Library book circulation drops; planned renovations worth it?

Library book circulation drops; planned renovations worth it? »Play Video
YAKIMA VALLEY, Wash. -- Hundreds of thousands of dollars are being invested in the Yakima Valley Libraries. Facilities in Yakima and Sunnyside will see the bulk of it. Renovations at buildings where the number of books being checked out has dropped significantly over the years. KIMA asked if those plans are worth it.

James Patterson comes to the Yakima library every day.

"I'm old school."

He could download books on his computer at home. James says they don't compare to the real thing.

"You have to keep things charged a lot. And, real books, you don't have to keep them charged."

But, not as many people in the Yakima Valley are like James. Fewer books are being checked out. The number dropped by about 60,000 from 2011 to last year.

However, electronic books and audiobooks surged in popularity. Downloads almost quadrupled, but they make up less than 5% of total circulation.

So, why the drop in book borrowing?

"We had not enough people managing the collections and the purchasing," said Circulation Development Librarian, Lenee Gatton. "And, it takes a lot of work and a lot of heads to get it all done."

To deal with the workload, the circulation team expanded and is doing more to stock new books. There are also plans to send librarians to daycares to attract more kids.

"If you come into your library and don't see those on your library shelf, it's not going to make you very happy," said Gatton. "And, you're eventually going to go somewhere else to get those materials."

The library system plans to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to renovate facilities in Yakima and Sunnyside. Locations that have seen big drops in circulation.

KIMA asked, "Do you think taking that money for the renovations and maybe hiring somebody else to help you, broadening the circulation department, would that be a more helpful use for the money, a better use of the funds?"

"I don't think so," said Gatton.

The strategy will be tested. Success would mean seeing more people like James going old school.

Not all libraries in the system saw a drop in book borrowing. Moxee and Selah's libraries had increases since 2011.