Mitchell Public Library sees increase in foot traffic, e-books


The Mitchell Public Library has seen an increase in the number of both physical books and ebooks checked out compared to last year. (Matt Gade / Republic)

Despite an increased popularity in e-books, the Mitchell Public Library is seeing a steady increase of foot traffic.

And last month, Jackie Hess, the director of the public library, believes the library saw more people come in than most winters. But as for why, she’s not quite sure.

“It’s a nice, warm place,” Hess said with a laugh.

It could be due to the weekly storytime the library puts on, which is held every Thursday for children. Children, “all bundled up,” still attend the storytime regularly despite the cold temperatures, Hess said.

Thursday has become the most popular day in the library for checking out items, Hess said, mostly because of this storytime.

“It’s good that people, especially young families with children, that they’re introducing their children to books first,” Hess said. “It’s good for us, too.”

The unusual amount of foot traffic in January could also be because of new events held in the library. Last weekend, the library held an all-ages event called Stop the Book Thief, which was free and in an escape-room style. The event, in which attendees were tasked with solving a hypothetical mystery about who was stealing books from the library, drew in a crowd of 99 people — more than the library expected. And Hess said people are already asking for similar events.

Library officials are still working on statistics for January, but Hess said an estimated 10,798 items were checked out from the Mitchell Public Library this past month, which includes books, CDs and DVDs. Last January, Hess said the library had 10,119 items checked out, more than 650 items more than the previous year.

For five of the past six years, Hess said the library has hit the 10,000 mark monthly, with the exception being the year it was under construction in 2014, with a grand opening in early 2015.

As foot traffic is still consistent at the library, there’s another resource that is growing in popularity and could have a larger impact in the future — e-books.

A total of 605 e-books were checked out this January, but the number has gone up to nearly the 700s in some months, Hess said. In 2016, more than 15,000 e-books were checked out through the Mitchell Public Library, which uses the state’s digital consortium called South Dakota Titles.

Anyone with a library card can download the e-books for free through the system. And as the summer months near, Hess estimates the number of e-books checked out will continue to increase as people go on vacation to read as they travel.

Hess said the impact e-books have on the Mitchell Public Library is the foot traffic, but even though more people are checking out e-books, they are still stopping by the building, too.

But as time goes on, Hess is not sure that will always be the case.

“I think there will be more e-books and more of the digital streaming and so forth (in the future),” Hess said. “But there will always be people who like to have a book in their hands. I do both (hard copy and e-books), but once in awhile it’s just nice to curl up in an overstuffed chair with a book.”

Hess said while library collections may get smaller, they will remain as current as possible. Each month, the library adds more books. In 2016, Hess said, the library added 2,500 books to its collection with inspirational fiction the most popular genre.

Author: Sara Bertsch
Twitter: @sarabertsch


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