SANDPOINT — Sandpoint’s library has one of the highest user rates in the entire state, even though its population is much smaller than libraries in bigger cities, according to East Bonner County Library Director Ann Nichols, who has served at its helm for eight years. In fact, including the bookmobiles, homebound services, and the Clark Fork library, in one month, November of last year, 22,308 people used the library.
With a large retired population, demographics contribute to our library’s high usage, she said, and other variables may include a large number of checkouts by parents and children who home school; the library’s proximity to public schools; living remotely where internet access is unavailable; the spaciousness, comfort and inviting aesthetics; community outreach programs such as LifeLong Learning and programs for youth; and the quantity and quality of offerings in DVDs; all the aforementioned could contribute to the library’s high patron usage.
“People still love to read, in all sorts of formats,” Nichols said, adding an impressive fact: “We are heavily used for non-fiction; we exceed the national average for non-fiction checkouts,” leading one to believe we have a lot of intelligent citizens, she said.
“I recently was on an airplane flight and most people I saw were using their cellphones to read or listen to downloaded books. I saw people reading print books, too, but more were using tablets, computers, or other electronic devices than I have ever noticed before,” she said.
The Library has regular and large-print books “for those who still like the feel of the paper pages,” she said, and for those who like to do other things while listening can choose from books that can be downloaded to an electronic device such as a cell phone, or they may use a playaway, which is a whole book on a small device that can be listened to with headphones, Nichols explained, and then there are books on CD at the library — a nice way to listen while on long road trips, she added.
Nichols orders all the adult fiction for the library. “I always want to know what people are reading, so I try to see the titles they have in their hands. I also check the “New York Times” bestseller lists and order those that our patrons seem to want,” she said. Nichols consults “Kirkus Reviews,” “Booklist,” and “Library Journal” book reviews, “Publisher’s Weekly,” Oprah books, and magazines such as “The Atlantic” and “Christian Science Monitor.” “I tend to select books that have starred reviews, well-known authors and order a good mix of thrillers, romance, historical fiction, fantasy, and science fiction. Westerns are also something I look for, but they are not as popular as they were years ago, and not as many new westerns are being written,” she said.
Each month, The Library averages 5,500 requests for materials from patrons and from other libraries. Nichols said about half of those are for books and the other half is for movies. In November, 21 percent of checkouts were fiction and non-fiction books and DVDs, 44 percent. From January to September last year, patrons checked out 225,968 DVDs in Sandpoint alone; non-fiction books during that time period — 54,290; fiction books — 54,612.
Nichols recommends Novelist, an online resource if you don’t know what you want to read because it can be used to find a book or author similar to one you have enjoyed before, she said.
Books recommended by local residents
Or, if you want to find out what some locals recommend, read on.
Retired educator Gayle Hanset of Sandpoint recommends “Eleanor Oliphant” by Gail Honeyman. “My best friend from college, who now resides in Mexico, recommended this to me. It has hilarity, real pathos, and tragedy, but ends on a good note,” she said. Her longtime book club, Bookies, read it for this month’s discussion, Hanset said.
Hanset’s husband, Don, a retired IT professional, recommends “Shoe Dog” by Phil Knight. It is about the founding of Nike. “It’s a great story, warts and all, about what I think of as a powerful company that started with one person selling a few dozen shoes out of the trunk of his car.”
MaryLou Hiner of Sagle is a member of ABC, the Already Booked Club, named because its 11 members are generally so busy it takes big effort to find a date to meet each month that suits the majority. Hiner said this is not a selection her club picked, but she enjoyed “Mrs. Saint and the Defectives,” a novel by Julie Lawson Timmer. “When you first start to read it, the plot seems predictable, but you need to read it to the end to know who Mrs. Saint is and why she does what she does. It’s a quick read,” she said.
Sandy Bessler of Sandpoint, who works part-time at Keokee Publishing and formerly with special needs pre-schoolers at Farmin-Stidwell, recommends a book by an Australian author, Graeme Simsion. “In these serious times we are in, I recommend the light-hearted, laugh-out-loud book, ‘The Rosie Project.’ It is the story about a socially awkward genetics professor with Asperger Syndrome who goes on the search for a ‘suitable female partner.’ It’s hilarious and poignant,” she said. Bessler, who is in a coed book group and an all-female book club, also recommends “News of The World” by Paulette Jiles. It is set in 1870; Captain Kyle Kidd travels through northern Texas giving live readings to paying audiences hungry for news of the world.
Whitney Taitano, library tech, keeps a record of every book she reads and books she wants to read. She is a fantasy aficionado. “I am super obsessed with fantasy, especially ones rooted in folklore. She recommends “The Winter Night Trilogy,” which is rooted in Russian folklore and takes place in winter. She also enjoyed “The Half-Drowned King” trilogy by Linnea Hartsuyker, historical fiction about the first king of Norway.
Sandpoint native Molly Forsmann, who also works at the library, recommends a non-fiction book titled “The Honey Bus: A Memoir of Loss, Courage and a Girl Saved by Bees” by Meredith May. It is the story of May and her grandfather, an eccentric beekeeper who made honey in a rusty old military bus. “You will learn so much about bees!” Forsmann said. She also recommends Rick Bragg’s non-fiction, “Best Cook in the World,” a “rollicking food memoir, cookbook, and sweet tribute to his mother and the South.
