Most check them out, but a few steal library books

By Laura McMillan

The many copies of the Harry Potter series have been checked out more times than can be counted by Doug Iberg, the senior clerk at the Morrow Branch Library. The Art of War is so popular with gang members who steal it from the Morrow Branch, Iberg has not kept a copy in stock since October. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants has been checked out of the Clayton County Headquarters Library 154 times, while 18 other people, statewide are on an official waiting list to read the book before watching the movie.

For 100,885 library card holding members, summer is the best season to catch up on some reading.

More than 52, 300 Clayton County citizens between the ages of 18 and 45 have a Georgia statewide electronic system, or PINES library card. Although that is the largest group, Clayton County libraries are not necessarily focusing the most attention on the adult sections this summer.

The item checked out of the Headquarters library most often is, after all, from the children's section. You're Invited to Mary Kate and Ashley's Beach Party has been checked out 234 times. The only ironic part: it's not a book, but a movie that is checked out so often from the library.

The Vacation Reading Program is an annual big hit with children ages infant to 18 years who want more from the library than movies. Nikolas and Zachary Hooper are brothers participating in the "FUNtastic" reading summer for everyone under age 11. "We just signed up last week," Nikolas said. He said his favorite prize for reading a certain number of books will be more free books.

"The things we give to the kids we call them incentives," said Carol Stewart, Director of Library Services.

Those "incentives" include a free paperback book, bookmarks, a free waffle coupon at participating Waffle House restaurants, and a chance to win other small prizes in drawings.

State library funds are not sufficient for providing all the prizes awarded at the 10 and 20 hour bench marks during the Vacation Reading Program according Stewart.

For supplemental funds, the public libraries turn to the Clayton County Branch of the Friends of the Library organization. "They have monthly used book sales and with the money from the book sales they pay for a multitude of things the libraries need," Stewart said.

Since 1993 the monthly used book sales have earned $200,000 for the Clayton County Public Library System, according to treasurer of the Friends of the Library, Brenda Mitchell. "100% goes to the library," Mitchell added happily.

The Friends of the Library provides everything from carpet and chairs to computers, said Mitchell. The Clayton County Library System has a total of 112 computers, 18 of which are solely for the children's sections. Next to the Headquarters Library, the Riverdale and Lovejoy branches have the most computers, with three children's computers each.

Quiana Skidmore, who was seeing what was available on one the six children's computers at Headquarters and thinking of signing her two-year old son, Percy, up for the Vacation Reading Program, said approvingly, "It seems to have more resources for the children."