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Some library patrons find a new appreciation for books amidst COVID-19

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Even when the Community Library went online, Ketchum residents yearning to read never stopped. 

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“We saw a 200 to 300% increase in the use of our various digital platforms,” Jenny Emery-Davidson Ph.D, the executive director of The Community Library, said. “Which includes checking out ebooks to streaming films. So a range of different digital resources and just a huge surge in increased use, new users and a greater volume of use.”

During the statewide shutdown and thanks to the boom in online users, the Community Library could keep its entire staff employed by finding ways for them to work from home.

Now, the Community Library is open to the public again. However, like all businesses, it is following CDC, state guidelines. 

A new value for books

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Since reopening, online numbers have gone down. Emery-Davidson says people want to come into the library. 

“There definitely has been a hunger for physical books,” she said. “People really crave to come into the library and be able to enjoy the serendipity of perusing the stacks and finding books. When you do like curbside service, you have to know what you’re wanting and make that request. You come in, you can wander the stacks for a few minutes and enjoy just the possibility of encountering something that you didn’t expect.”

Emery-Davidson and staff have been lax about book check out limits. She says that kids have left with books stacked to their foreheads. 

“This is the summer of summers for turning to reading for adventures,” she said. “And people seem to absolutely be embracing that.”

She has noticed a notably higher number of teens taking part in the library’s summer reading program. 

“The teens may have been more eager to get involved with some kind of programming, given the unusualness with which the school year ended,” Emery-Davidson said. “Also maybe the online format actually was more appealing to them… that was interesting and exciting to see a significant increase in this unusual summer of teens participating in the summer reading program.”

A renovation leads to more guests

The library recently finished undergoing a two-year renovation. It has a loyal crowd within the community, but the renovation brought in many new people. 

According to the Community Library’s summer/fall 2020 newsletter, the door count increased by 30% after the renovation. 

With an increase before the pandemic and longtime loyal visitors, Emery-Davidson is not sure if the coronavirus specifically led to more people coming in. But she has noticed something else. 

“The gratitude that you see from people they’re just so glad they could check out books,” she said. “They’re so glad they can get a new stack of books for their kids. They’re so glad that there’s a place where they can come in even for 30 minutes and use the computers. It’s a new depth of appreciation for the resources that we seeing.”

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Autum Robertson
Autum is a BoiseDev reporter focused on Ketchum, McCall and general news. Contact her at autum@boisedev.com.

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