A patron uses a computer inside the Sahuarita Library's teen section on Friday.

Pima County Libraries had to rethink how to serve their clients during the pandemic, amping up their digital offerings.

They saw huge increases in digital database usage. In one case, IndieFlix, a movie database, saw a 6,433 percent jump in usage in 2020 compared to 2019, thanks to more people staying home.

Holly Schaffer, community relations manager for the county's library system, said this year they aren’t seeing the big swing in new usage but  there are no signs that people are stepping away from digital.

“What I’m seeing is that in some cases, like IndieFlix, the usage went down, not significantly, a couple hundred, but it has begun climbing again," she said.

The same pattern was true for Quello (a concert and documentary database), Kanopy, (a film database), RomanceBookCloud and Teen Book Cloud.

Schaffer said all the digital databases are down a couple hundred from the 2020 spike in new usage, but are continuing to rise.

“It will go up and down, but more people than before know these things are here now,” she said. “There’s nothing to show that people aren't using digital resources. The growth is just not as extreme as it was before.”

Schaffer attributes the huge increases in 2020 to libraries introducing digital resources to people who didn’t know about them before.

She said it’s clear to library staff that patrons are still interested in digital options.

They obtained another digital database of audio books, comics, e-books, movies, music and TV called Hoopla in fall 2021. In October 2021, they had circulation in the lower hundreds for the database and as of April it’s up to 8,000.

“Clearly, there's a need and customers are showing that digital sources and entertainment are things they like and use,” Schaffer said.

By the numbers

As far as how many people are visiting libraries in person this year, she said it’s been fluctuating.

In February, they had 170,739 library visitors; that jumped to 195,206 in March and went back down slightly in April. She anticipates seeing the number rise again with summer learning programs and in-person events.

Currently, the Green Valley and Sahuarita libraries have 24 summer learning programs scheduled.

Individual computer sessions have also climbed from 18,917 in December 2021, to 24,563 in May.

Print circulation jumped from 167,962 in  February to 194,545 in March, going back down closer to 170,00 in April.

Schaffer also noted their seed library is on track to surpass 2019, when they distributed 33,020 seed packets. They have circulated 22,866 in 2020.

Jamie Verwys | 520-547-9728 


Reporter Jamie Verwys grew up in Sahuarita and graduated from the high school in 2006. She lives in Tucson and graduated from the University of Arizona with a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2018.

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