E-books: What’s hot at libraries


Electronic books are the current library craze, for adults with e-readers, and kids with MP3 players downloading their choices. These new tools don’t mean a limitless supply of best-sellers, the libraries still have to buy however many licensed copies they circulate. The self-supporting Best Seller Express, where patrons pay $4 to borrow current paper copy titles for 10 days, is also popular.

Hundreds of kids have participated in the Book-a-Wocky summer reading program. The Northeaster had email and in-person conversations with librarians at Hennepin County’s Northeast, Pierre Bottineau, and St. Anthony libraries, and Renee Dougherty at the Columbia Heights Public Library to see what else is hot this summer. Listen in:

Adult Fiction

Nancy Corcoran is a longtime St. Anthony resident who became senior librarian at St. Anthony about a year ago after working in reference and administration at the downtown Minneapolis library. She said, “Some of the hot titles are Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, Room by Emma Donoghue, The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Popular authors: Alexander McCall Smith, David Baldacci, Jodi Picoult, James Patterson.” Popular types of materials: “Stieg Larsson’s Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has generated interest in other Swedish mystery authors (Henning Mankell, Lars Kepler), mysteries, romances.”

Northeast senior librarian Lois Porfiri said she also has noticed those fiction trends; “Mysteries in general are still very popular and comprise the largest genre area at the new Northeast Library. I have noticed more interest in romance novels again too. We had a thriving interest in romance novels before we closed for renovation. So it is good to know that romance is not dead. I’ve placed many requests for Room, and The Help; and Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen.”

Alexander McCall Smith books, “The #1 Ladies’ Detective Agency” that’s being serialized on HBO, “really, anything with movie or television series connections is popular,” Porfiri said. “The Bill Cosby show that was rebroadcast last weekend; there’s a big waiting list now for anything Bill Cosby.”

“I have seen more interest in street literature, urban fiction.The popularity of these may have gone up since we’d been closed,” Porfiri said.

Dougherty at Columbia Heights also said “Lots of people are reading The Help before the opening of the movie on August 10.” At Heights, “we are getting lots of requests for Heaven is For Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of his Trip to Heaven and Back by Todd Burpo.”

“On the heels of Diane Sawyer’s interview of Jaycee Dugard and the publication of her memoir, A Stolen Life, we are seeing oodles of interest in the memoir as well as in news stories about her kidnapping.”

Children and Teens

Librarian Gloria Busch at Pierre Bottineau wrote, “Right after school ended this June, many parents came in with their K-2nd graders looking for Easy Reader books. (Teachers and librarians suggest this is a smart thing to do so that children maintain and improve their reading skills over the summer.)”

“Easy Readers in the series about Otto the robot, like See Pip Point by David Milgrim are very popular. Also popular are the Elephant & Piggie books like There is a Bird on Your Head! by Mo Willlems.(Of course children still ask for classic easy books, such as Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss, too.)

“Chapter books about magic and fairies are in demand. Daisy Meadows is the pseudonym used for the four writers of the Rainbow Magic children’s series. Rainbow Magic features differing groups of fairies as main characters of Fairyland. This series includes many a variety of titles about the Jewel, Weather, Sports and Pet fairies.

“Older school age children and teens are still asking for the New York Times best-selling series, Percy Jackson & the Olympians by Rick Riordan. These adventure and fantasy books are based on Greek mythology and contain lots of exciting action. They are so popular they are rarely on the shelves.

“Another great series for 12-year-olds and up is the Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney. These funny school stories come with lessons learned. The illustrations that are part of the diary are hilarious.” Others echoed these selections.

Busch said many of those popular titles never appear on her shelves because there’s a “hold” or waiting list for them. Porfiri said, “I am completely out of Harry Potter books at Northeast right now. Wimpy Kid books go out as soon as they come in. I have some astute nonfiction readers too. Animals and insects are always popular.”

St. Anthony’s Corcoran added: the “Magic Tree House” series by Mary Pope Osborne, Warrior series by Erin Hunter (also popular with teens), anything Star Wars related (for boys), graphic novels.”

At St. Anthony, teens are checking out “Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, the Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead (or anything vampire), fashion and self help books, graphic novels, and downloadable books. Another really popular book for teens, I Am Number Four, by Pittacus Lore,” Corcoran said.

Non-fiction, and services

Of course, literary escape is just some of what a library has to offer.

At Columbia Heights, “We continue to see many folks looking for work and polishing their resumes and cover letters in the hopes of being chosen from multiple applicants for a job. The library is now offering online, one-on-one interview and resume coaching from 1-11 pm daily through JobNow,” Dougherty said.

