Pleasant Hill Library Branch Manager Julia Carlis updated the Hastings City Council on big things happening at the library last Monday. Photo by John McLoone
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Pleasant Hill Library getting back to normal, providing vital community services

By John McLoone

There are big things happening at the Pleasant Hill Library in Hastings.

The library is part of the Dakota County library system, and Branch Manager Julia Carlis briefed the Hastings City Council at its meeting last Monday on some of the library highlights.

She said there were 62,000 visits to the library in 2021.

“That’s about 80 percent of where we were preCOVID,” she said.

There were 220,000 items checked out from Pleasant Hill, which Carlis pointed out represents 10 items per resident in Hastings.

Virtual programs are a hit, and coupled with inperson programming, many patrons are participating.

“Systemwide, we had just about 10,000 people attend our virtual and inperson programs. That’s across the county,” she said. “I expect that number to go up quite a bit this year, because we’re offering a lot more events and programs.”

She also noted that Pleasant Hill now has Sunday hours again. The library is open from 9 a.m. – 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 1 – 5 p.m. on Sunday.

“We’re glad to have the Sunday hours back,” she said. “Yesterday, I think we did 10 new cards for people in the library, so that’s really fun.”

The library also provides a vital service by having Chromebook computers and internet hotspot devices available for patron checkout. A survey conducted showed the need in this area.

“Over 60 percent of those (checking out the devices) have no other internet access in their homes, so we feel like it’s really making a difference for a lot of people,” she said, noting that a majority of those came from homes with a family income under $25,000 annually.

“They’re using that technology to do things like connecting with family, searching for jobs, doing government applications and for health and mental health,” said Carlis. “We’re super excited about continuing to offer those in the library.”

Summer reading programs for kids started last week. In addition, there are no youth fines on materials turned back late, and the library is working hard to connect with the community this year.

“We’re trying to remove barriers to library access,” she said. “We also are doing a lot of work this year with community engagement. With everything being disrupted over the past few years, we’re just trying to get out there, connecting with a lot of different groups. We have a new community engagement van. We partnered with the county fleet. They found us a van, and they put cool logos and everything on the outside, and they’re going to take that around to a lot of events.”

Expect to see it at local events this summer. The library will host its first Pride Month celebration Saturday, June 18.

“This is a familyfriendly event,” she said. “I think it will be a really great time.”

The event runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and includes art projects, Pridethemed story time, bubbles and music. Each child will receive a free book while supplies last. The event is presented in partnership with the Friends of Pleasant Hill Library.

Carlis is thankful that things are getting back to normal after pandemic shutdowns limited library hours and access.

“We have a big theme of gratitude this year. We’ve been through a lot,” she said.

June 15, 2022