Originally published Jan. 31, 2013.
Oh, those gloomy months of February and March.
Christmas is in the past; spring is in the future.
What we have is rain.
The remedy - in Huntington at least - seems to be curling up with a good book.
"We get a lot of readership in February and March," says Kathy Holst, director of the Huntington City-Township Public Library.
And our favorite topic, it seems, is murder - at least the fictional kind served up by novelist James Patterson.
Three of Patterson's books occupy the top three spots in the Huntington library's list of most-checked-out adult fiction books for 2012.
Those favorites are, in order, "11th Hour," "I, Michael Bennett" and "Guilty Wives."
Although Patterson may be best known for his series featuring Alex Cross, the fictional psychologist plays no part in Huntington readers' favorite Patterson works.
Nor is Cross to be found in "Zoo," a Patterson work occupying fifth place in the top 10 most popular adult fiction books.
Thrillers by the prolific Patterson have long occupied most-circulated status locally.
"I'm not really seeing a change," Holst says.
A Catherine Coulter thriller, "Backfire," is fourth on the 2012 list.
Danielle Steele's "Friends Forever" and Karen Kingsbury's "Coming Home," both stories of love and friendship, come in at sixth and seventh, respectively.
Readers return to suspense with Janet Evanovich, who takes eighth place with "Wicked Business," and Mary Higgins Clark's "The Lost Years," in ninth place.
Romance blooms again in Nora Roberts' book "The Last Boyfriend," which rounds out the top 10.
"We have very conservative readers," Holst says.
The less conservative readers are apparently turning to e-books. There, the erotic romance "Fifty Shades of Grey" and its sequel, "Fifty Shades Darker," rank third and second, respectively, in the list of most circulated e-books for 2012. Both books are written by Erika Leonard under the pseudonym E.L. James.
"We're seeing things like that happening more in the e-books than the hard copies," Holst says.
Nora Roberts' romance, "Unfinished Business," topped the list as the most circulated e-book for 2012.
Murder mysteries and crime novels occupy the middle five spots in electronic check-outs, with Steig Larsson's "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" placing fourth; "The Litigators" by John Grisham in fifth place; A Jack Reacher thriller, "Worth Dying For" by Lee Child, in sixth place: and Patterson taking seventh and eighth places with "2nd Chance" and "I, Alex Cross."
Romance returns with Debbie Macomber's "A Turn in the Road" in ninth place. Kathryn Stockett's "The Help," a fictional story of African-American maids and the white families they served, was in 10th place.
Checking out an e-book is an increasingly popular way to access the library's collection, Holst says.
While the number of check-outs of hard copy books remains stable at about 180,000 year to year, she says, the number of e-book check-outs has consistently increased since the format became available two and a half years ago - with patrons borrowing 5,177 e-books in 2012.
For a variety of reasons, not all published titles are available in electronic form, notes library staffer Deb Roy, who helps select the books available in that format.
And while some hard copy books can be circulated more than 150 times before they fall about, some publishers place a limit on the number of times an e-book is licensed to be distributed.
Other publishers place a time limit on the library's license - for example, some e-books can be circulated for five years, with no limit on the number of check-outs.
"There are various limitations, depending on publishers," Holst says. Publishers, obviously, want
to make a profit; libraries, meanwhile, are looking for the most benefit from their dollars.
And there's a limit to the library's finances, she adds.
Books by Janet Evanovich won't be found in the local library's e-books selections because they cost too much.
"Evanovich books cost $86," Holst says. "We've determined that that's not a good use of taxpayer revenue to pay that much for a book."
At the same time, older out-of-print books are more likely to turn up in electronic form, Roy says. They've already been formatted by the publisher and it costs that publisher very little to make them available as e-books.
Roy says she has some of those books in her personal collection, she says.
"There's authors I've always loved that are not available in print anymore," she explains.
Each gift-giving holiday - and nearly every day in between - the library gets visits from people who want to know how to use their new e-readers. The staff is always available for individual consultations, she says, and frequently offers group classes.
"Every day, I show someone, sometimes several people, how to use an e-reader," Roy says. "The last class, we had 31 people."
The library has scheduled a Digital Learning Day on Feb. 6 to help people demystify their e-readers, as well as learn more about using a computer to make use of the library's many digital offerings. All day long, the library staff will be available in the foyer to demonstrate and explain the digital world.
"If you have some piece of technology, we'll help you understand how to make it work," Holst says.
While Holst doesn't see hard copy books disappearing from the library anytime soon, she does believe that "there are true advantages of e-books to older readers."
The devices are lightweight, easier for arthritic hands to hold; the brightness, type size and font can be adjusted to make the pages easier to read, she says. E-readers also offer flexibility to make reading easier for those with reading disabilities, she adds.
The advent of readily available digital information has been noticed by the library's reference staff, Holst says.
"There has been a difference in the type of reference questions asked," she says. "People find the quick, short answers on Google. The more complicated things still end up here.
"We do so many other things than just check out books."
Complete caption: Carolyn Morris (right) checks out a stack of books from the Huntington City-Township Public Library on Monday, Jan. 28, with the help of library staff member Tami Moser. Approximately 180,000 books were checked out from the library in 2012, with novelist James Patterson proving to be adult patrons’ favorite author in the fiction category.