Ch@t: CCL’s digital tools, programs keep library growing

Posted 6/7/19

In a world that’s become more and more digital, Rita Van Duinen is part of a team working to make sure Chatham County’s public libraries remain relevant and useful. This week, we speak with Van …

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Ch@t: CCL’s digital tools, programs keep library growing

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In a world that’s become more and more digital, Rita Van Duinen is part of a team working to make sure Chatham County’s public libraries remain relevant and useful. This week, we speak with Van Duinen, the branch manager for Pittsboro’s Chatham Community Library, about the library, its changes and its programs. A native of Greensboro, Van Duinen has been a Chatham County resident for more than 20 years. She began working in libraries while pursuing a degree in Russian Language and Literature at the University of Oregon in the 1980s. Van Duinen returned to North Carolina and in the early 1990s began a 17-year career at the UNC University Library system, during which she earned a Master of Science in Library Science from the school. Following a stint as lead instructor for CCCC’s Library and Information Technology program and time spent as a consultant to the Washington, D.C.-based Council on Library and Information Resources, she became branch manager of the Chatham Community Library in 2017. Van Duinen has two children — a rising sophomore and N.C. State and a rising 8th-grader at Pollard Middle School.

In an increasing digital landscape, what’s happening in the world of libraries these days?

With the onset of the digital age many assumed that libraries would become obsolete. In fact, the opposite has proven to be true. Data shows that library usage has actually increased despite the prevalence of the Internet and easy access to digital information. Since the mid-90s the number of public libraries in the U.S. has increased as have their usage (

We’re seeing this trend at the Chatham Community Library as well. During the 2017-2018 fiscal year, 11,881 people visited CCL. Our reference librarians logged 12,421 transactions which included questions on computers and technology and on job searching and online employment applications. Nearly 9,800 patrons took advantage of our public computers and internet access. Also popular are the electronic resources that patrons can access with their library cards; e-books, e-audiobooks, and e-magazines. Last year 1,961 electronic resources were checked out — all for free!

Chatham Community Library also offers genealogy tools as well, right?

Genealogy assistance is available at CCL by appointment. Volunteer genealogists assist with family history research, whether your ancestors lived in Chatham County, the 50 states, or overseas. Our local history and genealogy collection includes published and unpublished family histories, church and community histories, troop lists, cemetery records, census information and more. Online genealogy databases are available to patrons at all Chatham County Public Library branches and include African American Heritage, Ancestry Library Edition and HeritageQuest Online.

What’s CCL’s relationship with Central Carolina Community College?

Chatham Community Library is a unique model in that we’re one of three county libraries, but the only public library in NC that serves as a dual-use facility with a community college. A 2016 inter-institutional agreement with the college expanded CCL’s original mission to provide information resources, services and programs for both the public library system and CCCC. Most people don’t know this about CCL and are often unaware that, because of this relationship, we are able to provide professional reference services and have college resources interfiled in our general collections. CCL is in a winning position to make the most of this relationship, something we want to capitalize more on in the future.

We all know there are plenty of books at the library…but what about CCL’s ever-growing list of programs that are offered to the community?

Children’s programming is the highlight for many families and includes regular story time at all three branches and the ever-popular Summer Reading Program. This year’s Summer Reading theme is “A Universe of Stories” and officially begins on Saturday. This is just one of the many ways we work to promote literacy. Youth Services staff recently implemented “Chatham Babies READ!” an early-literacy program that provides new parents in Chatham County with information about early literacy, as well as information on other Library programs designed for babies and their families.

We’ve recently partnered with the Chatham County Schools on the Chatham PASS program where every student in the County’s public schools will have a library card by virtue of their unique school ID number. This project is currently in soft-launch mode with a full rollout coming at the onset of the 2019-2020 school year. This particular project is far reaching in that it not only promotes literacy, but removes barriers to getting a library card and accessing materials. Stay tuned for more details on Chatham PASS...

Adult programming continues to be a high priority. I’m constantly seeking new opportunities to provide the community with a variety of programs from author events, musical performances, and film series, to name a few. This is the 2nd year that CCL has partnered with CORE (Chatham Organizing for Racial Equity) to co-sponsor a “Juneteenth” celebration. This year’s celebration will take place on Saturday, June 22, at the new Agriculture Center in Pittsboro. The celebration commemorates the June 19, 1865, announcement of the abolition of slavery in the state of Texas, and more generally the emancipation of slavery throughout the former Confederate States of America. CCL staff member Evie Evans has been much of the driving force in planning the Juneteenth events. Her dedication and passion for the event is apparent in the incredible line up for the celebration. It’s an awesome experience and one that promotes unity and understanding in the community. I encourage you to attend!

Another effort under way is a series of Community Awareness Events we are curating. These events are facilitated and respectful dialogues on serious and difficult topics. They are designed to educate and inform the community and to promote understanding. Our first event centered around the opioid crisis and its impact on Chatham County. In the works are programs on food insecurity, and domestic and sexual violence; all topics that impact our community in some way. I welcome suggestions from the community on topics they’d like to see addressed.

What’s your message to someone who hasn’t visited the library lately?

Public libraries are so much more than books and story times. They are community spaces, meeting spaces and safe spaces where learning and discourse are encouraged. Libraries are a place for everyone and where everyone is welcome. Chatham County Public Libraries are YOUR libraries. If you haven’t visited your local library lately, I encourage you to do so. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at all we have to offer.

And any conversation about the library wouldn’t be complete without a shout-out to our wonderful Friends of the Chatham Community Library group. They work year-round gathering donations and holding book sales twice a year. They generously fund many of the programs we offer and several of our electronic resources. They help with facility improvement projects and provide funds for purchasing books. Without this dedicated group CCL would be in a much different position to provide resources and services. Please consider becoming a Friend of the Library!

For more information, contact Rita Van Duinen at 919-545-8083 or by email at


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