St. Anthony’s Corcoran explained that JobNow, an online real-time coaching service is in all MELSA libraries [Metropolitan Library Service Agency, www.melsa.org] and added that some of the larger Hennepin County libraries have job counselors on-site. (For locations, go to www.hclib.org and select “Events and Classes—Business and Careers”)

Dougherty said, “We are also seeing lots of people preparing for interviews by brushing up on the names of dental instruments, or using a ruler for carpentry, or preparing for the nursing assistant certification exam.”

Porfiri said “Nonfiction areas of interest are resumes/cover letters/interviewing and cookbooks.” She’s answering more questions about environmentally-conscious landscaping, and gardening. The renovated library, which reopened in April, has a living example in its rain garden next to the parking lot.

She said she’s noticed since the library re-opened, a “little different crowd, regulars and new move-ins. Some I think migrated after the tornado, some doubling up.” Some people are looking for help finding housing, but “they’re asking about resumes, mostly,” Porfiri said.

Heights has seen “heavy use of the AllData auto repair and Small Engine Repair databases from those trying to save money by doing the work themselves or trying to eke out one more summer from the lawn mower,” Dougherty wrote. Auto repair “has always been popular” at Pierre Bottineau, Busch said. “And cooking. We get a lot of requests for books on cooking.”

Northeast added more public-use computers in its renovation. Supply is keeping up with demand, pretty much, though sometimes there is a wait, Porfiri said. “Today [Friday, Aug. 5], there’s lots of kids dreaming about new bikes. I see bicycle websites up.”

St. Anthony, a small library (which Corcoran said many like, who might be intimidated by the larger spaces) “could have two to three times as many” computers as the seven they have, to keep up with demand. “More and more government business is done over the internet, like filing weekly for unemployment. And taxes. We see lots of people who’ve never had to use a computer. We try to assure them they can’t break anything.”

The St. Anthony Library offers Senior Surf internet classes and Northeast will have some Senior Surfs this fall. Other libraries that have computer labs and trainers offer various focused computer classes (see www.hclib.org for locations).

Special events and offerings

Busch said, “Stop by the adult section of the Pierre Bottineau Library and take a look at our Brain Fitness Station. This offers a fun and informative way to promote the concept of working your brain to keep it sharp as you age.”

At Columbia Heights, “Monday movie matinees for kids continue through Aug. 22, with The Chronicles of Narnia at 3:30 p.m. on Aug. 15 and Holes on Aug. 22,” Dougherty wrote. “Coming up this fall: Local author David Housewright will visit the adult book club at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 28, for discussion of Highway 61. All are welcome to join us.”

Kids Read, Dogs Listen provides an opportunity for a child to read to a registered therapy dog in the relaxed atmosphere of the library. Dogs will be available on Monday evenings (6-7:30 p.m.) at the library Sept. 19 through Nov. 14. Register in advance by contacting the Library at 763-706-3690. “Sign up soon; this program is very popular and space fills fast,” Dougherty said.

Karen Kremer, from Columbia Heights Early Childhood Family Education, will offer an early-literacy storytime for babies and their caregivers this fall. Baby Read/Baby Grow is at Columbia Heights Library on Mondays 10-10:30 a.m. Sept. 19 through Oct. 24.

Storytime for all ages at Heights library happens at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesdays, Sept. 20 through Nov. 15.

The Columbia Heights Library Foundation will host a Spaghetti Dinner on Wednesday, Sept. 7, 4-7 p.m. at Murzyn Hall. Tickets cost $8 for adults or $5 for children and are available at the door or by calling Cliff at 612-251-9557 or Marlaine at 763-788-4506. A 32-inch television and a nook digital e-reader will be raffled off at the dinner; raffle tickets cost $3.

Dougherty concluded, “Over 550 kids are participating in the summer reading program, Book-a-Wocky. Storytimes have been very well attended this summer as have the Wacky Wednesday afternoon programs. Wacky Wednesday performers the Teddy Bear Band, the reptiles of Rad Zoo, and magicians Magical Mia and Matt Dunn were huge hits. Workshops on forging your own mythology, creating a super hero, and Star Wars were also very popular as was the annual American Girl tea.”

At St. Anthony, the used book sale is coming up Sept. 10, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Master gardeners will be giving programs; on Monday, Aug. 15 at 6:30 p.m. it’s “Hardy Roses for Northern Climates,” free. Museum passes have been really popular, Corcoran said.

The St. Anthony Library also has the books to loan for the St. Anthony Reads program, a citywide effort to encourage people to read, with some discussion events being planned. Most of the authors are from Minnesota, for various age levels.

One can find special event and class listings for all the Hennepin County libraries on the web at www.hclib.org under “Events and Classes.” Corcoran also suggests readers look on “Book Space” online where readers can make and get recommendations for good books to read. Sometimes library staff will keep a list, she said, and “a lot of people” contribute.