by Joni Astrup
Great River Regional Library’s digital collection — e-books and downloadable audiobooks — is seeing a surge in popularity.
Checkouts of those items increased 81 percent from 2012 to 2013 across the GRRL system, which consists of 32 libraries including the one in Elk River. There were 111,257 checkouts of GRRL’s digital collection in 2013.
Will Hollerich, who manages the Elk River Library, reviewed those facts and others during his annual report to the Elk River City Council on Monday.
While use of the digital collection is on the rise, traditional materials like books and magazines still dominate. At the Elk River Library alone, 231,291 books, magazines and other print materials and 101,908 media items such as DVDs and CDs were checked out last year, Hollerich said.
That’s a .6 percent drop over 2012; region-wide GRRL saw a 6 percent decrease.
The Elk River Library had the second highest number of checkouts, after the headquarters library in St. Cloud.
Hollerich noted that people don’t come to the library just to borrow materials, though.
“They also use our computers, wi-fi, study rooms, meeting room and attend programs,” he said.
From 2012 to 2013, the Elk River Library had a 12 percent increase in wireless connections per open day.
Library programs, which are free and open to the public, are also drawing more people.
Attendance at library programs was up 10 percent in the last year, he said.
The Elk River Library offered 118 programs in 2013, 10 more than the previous year. They were attended by 3,243 people.
When everything is taken into account, Hollerich said the Elk River Library provided an estimated $1.9 million in services to Elk River residents in 2013.
That’s the equivalent of $83.44 per person.
By comparison, he said the city and county tax levies for the library total $16.82 per person per year.
“That’s about a 400 percent return on investment,” he said.
The Elk River Library is located at 13020 Orono Parkway.