You’re a fan of audio books? You’ll find plenty of titles at the branch library.
Librarian Paul Daka used to have a 40-minute workday commute, but he was able to keep up with his reading — even though he was driving.
Daka, who now works closer to home at the Free Library’s Fox Chase branch on Rhawn Street, listened to his books as he traveled.
He’s now a big fan of audio books, and the city’s library branches have quite a few on their shelves.
“I personally love audio books,” Daka said in an interview last week. “It’s like being read to as a child, but on an adult level.”
Fox Chase patrons aren’t as big on audio books as the librarian is.
“At this branch, they are more interested in print than audio,” Daka said.
Listening to a book and reading a book are very different experiences, said Keith Kessler, librarian at the Northeast Regional Library on Cottman Avenue.
He said some people simply won’t try audio books. He was one of them.
“About thirty years ago, a friend told me about books on tape,” he said. “I thought books should be read, not listened, to. I started [listening to books], and now I’m addicted,” he said.
Over the years, recorded books have moved from cassette tapes to CDs, Kessler said. The overall quality has improved, too, and most are unabridged.
Audio books aren’t just recordings of somebody blandly reading. The production values and many narrators are first-rate, librarians said. Name actors are making the audio book experience into performances, Kessler said. Some of those actor/narrators have previous associations with the titles.
Jeremy Irons, for example, who starred in Brideshead Revisted, reads the book, Kessler said.
Audio books aren’t cheap. Some are six or more CDs long and cost between $30 and $50, and sometimes more. Library patrons, of course, can borrow them at no charge and have three weeks to listen to them.
Different branches have different collections and different numbers of books. Kessler said the regional has about 1,000 titles. Catherine Krystopowicz, librarian at the Bushrod branch on Castor Avenue, said she has about 150.
Most branches divide their audio books between titles for kids and those for adults. The books often are further separated into fiction and non-fiction, too.
Frequently, what’s popular in print is popular as an audio book. At the Frankford branch, that’s urban fiction, said librarian Betsy Baxter. Works by thriller writer James Patterson are big draws for adults, Daka said, and books in the Harry Potter series are favorites with kids — and adults. Narrator Jim Dale’s reading of the Potter books is a big plus, Daka said.
“The narrator adds a certain element of suspense and emphasis to the story,” he said.
Ann Hornbach, librarian at the Torresdale Branch on Holme Avenue, recommends audio books to parents whose kids are having a hard time reading.
Titles available at branches include many books that are on school reading lists, Hornbach said. So not only are audio books at their most popular as people travel during the summer, but when kids are going back to school in September and haven’t finished all the books on their vacation reading lists.
There are some underappreciated or rarely borrowed audio books at different branches and the regional library.
“People usually go for what they know,” Kessler said, adding there seems to be a bias against anything that is more than 2 years old.
So largely ignored are recordings of books by Joyce Carol Oates, Graham Greene and John Steinbeck, Kessler said. Baxter said she, too, likes to draw people’s attention to classic titles now available as audio books. J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye is one she suggests. How-to and language instruction titles deserve more attention, too, she said.
Tatiana de Rosnay’s Sarah’s Key is a title many patrons overlook, said Daka. The story takes place in Paris 1942 as French police are rounding up Jews, and then 60 years later as a journalist is researching a story about this dark time in French history.
Library patrons can borrow up to 10 audio books at one time for three weeks. Late fines are 25 cents per day to a maximum of $10.
Those who have library cards and Internet access can go to www.freelibrary.org and get to downloadable books by clicking on the hot pink download button and following the instructions. Users must have library cards and pin numbers. ••
Are you signed up?
Are you a card-carrying Philadelphian?
No? It’s pretty easy to get a library card.
If you live, work or go to school in the city, you’re eligible. Stop in any branch library to apply or go to http://libwww.freelibrary.org/register/getcard1.cfm
About this series…
This month, the Northeast Times is looking at local libraries as sources of audio books, music, feature films, documentaries, TV shows, music, children’s books and programming and great books for adults.
The first installment, on DVDs, was published Feb. 1. On Feb. 8, the subject was the huge variety of music available. This week’s focus on audio books will be followed next week with an article that focuses on materials and programming for children. ••