More than just books at the local library

Alex Doty • Feb 6, 2016 at 9:00 AM

Even as digital technology takes over our everyday lives and the economy improves, officials from Loutit District Library say services continue to thrive.

“In the library world, when the economy goes up, attendance goes down and fewer books are checked out,” said John Martin, director of the Grand Haven public library. “What we’ve seen over the last three years is the number of things being checked out has been steady.”

In all, more than 21,000 library district residents have used their library card in fiscal year 2014-15. And while materials being checked out from the library have been steady, the trend has been the opposite for the number of people who walk through the door.

Martin said there are “fewer people coming in, but taking out more things” from Loutit District Library.

According to Loutit’s most recent annual report, more than 342,000 items were checked out of the library, with about 27 percent of those items checked out to Grand Haven residents. These items include digital material. The library offers books and magazines electronically via its Overdrive and Zinio services.

Martin said they are seeing a huge increase in electronic materials being checked out. Through fiscal year 2014-15, the number of free electronic books available grew to almost 20,000.

Literacy initiatives

There’s more to Loutit District Library than just its 142,000 books, CDs, DVDs, magazines and other items that patrons can borrow, Martin says.

“We’re collaborating with Spring Lake District Library with funding from the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation for ’1,000 Books Before Kindergarten,’” Martin said. “The idea is to get kids excited before reading.”

The “1,000 Books” program is designed to encourage families and caregivers to start reading to their children early and often to develop a lifelong love of learning. The program is open to children from birth through kindergarten.

Families who participate in the program receive a logbook and tote bag at sign-up. For every 100 books read on the way to 1,000, children get to choose a book to keep.

“At 1,000, we take your picture and we put you on our Wall of Fame,” Martin said. “In May, we’re doing a party for those who’ve read 1,000.”

Other initiatives involving youth includes working in conjunction with the Ottawa County Department of Public Health, Grand Haven Area Public Schools, the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation, Northwest Ottawa Recreation Authority and several other local non-profit groups to conduct a weekly summertime food distribution program for school-age children. The program, called Meet Up and Eat Up, began in June 2015.

Additionally, more than 1,200 children participated in the library's 2015 Summer Reading Program, and programs for youth and teens were attended by more than 11,000 area children.

“We try to make it fun in a whole bunch of different ways,” Martin said.

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