Stuck at home amid COVID, Windsorites are finding time to read. Here's what they're choosing

·3 min read

During the pandemic, Windsor Public Library's customers are reading what they've recently binge watched says CEO Kitty Pope.

And she says, people stuck at home under lockdown are showing more interest in cooking, picking up new skills and are reading more how-to books.

"Our staff get emails every single day with people saying, 'I really loved the Bridgerton [on] Netflix. Oh, my gosh. Are there books?' You betcha," she said.

And it's not just the Bridgerton series that gets people excited — Pope noticed customers checking out books related to chess after watching The Queen's Gambit, which is another popular show on the streaming platform, as well as books about Queen Elizabeth after watching the series The Crown.

"What people are binge watching, they then migrate to binge reading," Pope said.

Tahmina Aziz/CBC
Tahmina Aziz/CBC

She said she expected the usage of the public library's service to tank during the pandemic, but was pleasantly surprised to find that numbers stayed relatively consistent compared to previous years.

"Our usage is almost identical this year to last year. Certainly our readership on print books has gone down, as we've been closed, but our readership on digital e-books has gone way up. So when you put those two together, we're almost balanced," she said.

The public library circulated 1.2 million items in 2020, according to Pope.

Pope also said she's noticed a slight increase in customers reading non-fiction, including a lot of how-to books.

"People who have been at home have been looking for books on bread-making, on how to refinish that deck. All those kinds of non-fiction titles have gone way up in popularity. Home crafting books, can't keep them on the shelves," she said.

'Reading is hot,' says WPL CEO

"I think as all of a sudden that busy bubble where we had a million things to do all the time and had no time for reading, it burst.," she said.

"And all of a sudden, I think a lot of people found that extra hour or two in the day to do something that they really used to do and loved. And so in the pandemic, reading is hot. People have come back to reading like nobody's business."

Pope said biographies and cookbooks are also hugely popular. She's also noticed many Windsorites reading more on American politicians.

"American politics are huge interests to Windsorites, which is not a surprise. I mean, we live at the border, but Windsorites love to read American politics," she said.

"I think American politics have gotten so unique, if that's the right word to say. Windsorites, and actually Canadians, love biographies. We have always been a country of biography readers. ... We also like reading Canadian history," she continued.

Non-fiction books growing in popularity

According to a WPL news release, the most popular book in 2020 was Michelle Obama's Becoming, which has been loaned more than 450 times.

Pope said she can't predict what trends might come about in the coming months, but looking back, she said the library has been a source of "good news" for customers.

"I don't think a day goes by where I don't get an email from someone saying, 'oh my goodness, I don't know how I would get through this [pandemic] if I didn't have the library," she said.

WPL offers curbside pickup or people can request home delivery by calling. Alternatively, people can get an e-card online and start downloading materials.