Libraries suffer low use

School libraries have been open this summer on a rotating basis, but the number of community members actually stopping by is much lower than expected.

Ashland Middle School is open from noon to 7 p.m. every Tuesday, and Ashland High School keeps the same hours on Thursday. About 35 people, mostly students, visit during those seven hours, according to Judy Kimball, a library assistant at AHS. The elementary schools, open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, have seen slightly higher numbers, she said.

Kimball said she expects numbers to pick up now that the Fourth of July is over, and students are returning from vacations.

"I think as the summer goes on, we'll see that they're going to miss the library," she said.

Ryan Case, who will enter sixth-grade next fall, has been one of the few library regulars. He comes to read with his mother, Linda Case, when she volunteers Tuesdays.

"It's been a lifesaver for us because Ryan will read three or four books in a week," his mother said.

He also gets some one-on-one time with Kimball, as they sit on the couches discussing their favorite books.

"Have you read 'Holes'?" she asked him.

He had, responding with a nod.

"Have you seen the movie?"

Yes, responding with another nod.

"You know when I read a book I really, really like, I'm kind of afraid to see the movie," Kimball told him.

Most of Ryan's friends, and their parents, however, have been missing out on exchanges like these. Although only students enrolled in Ashland schools can check out books, anyone is welcome to sit and read the books or use the free wireless Internet access and school computers.

"The high school does subscribe to very good research tools, and I can help people find what they're looking for," Kimball said.

She has also set up a free book exchange for kids and adults. Titles are limited, but choices range from John Grisham thrillers to cookbooks.

Many adults aren't aware these services are available.

"I didn't even know about the high school library," said Tiziana DeRovera, who was visiting DJ's Video, which recently began renting books in addition to DVDs and video games.

"I haven't rented a book, but I've looked at it with pleasure," she said. After hearing about the high school library, she thought she might pay them a visit. Since the public library closure, she has been renting books on CD from DJ's.

Andi Black, a manager at DJ's, said she has received only positive feedback about the books for rent, and she plans to continue the service even if the public library reopens.

"People are really excited to just have the opportunity to get a book," she said. "There are a lot of people in this town. Even if the library's open, it can only provide 10 copies of a book."

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