Local libraries are booming

February 24, 2009

By David Hayes

At the far end of a reference aisle  of books (above), a resident uses a computer at the Issaquah Library. Dan Hatch, of Klahanie, reads about how to beef up his résumé, rather than buying the books new at a book store. By David Hayes

At the far end of a reference aisle of books (above), a resident uses a computer at the Issaquah Library. Dan Hatch, of Klahanie, reads about how to beef up his résumé, rather than buying the books new at a book store. By David Hayes

On a recent sunny afternoon, Diana Tam, of Sammamish, was browsing the DVD aisle with her children, Jayci, 17 months, and Malia, 4, on their first trip to the Issaquah Library.

“It’s been a while since I’ve gone to the library,” said the 33-year-old mother. “It’s kinda nice to bring the kids back. Plus, the library’s selection is awesome. It helps when you’ve got to pinch pennies any way to you can these days.”The Tams are among a growing number across the nation rediscovering their local public library during these hard economic times. The second busiest library system in the country is right here in King County.

“The King County Library System is No. 2 in the nation in circulation, second only to Queensborough, New York, which is bigger than us by far,” said Bobbie Daniel, library cluster manager for Issaquah and Sammamish. “But we’re ever hopeful.”

She and Issaquah site manager Philis Bodle don’t have to hope the local branch keeps up with the rest of the system. Bodle said Issaquah has had a continual rise in patronage the past two years.

“Last month alone, we had 323 new patron registrations, up from 292 last year, an 11 percent increase,” Bodle said.

A clicker in the door actually tracks the number of visitors per day, which is compiled into a monthly report. The numbers continued to be in the high 30,000s, except in December, when the heavy snow kept all but the hardiest adventurers at home.

The interesting thing, Daniel said, is that patronage is up across the board in age groups. Bodle said the children’s section, which features regular reading programs, has seen a general increase by about 20-30 people a week, although actual numbers haven’t been compiled yet.

Even the adults are seemingly filling every available chair.

A course the library offered in its “Fiscal Fitness” series, “EBay I — The ‘Basics’ of eBay Selling” drew an enormous crowd — 81 squeezed into their meeting room.

“That one had unbelievable attendance,” Bodle said. “That’s usually the numbers we get for the children’s programs.”

She added that libraries are geared toward the economic times. In addition to the eBay course, the library offers courses in digital photography, interviewing and résumé building.

“With patronage up 11 percent, check-ins up 80 percent and the number of books on hold up 22 percent, that’s an indicator that rather than going out and buying, people are checking out books instead,” Bodle said.

Klahanie resident Dan Hatch had a big stack of books in front of him recently, many related to employment strategies and résumé writing. He admitted his wife Misty is the regular library patron.

“But I just wanted to beef up on my résumé writing. So, after seeing what Barnes and Noble had, I thought I’d see what I could get for free at the library,” he said. “It’s great you can find special needs like this here. And if you can’t find it right away, you can put it on order in the King County Library System and they’ll have it here within a few days.”

Bargain hunters have been seeking cheaper books for 11 years now at the Maple Leaf Book Exchange in downtown Issaquah.

Co-owner Greg Heter, along with his wife Eva, describes the amount of business in one word — up.

“Typically, from year to year, our sales are up 10 percent,” Heter said. “And I expect it to be this year as well.”

Heter said the used store gets all types of readers, “from women seeking thrillers to men looking for romance novels.” His store has everything in between.

“Unlike the library, there’s no waiting list here,” he said. “It’s all first-come, first-served.”

In these economic times, Heter said that if you want to own a book, it makes good economic sense to buy it used.

“And with our credit exchange system, we are actually cheaper than Goodwill,” he said.

On the Web

Learn more about the Issaquah Library at www.kcls.org/issaquah.

Reach Reporter David Hayes at 392-6434, ext. 237, or dhayes@isspress.com. Comment on this story at www.issaquahpress.com.

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