Use of the Queen Creek Branch Library has skyrocketed since it moved to a larger, more visible location in November.
Circulation is up 194 percent in fiscal year 2008-09 from the year before. It is the biggest increase in use for any library in the Maricopa County system and a lot more than branch manager Holly Paxson was expecting.
"I was sure we would be busy," Paxson said. "I didn't know we would get this busy this fast."
There tends to be a spike in interest when libraries move to new buildings, which eventually wanes and then jumps up again for the busy summer season, Paxson said.
Instead, interest has just kept climbing at the Queen Creek library following a November grand opening celebration attended by 3,000.
Patrons checked out 536,925 books in 2008-09, up from 182,766 the year before.
The number of people coming through the doors was also up, hitting 197,853 in 2008-09 compared with 79,566 the previous year.
Paxson attributes most of that jump to the size and visibility of the new location, although she said library use does typically increase when the economy is bad. The library had been housed in a 2,000-square-foot building nestled next to the fire department for at least 10 years, Paxson said.
In the fall, it moved to a brand new 27,000-square-foot facility at 21802 S. Ellsworth Road.
"We still have people coming in who didn't know Queen Creek had a library for several years," Paxson said. "Suddenly, everyone can see us. They know where we're at."
The bigger size also means the library can house more books and other materials. The library currently has almost 60,000 books, DVDs, CDs and other materials, compared with about 10,000 at the old location.
That's intrigued many patrons, including Town Councilman Jon Wootten, who happened to be at the library looking for a Robert Parker book on Tuesday.
"The number of books on the shelves is why I come here more than the previous (library)," he said.
The larger location also gives the library its own spot for shows and programs.
The library offers entertainment including recent Japanese Taiko Drumming demonstrations and magic acts, which tied into the summer reading program for several years, Paxson said. Before moving to the new location, the programs were at the Queen Creek Performing Arts Center or in a room at Town Hall instead of on-site.
Now, the library can offer those programs in its own building - and they're already popular to the point of bursting at the seams. Two shows reached their 375-person limit, and the library is adding a second toddler story time to its lineup this fall, Paxson said.
The library is even moving a juggling performance next week to the Queen Creek Performing Arts Center to make sure there's enough room for everyone interested in the show.
Those activities have prompted Cassandra Vatistas' family to use the library for more than just books.
Since 2001, when the family moved to the area, the Vatistases checked out books at the library, allowing 12-year-old Camryn Vatistas to read two or three a week without having to buy them.
Since the new location opened, Camryn has tried a few of the programs, including a teen reading group. The group has introduced Camryn to at least one book she probably wouldn't have read otherwise, she said.
Camryn is also impressed with the new library compared to the old.
"It's bigger. And the kids and teen section is bigger," she said.
Dorothea Chapman is also impressed with the library. Chapman doesn't have a library card. As a resident of San Tan Valley, which is in Pinal County, she would have to pay for a card in the Maricopa County library system.
But the programs are free for anyone. Chapman's 13-year-old daughter was at a henna tattoo workshop Tuesday while Chapman watched her two younger children play in a children's area.
"The kids enjoy it," she said. "Especially being able to get out of the house and do something in air conditioning."