‘Happy Days’: Did Fonzie’s Reading Episode Really Prompt a 500% Increase in Library Applications?

by Emily Morgan

Anyone looking to debunk the statement “television is bad for kids” should just look at one episode from the 1970s sitcom “Happy Days.” 

In the episode titled “Hard Cover,” Richie Cunningham complains to Fonzie that college wasn’t what he thought it would be. He wasn’t dating, and he didn’t have a date for the homecoming dance.

Fonzie comes up with a solution and recommends a trip to a library. He assures Richie that it was a great place to pick up girls.

Soon enough, Richie met Lori Beth Allen, the woman he would eventually marry. Fonzie obtained a library card, checked out his very first book, and spoke on the importance of reading.

After the episode aired on September 27, 1977, millions of kids saw the Fonz take out a library card. As a result, some reported that younger viewers followed suit.

According to the series creator, Garry Marshall, library card requests went up more than 500 percent nationwide.

During the phenomenon, parents and teachers were thrilled about a TV show that encouraged children to start reading more. 

According to Marshall, “Our characters have identities and powers all their own, and a couple of lines from Richie or Fonzie can alter the thinking of millions of kids.”

Did an Episode of ‘Happy Days’ Really Produce an Increase in Library Card Requests?

According to Snopes, they found no report from the American Library Association of an increase in library card requests following a September 1977 “Happy Days” episode. 

Fans can find a clue as to where the alleged statistic came from in a Los Angeles Times article in which the rumor first appeared. 

In a 1979 column, a reporter noted that the seventh season would show the characters as they matured into men. As a result, the show was planning to take on a “heavier” tone.

“It’s a new territory and it’s heavy territory,” said Marshall, “but we are committed to it. This is a semipermanent change.”

“We could be taking a chance, but I don’t think so,” said Marshall. “It is time for this show to stretch its wings and move into the uneasy years of the ’60s. We’re going to take on the little things like longer hair and espresso coffee along with the appearance of the first hippies and the disappearance of the happy innocence of the ’50s.”

“We just can’t sit still and not use the enormous power that this show has achieved, and we can’t get frozen in the ’50s.”

Although Fonzie’s library card could’ve inspired young viewers to do the same, the ALA reported no proof of a 500 percent increase in library card requests.