“I occasionally stray into fiction, and I must recommend ‘Charms for the Easy Life,’ by Kaye Gibbons, and ‘Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café,’”by Fannie Flagg.
Interior designer Nikki Luttmann of Sandpoint recommends “The Historian” by Elizabeth Kostova, said to be a rollercoaster of action, suspense and drama. She also recommends the “Inspector Gamache” series by Louise Penny, especially the first of the 15 books in the series — “Still Life” because “it’s an awesome murder mystery.”
Marriage and family counselor Jill Kahn recommends “An American Marriage,” by Tayari Jones, a highly touted award-winner in 2018 and “The Stone Mattress” by Margaret Atwood, “a book that explores aging and relationships with Atwood’s remarkable insights,” she said. Kahn also recommends “Night Circus” by Erin Morgenstern, “an absolutely enchanting fantastical love story, so sensory evocative!” Another she recommends is Ruth Oaeki’s “A Tale for the Time Being,” Kahn describes as a “multigenerational and cultural exploration of mental health.”
Book indexer and writer Nancy Gerth, who lives at the top of a mountain in Sagle, spends most of her life engrossed in books. She recommends Doris Lessing’s “The Grass is Singing,” which she describes as a “fascinating look at racism in South Africa based around the murder of a white farmer’s wife.” It was written in 1950 by the Nobel Prize-winning author. Gerth also recommends “Signature of All Things,” a 500+ page read by Elizabeth Gilbert, who wrote “Eat, Pray, Love.” Gerth also recommends “Remarkable Creatures” by Tracy Chevalier; it’s about a lower class woman in the 19th century who becomes a fossil hunter.
Local author Rhonda Armbrust recommends “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert, “whose words inspire writers or anyone drawn to creative arts. Gilbert honestly articulates the truth, the passion, and the joy that are in itself the reward for making what you are driven to make,” she said. Armbrust is the author of “Remote Viewer: Shadow Rescue” and “Remote Viewer: Phantom Shadow” available for order online.
Retired educator Joyce DeLaVergne of Sagle is an avid reader who recommends “Freckled” by T.W. Neal. “It is about a redheaded girl growing up on the island of Kauai with hippie parents in the 1970s. “Since I have been to the island and stayed in almost the exact location it was written, I could visualize the story perfectly. And having grown up in the 1960s-‘70s, I could relate to the back-to-the-land movement … I also relate to her because many of the students I taught (in Bonner County) grew up in less-than-desirable circumstances, and succeeded,” she said. She also recommends local author Jackie Henrion’s unique book, “Rerooted,” a fictionalized account of Marie Root, who escaped a brutal marriage in Michigan and in 1908 arrived at the logging and mining town of Hope, Idaho and buys the old hotel there.
Dick Cvitanich, who perused the books at yesterday’s first-Saturday-of-the-month used book sale at The Library, recommends “Bretz’s Flood: The Remarkable Story of a Rebel Geologist and the World’s Greatest Flood,” the story about the land between Idaho and the Cascade Mountains, considered a very unique place on the Earth. It is by J. Harlen Bretz, who in the 1920s was the first to explore the area.
Retired middle school librarian, Julie Smith, recommends “The Rent Collector,” a fictionalized account of a family who survive by going through trash at Stung Meanchey, the largest municipal waste dump in Cambodia. They make their living scavenging recyclables from the trash.
Smith and Irene Adler are both volunteers in the Friends of the Library. Adler recommends “Just Mercy,” non-fiction by Bryan Stevenson, an attorney who worked with people on death row in Georgia, some innocent. Some of these individuals were sentenced as children. “It moved me,” Adler said. “It was troubling, emotionally impactful, but heartfelt,” she said.
Adler and Smith are volunteers for the middle school’s “battle of the books” and felt they should read all the books in order to help with the competition. As a result, they recommend “The Screaming Staircase,” and invite adult readers “who liked Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys” to read this book.
Brenda Hammond, Human Rights Task Force president, local therapist, poet, and avid reader recommends one of her new favorite authors “who will introduce you to human rights issues in parts of the world you may know little about — but will through 5 novels — because after reading the first in the series, you will have to read on.”
Hammond said the author is Ausma Zehanet Khan — a young Muslim woman with a PhD in International Human Rights Law, and former editor of “Muslim Girl” magazine. Her series of mystery novels feature a pair of detectives, Esa Khattak — a Muslim man who is consulted on anti-terrorism issues, and Rachel Getty, a tough, hockey-playing Canadian woman. The first book in the series is “The Unquiet Dead,” a case involving a Bosnian war criminal. The second, “The Language of Secrets,” involves a terrorist attack on a mosque. The third, “Among the Ruins,” takes place in Iran. “The Dangerous Crossing,” is a story of Syrian refugee camps. And “The Deadly Divide” is about the polarization of a small Canadian town over the issue of Muslim immigrants. “The mysteries are well written — and remain mysteries until the last few pages of the book. They are rich in detail about the places in which they occur and the complex factors that exist,” Hammond said.
The sun set today at 4:07 p.m. Winter invites an afghan, a comfortable couch, and a good book. After all, you have seven fewer hours of light than, say, six months from now, and a library of infinite selections from which to choose, in a variety of formats.
Susan Drinkard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.