By Holly Marcus, contributor
As National Library Week draws to a close, The Citizen presents some facts and figures to celebrate the Massanutten Regional Library system, which includes seven branches in Harrisonburg, Rockingham County and Page County.
From the library’s collection plan statement of philosophy: “The library is part of the educational and cultural life of its community and defines the library’s role in the community as assisting in the democratic process through the free communication of ideas.”
159,861 Total patrons served at all seven branches of the Massanutten Regional Library system.
393,342 Total items in the MRL collection.
3 Number of weekly van trips to shuffle materials between branches for transfer requests.
$64,692.22 Total amount of fines and fees collected in the 2017-2018 fiscal year.
3,048 Number of new library cards issued last year.
1940 The year of the most recent available census records which can be accessed using the MRL’s online genealogy resources. Census records are released on a 10-year schedule, and patrons can view digital scans of the original handwritten pages dating back to the first records from 1790. The National Archives abides by the “72-Year Rule,” releasing census records to the general public 72 years after Census Day. The 1950 Census records will be released in April 2022. Military service records and other ancestry data made public by the National Archives can also be viewed and searched online through MRL’s website.
31,094 Total free computer usage sessions last year. This number has fallen since the library began offering free Wi-fi at all its branches.
Early 1800s Publication dates of the oldest materials in the library’s collection. These include volumes of the Acts of the General Assembly of the State of Virginia, the official records of the acts passed by Virginia’s state legislature. Also stored in the vault are several local hymnals such as A Compilation of Genuine Church Music published in 1832 by Singers Glen music teacher and composer Joseph Funk.
4,369 Number of children participating in the Summer Reading Games last year. From June to August children keep track of how many hours they read over summer (or have books read to them) to win prizes. 53 percent of participants read more than 10 hours, for a total of 39,240 hours of summer reading.
Over $1,000 One of the largest fines accrued by a patron.
3,005 Number of books and materials that MRL’s early literacy initiative gave to mothers and babies as a part of its “Prescription for Reading” programs. The library partners with local physicians to offer the free books during an infant’s wellness check-ups.
More than 30 Average number of holds for in-demand new books. The library saw the waiting lists grow for titles such as Becoming by Michelle Obama and J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy. When an item has a hold on it, you can only keep it for two weeks and are not allowed to renew it. Sometimes, patrons keep on-hold books past the due date, paying a fine of 15 cents per day until they finish it.
223 Number of volunteers who put in time in the library system, for a total of 6,026 hours of service. Many libraries were started by community members and volunteers, growing out of a community’s wants. In many instances, the “library preceded the building.”
0 Total number of books banned from the library. From MRL’s philosophy statement:
“The Library recognizes that full, confidential, and unrestricted access to information is essential for patrons to exercise their rights as members of society. While all are free to select or reject materials for themselves or their own minor children, the freedom of others to read or inquire cannot be restricted. Parents and guardians, not the Library, have the responsibility to guide and direct the reading, listening, and viewing choices of their own minor children. The Library does not stand in loco parentis [in the place of a parent]. The selection of materials for the collection is not restricted by the possibility that children may obtain materials their parents or guardians consider inappropriate.”
1928 The year the local library system was established. MRL celebrated its 90th birthday in November. Members of the Harrisonburg Kiwanis Club formed the Rockingham Public Library Association and opened the Rockingham Public Library on the corner of S. Main and Bruce streets.
A Few More Interesting Facts:
- No age requirement to sign up for your first library card.
- When asked if there were any interesting stories or excuses for damaged or lost books, Lois Jones, the library director, said they have seen books that were destroyed in house fires, car accidents and have had patrons lose luggage when traveling with library books. One book came back to the library soaked in milk after a patron said she didn’t realize the jug had leaked.
- Some library materials go missing for years and eventually find their way back to the library shelves—like in a box of donated books that were dropped off after someone was cleaning out a family member’s home. The library books were still listed as missing in the library catalog.
- Books showing signs of wear through the years or have a needed repair go to the mending area. There book spines are carefully glued or stitched and pages taped and pressed to extend the life of the reading material and return it to the shelves. Sometimes a book or DVD arrives at the mending area and the mender first checks the library’s reserve stash of extra copies. Many of these items come in as donations. They may decide to replace the old worn out copy with a donated copy. The old copies are discarded and usually show up in the library’s monthly book sale.
- How does the library choose its materials? Library director Lois Jones said they subscribe to the Library Journal and Booklist publications to establish their core collection. They also keep an eye on the New York Times Best Seller list each year and listen to recommendations and requests from patrons for new materials. Knowing the constituents of an area helps to determine what kinds of materials would be of interest to patrons.
- Cleaning out and inventorying the MRL collection is a constant chore. If discarded books don’t sell at the book sales they are never thrown away, instead they are taken to Booksavers of Virginia, an organization that either tries to resell them, donating the proceeds to charity, or recycles the paper in the books
To find out more about the Massanutten Regional Library, you can visit their website and you can also sign up to receive their Monday morning newsletter by e-mail.
Journalism is changing, and that’s why The Citizen is here. We’re independent. We’re local. We pay our contributors, and the money you give goes directly to the reporting. No overhead. No printing costs. Just facts, stories and context. Thanks for your support.