Sunday, January 04, 2009

Library use booming

It seems that because of the economy, library use is booming (via Newsalert):

In the fast-paced, instant message, Internet era, public libraries have often struggled for attention from patrons. But with the economy sputtering, unemployment rising, and no relief in sight, Massachusetts libraries, long the victim of budget cuts, are busier than ever before, said Robert Maier, director of the state Board of Library Commissioners.

Attendance is surging. Check-out rates are soaring. At some libraries, circulation - the number of items checked out in a given month - is up as much as 33 percent since last summer. And for the unemployed, libraries have become something like an office, with computers, Internet access, and even classes that teach how to write a r??sum?? and peddle it online. In a tough time, it seems, people are returning to a place where whispering trumps shouting and no credit card is necessary. At the library, just about everything is free.....

And without the library, Kathleen Foster, a mother of two, would still be spending a lot of money on books.

"In the past, I would take the girls to Borders, or Barnes & Noble, and let them pick out a book," said Foster one day last week, walking the aisles of the Thomas Crane Public Library in Quincy with her daughters, Abigail, 8, and Clare, 6. "I just don't do that now. We come here instead."

So, I wonder if book sales are down at Borders or Barnes & Noble as a result? I read recently that Amazon sales are up, but then, they sell much more than books.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Libraries are wonderful places. The cumulative knowledge of all mankind, available at ones fingertips.

Yet only about 3% of the population has a library card.

7:15 AM, January 04, 2009  
Blogger Unknown said...

The big bookstore chain model is doomed. They've effectively devolved into large-footprint coffee shops with a huge inventory of books people come in and read for free. Indeed, even those who browse with intent to buy would be foolish not to look first, then go and order books on Amazon or an electronic book reader (like a Kindle, my favorite) where the price is 40-60% less and taxes are not an issue.

In my area (Phoenix), the problem is particularly pronounced. Graffiti is etched into mirrors and stalls in the bathrooms, people are bringing outside beverages in, the lounge chairs filled with sleepers or people on their cell phones, and employees are working full time just to return manhandled merchandise back to the shelves.

Libraries though . . .the great secret of America. Love them, used them for years. Really ... how often do you honestly read a book more than once anyway?

10:21 AM, January 04, 2009  
Blogger BR said...

Unfortunately, passage of Library Referendums is /not/ up. In the Chicago area the passage rate was almost zero in the last election.

It's the great catch 22.... When times are good, fewer people need the library, so they see no reason to pay for upgrades/repairs/etc. In bad times, when people need the library, they feel they can't afford to pay for increased taxes to fund it.

11:53 AM, January 04, 2009  
Blogger Toysoldier said...

I love the library. The main branch in downtown Chicago has almost anything I could possibly want to read, except for 'The God Delusion'. For whatever reason they have not gotten that book in yet. Outside of that, it is a pretty good option for finding books I would otherwise never get a chance to read or books that are too expensive.

1:42 PM, January 04, 2009  
Blogger Sarah said...

I love the library, but I love Half Price Books (especially the ones by university campuses - sadly, they don't list their inventories online) and Better World Books (like a library book sale only online) even better. There are people like me on LibraryThing who will keep bookstores in business - probably not the Big B stores, but smaller stores, niche stores, etc., will be back. It'll be a different market, but it's not like we've had 15,000 square foot book stores for the entire history of literacy, now, is it.

Incidentally, I love the library a LOT more when no one else is there, so I go there less when they're popular. I was in libraries all the time when I was in high school (during the quiet period before the Dot Com bubble) and during the height of the real estate craziness.

6:26 PM, January 04, 2009  
Blogger Marbel said...

One of my most useful homeschooling resources is my library card. I can look online for books, dvds, etc., in our county-wide system, place a request, and have them delivered to my closest branch. When we go pick them up, we always find something fun and come out with a bag full. It's like a shopping spree without the credit card bill and buyer's remorse. My kids find books on topics of their own interest too.

But it seems to be a well-kept secret. I am always stunned when I run into people who have no idea what the library offers, or how to access it. Including, I'm sad to say, students attending the high school directly across the street from my local branch - and their parents.

6:41 PM, January 04, 2009  
Blogger DADvocate said...

I love the library too. For my first seven years of school, I attended a school that was on the same block as the main branch of the Knoxville public library. Nearly every day after school I would go to the children's library and read or check out books.

The librarians, Ms. Dixon and Ms. Baker, were great. They were friendly and helpful to all us kids. I still consider this on of the greatest experiences of my life.

Now, I live in a rural area and we have decent small libraries but I mostly use the Cincinnati/Hamilton County library a few blocks from where I work. Sometimes on weekends, I take my kids to Cincinnati so they can see a "real" library and enjoy what it has to offer.

One real advantage libraries have over bookstores is they have books that are long out of print. I had always heard that one of my Dad's old college professors, who happened to live in our neighborhood when I was growing up, had written a book on statistics. Just for kicks I checked the catalogue and the Cincinnati library had it, copyrighted in the 1930s. Love it.

7:06 PM, January 04, 2009  
Blogger Acksiom said...

There are currently over two dozen library items in my possession, from three different libraries, and not via interlibrary loan, either.

