The Power of Books in Times of Challenge


The Enduring Role of Our Library

The Covid-19 pandemic has thrown normalcy out the window—people finding themselves suddenly homebound and in need of resources and entertainment. Amidst these unexpected and sudden challenges, our community has turned—again and again—to our library. Many of us have heard worries about the endurance of books and libraries in our modern society. Is print dying? Are young people reading anymore? The skyrocketing demand for library materials, both physical and electronic, along with the fact that people continue to look to the library as a place of resource and support through difficult times, speaks to the vital and timeless role this public institution plays in our communities.

The library’s expansive electronic offering has taken center stage and helped provide safe access in challenging times.

The Library's Collection Use Continues to Grow 


digital downloads circulated


items checked out via Grab and Go Service at designated libraries


items checked out via curbside pickup

In 2020, even with the library’s prioritization of safety during the pandemic, patrons have borrowed more than 2 million physical materials across dozens of Hennepin County Library locations. The most in-demand books have included This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger, Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, Blue Moon by Lee Child, The Dutch House by Ann Patchett, and Becoming by Michelle Obama. For DVDs, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Toy Story 4, and Game of Thrones have topped the list.

It is, however, the library’s expansive electronic offering that has taken center stage and helped provide safe access in challenging times. Digital downloads on OverDrive have broken all previous records, with an incredible 3 million downloads so far in 2020. While some of the in-demand e-titles overlap with those most popular in the physical collection, standing at the top are antiracist titles: White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo, How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi, Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad, and The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander.

Adult browsing HCL digital resources from home

The library’s commitment to serving our community—in the many forms that takes—is illustrated in its world-class collection. 

A Collection for Our Community

Far and away, the largest shaping factor of our library collection this year has been our community’s collective demand for books and resources that tackle racism, uplift our BIPOC neighbors and friends, and pave the way toward an antiracist, just, and equitable society.

The library’s commitment to serving our community—in the many forms that takes— is illustrated in its world-class collection. When our neighbors need a movie to enjoy during a homebound evening, they turn to our library; when our friends want a story to delight and to challenge, they turn to our library; when our community wants resources to learn, to grow, and to build a better world, they turn to our library. The library’s place in our society has always been a central and vital one, and 2020 has proven this to be true once again.

Friends of the Hennepin County Library e-collection campaign

Will you join us?

The demand for e-books is unprecedented, and many patrons are experiencing longer than average wait times. In response, Friends of HCL has set a goal of contributing more than $250,000 in 2020 to the collection to dramatically expand access to the most popular e-resources, especially titles that address racism and help build equity for all. We invite you to contribute to this vital, pay-it-forward effort.