By Cindi Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer
The Cincinnati library slipped from fifth- to seventh-highest circulation in the nation last year, continuing a five-year decline, according to data released Monday by Executive Director Kimber Fender.
In 1997, the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County was second only to the Queens, N.Y., library system.
Circulation of books, compact discs and other materials actually increased 4 percent, to 14,403,659 items checked out, in 2002; but other libraries saw bigger jumps, Fender said. Cincinnati still has the highest circulation per cardholder, she said, suggesting the library will have to sign up more users if it's going to keep circulation up.
The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County:
Had the highest per-cardholder circulation in the nation for 2002, with each borrowing an average of 35.6 items.
Was third-lowest in the percentage of population with a library card, at 48 percent.
Was No. 1 in holdings, with more than 10.2 million items.
Cincinnati's slide is of particular concern because it began even before state-funding reductions forced two rounds of cuts in operating hours at the library's 41 branches. Officials blame the last round - a 10 percent cut in hours in January - for a 2 percent drop in circulation in the first two months of 2003.
The library must figure out how to curb the trend, board member Tara Khoury said, noting that other library systems are increasing circulation despite funding problems.
"I understand we've cut hours, but we want to continue to grow," she said.
Cincinnati is last among the top 10 libraries in the number of cardholders, and the system has seen a 2 percent drop in cardholders in the past year, to 401,966.
Library Services Director Keith Kuhn said he is talking with Cincinnati Public Schools about teaming up to put library cards in the hands of more schoolchildren.
Kuhn also noted that circulation numbers for new media are a bright spot, with borrowing of compact disc audio books up 59 percent in February and borrowing of DVDs up 56 percent.
"We're still a very busy library system," Kuhn said.
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