More on library numbers

I kicked the sum remarks out to some folk who don’t read this list (but who aren’t librarians) and got a “so?”

Two things.  First, there are a lot of purseholders who say libraries are dying, and they’re dying due to the internet.  “Why should we fund libraries?” they ask.  Answer: because libraries aren’t dying.

Related, library use is increasing even though circulation is remaining about the same.  That runs into a bunch of social and psychological problems that in part librarians have brought upon themselves.  Libraries are more than books, but THE stat that gets discussed is circulation.  What I have tentatively found, and what some more years’ data is confirming, is that while circ per population is relatively stable the libraries’ USE per population is growing.  There are a number of nails that get hit by that particular hammer.

Second thing is somewhat related.  See, I know that some libraries have done better at increasing use per population than others.  What I think is that what they’ve done can be done by other libraries to the benefit of us all, library folk and general public.

The clumsy bones of the study I’m trying to put together go as follows:

Stage 1: identify the top and bottom 500 libraries by measure of growth in visits per capita from 2000 to 2008.  (lots of details for devilish habitats here.)

Stage 2: analyze the existing statistics for coincident indicators.  More plainly, look for places where the data for top is different from data for the bottom.  I don’t think cause and effect is determinable here, but I do think it likely that there will be clues to what library directors and staffs can directly impact that coincidentally increase visits per library.

Stage 3: Referencing the identified data, create a qualitative survey for those 1000 libraries.  Follow up with a number of interviews to expand on answers received from the survey.

Final report: These are the things libraries that have increased use by their populations are doing which are not done by libraries on the other end of the scale.  AKA Growing your library’s local effectiveness.

I can do part of this on my lonesome, but at some point it is going to cost money to do in a timely fashion (ie within one or at most two years.)  My initial thought is to get a research grant.  Unfortunately most of the grants I’ve found so far require I be part of a system; public library, college, or other organization.  I suspect I’m going to have to do a careful dance of getting a sponsor without just turning over the whole information set.

heh.  It dawns on me that the core of a doctoral dissertation is buried in there as well.  Too bad I’m not going for a PhD.  (Can’t.  Money.  Gotta feed the family and pets, keep roof overhead, etc.)


2 thoughts on “More on library numbers

  1. You are right, libraries are more than books. The San Francisco Main Library has recently implemented measures to help with their homeless visitors, and I was amused to read that the building is a great place for skaters. “Although they get kicked out sometimes, but the skaters are pretty cool.”

    I hope once you’ve done the part on your lonesome, you will be successful in interesting a publisher. That will be a book worth reading.

    • I suppose I should really point out that every ALA accredited librarian (supposedly) knows libraries are more than books. The problem comes from the holders of the purse strings, mostly.

      Again, goal one here is to see if there are defining elements that make libraries more heavily used by their communities. Not “more than the rest” but “more than last year”. The hope is that these are replicable by the libraries not getting as good a return.

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