Reading of Literature and library usage is up across the country!

A library card has become a hot property in the Seattle region — area public libraries are experiencing a surge in circulation. While busy libraries in one of the nation’s most literate cities are nothing new, some librarians credit (or blame) the recession for a dramatic upswing in business. The Seattle area’s two library systems, the King County Library System (KCLS) and Seattle Public Library (SPL), each loaned more than a million more items in 2008 than in 2007. KCLS, the nation’s second busiest system (after Queens Borough, N.Y.), experienced a circulation bump of 6.55 percent, with increases in nearly every category. County library patrons requested more than 20,473 million books, CDs, audiotapes, DVDs and other materials; only magazine circulation showed a modest decrease of about 1 percent. One category — downloads of audiobooks, videos and e-books — jumped from about 109,000 in 2007 to 143,000 in 2008. KCLS director Bill Ptacek says the numbers are no surprise: “I think the economy has a lot to do with it,” he said. “It’s an adage in the library world that the level of use or circulation on public libraries is inversely proportionate to the state of the economy. When the economy’s down, when things are tough, people come to libraries.” The Seattle Public Library experienced an even more robust surge in items checked out — a 21 percent increase over 2007. In 2008, SPL patrons checked out more than 10.3 million items, an increase of more than 1.8 million items over 2007. At the Bellevue Regional Library, traffic has become an issue — thanks not only to book loans, but also to two hours of free computer usage daily. “Did you have a fun time finding a parking spot today?” a librarian asked Wednesday afternoon. “Since the economy tanked, things have been better here.” For Bellevue’s Andrew and Stephanie Hogenson, Wednesday’s visit was a way to cut back on costs for a family that loves to read. “We used to go to Borders all the time,” Andrew said. “We were spending a lot.” The economic downturn was among several factors that prompted their return to libraries, namely the Crossroads and Bellevue branches. Giving library cards to kids Matthew, 11, Bryn, 10, and Devon, 8, helps teach them responsibility, Andrew said. So does having the kids pay for some of their books. With Bryn currently devouring the Lemony Snicket series, the library was a much more affordable option. “She’s able to get them here for free,” Andrew said. Readers welcome Most librarians relish their public-service role, so having more patrons is always welcome news. But both systems will cover the increased volume with modest budget increases. The county system’s $98 million budget has a stable funding source — a county property-tax levy — but the state-mandated 1 percent limitation on property-tax increases has meant “that we’ve been disciplined in making sure we have enough money,” said Ptacek. The city system’s budget increased from $50 million in 2008 to $50.8 million in 2009. SPL spokeswoman Andrea Addison said a $2 million boost to the collection budget last year has helped the library keep up with acquisition of new materials. Nationwide trend Nationwide, libraries have reported similar or greater increases. According to the results of a Harris Poll released in September, 68 percent of all Americans now have a library card, up 5 percent since 2006. “The poll confirmed what we have been hearing,” said American Library Association president Jim Rettig: “libraries have become family destinations, technology hubs, cultural centers — basically the pillar of most of the communities they serve.” Another noteworthy trend on the national scene is that for the first time in a quarter-century, Americans appear to be reading more literature. According to a study released this week by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the number of readers of novels, short stories, poems or plays in print or online increased from 47 percent of the population in 2002 to 50 percent of the population in 2008 — an increase of 16.6 million people. “Whites, African Americans and Hispanics have all shown significant growth in their reading rates, as have both adult men and women,” wrote NEA Chairman Dana Gioia. An increase in reading was especially pronounced among the 18 to 24-year-old group, from 43 percent of the population in 2002 to 52 percent in 2008. Times staff reporter Marc Ramirez contributed to this report. Mary Ann Gwinn: 206-464-2357 or mgwinn@seattletimes.com

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Get healthy without breaking the bank

This is a guest post by Mehdi, author of StrongLifts.com. If you enjoy this post, check out his site.

Eating healthy is important. Eating healthy:

  • Lowers disease risks
  • Increases productivity
  • Gives you more energy
  • Makes you stronger

You probably think eating healthy is expensive. I’ll be honest — it is. But there are tricks to keep it low cost. Here are sixteen ways to eat more healthy while keeping it cheap.

What is Healthy Food? Before we start, let’s define healthy food. It consists of:

  • Protein. The building blocks of muscles, needed for strength.
  • Fat. A balanced intake of omega 3, 6 & 9.
  • Veggies. All kinds, especially green fibrous veggies.
  • Fruit. Full of vitamins.
  • Water. 1 liter per 1000 calories you expend.
  • Whole grain food. Oats, rice, pasta, breads, …

On with the tips.

