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A need to read: Mitchell Public Library has record year in 2017

Autumn Lentz, 11, reads a book while waiting for her family to finish finding books to read while visiting the Mitchell Public Library on Friday afternoon. (Matt Gade / Republic)

Libraries aren't going anywhere, and Mitchell Public Library's director can prove it.

The Mitchell Public Library had a record year in 2017, boasting lofty circulation numbers and the highest ever amount of library cards issued, according to the facility's director Jackie Hess.

"We are excited. We can go nowhere but up," Hess said.

In 2017, there were 141,127 items — books, CDs, DVDs, e-books and other items — loaned out to library goers. Of that number, 24,753 were CDs, 17,599 were adult fiction title books and 23,984 e-books.

This is the highest circulation numbers have been since at least 2012, Hess said, when the library reached approximately 136,000. Numbers dropped in 2014 when the library underwent construction, but since its grand opening in early 2015, numbers have been climbing back.

"That just goes to show that libraries are still vital with changing technology," Hess said. "There was real concern that maybe libraries would start closing. We just adapt and move on."

2017 also saw the largest amount of library cards issued, jumping more than 1,200 cards. Hess said 2016 came in with a total of 1,891 issued cards, but skyrocketed to 3,144 by the end of 2017.

The reason? Mitchell's students.

Hess said the library board wanted to reach out to more youth in the community and become more engaged. Hearing of a program in South Carolina where students checked out books using student ID numbers, Hess said the board believed the same could be brought to Palace City.

With the Mitchell School District on board, parents of all middle school and high school students were contacted about allowing children to use their student IDs to check out books from the public library, Hess said.

The students who signed up for the service were then integrated into the library system in fall 2017, allowing their IDs to pull double duty: for school and as a library card.

"Time will tell," Hess said about 2018 faring as well as 2017. "We're looking forward to it."

Hess said the Mitchell Public Library is not intended to replace the students' school library but to "enhance their curriculum" from books and other items they can only access in the public library.

On top of more students in the library, Hess said an added Saturday storytime has also drawn in more crowds to the library, attributing to a higher circulation so far in 2018.

"We are looking at good things all the way around," Hess said.

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