The library by the numbers

April 12, 2024 in

by Kate Lasky
Originally published in the Grants Pass Daily Courier | March 2024

What’s happening at the library? In one word — growth. This past year, our library experienced a surge in every area, showcasing a local trend that underscores the relevance of libraries in today’s society. Examples of this growth are abundant at Josephine Community Library, ranging from an increased number of items checked out and added to bookshelves to bustling storytimes and a steady influx of new patrons.

Every month, we register 250 new library cardholders — if the library were a business, this would represent a constant flow of new customers at the four library branches in Grants Pass, Illinois Valley, Williams, and Wolf Creek. Currently, our library boasts a total of 24,100 active library cardholders who consistently borrow 25,000 items a month, including ebooks and audiobooks, catering to the diverse interests of readers spanning multiple genres and age groups.

Imagine stacking these 25,000 items one atop the other — it would be a tower reaching a quarter mile high, a tangible representation of the appetite for knowledge within our community.

Moreover, picture approximately 100,000 items on the shelves across all four branches, complemented by a vast collection of digital resources, including online research journal articles, periodicals, newspapers, and popular magazines, an incalculable treasure trove of resources.

The statistics speak volumes — public libraries are not relics of the past but vital pillars of our present and future. In an era dominated by digital advancements and rapid information dissemination, the relevancy of public library services cannot be overstated.

But behind these statistics lies a deeper narrative, one that speaks to the insatiable demand for library services. Last month, a steady 6,500 individuals traveled in and out at the Grants Pass branch, comparable only to the local post office or neighborhood grocery store. In February alone, we logged 636 reference questions answered at the front desk with 451 of those at the Grants Pass branch alone.

So, who are all these people — these library people? On any given day, 12,000 items are circulating through people’s homes in Josephine County — the homes of you and your neighbors.

They are job seekers, updating their resumes for a job hunt in Grants Pass, seeking employment opportunities, relying on library resources for internet access and resume assistance. They are the families who flock to storytime sessions, fostering early literacy and a love for learning in their children, representing thousands of households hungry for knowledge and entertainment.

They are 260 volunteers working approximately 350 hours a week, giving freely of their time and talent to help residents with everything from registering for a new library card to finding their next great read — a value of $250,000 a year, but truly priceless.

No matter how you stack it, a library is indispensable, particularly for our children. It is a sanctuary where literacy is nurtured and where the seeds of lifelong learning are sown.

In our increasingly computerized world, libraries serve as bastions of digital inclusion, providing vital access to the internet and online resources. Whether it’s job seekers using the library’s broadband computers to access a virtual interview or families seeking to stay connected in the modern age, libraries bridge the digital divide, ensuring that no one is left behind in the pursuit of knowledge and opportunity.

One cannot help but marvel at the enduring value of libraries. Serving Josephine County for the past 110 years, they have proven to be more than just repositories of books — they are vibrant community spaces where individuals gather to learn, connect, and grow. As the library director of Josephine Community Library and a staunch advocate for public libraries, I am often asked, “What is the future of libraries?” The answer lies in our collective vision for our community — one where libraries continue to stand as beacons of knowledge, equity, and opportunity for generations to come.
JCL library by numbers purple graph

Between the Pages is a monthly column written by Kate Lasky for the Grants Pass Daily Courier. Ms. Lasky has worked with Josephine Community Library since 2009. She holds a master’s in education and recently completed her master’s in library science. To send comments or questions, email