Benson Memorial Library, Community Building, ebooks, Libraries, Library Director, Technology

When The Circulation Has Gone: Helping Your Community Understand the Worth of the Public Library in the Modern Age


What’s this that you see above? I call this the Benson Memorial Library circulation scorecard. What this circulation scorecard is doing is keeping track of our overall circulation from January 2010-Present. I could go back even further (we have the records) but I kept it at 2010 for the time being. I use it as guide to see what we’ve done, what we’re doing now, and how it relates to each other. Is our circulation up? Is our circulation down? If either one of these situations is the case, why is that? This scorecard is a nice and handy way to check up on all things related to circulation.

I don’t think that any library’s circulation number should be the number by which the library is judged, ranked, understood, etc. Every library’s circulation number by day, month, or year will first depend on the library that community serves. Is your community one that loves to visit the public library? If so, you can expect your circulation to represent that. In our service area of 14,904 (based on 2016 State Library stats), having 5,269 circulations in the month of September was a good month for us. A total circulation number of 5,269 for one month may look horrible to another library that serves a larger area or it may look shockingly amazing for a smaller area. That number looks just about right for us. This number will look different for everyone. It is up to you at your own level to interpret and understand that number.

As I said above, I don’t think that any library’s circulation number should be the number by which the library is judged or understood, but here’s the kicker. This circulation number is a big deal to a lot of people. To those people, a public library is a place which loans out materials to people in the community. When a person has this belief, the best way they can understand how their public library is doing is to see this number. With that said, yes, the circulation number is an important number for the public library.

But as the world changes and the way we read, watch, and look for information or media moves towards the internet or something digital, our circulation numbers are set to look like they’re decreasing. They are. Let’s face it: people don’t come in and borrow books on how to do things/fix things/research things anymore. They Google it or they go right to YouTube where they can get a step by step video. I’m a librarian, and this is exactly what I do. Why do I do this? Because this is the quickest, easiest, and probably the most efficient way of doing things these days.

So, as the title of this post asks: what do we do when the circulation has gone? If our circulation numbers decrease, we need a different way of sharing the value of the public library with the community. With that said, here are some ideas that I’m having these days.


This seems to be the big thing of the moment: fishing poles, museum passes, and gadgets galore, libraries are branching out and lending out things that you may not have seen in libraries before. One library in my region, the Oil City (PA) Library is doing just that. They call it the Cool Stuff Collection. Adding these unique items to your collection may draw more people into the library and help boost your circulation.


This is a great one. Public libraries all around the world have amazing spaces, and one of the best ways we can show off that space and bring people into the library is by offering great programs. There are so many libraries out there doing this and I could provide hundreds of examples. Here’s one of them: the Darien Library in Connecticut. Their schedule is always packed full of great programs any day of the week. When a library focuses on public events, the attendance at these programs as well as the number of events held at the space becomes a great statistic to share with your community.


The digital stuff, most of which is probably offered through your website, is another way to show the value of the library. While they’re no longer all the rage, eBooks are still around and are used by a segment of the population. Showing off the circulation of eBooks can boost your circulation number but it can also be used to show your community the changing nature of how we read.

My favorite “digital stuff” statistic these days is the number of connections we have to our wifi network and the number of logins we’ve had on our public computers. What have I noticed? That our wifi connections are going up while our public computer logins are stagnant or going slightly down. Yes, there is still a very strong need to offer public computer access, but as the cost of devices (laptops/tablets/and the big one, phones) comes down and more people are able to access them, I think we’ll see the public library become more and more of a spot in the community that offers free (and hopefully reliable and safe) wifi for everyone.

The title of this post was inspired by this most excellent jam

Benson Memorial Library, Libraries, Library Director

Library Stuff That I Am Proud Of

I don’t blog much about what I’ve been up to at the Benson Memorial Library because every time I sit down to do it everything ends up sounding so boring that what I was up to in libraries in the past. I mean, what can top The 2nd Floor at the Chattanooga Public Library? We had a freakin’ arcade there!

When it comes to being a library director, my life is very different than it was when I was involved in Youth Services yet at the same time there is a whiff of familiarity in this job. No matter what I’m doing in libraries, I find that the common thread that connects everything is that I am advocating constantly for services for our community members. That’s really the core of it all….trying to get a safe and fun spot for teens is the same as figuring out a way to get my employees better pay and benefits. No matter what I’m doing, the end goal is always to make the community where I live a stronger place.

