McHenry Library focuses on digital books

McHENRY – The McHenry Public Library is looking to downsize its book collection, its executive director said.

The budget, which the board approved at a meeting this week, shifts some dollars away from hard copies of books to digital editions, Executive Director Jim Scholtz said.

The goal is to bring the library's collection to 145,000 items from 167,000 so that the library can add more seating and leisure space, he said. It is about halfway there.

Digital books don't take up physical space in the library, and patrons who don't have an eReader of their own still can take advantage of the selection by checking out the library's Nook or Nook HDs.

Each tablet is stocked with 500 books.

Because the library is buying fewer books, it is focusing on popular titles, Scholtz said. The rule of thumb for an average library is that 80 percent of the circulation comes from 20 percent of the collection.

People looking for more obscure titles are not at a loss, though, because the library belongs to a consortium, which opens up those collections to McHenry patrons.

While the budget keeps most things the same – the board had voted previously to keep the property-tax levy flat instead of raising it the amount it's allowed under the tax cap – a few projects are on the horizon.

The budget allocates $583,000 for a roofing project, the installation of security cameras, and the replacement of two of the library's six rooftop air-conditioning units.

Scholtz plans on putting any savings into a capital reserve fund so that in 15 or so years when the library, which was built in 1974, needs to be replaced, the library district has some savings to cover costs.

The board also voted to keep the fee for a nonresident to get a library card at $200, something that is reviewed each year based off what an average resident would pay in property taxes.

Starting Aug. 1, enhanced library cards for nonresidents also will be available for $45. The library will start charging a $1 fee for holds or interlibrary loan requests that are not picked up.

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