution.  

The new electric charging station installed in the library's garage

Other environmental sustainability initiatives included educational and resource-sharing programs with Green Your Home activity kits, gardening workshops, an electric vehicle information session, plant and seed swaps, forest therapy walks, and more.  

Fiscal Sustainability

Thank you to all for your patience with a much-needed roof replacement. While not all roof coverage was replaced as a part of this project, this was a significant upgrade to our most aging sections and will help to prevent water damage to the building and reduce energy costs for years to come.   

Aerial view showing sections of the library's new roof
Another aerial view showing sections of the library's new roof

Made possible by a $5,589 grant awarded by The Columbus Foundation’s J. Terry Hayman Fund, we were also able to build high-quality archival storage units. This improved the care and preservation of 125 unique objects in the Westerville History Museum, making continued learning and discovery possible for future generations.  

Social Sustainability

Social sustainability involves a focus on the well-being of people and communities by promoting equity, human rights, access to education, and more. The library has embarked on many social sustainability initiatives. 

In 2023, the library launched the Heritage Month Celebrations initiative with the intention to reflect our diverse community, encourage acceptance, promote respect, expand understanding, and amplify a range of voices. Activities and displays each month highlighted the histories, contributions, and current experiences of people in our community and throughout the world. Events included a Mexican folk-dance group, local authors Helen Yee and Eric Walker, local artists Mah Leah Cochran and Marta Mudri, dancers from Ballet Folclórico Xochihua, local advocate for the Tuskegee Airmen, Gregory Edmonds, educator Rev. Dr. F. Willis Johnson, and more. 

Dancing performers from Ballet Folclórico Xochihua

In January, the Westerville History Museum – located inside the library – launched the Racism in Westerville History toolkit. This toolkit was created to inspire conversations, spark initiatives, and provide resources that will lead to justice, social equity, and healing. The museum also worked with Westerville City Schools to give classroom presentations about Westerville Black history and help students do research for the Undesign the Redline exhibit 

A visitor looking at the introductory panels from the Undesign the Redline exhibit

All restrooms were upgraded with high-efficiency and ADA-compliant hand dryers and all women’s restrooms now offer free menstrual products through a partnership with Aunt Flow. 

An Aunt Flow menstrual products dispenser in a library restroom

Other community partnerships included a Shadow Day at the library with Westerville City Schools students, preschool storytimes in partnership with Life Builders (a day program for adults with disabilities), visits to the WARM summer lunches, and participation in the Westerville Pride Festival, Westerville Juneteenth Festival, and the Inclusive Career and Opportunity Fair at the Westerville Community Center.  

A library staff member, students, and a teacher taking a tour of the library during Shadow Day

The library now offers access to a new online research tool, American Indian History, allowing you to explore the history and culture of America’s Native communities. In addition, we have added books to our collection by Indigenous authors and illustrators and books in Native American or First Nations languages. The library also became a member of the American Indian Library Association. 

Other initiatives included a diversity audit of the Ohio Digital Library collection, supporting mental health with referrals to organizations who can help, supporting New Americans through staff training, offering sensory storytimes, offering assistive technology and accessibility tools, and hosting digital literacy trainings in Somali and Bhutanese Nepali languages.  

Looking Ahead

In 2024, we are looking forward to further expanding access with pickup lockers and return bins at the Blendon Township Community Senior Center, our first permanent offsite borrowing location open 24 hours a day. In addition, we will be adding even more convenient borrowing and return options with our fellow Central Ohio libraries.  

New lockers and return bins at Blendon Township Community Senior Center

We will also be undergoing a renovation to the parking lot entrance to fix failing infrastructure, incorporate accessibility upgrades, and maximize the use of space.  

And in April, we will be launching two new exhibits in the Westerville History Museum: The World of William Fouse and The Art of Propaganda 

As our community continues to grow, we look forward to growing with you.  

Erin Francoeur

Executive Director (February 7, 2024)

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