And tomorrow I go to the library to get something else -- a CD or tape recording of the New Testament being read aloud, for my father. The lymphoma in his left brain has grown to three inches and he probably won't be with us much longer.

While I'm there, I will no doubt find something else to read for myself; hopefully the first few of MaryJanice Davidson's new YA series, but at the very least something, and this will comfort me greatly.

9:03 PM, January 04, 2009  
Blogger Slamdunk said...

With the closure of 11 libraries in Philadelphia, that city's residents will be doing a lot more browsing at Barnes and Noble.

I am cheap (oh I am supposed to say frugal) and have always used the library for regular and audio books. Our branch now is experimenting with free audio downloads for books--though their collection is currently very limited. I am paying for our local libraries, so I figured I might as well use the service.

9:57 PM, January 04, 2009  
Blogger Tscottme said...

I joined an online book service called Bookswim. It's like Netflix for books. They have several levels of service starting at $15/mo for 2 books.

For the price of buying one small book per month I can read 2 larger books and not continue to drown in books I've bought.

The books I like are usually too recently publisjed to be available in my library. My library has "bankers hours" which is useless for those of us working nights.

Cancel your cable TV, after the Superbowl, and read more books.

7:58 AM, January 05, 2009  
Blogger . said...

It kind of says a lot about how our society functions when people only realize the monetary value of a library in bad times, but in good times are perfectly willing to blow good money needlessly.

Now, I am the type of person that loves OWNING books, and I rarely use the library. I am very proud of my little personal library which I have been slowly working on for over 20 years now. I read all of my books more than once, in fact, I have read all of my books at least 3 or 4 times - I just put it back in the book case and pick it up again 5 years later.

However, this is a purposeful exercise on my part. I get a lot of joy and pride from my book collection. (I never lend them out either). And I fully realize that it costs me a lot more money than the library.

But, it is pretty interesting to see how society works.

When times are good, and people have a surplus of, say, $500/month, people DO NOT do anything smart with that money at all.


They spend it on fancy coffees. The spend it at trend stores like Chapters. Whatever it is, they choose to blow that money foolishly.

It is just like the whole "housing bubble."

Historically low interest rates COULD have been a massive benefit for millions of people. For example, a $200,000 house at 8% interest costs around $1600/month in mortgage payments, while at 5%, it costs around $1,000/month. BUT, what people do not do is purchase the $200,000 and put the extra $600/month into savings. Heck no! What they do is find out "how much house" they can now buy for $1,600/month (their maximum), and so instead of pocketing the extra $600/month, they will instead choose to purchase a $320,000 at 5% which will again cost them $1,600/month.

There is zero benefit to the consumer when people do this. They always spend their maximum - always.

I seen the same thing when I used to arrange vehicle financing at a car dealership.

Leasing is a HORRIBLE idea! HORRIBLE! Especially with imports that have astronomical resale values.

I used to try to convince people, especially people that were my friends and family, to purchase and finance, rather than lease their vehicles. But, people just will NOT listen, so I gave up. If a person can afford $750/month in payments, they will absolutely get the most fancy and expensive car they can possibly get for $750/month. It does not matter that you can illustrate to them that paying $50/month more to finance rather than lease will, in 4 or 5 years time, put people in such a hugely beneficial position that EVERY car they buy after that for the rest of their life will be cheaper than leasing. It just DOES NOT MATTER TO PEOPLE! They will still buy that $55,000 SUV with lease payments, and damn the future!

It's how our society works, and it didn't used to be this way.

When times are good again, and they have a surplus $500/month again, they will NOT put $500/month into a savings account or other investments. Rather, they will increase their spending habits by $500/month and blow it all.

And, so it is, in good times people don't save money, and in bad times people don't have money.

No matter which situation we are in, the vast majority of people will still choose to run it as close to the wire as possible.

I say let all of these people fail. Otherwise we will just continue this stupid cycle.

8:07 AM, January 05, 2009  
Blogger dienw said...

My late fees helped pay for the construction of UNC-G's nine story library back in the 1970s.

8:28 AM, January 05, 2009  
Blogger Shane said...

The statistic that only 3% of people have a library card fills me with joy. What an incredible resource it is, and I hate having to wait weeks for the books I want!

Here in southern California I have library cards to three library systems, and I use them to get audio books to download to my Itunes. Then I listen to history, philosophy, classics and popular books while I'm working! I may be the best informed construction worker on any site I'm at! I named my Ipod Alexandria!

1:26 PM, January 05, 2009  
Blogger tim said...

I almost never use the library...even less with the advent of the internet. I'm a person who must "possess" a book if I really like it. And if I really like it I may read it dozens of times, occasionally more, if it has special meaning to me.
Even the internet, which is excellent for research, is not good for reading. If there is anything of any length that I like, I'll print it out to read.


5:08 PM, January 05, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I used to practically live in my local library. That was the case until about fifteen years ago, when the library changed from being a place to find knowledge to a combination day-care center, teen-age hangout, Internet cafe, homeless shelter, and convention venue. Too many people, too much noise, too much BS to deal with.

Now I buy my own books, surf the Web, and only resort to the library when I know exactly what I'm looking for and can get it and get out quickly.

2:44 PM, January 07, 2009  
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