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GREENFIELD — It was the best year yet for the Hancock County Public Library, director Dave Gray told the board this week, pointing out a record-breaking 906,984 check-outs for 2013.

Digital downloads of music, movies and books are certainly the main reason for the boost in circulation, as this marked the first year that traditional printed books made up less than half of the materials circulated.

But Gray says as more patrons are leaning toward digital content, the library is doing its best at keeping up with the trends while still offering traditional materials.

“Now, our next goal is 1 million (items circulated),” Gray said. “We’ll be working hard to achieve that.”

The materials checked out in 2013 mark a big jump from the year before. There were 92,457 more materials checked out in 2013 compared to 2012 – an 11 percent increase.

Of the 906,984 check-outs, 12 percent were digital downloads; 40 percent were non-print materials such as DVDs, CDs and video games; and 48 percent were printed books and magazines.

That marks the first time ever that less than half of the items checked out at the library were printed materials. There were 437,655 books checked out in 2013, and while that was more than the 429,040 books in 2012, the total piece of the pie is smaller.

In fact, circulation statistics show a steady downward trend in the percentage of printed books borrowed from the library. In 2010, 61 percent of circulated materials were books; in 2011, 57 percent; and 2012, 53 percent.

It’s a sign of the times, said Gray, who’s entering his second year as library director. In the past few years, HCPL has upped the ante on content available to computers, tablets and smartphones. A total of 108,325 checkouts in 2013 were of digital content.

The 12 percent total piece of the circulation pie marks an upward trend: in 2012, 8 percent of the total circulation was digital content; the year before that, only 3 percent. 

The most popular digital service is with e-books and e-audiobooks. In 2013, 46,568 items were checked out from OverDrive.

Gray said even as people switch to reading on tablets like Kindles and Nooks, many are still content with a hard-copy book. It’s just a matter of finding which version they can get their hands on first.

“We see a lot of, ‘If I can get it on my e-reader, great. If I can get it in print, I’ll take that instead, if there’s a hold on the e-book,’” Gray said.

While OverDrive gets the most hits, several other digital services also contribute to the spike in electronic check-outs.

Freegal, which launched in 2011, accounted for 30,606 checkouts in 2013. Each patron can download five songs a week.

Zinio’s magazine service launched in 2012; there were 11,520 issues downloaded in 2013.

Hoopla, the library’s newest service, offers movie and TV shows; in just the past two months, there have been 400 checkouts.

And while patrons can download movies and music now from the convenience of their home computers, a steady stream of patrons are still coming to the library to check out discs. 

Non-print items such CDs, DVDs, video games and books on CD seem to be holding steady. There were 361,004 items checked out in 2013; at 40 percent of the total pie, that’s about the same as the previous three years.

In addition to a spike in digital downloads, Gray points to a few other reasons overall circulation was up in 2013. Librarians in the children’s department completely rearranged their shelves, which brought more eyes to nonfiction items that had been overlooked in the past.

The seven-bin sorter added to the circulation department last year also helped the numbers because items can be returned to the shelves more quickly, Gray said. A patron waiting for a book he or she has on hold could get the item a day earlier.

“(It was) the staff as a whole that made that happen, to make it available as fast as we possibly can, as accurately as we possibly can,” Gray said.

Beverly Gard, president of the HCPL board, said at Tuesday’s meeting that it was exciting to see the numbers. She said a big celebration would be in order when the library hits the 1 million mark, whether it be this year or in 2015 – the 10th anniversary of the main building at McKenzie Road and Franklin Street.

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