The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Library use expands as wallets shrink

  • Libraries have seen an increase in the use of services, as people feel from the effects of the poor economy.
  • Choosing the free services of the library, as opposed to paying for books and DVDs, is the frugal choice of many residents.
  • DVD rentals, book rentals and internet usage have all increased significantly compared to last year.

Libraries across the country are experiencing a surge in visitors taking advantage of their free services. The story is no different in Milwaukee.

People are looking everywhere for ways to stretch their dollar in the poor economy. Visiting the library is one solution Milwaukee residents have found to eliminate unnecessary spending.

Paula Kiely, director of the Milwaukee Public Library, said DVD rentals were up 23 percent in December compared to last year. Children's hardcover books are up 19 percent, and children's paperbacks have increased 76 percent over the same time frame.

"I think the economy certainly played a role in this," Kiely said.

Opting for library materials as opposed to renting them from a retail outlet is one way to cut back, she said.

"The fastest way to save $10 or $20 is to check (a DVD or book) out of the library," she said. "It's terrible what's happened to the economy, but it's certainly brought attention back to the library."

People are using the library as an alternative entertainment, said Cynthia Richard, a librarian at the central branch.

"I think that's what people are doing," she said. "Instead of going to the movies, spending $40 or whatever is costs to take

(a family) there, they're checking out DVDs here."

The benefits aren't limited to just watching movies. Obviously, libraries are most known for books. And for families that love to read, the library has become a welcomed addition to their lives.

"We used to go to Borders all the time," said Desmond Barnes, who was perusing the shelves with his children. "It was getting expensive. You sometimes forget that the library is right here, and, of course, it's free.

"You do miss the feeling of owning the book, but that passes pretty quick," he said. "Not having to pay loads of money is just fine with us."

In addition to DVDs and books, Milwaukee Public Library offers Wi-Fi Internet access, which has come in especially handy for job-seekers.

"With the job losses and whatnot taking place here and across the country, we're seeing more and more people coming in to conduct their job searches," Richard said. "Writing letters and resumes on Word, searching job-finding sites, all that has been going on a lot more."

Library usage isn't limited to permanent Milwaukee residents, either. Students have been taking advantage of the relatively close Central branch.

"I've been going there pretty often since I've been here," said Stephen Burke, a sophomore in the College of Engineering. "It's easy to get registered. You give them two pieces of mail proving you live here and you're set."

Burke said he's checked out everything from DVDs, recreational reading books and even books for class at Marquette.

"It's a great resource," he said. "They have everything you could imagine."

The library's Web site says Milwaukee Public Libraries boast more than 2 million books, magazines, records, CDs, DVDs and government documents at its various branches and van stops.

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