All of this hit me when I was putting together our yearly fund drive. You’ll see the end result of that work in the two images at the top of this post. While I was in Chattanooga I learned a lot about the value of the numbers we collect and how they help tell our story to the community. Our numbers at the Benson Memorial Library so far this year (Jan 1-Aug 31) blew me a way so I shared those with our community. It was great to finally send out these Patron Fund Drive letters last week and I look forward to seeing what the community thinks about the Benson Memorial Library once they read up on what we’ve done recently.

Here’s a few other things that we’ve done that I am most proud of. It may not be as fancy as getting a 3D printer in the library or something like that, but I think that the work we’ve done here so far is pretty awesome and I sure am proud of it.

  • June 2015-August 2016: 82058 items have been circulated
  • January-September 28 2016: 40698 visitors to the library
  • June 2015-Present: 313 free events held at the library
  • Renovated the front steps: The sandstone steps were in dire need of repair, and this summer we did just that; we not only got them fixed, but we made some repairs to them that will help them last for many more years.
  • Weeded the entire collection (yes, all of it) in order to reorganize most of the library and give the shelves space so that we can update our collection to fit the needs of the community today.
  • Got some grants to help with quite a few things: building improvement, Youth Services, programming, and more.
  • Updated most if not all of the library policies
  • Updated our Employee Personnel Policy and got 2 months maternity/paternity leave for employees.
  • Decreased our yearly health care costs by $5000-$8000 and increased benefits for the individuals on our plan (they went from a $500 deductible down to a $0 deductible)
  • Kind of sort of restarted the Friends of the Library group (it’s a long story, but we’re getting there very slowly) and ran 3 successful book sales.
  • Hired 3 new employees (two youth services folks, one all purpose staff member who I’m hoping will become our future local history guru)
  • I was asked to join two boards: Titusville Regional Literacy Council and the Titusville Senior Center. These help the library keep in touch with two key demographics and gives us a great chance to work with these organizations to make sure we are helping out everyone in our community.
Libraries, Library Director, Management, Teens

More Library Stuff

I am just going to toss out quotes that are floating around in my brain. Connect them in any way that you will.

  • Libraries count circulations, door counts, and more. These are great numbers but we need to think bigger than this. How can we count hi-fives and hugs from our patrons? A hi-five from a teenager in a library is one of the most important things that can happen in a public library. How do we fix our broken world and help everyone see that there is value in hi-fives and hugs?
  • Some people are good at customer service. Some people are good at using the public library as a canvas for their creative public programs. Recognize these talents in each and every individual and respect these talents. Don’t push people to be everything at once. Let them be themselves.
  • The moments where we relax with each other, chat, and not force work are some of the best moments we can have in a library. Relax. Talk to each other. This is your job, not your life. Sit back, make some tea, and talk.
  • Working in a public library is not about competition. It is about community. We are not here to be Library Journal Library of the Year 5 Star Winner Full Page Cover Spread. We are here to ensure that those that visit us and utilize our services leave with a smile.

Every blog post needs an image and here’s a great image of Prince being the fucking coolest person that ever lived.

ALSO PS: here’s a 14 minute track of all the background music in Purple Rain shhhh it is pretty darn amazing.

Books, Chattanooga Public Library, Chattanooga, TN, Kids, Libraries, Management, Teens

End of the Fiscal Year and All That Jazz

I’m going to take a moment and share something that I am very proud of: statistics for the 2013-2014 Fiscal Year for Youth Services at the Chattanooga Public Library. Now I’m most affiliated with all things on The 2nd Floor of the Chattanooga Public Library, but as we all know it takes the whole picture and the team to make something truly magical happen.  These stats will show you that it is the TEAM at the Chattanooga Public Library that makes things happen.  Some of us have been called Rock Star Librarians but in the great grand scheme of things that isn’t what matters. It’s how the team comes together to do amazing things.  These statistics are proof that amazing things are happening in Chattanooga:

2nd Floor Kids Programs: 676 programs, 11,073 attendees
2nd Floor Tween and Teen Programs: 522 programs, 9233 attendees
Branch Library Kid Programs: 903 programs, 19,811 attendees
Branch Library Tween and Teen Programs: 95 programs, 1,326 attendees

Overall, the Chattanooga Public Library improved all programming and outreach from 51525 attendees 2012-2013 to 82849 attendees in 2013-2014. That’s a 37.8% increase.

