Carlyn Ellis and her husband went to the library before they went to Norway. She picked out several DVDs about the country they soon will visit. "You just don't see this selection anywhere," Ellis said as she perused the travel DVD section.
Library patrons increasingly are checking out much more than books. DVDs have become a huge part of what libraries offer, with more than 2.1 million DVDs a day loaned out nationwide - more than the 2 million Netflix ships each day or the 1.4 million Redbox rents, according to the Online Computer Library Center.
Offering DVDs is just part of the evolution of libraries,
La Crosse Public Library Director Kelly Krieg-Sigman said.
"We feel very strongly about the importance of libraries providing access of the record of human expression and ideas, no matter what the format," Krieg-Sigman said. "When the human experience was limited to print, that's what libraries had."
The three La Crosse Public Library branches loaned out 146,877 adult and 70,832 children's DVDs from January through June. They've seen an 11 percent increase in adult DVD loans from the same period in 2009.
The five La Crosse County libraries in 2009 had 83,895 DVDs checked out, an average of about 278 for each day the libraries are open, said Chris McArdle Rojo, La Crosse County Library director. That's up from 72,677 in 2008.
"A lot of it has to do with the economy," McArdle Rojo said. "People are having to cut discretionary spending. They're finding us, which is wonderful."
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It's not just DVDs: The county libraries also loaned 131,000 adult audio books in 2009.
"Our mission is to provide information and entertainment," McArdle Rojo said. "Some people find great entertainment in a book, others on the TV screen. We don't make any judgments."
The three La Crosse libraries collectively offer nearly 20,000 DVDs.
The latest releases likely aren't on the shelf, but those willing to wait pay nothing when they eventually become available. Classic movies such as "Star Wars" and "The Godfather" can be difficult to find in stock as well. Many take advantage of the Winding Rivers Library System, which has access to materials from 30 public libraries.
Patrons also can find a variety of old television shows such as "The Love Boat," "Rockford Files," "Mary Tyler Moore" and more recent series from HBO and Showtime like "True Blood" and "Weeds," which are usually pretty popular, Krieg-Sigman said.
People still check out plenty of books, McArdle Rojo said, while grabbing a movie, audio book or magazine.
"It all starts with the written word," McArdle Rojo said, "but it expands so much broader than that."