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Thermodynamics is fun!

April 7, 2014

Sunday morning there was a mist over town before sunrise, trees were frosted white, and across the river could be seen the ghosts of the old rail yard—patterns where the snow stuck to cooler earth over buried railroad ties but melted on the black earth in between.

From high on Tenderfoot, the bands of parallel stripes could be seen all around the yard revealing where many lines of track had been. It was quite a large, busy rail yard a hundred years ago. (Old pictures of the yard and downtown are fascinating. The library has some good photo collections in books and its online local history archive.)

Thermodynamic effects can be seen, such as ice fog over the river, the behavior of river ice; they can also be measured, noting how far below zero it must get before ice fog appears or how cold it must be for the river to grow ice from its shores.

Similarly, over the years one could notice in various ways the library getting busier—congestion, seats filling up, general bustle and noise. But it can be measured, and it was instructive to note in 2010 that we had become three times busier in every way since opening the addition in 1997—checkouts, visitors, buying and processing of books, CDs, DVDs, etc.

It certainly felt that way, but sometimes it’s nice to confirm things with numbers. We were growing for years at 10% and more, and I’ve long wondered when that might stop. Our library district population has remained relatively stable for years (depending who you ask).

Maybe that time is now. Our circulation last year was 213,999, just a few hundred more than 2012.

Book use has leveled off, but DVD use continues to climb. We only circulated 5,117 downloadable digital “items.” I’m sure ebook use could climb, but libraries still can’t buy what’s needed from ebook publishers. There have been improvements but not enough.

Use of library computers leveled off some years ago and has declined a little the last two years. More and more people come in with their own devices—laptops, and now tablets and smartphones—to use the library’s wireless access to the Internet.

This is fine. After the library remodeling, I anticipated increasing the number of computers, but demand has eased and now we have to attend to a waiting list much less often and people have a computer for longer. But there are times we could use more space for people.

Our collection has grown. In 1997, we had 23,275 items in the library, about what’s in the basement annex now. Our physical collection is about 70,000 items, most of which are books. But as many of you know, with access to the Marmot and Prospector library networks, it’s like having a library of 30 million items.

If you’re interested, you can find all kinds of library statistics at <;.

And … checkouts of children’s books have doubled since 1997 without our school population growing, and that’s good. Especially important is preschool use—exposure to books, lots of them, before Kindergarten. It’s part of the process of learning to read and learning to love it. Reading together regularly and having books at hand encourages young children to learn to read.

Even though I encourage you to have lots of books at home, if you have too many, bring them by the library for our book sale. The next one will be in about a month.


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