- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 7, 2009

ASSOCIATED PRESS

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.

An American Library Association study in 2008 showed more than three-quarters of Americans visited libraries in 2007, compared with 65 percent in 2006.

Miss Baykan said many are cutting back on expenses by not buying books, going to movies or renting DVDs, so they are going to the library for those escapes.

“People are coming in for economically driven reasons, but people are also emotionally and psychologically under a great deal of stress,” Miss Baykan said.

“They’re being bombarded by bad news on a daily basis.”

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