Monday, June 8, 2009

Readers turn to libraries amid recession

ASSOCIATED PRESS The Washington County Free Library in Hagerstown, Md., reports a surge in the number of people wanting a library card with its access to reading material and job-hunting resources.


HAGERSTOWN, Md. | Carol Bannon is visiting her local library more and more as the economy struggles.

When the Hagerstown woman wanted "Another Path" by Gladys Taber, she couldn't find the out-of-print book for less than $70. The Washington County Free Library system offered her the book at no cost.

"Books can be expensive. Hardcovers can be $20 or above," Miss Bannon said.

System director Mary Baykan isn't surprised - people use libraries more when they are struggling financially or if they don't have optimism about the economy. Less confidence means people spend less money, especially on materials the library offers for free.

Miss Baykan said people also use libraries to look for jobs and find resources to help them start new careers.

"It's frustrating for libraries facing cuts or that have had cuts to see the overwhelming needs our community has and our citizens have," Miss Baykan said.

Kathleen O'Connell, assistant director for the Washington County library system, said future budget cuts could mean fewer new materials, but library officials are not looking at cutting hours, Ms. O'Connell said.

Washington County library spokeswoman Patricia Wishard said circulation and library visits were up in 2008 and the number of new library cards increased more than 66 percent in 2008, compared with 2007.

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