Welcome to the poor man’s coffee shop: public libraries | ParkRecord.com

Welcome to the poor man’s coffee shop: public libraries

Greg Marshall, Of the Record

You’re not imagining it. Libraries in town are more crowded.

Tough times may be contributing to a spike in circulation and attendance at city and country libraries, even as they face potential budget reductions in the coming year. Patrons are visiting the library more often and checking out more books, CDs and DVDs than they did during the same time last year, according to numbers provided by the Park City and Summit County Libraries.

"It’s sort of been across-the-board use in the library," explained Merry White, the adult services librarian for the Park City Library. "We’ve definitely noticed more people trying to economize."

White has seen about 5,000 more visits, doubled attendance at library exhibits and programs and about 3,200 more items checked out compared to the beginning of the year in 2008.

Study rooms have been crowded and meeting rooms booked at the Park City Library as homeowners associations and businesses try to slash expenses.

The increase is not unique to Park City. Traffic has also been up at Summit County branch locations in Kimball Junction, Kamas and Coalville. Enriqueta Rodriguez visits the Summit County Library at Kimball Junction nearly every day with her young son. She sat on a leather sofa Thursday afternoon reading "Morir En El Intento," a nonfiction piece about immigrants who died trying to cross the border. She also selected a short stack of children’s videos for her son. "I come here to forget about bills," she said. "It’s so quiet. No one talks about the economy.

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Rodriguez, who works at the Marriott at the Summit, is one of a growing army of public library users. From October to December, total circulation for county libraries jumped nearly 15 percent from the same time in 2007 and the library saw a bounce in membership and activity, accord. "I’m not going to say that’s because of the economy, but it is playing a role," said Dan Compton, the assistant director of public libraries for the county. Compton said more workshops and book groups have led, over time, to bigger circulation numbers.

"We’re always trying to increase our patronage. We want people to know that we’ve got more than just books. The library is about expanding your horizons."

During dour times, White encourages patrons to pick up humorous or escapist literature. "It’s always fun to read something that makes us laugh out loud, especially when life looks bleak. Laughter can literally save lives."