Who says people don't read anymore?

The Westport Public Library loaned more items this year than in any other year in its 124-year history, and its programs drew more patrons than ever before.

Circulation was 949,256 for the 2009-10 fiscal year, up 14.1 percent from the previous fiscal year, when circulation was 832,024. The increase included materials that spanned all age groups, including adult books, teen books and children's books. The library offered 1,132 programs this past year, 12.4 percent more than 1,007 programs a year earlier. And attendance at programs was 53,117, up 12.1 percent the 47,366 who turned in 2008-09.

Library Director Maxine Bleiweis hailed the record numbers as proof that the library continues to meet the needs of the Westport community.

"It feels great because it shows that we are able to accommodate people in the various ways that they take in information and enjoy reading with our electronic resources and the ones you can hold in your hands," said Bleiweis, who has been library director since 1998. "We know what the community needs, wants and enjoys."

Bleiweis also said that the economic recession may have something to do with growth in both circulation and program attendance.

"In this economy, people are thinking about how they spend their money, and when the choice is not only free but excellent, it's an easy choice to make," she said.

With Westport unemployment at 5.9 percent in June, many of the newer programs offered by the library have been created for those looking for a job.

"We've greatly increased the amount of programs we deliver to job seekers, everything from lectures on how to be interviewed over the telephone, to one-on-one sessions with research librarians to help them know everything they need to know before doing an interview, or information they need to create a business plan to present to potential funders," said Bleiweis.

Despite the larger circulation and program offerings, Bleiweis maintained that the role of the public library in Westport has remained fundamentally the same.

"Our role hasn't changed over the years: We meet the needs of the community in terms of what they need to know in order to navigate their lives," she said.

These needs, according to Bleiweis, are about more than just books.

"It's more than getting a book and attending a program," she said. "It's bumping into someone in the community, it's the sense of community you get when you come into this space."

Much of that community appeal, Bleiweis said, can be found in the library's "depth of service."

"The fact that this library has served the vibrant and intellectually curious Westport community for so many years is reflected in the books on the shelves, the DVDs on the shelves and the programs we offer," she said. "It's a wonderful challenge meeting the needs of the community."