Spencer Watts, the new director of the East Baton Rouge Parish Library, will face the challenges and opportunities of an aggressive and ongoing building program within the library system, with its centerpiece, a new Main Library, slated to open later this year.

But the primary strength of the library system is its programming, and we hope that Watts maintains and expands those programs for library patrons.

The library’s collections continued to grow last year, with more than 1.9 million items currently on hand. The library issued more than 20,000 new library cards last year, bringing the patron count to 304,431. Circulation remained steady, with patrons checking out 2.3 million items in 2012. The library offered 5,278 program events, up 31.5 percent from the year before. The events collectively attracted more than 250,000 people. Bookmobile visits increased by 35 percent in 2012, to a total of 1,153 stops at day care centers, retirement centers, schools and community events.

The number of reference questions fielded by the library dipped slightly last year to 868,222, but there was an increase in patron use of the self-directed library data bases, which could account for some of the decline in reference questions. The library recorded more than 2.2 million visits to its 13 branches in 2012.

Quality facilities can help drive circulation and programming at libraries, and the local library’s ambitious building program could prove a big draw for patrons. We hope that Watts can help the library system continue to grow.