Library lending record number of books on tape Commuters 'read' while driving

December 24, 1992|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Staff Writer

It wasn't road fatigue or disdain for the Midwest that made Lois Leasure's eyes fill up with tears while she was driving along an Ohio toll road.

She was listening to a sad passage from a book on tape, and nearly had to pull off the road for a good cry.

Ms. Leasure is adult services supervisor for the Westminster branch of the Carroll County Public Library. She is one of many Carroll County bibliophiles who are discovering that they can fit more books into their lives without necessarily having to read more.

County library branches saw a 53 percent increase in circulation for books on tape between June 1990 and June 1992, said Jacqueline Adams, materials management coordinator.

An average of 6,500 books on tape get checked out every month, she said. Many people will check out several at a time.

A commuter can listen the typical two-hour abridged book on tape during a round-trip ride to Baltimore.

"So many people in the Westminster and Carroll County area have fairly lengthy commutes to Baltimore or Washington," Ms. Leasure said.

"These are wonderful for popping in the stereo, and you can entertain yourself as you go back and forth."

In addition to literature, the library stocks several recorded books on business management, sales motivation, boosting self-esteem and self-help.

Ms. Adams and Ms. Leasure do a lot of reading with their eyes, but find books on tape to be a nice supplement. Book lovers are probably the most frequent patrons for the tapes, they said.

Ms. Adams said tapes help her to keep up with the large number of authors and books being released. Having a good storyteller read a book aloud can even enhance certain kinds of literature, she said.

"Mysteries and thrillers lend themselves very well to tape," Ms. Adams said. "They keep your attention because you want to see what happens next."

Both women have included books on tape in their travel plans. During her 14-hour drive to Michigan, Ms. Leasure listened to several books.

The one that made her cry was a nonfiction book called "Broken Chord," about a college professor who adopts a boy. The child has physical and behavioral problems that stem from his mother's alcohol abuse while she was pregnant.

When Ms. Adams drove to North Carolina on a recent vacation, she took along one long book on tape. She listened to the unabridged "The Clan of the Cave Bear," 22 hours on 16 cassettes.

Most books on tape bought by the Carroll library system are abridged. While purists may frown on abridging books for tape, Ms. Adams said these versions are more enjoyable and preserve the author's style.

She referred to an article on the abridging process that appeared in Library Journal magazine. The article said publishing companies that abridge books for tape use mostly word-for-word sections of the author's work and often leave out less important passages or characters.

The increase in circulation is probably from a combination of factors, the two library officials said. For one thing, the library has increased its purchasing of the tapes since introducing them in 1984.

The branches had 850 titles the first year, and now have about 7,500, Ms. Adams said. As the budget allows, the library tries to add about 12 fiction and 8 non-fiction titles each month, she said.

That's another reason for getting the abridged versions: They cost much less, she said.

Overall, checkouts of Carroll's books on tape aren't in danger of overtaking checkouts of real books. For the past year, the county librarysystem's total circulation was 2.4 million items. Some 78,000 of those -- a bit more than 5 percent -- were books on tape.

Still, the benefits of books on tape are where one finds them.

Ms. Leasure said she has always wanted to take up counted cross-stitching, but was afraid it would cut into her reading time.

"Now I can listen and stitch at the same time," she said. "A lot of people listen to books while they do housework or some kind of handiwork. Their hands and eyes are busy, but their minds are free.

"I'll never stop reading, though. There's nothing that replaces holding a book in your hands."

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