Despite Popularity of Watertown Library, Some Offerings Remain a Secret

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Charlie Breitrose

A view of what the current Watertown Free Public Library.

Watertown Free Public Library.

Charlie Breitrose

Watertown Free Public Library.

The popularity of the Watertown Free Public Library keeps growing, but Library Director Leone Cole said some programs remain largely unknown.

The library has become a community hub, but Cole said the library has done surveys of patrons and found that people are not aware about all of its offerings.

“We need to get more world out about what is happening in our library,” Cole said. “We do some social media promotion.”

The library website also features a calendar of events (click here to see it). It also offers online streaming movies and music through its digital services, and users can borrow e-readers at the library.

Each month, the library gets more people through its doors than the total population of Watertown (about 33,000 per month). One exception was this February when only about 26,000 people visited, but the library lost three Mondays to snow. The next month people returned in droves and more than 37,000 people visited.

The library attracts more than just town residents, said Michael Hanlon, chairman of the Library Board of Trustees.

“We get residents of Watertown and residents of neighboring towns, who feel our library far exceeds their community’s library,” Hanlon said.

Councilor Angeline Kounelis said she is amazed at the variety of resources available at the library.

“I hear people say, ‘I just came from the library. I went to read the paper,'” Kounelis said. “Not everyone is online – especially the elderly.”

Councilor Aaron Dushku thanked Cole for the programs it hosts for immigrants to Watertown, such as citizenship classes and Project Literacy – which teaches people to read in English.

Cole told the Town Council last week that she hopes to do a better job getting word about the programs at the library. She met with the Council during the hearing for her budget of $2.6 million.

One program that kicked off recently is HATCH, the library’s maker space where people can learn to craft, do computer programing and get involved with other activities. It opened this spring in the Arsenal Project.

“A major challenge will be to make sure that it has a home after the least at the Arsenal Project ends in 2016,” Cole said.

The library has applied for a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to expand the scanning of historical documents at the library.

Already, the library has copies of all Watertown High School year books scanned and available online, Leone said.

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