Libraries Already Gearing Up for Last in Harry Potter Series


(Sunday, March 4, 2007 8:10 AM EST)

July 21 is both the birthday of Alexander the Great and the anniversary of the first walk on the moon.

But, this year, July 21 will mean only one thing to many people: the release date of the long-awaited seventh installment of the Harry Potter series.

Throngs of fans will run to their bookstore to buy the book, but many others will turn to their local library. Even though the book will not be out for more than four months, Northern Virginia's libraries are getting prepared.

Libraries in Arlington, Fairfax and Loudoun counties plan on purchasing and leasing many copies of the new novel. Although the numbers may fluctuate depending on the number of holds placed on the book, current plans in Arlington call for the purchase of 110 books. Fairfax will initially buy 90 and lease 88, and Loudoun will purchase 30 and lease 100.

By comparison, Arlington officials had 114 copies of “The Da Vinci Code” on hand during the height of that book's popularity.

“While we have many adult authors and children's authors who are at a high level of popularity, the Harry Potter series is the most popular,” said Linda Holtslander, assistant director of the Loudoun County library system.

Purchasing and leasing such large numbers of the book will not come cheaply - Arlington library officials estimate the cost to be between $1,500 and $2,000 and Fairfax plans on spending around $4,500 - but library officials believe the investment is worth it.

“Yes, it will be expensive,” said Fairfax County library director Edwin “Sam” Clay. “But it's about choices and the responsibility as a system to maximize the limited dollars we have to spend on books. The Harry Potter phenomenon is just that. There's a demand, and we have to establish priorities.”

“We know we have to set money aside to spend, and we acknowledge that there will be best sellers where we want multiple copies,” said Arlington County library director Diane Kresh. “We have to be prepared for public demand.”

And there certainly is a demand. As soon as publisher Scholastic announced the release date for “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” hold-lists for the book grew rapidly at the libraries in the three counties.

Nearing the end of February, 235 people were on hold for the book in Arlington, 620 in Fairfax and 81 in Loudoun.

“Within hours of the announcement, people started putting holds on it,” said Fairfax library public information officer Lois Kirkpatrick. “The last time J.K. Rowling published, a week before the book hit the shelf, we had about 1,600 people on our waiting list.”

In July 2005, when the last Harry Potter book debuted, the Fairfax County library system had 327 hardcover copies and 53 audio copies available to patrons, plus 20 large-print copies. Copies of the book also were available in Spanish, Korean and Vietnamese.

Some people believe more attention should be paid to the classics instead of Harry Potter, but library officials see the merit in promoting Rowling's novels.

“It's important to promote the Harry Potter books, because kids wait with baited breath for it to be published, and we want to support that,” Kresh said. “Whatever they are reading, whether it's Harry Potter or the classics, developing the habit is all for the good.”

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