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Vail Valley libraries see record crowds

Melanie Wong
mwong@vaildaily.com
Vail, CO Colorado
NWS library use up 2 KA 01-26-09
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VAIL, Colorado ” Faced with tighter budgets and unemployment, many Vail Valley residents are turning to the public library.

It’s a weekday evening at the Vail Town Library, and the place is packed ” the armchairs and couches are all occupied, and every computer is taken. There’s even a line. Need to use the Internet? Better make a reservation, settle down with a book, and wait your turn.

Vail, as well as the county libraries, have reported a jump in library usage over the past few months, a change that librarians are attributing to the downturn in the economy.



More people are checking out books and DVDs instead of buying or renting, and many people take advantage of the libraries’ computers and Internet, librarians said.

Mary Anne Redmond was flipping through some magazines during her lunch hour at the Vail Public Library, which has seen a 22 percent increase in library attendance over the last year.



Redmond said she has noticed the place become increasingly busy.

“It’s definitely picked up, especially from the summer” she said. “Usually it’s hard to find a seat during the lunch hour.”

The public libraries in Avon, Eagle and Gypsum also reported a 10 percent increase in library visits as well as circulation of library books and computer use.



Many jobless residents have been using the library as their job searching office, browsing through online and newspaper ads for work.

“The question used to be, ‘Where can I find a place to live?’ Now it’s ‘Where can I find a job?'” said Vail librarian Annie Sinton.

Vail resident Jeffrey Fialskowski, who recently moved to town, said he has been looking for jobs ” and the search is still on.

He was settled into an armchair with a book at the Vail library, waiting for his turn to use the Internet.

“There’s only a handful of job ads, and so far I’ve had no positive responses,” he said.

In fact, the computers, also popular among international seasonal workers, are in such high demand that the Vail library has begun taking reservations.

The wait to use the computers has been as long as two hours, said Vail librarian Jo Norris.

“There was one night that by 6 p.m. there were no more reservations,” she said. “We had to put up a sign saying all the computers were booked for the night.”

Job-related books, such as how-tos on resume writing or doing an online job search, have become very popular, said Cortni O’Brien, an Avon librarian.

“At reference desk, people are always asking me if I know anyone who is hiring,” she said. “We’re seeing a lot of regulars, some I’m now on a first name basis with. There are also many internationals who didn’t have jobs lined up before they came.”

On tighter budgets, many library patrons are saying that they are checking out DVDs instead of paying for movie rentals, and buying less books and magazines, O’Brien said

“Internet has been key for people,” she added, “especially as they give up luxuries like cable and DSL.”

Vail Resorts employee Leonardo Garciarena, of Ayacucho, Argentina, said he frequently goes to the library both to use the Internet and as a cost-effective source of entertainment.

“I come here because I can use the Internet and (rent) films. It’s free, so it’s a good option for me,” he said.

Other free resources, such as kits for local book clubs to check out, have seen major increases in circulation.

Vail librarians said they’ve seen more participation in the library’s programs, such as book discussion groups.

Interestingly, a bad economy has increased the circulation of more than just job-search books.

“Books on investing in the stock market are suddenly popular,” said Eagle librarian Sharyn Smith. “Patrons have mentioned investing in gold or finding out the value of gold coins. I’ve also noticed an increase in those checking out auto repair manuals.”

Meanwhile, the libraries, none of which have hired more staff or received more funding, said they’ve been taking the busy season in stride.

Usually a good number of people donate bestsellers or newer books to the library, but those donations have dwindled over the past few months, O’Brien said.

The jump in library patrons also mean librarians are busier helping people find resources and answering questions.

“As a staff, we feel pretty well equipped to handle the influx of new patrons and changing needs due to the economy. Serving the ever-fluctuating population of a resort community, we are used to being flexible,” she said.

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2928 or mwong@vaildaily.com.


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