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September 30, 2013NORTH FULTON, Ga. – Despite huge changes recently in the way people read, moving from traditional books to electronic texts, libraries are still popular and are centers of the community.
A look at circulation numbers from the North Fulton branches – Alpharetta, Northeast/Spruill Oaks, Ocee, Roswell and Sandy Springs – shows circulation in the branches has remained at a fairly consistent 2 million volumes.
Circulation hit its peak in 2009 with a total of just over 2 million volumes checked out in all the libraries. Since then, circulation has trickled downward, dropping about 100,000 volumes a year for the past four.
The Roswell branch, which has the highest circulation of the North Fulton branches, saw its numbers rise from 479,873 in 2008 to a peak of 533,454 in 2009, an increase of almost 54,000. Since then, it dropped to 507,715 in 2010, 477,337 in 2011 and 452,312 in 2012.
The library system has some explanation for the drop in usage.
"This is a trend people are seeing nationally," said Anne Haimes, interim library executive director for the Fulton County libraries. "Many of our patrons are avid readers and they are the ones who check out multiple copies of books. They find it's convenient when traveling to have the e-version, [but] they also say they still love holding the book in their hand."
While book circulation has dropped, circulation of electronic books has skyrocketed.
In 2011, Fulton residents checked out 29,000 electronic books. The next year, that doubled to 64,000. So far this year, there have been 65,000.
"Libraries are more important than ever with the rise of e-books," Haimes said.
Many people make use of the free Wi-Fi and Internet at libraries, she said, using them for everything from general searches to research to job searching.
This creates a challenge to maintain an adequate supply of books for all users, regardless of whether they prefer paperbacks or digital.
"What is changing is the challenge of juggling providing all the formats our patrons are looking for," Haimes said. "We still have patrons interested in video cassettes and audio books on CD. But we also need to keep a healthy stock of e-books."
Editor, Milton Herald