By DANIELLE E. GAINES
Merced County residents who haven't visited a local library much in the past year say it's because of limited time and the availability of reading materials in other places.
That's according to the Merced County League of Women Voters' recently released Library Study report.
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An equal 41.7 percent of survey takers gave those as the top two reasons they hadn't visited the stacks more often, in a survey of 670 library visitors. Other reasons included inconvenient library hours and the preference to do other activities.
Of the folks who did spend some time in one of the county's 16 library locations, 65.8 percent said they visited to check out books, and 50 percent said they came to use the public computers. More than 70 percent of computer users said they accessed the Internet, while 32 percent called up the library's digital card catalog.
Survey takers responded at each of the county locations.
The most-used materials according to the survey are adult fiction (56.9 percent), adult nonfiction (53.6 percent) and reference materials (41.2 percent).
The study also examined differences between nearby library systems. When compared to Fresno, Madera, San Benito, Stanislaus and Tuolumne counties, Merced is the only system without programming aimed at teenagers, according to the study.
The county also lacked computer training classes, compared to the other counties.
Nearly across the board, library systems needed more funding, better facilities, increased hours and more books, according to the report.
Some 43,281 Merced County residents had library cards in 2006, or about 18 percent of our population.
Ninety-nine percent of people who responded to the league's survey said they thought it was important to have a public library.
Reporter Danielle E. Gaines can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or firstname.lastname@example.org.