Our circulation statistics were also pretty awesome:
2012-2013 Kids Circulation: 233,042
2013-2014 Kids Circulation: 318,485
That’s a 37% increase!

2012-2013 Tween/Teen Circulation: 31,974
2013-2014 Tween/Teen Circulation: 42,598
That’s a 33% increase!

Yes.  These are just numbers. And numbers only tell a part of the story. But they are a very important part of the story. And it is good to have all sides of the story.

2013-11-14 17.45.16

To end, here’s one of my favorite photos from 2013-2014 at the Chattanooga Public Library. It’s Megan Emery and one of our tweens cracking a smile. It took SO much for us to get this guy to smile, but we got there.  And once we did, it was all awesome from then on out.






Libraries, Technology

A possible layout for a one floor library

One Floor Library Plan

As I child, I used to love to create maps. I think a lot of it stemmed from my love of video games like Sim City. But in those moments where I couldn’t build a virtual world, I always had a pencil, a ruler, and a piece of paper to map out some city or kingdom.

I thought it would be neat to revisit this hobby but instead of building a city I’d look at how I’d build my own library. What I’m posting here is just my idea for what I’d like a one floor library to look like if I could build my own public library. I chose to focus on the overall theme of the building instead of dwelling on the specifics. If you were gonna build your own one floor library, what would yours look like?

1. Seating/Atrium
A key element for me with modern public libraries is seating. Whether it be to sit down to read, use wifi, play a portable video game, or more, seating is key to making any of these functions work. I like the idea of having an area dedicated to this right in front of the library (an idea I borrowed from my own place of work) where people can relax, use their devices, make phone calls, and more. There’s nothing neater than walking into a library full of bright and vibrant people.

2. Security/Maintenance
Security in a public library is key to making things run smoothly. I have come to have a lot of respect for library security since I started at my place of work in 2010. No matter the size of your library, you will most likely run into your own unique set of security related issues. Sometimes libraries can handle these issues with a staff of one, and other times it takes more of a team to make thing work. No matter your situation, I believe it is a wise idea to dedicate a space to library security related issues. It can also be used as a lost/found area and more.

3. Circulation
The library circulation department is the heart of the library and without it functioning properly everything else will stop. Perhaps my belief in the importance of circulation stems from the fact that I started out in libraries working behind the circulation desk, but its significance cannot be downplayed. Returns, holds, information, and everything else in between, circulation does it all. That’s why I dedicated such a large space to this particular area. Personally, I’m into self pickup shelves for holds, open desks which the community can come up behind the ask questions, and a combination of self checkout machines and staff present for check outs. To me, the circulation department should be open for staff to interact with the community and for the community to use the area alone if they wish.

4. Returns
Consider this an extension of the circulation area, yet at the same time it’s own mini area. I was really impressed by the returns section at the Erie County Library (Erie, PA) when I worked there between 2006-2008. It was set up like a backroom where all of the items that were returned to the library came via conveyor belt for check in, inspection, and to be placed on carts that could be taken away for reshelving. It was a very efficient and organized system, so I incorporated that into my plans for this one floor library.

5. New and Popular Materials
For this area, I was influenced by supermarkets and the trend to place items that they consider their most popular (I always notice these sections having milk, eggs, butter, bread, etc) up at the front of the store. Mix in the newest items that the library has purchased (which are also usually very popular items) and with that you have a section in your library dedicated to the items that will get the most circulation.

6. Other materials
Where do you put all of the other materials in the library? My plan is to keep them all together. One of the things I’ve noticed working at a public service desk over the years is how patrons generally dislike moving from section to section in order to find what they’re looking for. Do you want Lord of the Rings in print, audiobook, and Blu Ray? Why not put those materials in one handy location for people to browse?

The only downside to having this type of area is how library staff will need to be on their toes more to make sure the area reflects what the community really wants. Weeding will need to occur on an ongoing basis, and the collections are going to need to be in tip-top shape in order to remain relevant.

7. Meeting/Study Rooms
I have seen the two study rooms in my teen library become THE PLACE to be at my library over the past few years. They’re reserved for teens ages 12-19 and their mentors/tutors (if they are working with an adult). One of the biggest questions I face at the teen services desk is “where are the meeting/study rooms for adults?” I see the demand for these types of rooms just increasing in the next few years.

