In a world that increasingly is searching for information and entertainment online, Mary Ellen Icaza, CEO/executive director of Stark County District Library, still sees a significant place for modern libraries.
“Libraries are about books and so much more today,” said Icaza, who noted that the
library continually listens to the needs of its patrons to find ways for a time-tested institution to adapt to a high-tech environment. “Libraries are vibrant community hubs where all are welcome and there’s something for everyone.”
To further explore how the library fits in with modern reading and researching trends, we reached out to Icaza and other staff members at the Stark County District Library with the following questions:
Q. Do traditional books remain the most sought-after materials, or are audio books and e-books gaining larger segments of circulation?
A. “While traditional materials continue to make up our most popular items, e-material circulation, such as e-books, e-audio, music downloads, video downloads, e-magazines, have grown considerably in the past 10 years,” said Gregory Burlingame, the Stark Library system’s director of library collections, who offered the following statistics about the increases in the circulation of electronic material: 2010–10,877; 2015–225,365; 2019–496,937
Q. What are some of the featured programs and services currently offered by Stark County District Library that show how the library, through events and technology, is woven into the fabric of the community?
A. “Of course we’ll always have books on our shelves,” said Director Icaza, “but we are always looking forward for new and exciting ways to serve our community—through literacy initiatives like SPARK, unique services like passports and museum passes, community programming like the Speaking of Books Author Series and innovative new spaces like the Maker Studio.”
Q. How would you describe what goes on during a typical day at one of Stark County District Library’s branches?
A. “Each day, we see hundreds of people come through our doors—and they all use the library differently,” said Marianna DiGiacomo, director of community services for Stark Library. “Some use the computers, while others bring their children to storytime. We also have patrons stopping by to research their family history, get a passport, pick up their books and more. Every day is different from the last. We are so grateful to be part of such a wonderful community.”
Q. Can you give some statistics concerning the circulation of items—both traditional books and online versions and other items—in Stark County District Library branches?
A. “Our Library of Things, which offers the unexpected—such as telescopes, radon detectors, car code readers and more—is very popular. The wifi hotspots are always checked out,” said Burlingame, who reported that the 2019 state reported circulation reflected the circulation of physical items (books, magazines, CDs, DVDs) at 3,268,389 and e-material (e-books, e-audio, music downloads, video downloads, e-magazines) at 496,937. He reported that circulation was split between adults (432,542) and children (64,395).
Q. How have fine/no fine policies changed in recent years, and why?
A. “We realize that life is unpredictable and there are times you just can’t return your materials on time,” said DiGiacomo. “Stark Library has been fine-free since 2014. It helps keep books in the hands of people who may not be able to afford fines and ensures the library is accessible to everyone. A lot of libraries are adopting these policies.”
Q. Is there a service offered at the library today that wouldn’t have been found in our parents’ library?
A. “There are so many surprising offerings these days! Just like a community is constantly changing, the library is always reimagining what it means to serve our community,” said Jen Walencik, community engagement specialist for Stark’s library system. “One of the coolest ways is the Maker Studio. You can come in and check out a variety of tech that you may not have access to at home—Cricuts, poster makers, sewing machines and even a 3D printer. It’s really great if you’re thinking of taking up a new hobby but can’t invest in the machinery.
“We also have a ‘Library of Things’ where you can check out some really unique items! A lot of places circulate wifi hotspots and video games, but did you know you can also check out car code readers, projectors, air quality monitors and even telescopes?
“And not many people expect that you can check out museum passes and get your passport at the library!”
Q. What books or types of books are most popular with current readers?
A. “The most popular checked out books of 2019,” said Burlingame, “were ‘Where the Crawdads Sing,’ by Delia Owens (adult); ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid, The Getaway,’ by Jeff Kinney (children/teens); ‘Dog Man, Brawl of the Wild,’ written and illustrated by Dav Pilkey; (children/teens); and ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Double Down,’ by Jeff Kinney (children/teens).”
WHAT WE’RE READING
“A Tree Grows in Brooklyn”
Betty Smith’s 1943 American classic is a sweet story of one girl’s hopes, dreams and struggles as seen through the immigrant experience.
Set in 1900s New York, Marcie is a first-generation American whose impoverished family is kept together by her strong-willed mother.
Her heart is broken time and again by the faith she bestows in her ne’er-do-well father who charms his way through life.
The story encapsulates our American optimism against all odds.
My favorite book is “Evening” by Susan Minot. The story is about a woman named Ann, and the narrative flips back and forth between present day, where Ann is dying, and her memory of a weekend from the summer she was 25, when she fell in love for the first (and possibly only) time.
I discovered the book the summer after my senior year of high school and haven’t read anything I like better since. It’s the only book I’ve read more than once. (The book got made into a movie the same summer I read it, but the plot was changed significantly, so I refused to see it.)
“100 Letters that Changed the World”
In recent days, I’ve witnessed history being put into eloquent context by reading “100 Letters that Changed the World” by Colin Salter. Next up, for the same educational and entertaining reason, are Salter’s “100 Books that Changed the World” and “100 Speeches that Changed the World.”
“A Wrinkle in Time”
“A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeleine L’Engle has been one of my favorite books since I first read it as a kid.
A beautiful mix of science fiction and fantasy, it tells the story of Meg Murray who meets a strange neighbor on a stormy night and is then swept into an inter-dimensional journey to save her father, a scientist who mysteriously vanished.
As an awkward, nerdy kid, Meg was an ideal protagonist. A girl who underestimates her own strength and intelligence but still manages to save the world.
I can’t wait to share it with my daughter one day.
“Llama Llama Red Pajama”
I’ve been reading a lot of children’s books with my daughter for the past two years. One of the books we both love is “Llama Llama Red Pajama” by Anna Dewdney. Gianna likes the repetitious rhymes, and I think she relates to Baby Llama’s pleas for his mother to comfort him at bedtime. I like the book’s reassuring ending message that mama is “always near, even if she’s not right here.”
“Eat Pray Love”
Years ago, I received the movie “Eat Pray Love” for Christmas. I loved it! Years later while on vacation with my husband, I found the book in a used book shop and promptly bought it. I kept it on a shelf for a while before reading it. But once I read it, I realized how much more it impacted me than the movie did. Now it’s a book I come back to. It always motivates me to be better and go after what I want.