Sara Koste, a senior at Niskayuna High School and an avid reader, spends an afternoon a week in her local public library.
Koste, who walks to the library to read or do homework, said she likes reading fantasy. “Harry Potter is my life,” she said, and she’s into the Dune series by Frank Herbert.
“I bought the first book, but I figured why buy the rest when they have the entire series here” at the library, she said.
Koste is just one out of many taking advantage of local public libraries for reading and reference materials, DVDs and audio books and free programs in an economy that has forced many to scrimp on luxury items.
Her mother is another: “I wanted to get Oprah’s new book that just came out and I had it in my hand to buy, but I resisted because, you know, it’s a hardcover book and they have it here,” Tracy Koste said.
Area public libraries are thriving in these days of financial turmoil, said Carol Clingan, director of the Mohawk Valley Library System, which provides support to public libraries in Schenectady, Schoharie, Montgomery and Fulton counties.
“Whenever there are hard times, libraries see more use,” she said. “We are hearing from our member libraries that this summer was a busy, busy time. Summer is always busy with summer reading programs, but people seem to think that this summer was especially busy.”
The Schenectady County Public Library system has had a circulation increase of 3 percent over last year so far, despite reducing library hours throughout the system because of budget constraints, according to library director Andy Kulmatiski.
The Woodlawn branch, which saw its hours cut, had an 8 percent increase in circulation, and the Niskayuna branch’s circulation exceeded 20,000 in July, the highest in branch history.
“There is definitely a demand, and that’s just the circulation numbers,” Kulmatiski said.
Libraries are not only used as a resource to borrow books but as a resource with free computers and Internet access.
“So many people can’t afford the $50 per month for Internet access, so there is always a waiting line here,” Kulmatiski said. He’s also noticed people sitting in the library with their own laptops, taking advantage of the free Wi-Fi access.
Libraries in Saratoga County are faring as well as those in Schenectady County.
books to download
Downloads of audio books throughout the Southern Adirondack Library System, which serves Hamilton, Warren, Washington and Saratoga counties, increased by 40 percent over last year, according to system director Sara Dallas.
“I think that’s because people are also gas conscious,” Dallas said.
Saratoga Springs Public Library circulation increased by 3 percent in July and 40 percent in August, Dallas said.
Crandall Library in Glens Falls saw a 9 percent increase this past summer over the year before.
Smaller communities are also seeing an increase in library circulation: 3 percent at the Racquette Lake Free Library and 8 percent at the Inlet Public Library. “Libraries are already important to these communities, but they are being used much, much more,” Dallas said.
In Schoharie County, the Sharon Springs Free Library saw a 50 percent increase in computer use over the summer, Clingan said, and the Community Library in Cobleskill, which completed a new facility this year, had record circulation in July and has been issuing twice the library cards as the same period last year.
Clingan said she also has noticed more people taking advantage of free library programs this summer. Registration is up by 5 percent for children’s summer reading programs. Children’s attendance at library programs rose by 8 percent, and teen attendance rose by 29 percent. Clingan attributes the increase in teen attendance to a new program involving the Nintendo Wii.
Both Clingan and Dallas said their member libraries aren’t doing anything out of the ordinary to attract users.
“I’d say it’s the economy,” Clingan said.