North Las Vegas' literary status isn't written in black and white.
The three North Las Vegas Library District locations have fared well despite budget cuts that have slashed hours and manpower. Officials saw the district's youth summer reading program swell to four times the size of 2010 figures. The library-led book club is still a popular attraction.
But it's a different story for readers who would rather own than check out their books.
Although there are potential readers all over, where they can find a good book is a sticky subject, industry experts and North Las Vegas residents suggest.
College of Southern Nevada Bookstore, 3200 E. Cheyenne Ave., has the scholarly sect covered, but it is North Las Vegas' lone stop for books and other literary material. Big box stores aren't to blame, though. North Las Vegas doesn't have a national chain bookstore.
"It's a shame," said North Las Vegas resident Bill Rushton. "Some people will never know the joy of wandering around a bookstore."
He said he remembered days in his native New York perusing a bookstore, coffee in hand, as a way to fill an afternoon.
"I'd go in like a blank slate," he said. "I didn't know what I was looking for, but I'd leave with new friends."
Rushton doesn't blame electronic readers, he said. He owns a Kindle and downloads novels, but he said he set the device aside to share in a bonding experience with his grandson this year. The pair read "The Hunger Games" at the same time via physical copies of the novel, which Rushton said he purchased at a big-name superstore.
Although North Las Vegas lacks a significant bookstore presence, the entire valley has struggled to sustain the concept. Chain Goliaths have closed alongside their David counterparts thanks to technology and the economic downturn. In July, Borders closed its remaining 399 stores after filing for bankruptcy earlier in the year. Four Las Vegas and Henderson locations were shut down after the decision was handed down.
Even when the stores were open, Cordero Gomez, a University of Nevada, Las Vegas student and College of Southern Nevada Writing Center employee, said he found himself having to make a day of a bookstore run.
"I love books; I have two bookcases at home," he said. "I had to go out of my way to go to the Borders in Henderson. But everything's going digital, and shopping online is just cheaper."
Anthony Mulholland, English professor at CSN, said economic factors aren't solely to blame for trends in Las Vegas.
"We are not a great reading population, and we rely on libraries, so you would have to take that into consideration," he said.
Kathy Pennell, director of the North Las Vegas Library District, said she has noticed more people turning to North Las Vegas' three branches. About 225,000 materials move throughout the system rapidly, she said, and use of free computers and wireless Internet is very popular. Library staff members have been kept busy assisting patrons with online job applications as well, she said.
The biggest upward trend the district has seen is in the young reader sector.
"More than half our circulation is in the children's area," Pennell said. "We had an increase in our summer reading program by four times. A lot of that is attributed to the new nine-month school schedule in some schools."
When Netflix raised its rates, Pennell said the staff saw an increase in DVD circulation.
Budget cuts affected hours, staffing and programming. Where there used to be several book clubs facilitated by the library staff, now there is one, and it's brimming with participants.
Pennell said the district has struggled to combat use of the electronic book reader. Despite their popularity, Pennell said they haven't taken every reader away.
"There will always be a segment of the population that prefer not to buy them," she said. "Even if somebody has the Kindle, they still have to buy the books."
Pennell said library officials are working to keep all readers engaged and hopefully improve North Las Vegas readership overall.
"We're evolving, changing and shifting to meet our new realities," she said. "Our three libraries serve a little bit different user. We're adapting to the digital age."
Contact Centennial and North Las Vegas View reporter Maggie Lillis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 477-3839.