One group of adults may be wilder about Harry Potter than the millions of young people whose fascination with the aspiring adolescent wizard have made the books a worldwide phenomenon: librarians.
Across Southern California, those who love reading couldn't be more delighted by the buzz J.K. Rowling's popular series has generated for literature, especially among children.
"I think it's created a movement that reading this book is positive," said Starrett Kreissman, director of the Ventura County Public Library. "Since we are in the business of encouraging children to read, we are thrilled."
Nearly 4 million copies of J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," the fourth installment of the popular series, were released at 12:01 a.m. July 8. Media hype about the book's premiere helped create a national frenzy that found eager readers camped overnight in front of bookstores to ensure they got their hands on a copy. Many local retailers sold out immediately and some are still awaiting another shipment.
Librarians are ecstatic because it's not every day a book--particularly one not based on a movie or cartoon character--captures the imagination of so many young people, from preteens to college students. That's evident both by the record-breaking number of Harry Potter books libraries are buying and the unprecedented number of kids waiting to borrow one.
Catherine Ortiz, senior librarian at the Panorama City branch of the Los Angeles Public Library, said demand has been high for copies of the new Harry Potter book.
"We purchased 15 books for this branch alone and on Monday when we put them out, all 15 went out immediately to all the people on the hold list," she said. "We're still putting students on the hold list every day. We can't buy enough books to keep all the students happy."
The Harry Potter books are creating avid readers, even among kids who are usually reluctant readers, Ortiz said.
"What's so awesome about this whole thing is that not only are they reading one book, but they're coming back and reading all of them.'
At the Las Virgenes branch of the Los Angeles Public Library in Agoura Hills, the few copies of the new book available were checked out immediately and a waiting list was started. In addition, the three earlier books in the series are experiencing a resurgence in popularity, said children's librarian Azar Hazrati.
"We are overwhelmed in a positive way," Hazrati said. "We are so excited, all of us, to see the kids hooked on something like these books."
As Los Angeles County library officials wait for their 112-copy shipment of the book, librarians have purchased as many as possible with money from private donor groups. One librarian was so eager to get the books in circulation at her branch that she entered a Harry Potter look-alike contest at a local retailer and won four copies, said Donna Banos, a regional youth services coordinator for Los Angeles County.
There are now 63 of the books in Los Angeles County's 87-branch system, but they are all checked out and 399 people are waiting for a reserved copy.
"Children tend to not put in requests, because they are really more in the moment," Banos said. "To see that many requests for a children's book is really incredible."
Orange County now has 90 copies for its 27 branches, but 250 young people are waiting their turn for one, said Dani Porter, community relations coordinator for the county's public library. Usually, the most the system ever purchases of a single title is five to 10 copies, she said.
Municipal libraries throughout the region have similar stories to tell, although on a smaller scale. Thousand Oaks' public library owns 24 copies of "Goblet of Fire" and all are checked out, with 21 people on a waiting list. In Oxnard, there are 13 holds for eight copies of the book.
Librarians haven't wasted any time taking advantage of this newfound captive audience. Ventura County is distributing free bookmarks and fliers that read: 'If you liked 'Harry Potter,' you'll love . . . " followed by a list of dozens of other children's titles.
The same is true in Orange County, where the library's Web site encourages Harry Potter fans to explore more than 30 other titles. Banos said Los Angeles County libraries all have been given money to develop "Harry Potter" reading programs, and some branches created displays with the slogan "While you wait for 'Harry Potter,' try these books . . . ."
At the Las Virgenes Library, Hazrati said she was amazed at the level of knowledge the children displayed at a "Harry Potter Magic Show" that included a trivia contest put together by Van Nuys magician Tony Daniels.
"He had Harry Potter trivia questions for kids and you wouldn't believe it," Hazrati said. "These kids raised their hands, 9-year-old kids, 7-year-old kids, and they knew the answers."
Daniels, who has performed Magical Reading programs for years, recently began doing a Harry Potter-themed show.