Image: trueStatement: “I want to say that books are in. This is a historical high for the checkouts, the circulation of our materials, 7.6 million items last fiscal year, the most we’ve ever circulated,” City of San Diego Library Director Deborah L. Barrow said June 30 on the KPBS program These Days.

Determination: True

Analysis: Throughout the campaign to create a new downtown library, critics questioned whether such a large repository of books would become obsolete in the digital age.

Library boosters dismissed those critics, calling books more popular than ever, and they often pointed to the 7.6 million statistic, record circulation in the 2009 fiscal year.

The 7.6 million statistic represents total circulation, which explains why Barrow used the word “materials” to accurately describe both books and non-book items. To check the popularity of books, we asked the city’s Library Department for a statistical breakdown of total circulation.

About 65 percent of total circulation in 2009 involved books and the other 35 percent involved non-book items like music CDs, DVDs, software and graphics. One tidbit for the curious: The library counts books on tape or CD as non-book items.

Between 2008 and 2009, book circulation grew by less than 1 percent to nearly 5 million annually. Non-book circulation increased 9 percent to 2.6 million. People checked out 48,000 more books in 2009 than the previous year and 230,000 more non-book items.

Although non-book circulation grew at a far greater degree than books, increased circulation among books also contributed to the record-setting year.

We’ve stamped Barrow’s statement true because the statistical information is wholly accurate, and even if total circulation included only books, it still would have been a record year for the library.

If you disagree with our determination or analysis, please express your thoughts in the comments section of this blog post. Explain your reasoning.

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Summer Polacek was formerly the Development Manager at Voice of San Diego.

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