Charlotte library book downloads total 1M+ during COVID. What are we reading?

Jessica Swannie
·3 min read

The COVID-19 pandemic brought with it new passions for banana bread, fluffy coffee and puzzles. But it has also encouraged us to sit back, relax and cuddle up with a good book.

The Charlotte Mecklenburg Library reached a record-breaking 1 million digital book checkouts in 2020 — and it’s just one of 102 public library systems that surpassed 1 million checkouts.

Even though the pandemic caused the buildings to temporarily close, many libraries focused on their e-book and audiobook collections through digital checkouts. The Charlotte Mecklenburg Library was prepared, having already offered e-books and audiobooks via OverDrive and the Libby reading app for several years.

“The Library is committed to keeping our community engaged and educated by providing equitable and free access to both physical and digital materials,” said Caitlin Moen, Chief customer officer and library director at Charlotte Mecklenburg Library. “We’re proud to be a part of the million digital downloads, and prouder that the Charlotte-Mecklenburg community sees the value in their Library and uses our free resources to such a great extent.”

OverDrive reported a 38 percent spike in digital book checkouts in May 2020, with an increase in 51 percent for e-books and 13 percent for audiobooks. The Libby app saw two to three times more installations than average.

“Almost overnight, millions of people were ordered to stay home, and needed to adapt for living life remotely,” Shannon Lichty, vice president of Partner Services at OverDrive, said in a statement. “They were looking for ways to stay informed and entertained as well as educate their children, which led to an impressive increase in demand for e-books and audiobooks from their libraries.”

Hoopla, another digital media service that partners with libraries, reported that 439 library systems in the U.S. and Canada joined since March.

Here’s what Charlotte is reading

Curious about the local trends around these newfound reading habits? “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens was the highest-circulating title borrowed by Charlotte Mecklenburg Library readers, followed by “White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo, “Educated” by Tara Westover, “Little Fires Everywhere” by Celeste Ng and “The Giver of Stars” by Jojo Moyes.

Audiobooks trended similarly, with “Where the Crawdads Sing” and “White Fragility” both hitting top-five spots, along with “Becoming” by Michelle Obama, “Talking to Strangers” by Malcolm Gladwell and “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” by J.K. Rowling.

These trends are in line with those reported by OverDrive, which shared four of the same top audiobooks — Owens’ “Where the Crawdads Sing” topped both the e-book and audiobook downloads nationally.

If you want to digitally borrow these books — and others — you’ll need a valid library card. If you don’t have one, you can sign up on the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library website.

Bonus: Your library card gets you access to free classes, a library of instructional videos, access to digital versions of magazines and more. Then, once you have your card, you can download Libby to your favorite device and borrow books via OverDrive.

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