Library use up as book sales drop

Jerry Somera
Jerry Somera
Susan Nakata
Susan Nakata

By Mari-Ela David - bio | email

SALT LAKE (KHNL) - It's a common story during a recession. The economy drops and so do sales. That's the case with books.

The trend is affecting Hawaii libraries. They're a lot busier, but it's a Catch 22. The recession has public libraries doing more with less . But more patrons mean more ammo to push for more money from the state - money that's hard to come by in these tough times.

It's a tell tale sign of the recession - a drop in book sales has library use up.

"Basically the main reason for coming here was I got laid off so I needed access to a computer to apply for work," said Jerry Somera, a patron at the Salt Lake branch.

Somera just signed up for a library card a week and a half ago. In that short time, he says he's already been at the library five times.

"Yeah it's been hard, cannot be picky because nobody's calling either," he said.

"A lot of people are using our internet computers to apply for jobs online, they're using it to access medical information," said Susan Nakata, Section Manager of the Hawaii State Public Library System.

The increase in patrons comes as public libraries face a 10% budget cut. Fortunately, there have been no layoffs and no closures. But the cut slashes into the book budget.

"So we are very sad to say that people will have to wait longer when they place a reserve for a book. They may have to wait longer simply because we are not able to buy to fulfill the need," said Nakata.

It's a need that's growing now that fewer people can afford to buy.

According to the Associaton of American Publishers, book sales nationwide dropped 17% in March, and down 6.8 % for the year.

But money aside, recession or not, patrons say a busier library and what it offers is priceless.

We checked in with a couple book stores in Ala Moana.

Borders doesn't have regional statistics, but the company's first quarter sales are down 12% from a year ago.

Barnes & Noble refused to give sales figures. But a manager at the Ala Moana store did say they're a little behind, but otherwise okay.

On top of the 10% cut, Hawaii Public Libraries must absorb another 2% per Governor Linda Lingle's request last week. Nakata says that adds up to a $600,000 cut over the next six weeks.