Library usage flourishes in bad economy—December 19, 2008
The state of the country’s economy hasn’t been all bad. In terms of library usage it’s had a favorable impact, producing some unexpected year-end statistics. 2008 has been an exceptional year for Hastings Public Library in many regards.
Whether people are staying home more, buying less or looking for pocketbook-friendly forms of entertainment, HPL’s circulation is following national trends – up in recent months and averaging a higher number of checkouts than a year ago.
What are people checking out? The results from the year may surprise you. At HPL the top circulating title was one that captured readers across generational lines. It was “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” which oddly enough is the sixth novel (not the final seventh) in the Potter saga.
Mystery always is a popular genre and provided the second most circulating work of fiction, “S is for Silence,” the 19th installment in Sue Grafton’s alphabet-hopping mystery series. The series, which began in 1982 with “A is for Alibi,” has since traveled nearly all the way through the alphabet. Grafton has honed her crime-writing skills to a “T” with “T is for Trespass” published a year ago. Her mysteries do not have to be read in alphabetical order as “S is for Silence” bears out. It’s been praised by critics as a refreshing departure from her usual formula.
As for non-fiction, “A Child Called It” by Dave Pelzer got the least sitting time on HPL’s shelves. This book is Pelzer’s grim account of his own childhood, enduring horrific emotional and physical tortures at the mercy of a sadistic mother. Told from his perspective as a courageous young boy, the book brings readers an inspirational message of resilience of the human spirit.
Titles such as all of these, which are anticipated or proven to be popular, are usually reinforced with duplicate copies and are additionally available in formats such as large print, audio and Spanish versions.
It wasn’t just books that earned top lending status. Periodicals such as “People” and “Consumer Reports” spent more time off than on the shelves. The BBC’s 1996 video of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” was the library’s most borrowed video.
Following a recent presentation here by state poet William Kloefkorn, the circulation of his works rose admirably. Often on a checkout wait-list was “Restoring the Burnt Child,” the second in Kloefkorn’s four-part memoir and also the state’s One Book, One Nebraska title for 2008.
2008 also was a year of milestones. Our Friends of the Library organization celebrated its silver, 25th anniversary annual book sale. Profits exceeded $20,000 thanks to a marvelous crew of more than 150 volunteers, some of whom diligently provide year-round service to the library.
We bid a fond farewell to our library director of 33 years, Linda Rea, who retired in October. Library staff treated her to a goodbye supper with dishes prepared from “The Book Lover’s Cookbook,” a charming collection of recipes inspired by celebrated works of literature.
We look forward to an exciting year ahead with a new library director, Amy Greenland, at the helm starting January 12, and a staff and board members dedicated to providing the best possible library service to our community. To achieve that mission, we continue to have a new library on our wish list and hope the year brings us closer to seeing our dream become reality.
Come visit your library for your season’s readings!