That’s why I’ve included eight of these rooms in this library plan. The more space dedicated to giving the community a place to meet, the better. In my opinion, these rooms should be open to the public for free (unless there are special events, in which case, the rooms could be rented to help the library with maintaining the rooms).

8. Quiet Area
Every library should have a quiet area. Part of my belief in this is steeped in library tradition, and the other part of it comes from knowing that there is (and will always be) a section of your community that desires a quiet area. This is the place for that population.

9. Teen Library
10. Children’s Library
I’m writing about the Teen and Children’s Libraries together because there’s so much in common with these two areas: they both serve a very distinct population, they both work together in helping a new generation become literate (reading, writing, playing, and more), and they both always operate best when they’re considered to be “mini libraries in a library.” I’ve always viewed the teen libraries that I’ve managed as being part of the library system as a whole but also at their own mini branch. I see the Children’s Library that way as well. When you have this kind of focus, you’re able to best meet the needs of the people that are using you. In my teen library, only teens ages 12-19 are welcome to use the area. Other age groups can come into the teen library to browse and borrow materials, but the space remains reserved for just the specific group. It’s the same way for our children’s library.

Setting aside space for these two very important groups is key, not only in helping the library best serve these populations but also for the sake of the rest of the library….as anyone knows, children and teens can be loud! Giving them their own space in the library lets these groups do what they do best…act like kids and teens!

11. Technology Help Center
A few days ago I posted about this topic (you can read about it here) and in this plan I’m taking what I said to a new level. I’d like to create my own Technology Help Center in the library. Eli Neiburger said that “libraries need more geeks” back in April 2011 and I still agree with him. With this space, I hope to develop two things. The first part is a help center where the community can visit for help with any technology that they are using (for the pros and cons of this approach, I recommend this great discussion on Branch). The second part is to fill the library staff with, as Eli Neiburger puts it, a bunch of geeks. This staff could be used to help the library move ahead digitally. They could develop programs and tools for the library to use (and possibly license to other libraries). They could also teach classes on programming, digital literacy, technology help, and more.

12. Library Cafe
I never understood why libraries didn’t allow food and drink in the library. Once I became a for real librarian, I did understand (why? Those reference books are so expensive and hard to replace!) but I still don’t agree. Anyone could borrow our materials, take them home, and for example, cover them in bacon. Yet we do not ask patrons to keep food and drink away from our materials at home. With that, I’m all for a library cafe that serves food and drink to the community.

I never drank coffee until I started working in a library, and now I usually have one cup in the morning and a banana when I start my work day. It’s oddly comforting and relaxing. This is something I wish every library patron could do in every library building, hence the inclusion of a library cafe. Better yet, the profits from the library cafe could be used to fund a number of other library related things (programming! materials!).

13. Printing Center
If libraries wanted to take on Kinko’s, we could. We’ve got pretty much everything they offer in regards to copying and printing, and usually, we’re a whole heck of alot cheaper. Why not take advantage of this? With this idea in mind, I’ve decided to create a Printing Center within the library. This is the place where all printing from the library would be paid for and picked up. There would be a number of copy machines and scanners that patrons could use.

14. Library Store
What’s a library without a library bookstore? Everyone loves browsing through library bookstores, hoping to find something really great and unique that they can take home. This is where the store would be, and it could also be used to sell other library related items. Take Patrick Sweeney’s Library Advocacy Store and apply it to a local level. Sell library swag and have your community be promoting you with t-shirts and more.

15. Programming Space
In order to have technology classes, music events, author talks, movie nights, and more, you’ve gotta have a great space that attracts your community to the library. A hole in the wall won’t do…you’ve gotta step up and have a venue that people enjoying visiting. With this in mind, I’ve set aside some space just for this purpose. Think about this area as being something that’s totally ready to go for any kind of programming. It’s gotta have a great sound system, a nice and welcoming layout, and enough space to accommodate any size audience. With this in your library, you will have no trouble bringing the community in for great programming.

16. Technology Center
And finally, we come to the technology center. Right now, I can imagine this space being set up with a fair number of desktop computers. However, as time moves on we may see a shift away from needing many desktop computers (doesn’t it seem like everyone is starting to get a smartphone or tablet these days?). With that in mind, part of the technology center would be dedicated to other types of technology, namely maker/hacker spaces, gaming areas, digital media labs, and more. Think of the technology center as the place where the community will visit to meet any of their technology needs.