1. Switch to Water. I drank huge amounts of soda daily for more than 15 years. Then I started Strength Training and switched to water:

  • It’s healthier
  • It’s cheaper

Quit the soda & drink water. Take a bottle wherever you go.

2. Consume Tap Water. Check the price of water on your tap water bill. Now check the price of bottled water. Quit a difference, isn’t it? So why are you buying bottled water?

  • Cleaner? Not necessarily.
  • Better taste? No, simply a matter of Adaptation.

Bottled water companies get their supply from the same source you do: municipal water systems. It’s like selling ice to Eskimos. If you don’t trust the quality of tap water, filter it yourself. I use a Brita Pitcher. One $7 filter cleans 40 gallons water.

3. Eat Eggs. I always have eggs at breakfast:

  • Full of vitamins
  • High in proteins
  • Low in price

Don’t believe the Eggs & Cholesterol myth. Dietary cholesterol is not bound to blood cholesterol. Want to make it cheaper? Buy a chicken.

4. Eat Fatty Meats. Fatty meats are cheaper & more tasty than lean meats. You think it’s not healthy? Check the Fat Myths:

  • Fat doesn’t make you fat, excess calories do
  • You need a balanced intake of fats: omega 3, 6 & 9

I’m on the Anabolic Diet, I buy beef chuck instead of sirloin.

5. Get Whey. The cheapest source of protein. 70$ for a 10lbs bag lasting 4 months. Nothing beats that. Use whey in your Post Workout Shake to help recovery.

6. Tuna Cans. Canned tuna is cheap & contains as much protein as meat. Alternate tuna with eggs, meat & whey. You’ll easily get to your daily amount of protein.

7. Buy Frozen Veggies. I mostly buy frozen veggies:

  • Take less time to prepare
  • You don’t waste money if not eaten in time
  • Can be bought in bulk for discounts & stored in your freezer

If you can afford fresh veggies, then do it. I go frozen.

8. Use a Multivitamin. Pesticides lower the vitamin levels of your fruits & veggies. Two solutions:

  • Buy organic food. Expensive.
  • Use a multivitamin. $10 a month.

Choose what fits your wallet best. I take the multivitamin.

9. Fish Oil. Omega-3 is found in fish oil. Benefits of omega-3 consumption include:

  • Lowered cholesterol levels
  • Decreased body fat
  • Reduced inflammation

You need to eat fatty fish 3 times a week to get these benefits. Time consuming & expensive, I know. Try Carlson’s Liquid Fish Oil with Lemon flavor. One teaspoon daily. You’ll be ok.

10. Buy Generic Food. The box might be less attractive, it’s certainly more attractive to your wallet. Brand-name food will always be more expensive. You’re paying for the name. Get real. Food is food. Go generic.

11. Buy in Bulk. Think long-term. Buying in bulk is more expensive at the cashier, but cheaper in the long run:

  • Gets you discounts
  • Saves time
  • Saves car fuel

Invest in a big freezer. Buy meats & veggies in bulk and freeze them.

12. Go to One Grocery Store. This grocery store is cheaper for meat, that grocery store is cheaper for veggies, the other grocery store is cheaper for fish… How many grocery stores are you going to, trying to find the cheapest food? Think!

  • Time is money. Stop losing a day shopping.
  • Cars don’t run on water. Lower your fuel expenses.

I get all my food in a big grocery store near my place. It hasn’t the cheapest price for all foods, but it saves me time & fuel.

13. Make a Plan. A classic, but worth repeating. Everything starts with a plan.

  • Make a list of what you need
  • Eat a solid meal, don’t go hungry
  • Go the grocery, get what’s on your list & get out

No need to take your partner or kids with you. This is not a recreational activity. Just get your food & get back home.

14. Take Food To Work. Ever counted how much money you throw away buying food at work daily? Start preparing your food for the day on waking up:

  • Get up earlier
  • Eat a solid breakfast (like Scrambled Eggs)
  • Prepare your food for work in the meanwhile

Total time 30 minutes. No stress during the day about what you’ll be eating & you get healthy food while sparing money.

15. Eat Less. This one is obvious. The less you eat, the lower your grocery bill. If you’re overweight, get on a diet. Your health & bank account will thank you.

16. Don’t Buy Junk Food. The last one. Stop buying anything that comes out of a box, it’s:

  • Unhealthy
  • Expensive

If you actually find junk food that is cheaper than whole food, think long-term. Health implications.

Mehdi is author of StrongLifts.com, a blog about Strength Training, nutrition, lifestyle & attitude. His articles include the Anabolic Diet & the Beginner Strength Training Program. Join him at StrongLifts.com for the fascinating journey toward more strength, bigger muscles, low body fat & a better health.