The Cumberland County Library System ranks number one in a list of most-used library systems in the state, and on Friday morning one avid third-grade reader was ready to talk about why.
Trevor Arms attended the CCLS's 20th annual Legislative Breakfast at the New Cumberland Public Library with his mom, Denise, to tell the who's who of Cumberland County - including Sen. Pat Vance, R-31, all three county commissioners and state library association director Glenn Miller - what he loves about going to the library.
"Instead of buying books from the store, we can get them for free," crowed the enthusiastic Hampden Elementary School student. "And we have movie nights on Saturdays so we come to the library to try to get a movie that's nice for everybody, one that everybody likes."
"We also like going on vacation," Trevor continued, "so we like to get books to find a place that is nice for everybody. And that is why I think the library is a nice thing to have in our community."
Trevor and his mom, who especially relishes the selection of independent and foreign films the library typically has on hand, borrow books from Simpson Public Library in Mechanicsburg. They're just two of many throughout Cumberland County, Jonelle Prether Darr, CCLS executive director said Friday.
On a per capita basis, CCLS is the busiest library system in Pennsylvania, with residents having taken out over 2.6 million items - 62 percent of which were books - in 2010. But that's not the whole story when it comes to library patronage, Darr added. The system saw a 6 percent increase during summer 2011 in the number of kids who enrolled in the library system's free summer events.
Movies and television shows are also a big hit with patrons, Darr said.
"There are all kinds of media out there that are just as important as books," Darr said. "What better way to learn about the culture and history of France than through a film if you can't afford to travel there or don't want to?"
Calling the library a community "cornerstone" that contains a wealth of "books, ideas, resources and information," Darr said that despite its popularity in the county, the egalitarian institution hasn't been immune to the harsh economic climate.
Since 2008, the system has slashed operating hours by 2,384 and its budget for new materials by 17 percent. Both reductions negatively impacted library circulation in 2010, which fell by 5 percent, Darr said.
"People can't visit you as often and they don't want to visit you as often if you don't have the latest, newest materials," Darr said, pointing to wait lists more than a hundred names long for certain items. "Busy families don't come see you as often if you're not open when they need you to be open."
In an effort to keep current, the CCLS is in the midst of partnering with the Dauphin County Library System to establish an eBook collection, which contains 2,300 titles right now and is saving the CCLS big bucks. CCLS will also roll out an online payment of fines and fees system in January - a change that will likely increase the rate of fines actually collected by libraries from patrons, Darr said.
Darr and county commissioner Gary Eichelberger thanked Rick Rovegno and his wife, Karen Rovegno, for their ongoing support of the library system. In fact, library personnel cobbled together a special collection in honor of the outgoing politician's interests and hobbies that will be displayed at libraries throughout the system. Titles include "How to Rock Climb," "Lincoln on War" and "Fifty Places to Hike Before You Die."
Darr thanked all the commissioners for supporting the Cumberland County Library tax, which provides 54 percent of the system's finances.