Don’t go searching for Clifford the Big Red Dog at the Billings Public Library.

The popular children’s books by Norman Bridwell are all checked out. All 50 copies of them. All of the Berenstain Bear books are gone too, along with every one of Jeff Kinney's “Diary of a Wimpy Kid.”

What’s going on over there at the new library?

“It’s amazing,” said children’s librarian Cindy Patterson. “I don’t even know what else to say. We have complete authors that are just gone. We’ve never really had that happen before.”

Since the library opened Jan. 6, the number of visitors has increased by 50 percent over last year. During the first two weeks of operation, the library issued as many as 200 new library cards a day. The good news is, patrons are using those new cards, Patterson said.

“We’re seeing people who are brand new to the library come in and get cards. Then we’re seeing them come back the next week and get more books,” Patterson said.

Last week when the nation celebrated Martin Luther King Day, Patterson pulled out all of the books and videos about King and put them in a prominent display in the children’s area.

“When I left the Saturday before MLK day, there were two MLK DVDs left and everything else was gone,” Patterson said.

Patterson is pleased that so many people are using the library, but she worries about disappointing the kids when they come in to search for their favorite books and they’re gone. She and her staff have been directing patrons to other children’s books with the same themes and similar characters. And when only Clifford will do, patrons are encouraged to reserve their favorite books. That can be done at the library or at home by logging onto the library’s website,

The staff plans to adjust its book orders to address reading trends, and Patterson said she expects to get in more Clifford and Berenstain books and books in the “Wimpy Kid” series within the next few weeks. Part of the appeal to the Berenstain books this month is that the author Michael Berenstain is coming to Billings in February to help celebrate the opening of the new library.

“That always happens when you have an author coming to town,” Patterson said.

The library is celebrating its grand opening on Feb. 1 with a full slate of activities.

The celebration continues when Berenstain comes to Billings on Feb. 7 and 8 to give free presentations, primarily aimed at children. Award winning author Neil Gaiman is also coming to Billings for a public reading on Feb. 21 at the Babcock Theatre. Tickets are $20.

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