People checking out 20 children’s books at a time are the rule, not the exception, at Spokane’s public libraries.
More than one of every four books checked out of the city’s tax-supported libraries comes from its children’s collection.
That figure - 26 percent - would be even higher if it included children’s video or audio tapes.
The Dr. Seuss-reading crowd should get even busier in the next few weeks as parents and children turn to summer reading lists instead of TV reruns.
The next-busiest library category is the much-larger non-fiction adult collection - everything from self-help, cooking and gardening to business, the arts and do-it-yourself.
The non-fiction area counts for 24 percent of all city library books checked out.
The city’s five branches lend about 1.8 million items each year - from books and magazines to movies, encyclopedias and audio tapes.
Like children’s books, non-fiction has seen steady, high demand for the past eight years, said Deputy Library Director Toni Savalli.
Part of the strong demand stems from simple availability. The library has continued building its children’s and non-fiction areas, and that leads to higher use, Savalli added.
In particular, the library has focused on providing the business community and the do-it-yourself crowd a strong collection of the best titles available, she said.
Adult fiction is third on the preference list - accounting for 18 percent of all books leaving the library.
These numbers come from statistics regularly tracked by Spokane Public Library staff members. Sophisticated computer equipment, purchased with voter-approved bond money, now makes that job easier.
The most recent figures - measuring readership over the previous 12 months - reveal some predictable and some surprising results:
One of the most popular items in the library is the non-fiction guide to passing the high school equivalency exam. The library has 12 copies of the guide, which are checked out regularly.
It’s also the book that disappears most often, needing to be replaced numerous times each year.
The most sought-after children’s books are picture books - such as “Where’s Waldo?” - and beginning readers, such as last year’s No. 1 children’s title, “Bike Lesson.”
While teachers urge teens to settle back with a good book, the leading library titles catering to 12-to-18-year-old readers are comics. Leader of the pack: illustrated versions of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” followed by Gary Larson’s collection, “The Far Side Gallery 4.”
Said Nancy Ledeboer, the library’s youth services coordinator: “What did surprise me (about young adult favorites) is not seeing higher numbers for the R.L. Stine books, especially the ‘Fear Street’ series that’s being read by teens.”
The most coveted adult fiction titles are clearly tied to current best-sellers. Anything new by Stephen King or John Grisham can’t be kept on the shelves.
The library, with 22 copies of Grisham’s new thriller, “The Runaway Jury,” still has a lengthy waiting list of 111 people, as of last week.
Video use is declining, bucking the trend of the past four years.
Last spring, videotapes represented about 14 percent of all items leaving the library. That has declined this year to only 12 percent.
The main reason is the library’s decision to buy fewer new videos this year. “Plus, we were told by branch staff that they’ve run out of room for the tapes we already have,” said Ledeboer.
While readers of non-fiction are the second-largest group, the types of books they’re reading aren’t easily tracked by library computers.
“I know gardening this time of year is pretty busy,” said Savalli. “And all the self-help and do-it-yourself titles get used a lot.”
The library has five copies of Scott O’Grady’s “Return with Honor,” the airman’s account of being shot down and stranded last year in Bosnia. It’s been borrowed 52 times and is in “very high demand,” said Savalli.
The library has two copies of “The Anarchist’s Cookbook,” a howto volume that includes recipes for homemade bombs. The books can no longer be checked out.
The library had three circulating copies of the same book, but all have disappeared in the past year. Those copies circulated 10 times in the past 16 months before being stolen.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Graphic: What are we reading…and where does it come from?
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: Spokane Public Library’s hottest items These lists reflect the most checked-out items over the past 12 months. In most cases, high circulation results from the library having multiple copies of a single item. Adult fiction 1. John Grisham: “The Chamber.” 2. John Grisham: “Rainmaker.” 3. Tom Clancy: “Debt of Honor.” 4. Danielle Steel: “Wings.” 5. Stephen King: “Insomnia.” Adult non-fiction 1. GED and high school equivalency exam. 2. John Gray: “Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus.” 3. Rosie Daley: “In the Kitchen with Rosie: Oprah Winfrey’s Favorite Recipes.” 4. James Redfield: “The Celestine Prophecy.” 5. Scott’s Standard Postage Stamp Catalog. Children’s books 1. Stan Berenstain: “Bike Lesson.” 2. Joanna Cole: “The Magic School Bus: Inside the Earth.” 3. Martin Handford: “Where’s Waldo in Hollywood?” 4. Phillip Eastman: “Are You My Mother?” 5. Diane Namm: “Little Bear.” Children’s videos 1. “Little Mermaid.” 2. “Fantasia.” 3. “We’re Back: A Dinosaur’s Story.” 4. “Looney Toons Video Show.” 5. “Paddington Bear.” Other videos 1. “Roots” (multiple copies in two miniseries counted as one item). 2. “War and Peace” (multiple copies counted as one). 3. “Monty Python’s Flying Circus.” 4. “Romancing the Stone.” 5. “Glory.”
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