Financial crisis helps American libraries flourish
Frequenting local libraries just might be what America needs to save the shrinking wallets of American consumers from going completely empty. Economic recession, high gas prices and rising unemployment make many Americans reconsider their purchasing choices. All of a sudden buying a $30-$40 book from Amazon or local bookstore seems like an unnecessary expenditure.
This is where libraries come in. Offering free books, magazines, DVDs and Internet connection, libraries are inciting more and more Americans to quit shopping and opt out for the savings that libraries offer.
“There's an old saying "when business is bad libraries do well,' ” said Gail Sweet, director of the Burlington County Library system.
“We're seeing a substantial uptick in use of the library,” said Joe Galbraith, director of the Moorestown Library.
He said the library recently began offering Sunday hours to satisfy some of the demand.
“In 2007, we had the most use in our 47-year history, and we had record-setting numbers for June and July this year,” Hill said.
Galbraith said the library recently set a record, with more than 1,300 checkouts in a single day.
“That's a little more than 100 books an hour. That's pretty good for a small-to medium-size library,” Galbraith said.
While books continue to be a crowd pleaser for many library visitors, computers and Internet services are also a big draw.
The study showed that today's libraries provide free access to online resources that otherwise would be out of reach for most families.
Hill said many adults have turned to the library for help in hunting for a job.
Library users don't even have to go inside to access the Internet, according to Hill and Galbraith.
“We know for a fact there are some people that come up here at night and access our computers (through the library's WiFi system), and that's fine with us,” Hill said.
Libraries from Georgetown to Brunswick County, N.C., have experienced up to 10 percent jumps in monthly checkouts this summer. And more residents are becoming new users of the libraries, with thousands each month signing up for library cards.
Meanwhile book sales online and at retail stores are plummeting.
Barnes & Noble saw second-quarter sales dip 1.6 percent to $1.22 billion and profits fall 14.6 percent to $15.4 million. Books-A-Million's second-quarter sales fell 7.5 percent to $122.8 million and earnings declined 79 percent to $645,000 from $3.1 million.
The library card? These days, many don't leave home without it.