June 9, 2018 — The ability to transport ourselves to another time and another place is a dream that people have embraced for centuries. The most common way that people accomplish this goal is by reading a book.
Fortunately for Siuslaw region residents, the Siuslaw Public Library Summer Reading program has begun, and the first event on the district’s summer calendar was the presentation of nearly 600 new books for area readers to enjoy.
The Pew Research Center has collated library data from across the country and reports that Americans still read printed paper books, although not in the numbers, or the frequency, they once did.
Pew reports that in 2016, 48 percent of Americans visited a library in the previous year, with 64 percent of patrons borrowing a printed book.
These research results are great news for Siuslaw Public Library Adult Services Librarian Kevin Mittge.
Mittge has the pleasure and pressure of buying hundreds of books for the district’s permanent collection every year using money donated by community members.
Many of these volumes are purchased using funds generated from the district’s endowment fund, said Mittge, who has been overseeing the purchase of endowment books for the past 18 years.
“The endowment was set up in 1994 and was started with a contribution from the Friends of the Library. Friends members have continued to make contributions every year, as have other organizations like Oregon Pacific Bank and the Florence Rotary Club, along with a lot of individuals,” Mittge said. “That money goes into a fund at Western Lane Community Foundation, and every year we get a percentage of the interest. We spend two thirds of it on adult books and one third of it on children’s books.”
Mittge has seen the amount of money available to purchase new volumes for the district’s permanent collection rise over the past few years and he has been able to increase the numbers and types of books he is able to purchase.
“When I first started, we had much less money, so I tended to buy really special books that we might not have been able to afford otherwise. We’d get oversize books and big art books and some expensive reference books, like the Merk Manual,” he said. “We get quite a bit of money now. This year, I have $6,900 to spend on adult books and Children’s Librarian Gayle Waiss gets about $3,000 for children’s books.”
The increased amount of money available for book purchases has allowed Mittge to expand the number and types of books he is able to add to the library’s permanent collection while also responding to the changing role that libraries play in the lives of their patrons.
“Usually, around December, I start either ordering books or identifying books I want to order. As the fund continues to grow, I probably will have to start buying books throughout the year,” Mittge said. “I also get suggestions from patrons, and especially now, if it’s a special book, I will order it and put a book plate in it and designate it as an endowment book.”
Another thing the endowment fund supports is the yearly addition of great works by important American authors, published by the Library of America.
“Every year the Library of America series comes out with about a dozen or so new volumes, and we use endowment money to buy those volumes,” Mittge said.
The changing nature of libraries has led to a different focus in other areas of the library as well. Most notably, the district is seeing changes in who is using the library and what they are doing while at the library.
According to the Pew data, 57 percent of women and 55 percent of 16- to 29-year-olds that went to a library or bookmobile checked out a book in the previous 12 months.
Americans with college degrees visited libraries at a slightly higher than average rate of nearly 60 percent, again, primarily to check out a book.
All groups surveyed report they are using libraries as places to learn about events occurring in their area and to hear speakers, listen to music and meet to discuss issues of importance to the community.
Surprisingly, only eight percent of Americans used mobile apps or tablets to access library resources, a slight reduction from the 12 percent rate in 2015.
This is all information that the district uses to modify the materials and presentations offered to the public.
This shift in library use has been taken into account while developing the library’s popular summer reading program, according to Waiss, who coordinates the classes and workshops offered.
“The summer reading program theme this year is ‘Libraries Rock!’” she said. “We have programs for everyone from birth to death. This year we hired a teen intern from the University of Oregon and she is going to do nine programs just for teens.
The first program is on the Thursday, June 21, and participants will be making pizza.
“The grand finale for teens is going to be a library lock-in that will go from 6 p.m. on a Friday to 8 a.m. Saturday, and the library will be all theirs,” Waiss said.
She also wants people to know that the summer programs will have events designed specifically for adults. On Saturday, June 23, Vision Quest’s Get Wild series will be presenting the workshop, “Trails Locals Love.” This will be followed by a presentation the next Saturday, June 30, as naturalist Robert Bailey will be presenting “Ghosts in the Kelp: Sea Otters in Oregon.”
There will also be two concerts offered in July, family movies shown on Tuesday nights and general movies screened on Thursday afternoons.
But until all that fun really gets going, Mittge and Waiss recommend checking out the new endowment books.
When Mittge was asked to select a new title he was looking forward to reading, he said, “You know, I’m stumped. There are so many great new titles. We have a number of new cookbooks and biographies and books on science and traveling. I can’t pick one as there are so many interesting choices.”
For more information on the Siuslaw Public Library’s Summer Reading Program, or to check out one of the 600 new books that have been added to the district’s collection, visit the Florence branch at 1460 Ninth St. or the Mapleton branch at 88148 Riverview Ave.