Ride and Read program boosts library circulation

BY LUKE VOELZ | JUNE 28, 2011 7:20 AM

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City bus tickets are facing a cheaper, plastic alternative: library cards.

Iowa City Public Library officials said the library’s Ride & Read program, which allows library cardholders a free ride to the library on city buses, has increased in popularity since its founding in 2007, along with circulation.

The program has helped elementary-school students keep their minds sharp over the long summer months, said Heidi Lauritzen, the Public Library circulation services director.

“A lot of education studies out there show that if kids don’t read over summer, the progress they made in classrooms over the school year before slips a lot,” she said. “If they continue to read, that helps them be ready to start their next grade.”

Library patron Adriana Mendez, who rides the bus daily using a bus pass, said the program would help Iowa City’s literacy while also supporting public transportation.

“I think it’s a great idea to get people more invested in reading,” she said. “This is a fairly literate community, but more people should still be coming to their library. It’s an incentive to both ride the bus and read.”

Mason City High School student Sam Vrieze said she agrees.

“It’s a good idea,” she said. “More people would probably come to the library.”

Summer typically brings the library’s busiest months, Lauritzen said, due to the number of summer camps and youth-targeted reading activities. Winter comes as a close second because of the academic rush around finals weeks.

These circulation trends have remained steady despite a digital-book industry that brought almost $300 million in revenue over 2010, a 30-fold increase from five previous years, according to an International Digital Publishing Forum survey.

This popularity has bought more digital-interested patrons to the library, Lauritzen said.

“In some cases, digital rentals are replacing physical ones,” she said. “In other cases, new patrons are getting library cards just so they can download materials.”

The Public Library counts e-books in its yearly circulation statistics, Lauritzen said, which have grown steadily over the last decade. The library had more than 1,500,000 items loaned each year since 2009.

“What I’m reading right now in library press is that many libraries are having circulation going up,” she said.

Though digital books are also available for online purchase, the circulation director said they probably won’t have an effect on general library circulation in the immediate future.

“[Purchasing digital books] certainly could [become more popular than library rentals],” she said. “Perhaps far in the future, but right now I think it’s just another option for people — another service the Public Library is providing. That’s where they get their introduction to what a service like that is.”

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