Branching out

Despite ever-increasing e-reader technology, the Catawba County Library system is growing.

Catawba County Library Director Karen Foss said branches are seeing more circulation and visitors than ever before, an increase that she said may have ties to the economy.

The Conover branch of the library has grown so much during the last two years that it is relocating to a bigger space at Conover Station – a move that library leaders say will not only give it more space but new programs as well.

The Conover Library will open on the third floor of the renovated Warlong Building at Conover Station today. The new space is about a third larger than the previous location in the basement of Conover City Hall.

The library’s new spot is exposed to original steel rafters and brick walls that housed the Broyhill Furniture and Warlong Glove manufacturing facilities nearly a century ago.  

“This is a unique and special location,” said Debbie Hovis, Conover Library branch manager. “We’ve always been a relaxed and laid back environment, and I think this space matches that.”

The larger space will allow Conover to offer children programs that were provided sporadically at the old location, Foss said.

“We will also be able to offer technology workshops as well,” Foss said.

“The computers are banked together more closely so we can offer a class easily.”

On Monday, Hovis and library board member Brenda Sigmon worked to shelve some of the nearly 10,000 items that were moved. Hovis said the library is now open, but in a transition period. Permanent shelving and additional seating will arrive in the next few months to make the move complete.

“I love it and it’s wonderful now – the openness and the light,” Sigmon said of the new location. “It really provides some character for the library.”  

In addition to its book collection, the library has DVDs, CDs, magazines and a selection of computers with Internet access. The library has wireless access as well, Hovis said.

Meeting needs

The Conover branch of the library has grown rapidly in the past two years, checking out more than 53,000 items last year alone, Foss said. She said other branches, such as Sherrills Ford and Maiden, have also experienced similar growth in recent years.

The branches growth has come at a time when e-readers like the iPad and Kindle have put less emphasis on checking a book out “the old-fashioned way.” But while e-readers use has grown, Foss said the library has, too, through meeting technological needs of the consumer.

Foss said the library system recently joined a consortium through the state library system that will allow branches to offer electronic books to their members.

“The new technology is a new format,” Foss said. “If you think back when we went from cassettes to audio books, it’s a change like that that is a format.”

Foss said the library has also been able to attract more visitors because of an historic draw – it’s free. While e-readers may make keeping a book collection easier, those books still cost money. Checking out a book costs nothing, Foss said.

“Library use has increased, and I think some of that is due to the economic downturn,” Foss said. “More and more people are borrowing things than buying things.”