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Death of the Internet

March 17, 2008

After years of reading about the death of libraries, I confess I enjoyed a recent headline announcing the death of the Internet.

The Internet is straining under the weight of information required to move all those “YouTube” videos, plus all those ringtone audio files for cell phones, plus email spam.

Someday, instead of waiting for a webpage to load all its advertising, you’ll walk to the library again to look up something in a book.

Yes, we still have books. And people read them. Local library users checked out over 127,000 items last year … no … including interlibrary loans, it was over 129,000. More than a 10 percent increase over 2006.

Printed material (books and magazines) still accounts for 88% of total circulation. Of course, print makes up most of our collection. As we add more of a particular kind of item, use climbs.

Circulation of DVDs rose from 758 in 2004 to 10,090 in 2007. But then, we had many more DVDs in the collection in 2007, and many more will come. Books on CD checked out 893 times in 2004, when our collection was small; 5372 times in 2007.

Now, most of the audiobooks we buy are on CD. Books on tape have dropped from 7894 checkouts in 2004 to 3671 last year.

The industry did not consult me before shifting audiobooks to CD. I don’t think it’s an improvement over tape, which is well-suited to audiobooks and sturdier than the CD.

The decline of reading in America must be happening elsewhere. Circulation of adult fiction rose 25% from 2004 to 2007. That can’t be attributed to population growth or Harry Potter.

Harry Potter may have helped with the rise in young adult fiction reading, which rose from 1262 (in 2002) to 2878 (in 2007).

The reading of adult non-fiction rose 15% from 2004 to 2007. Are readers escaping disproportionately into fiction to hide from an unsettling world? Or are they turning to fiction for help in understanding the world and their reactions to it? Good fiction can do that.

The state library asks that libraries purge their user databases regularly when reporting numbers in the annual report. Following a rule of thumb, we’ve removed library cards that were both expired by the end of 2007 and unused since 2004.

This leaves us with about 63% of our district population “actively” using their library cards; and these users make up 73% of our users. The other 27% come from outside the district, mostly northern Fremont County, northern Chaffee County, plus Saguache, Park, and Lake counties, as well as the rest of Colorado.

We logged in 47,881 computer sessions, a 4% increase. Theoretically, we could have had 70,660 sessions last year, turning over each computer continually at the 30-minute limit.

Our door count produced 144,631 visits, a 5.5% increase. Library use continues to rise. The meeting room calendar is quite gray with penciled reservations. Our extensive Annex in the basement is filling up quickly, and we run down to it many times a day.

We’ve had complaints recently about the fact that we keep thousands and thousands of items in an Annex where users can’t go, as well as about using the bottom shelves around the library. I agree that both circumstances are inconvenient.

There is a solution. I invite those so concerned to participate, in the near future, when the question of enlarging the library will certainly arise given the trends in library use.

Thank you all for establishing these pleasant trends.

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