Saturday, July 24, 2004

N.Ky. libraries thrive

'Where else can you go to work on the computer, take a craft class or get armloads of books?' Reading on the rise in Kenton and Campbell counties

By Cindy Schroeder
Enquirer staff writer

Fewer people are reading books nationally, but don't try telling that to Northern Kentucky librarians.

Adult and juvenile readership was up last year in Kenton and Campbell counties, while preliminary figures show Boone County's circulation of juvenile print items stayed steady.

That's despite a recent national survey that found readership is on the decline.

"Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America'' by the National Endowment for the Arts showed that fewer adults are reading novels, short stories, poetry and plays. The study of 17,000 adults found that the number of literary readers declined by 10 percent between 1982 and 2002. More often than not, younger adults are the ones spurning books and printed material.

Northern Kentucky library directors say this area has gone against the national trend because of up-to-date collections, innovative programming appealing to different age groups and convenience factors such as the use of library Web sites to put books on hold and the drive-through window at the 2-year-old Erlanger library.

This past fiscal year, the Kenton County Public Library System circulated more items than it had in any previous year - 1.7 million, or a 13 percent increase from last year, said Library Director Wayne Onkst.

"This shows that people in the community see the value in a library and are aware of all of the benefits it can provide,'' Onkst said.

Circulation of books and print items was up 6.7 percent in Kenton County, with adult items up 4 percent and children's items up 11 percent.

Lisa Tewes, children's services coordinator at the Erlanger branch library, said that certain children's series, like Harry Potter, and Junie B. Jones, a tale of a young female troublemaker, are flying off the shelves. Each time, a Harry Potter movie opens, many young readers re-read the whole series or acquaint themselves with it for the first time, she said.

Within the past six months, the Campbell County Public Library System has created young adult librarian positions at each of its three branches to serve ages 11 to 18, said Library director J.C. Morgan. The library system also has had programs on temporary tattoos and jewelry making and increased its graphic novels collection, or books with comic book type characters and numerous, colorful illustrations.

Circulation of juvenile fiction is up 4 percent in Campbell County. Meanwhile, adult fiction increased 34 percent and adult non-fiction is up 11 percent.

Although branch managers are still complying statistics for the Boone County Public Library system, preliminary indications are that juvenile print circulation is close to last year's 305,000 items, Library Director Cindy Brown said. To appeal to young adult readers, the library system has purchased more magazines to appeal to teens and young adults, increased its collection of graphic novels, and tried new marketing strategies and incentives for teen readers to boost participation in the summer teen reading program.

"Libraries are wonderful places to take advantage of a lot of opportunities,'' Onkst said. "Where else can you go to work on the computer, take a craft class or get armloads of books just by having a library card?''



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