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


Something To Think About

Quote by Judd Apatow from this NYT article

I read this quote in a NYT article yesterday and felt like I had to share it. I think it nicely sums up something that I’ve been trying to articulate for awhile now. It is very easy to get caught up in the internet and all things digital. The internet connects all of us and provides us with a nearly infinite source of entertainment. It is a great place to be! I’ve seen myself and pretty much everyone around me get sucked into it from time to time. This is ok! It is perfectly normal and fine to be pulled to the internet.

At the same time, I believe in balance and the flipside is that we need to remember that our actions on the internet also need to be balanced with our actions in the physical world. I have begun asking myself how I can translate every tweet/share/post that I am a part of on the internet into something else in the physical world. These things don’t have to be big personal acts…they can be as simple as holding the door for another person, saying hello to a stranger, or just simply being kind in any moment.

Libraries, Technology

Hire awesome people, make rad stuff

Yesterday I was reading Breaking Up With Libraries by Nina McHale.  I had a few thoughts.  First and foremost, I was bummed that our profession was losing such an amazing and talented person.  Nina has done amazing work for libraries and she will be sorely missed in this field.  Secondly, this one passage of Nina’s hit me really hard:

Also in the mix is my general frustration with library technology. We pay BILLIONS to ILS and other vendors each year, and for what? Substandard products with interfaces that a mother would kick to the curb. We throw cash at databases because they have the periodical content our clients need locked up inside them, and over a decade after the failure that was federated searching, we STILL do not have an acceptable product that provides a user-friendly interface and makes managing the data behind the scenes as easy as it needs to be for library staff. – See more at:


I had been thinking about this same thing for the past few years when I made an attempt to look into a digital product for teens.  My thoughts with that product were:

1) Wow, I don’t know any teens that would use this.
2) Wow, this is so expensive and there is no way I could ever afford this.
3) Wow, this product has such horrible design.

The outcome?  I did not buy that product.

It was not until a few days ago that while under the influence of Nina’s post and seeing the amazing work that Dan Eveland (Web Developer, Chattanooga Public Library) and Mary Barnett (Social Media Manager, Library) did on the Chattanooga Public Library website that I had it hit me: we really need to start investing in employees who can make amazing things that do what we want them to do.

The calender over at Made by Dan Eveland and Mary Barnett. It looks great and the back end (where we do our work) is easy to use and well put together.

Like these calendars, databases, and whatever else that we buy from vendors, hiring awesome people to build stuff just for us is an investment. Sometimes your investment may not work out.  But don’t think about that.  You can always try again.  But what if the investment in awesome people works out?  You get awesome things that were built for what you need them for.

Made by Dan Eveland and Mary Barnett with input and ideas from myself. I think it turned out pretty awesome.

A good example is the website you see above,  About one month ago, the team started talking about what we wanted to do with this site.  We got some ideas and Dan put up a template and we slowly worked on it.  Mary gave the project a deadline and said “let’s get this done” so all last week we put our hardhats on and did it.  Dan and Mary built to reflect what I thought teens would be looking for: quick awesome tidbits of information, news of big things going on for teens at the library, a hub for the Teen Advisory Board (TAB), and a contact page.  All built with Drupal on The 4th Floor in about one month by some amazingly talented people on the Chattanooga Public Library team.  The best part?  It’s works super well, is easy to manage, and it is exactly what I was hoping for with the teen site.  Another great part?  If it needs fixed or modified, I only have to head up two floors to talk to Dan and Mary and it’s done.

Hiring awesome people to help you realize your library dreams?  To me, that’s the way forward.  Not only do you get amazing products that you can actually use for what you want, but you get to surround yourself and the library staff with talented and kind people who contribute to the positive vibe of the community.  A win in every area.

Libraries, Technology

Playing with Digital Signs in the Library

I’ve always been very interested in how libraries advertise their programs.  Before I worked in libraries, I spent my time at Media Play (one of those giant music/movies/books/video games stores) as part of the team that worked on setting up the monthly layout of the store.  My time here influenced how I looked at advertising programs to teens.  I realized that

At the Cape May County Library I adopted a template for my teen advertising (which you can see collected here).  Looking back on the template, it looks a bit clunky but I am happy that there was at least consistency in the design.  The one problem I never did solve was how to display the signs.  We had so many programs going on for all age groups  that the walls where we put our signs became a horrible mess of clutter.  This was not something that made the library look awesome.

One of the great joys in coming to work here at the Portland Public Library was that as part of the renovation the library completed the library adopted digital signage.  We use the Carousel Digital Signage system on 6 large digital signs throughout the library building (one of which is housed in the teen lounge).  I found their sign editing software to be rather clunky and not user friendly so I started playing around with how I could best use the signs to advertise programs and more.

The fix that I found most helpful was to use Microsoft Powerpoint to create my slides.  I use just one slide to create my flyer and then export that slide as a JPEG.  Then I upload those slides into the Carousel program, set them for the screens I wish for them to be shown on and everything fits perfectly.  I use a standard white background with Two Cen MT Condensed Extra Bold font and one or two images.  I also always try to add the library logo into the slide as well as any logos of any partners we are working with for the program.

I’ve also found that Tumblr works amazingly well with our digital signs.  It allows me to reblog neat images and news clips and plug those directly into the Carousel system as “interactive content”.  It’s a misleading title because all that I’m doing is copying and pasting the URL of the post into the system.  It looks something like this:

I find that it makes the digital signs a bit more interesting…I’m able to reblog something, copy the URL, and share neat stuff with my patrons easily.


Are you using digital signage in your library?  If so, what are your experiences?  What have you found out that you can do from playing around with the digital signs?

Libraries, Music, Technology

Portland high schools take byte out of laptop use at home

There’s a lot of talk going on about the recent announcement that Portland, Maine area schools will be filtering the school issued netbooks at home in addition to while the students are in school.

Everyday here in the teen library we see anywhere from 70-100 teens everyday (last Tuesday, we saw 153 teens!) .  These teens come to our library as a meeting place and use our resources.  Many of them rely on their netbooks as their primary source of connection.  This connection includes internet access, word processing, social networking and Skype to communicate with their friends and family, and YouTube to connect them to their passions (many of them use YouTube to listen to music and watch soccer games).  These teens (many of which are immigrants from Sudan, Somalia, and Rwanda) use this connection for good.  It helps them connect with their family and friends through social networks.  It gives them access to the music and soccer they love so much, the hobbies they enjoy that keep them going.

The original article can be found here
The Portland Press Herald Opinion piece can be found here
Cory Doctorow’s response on Boing Boing can be found here

Here’s some great information that I’ve found to be very helpful in understanding teens, social media, and just how this all fits together in their lives and how librarians can help them

Teens and Social Media from the Pew Research Group
Elements of Educational Technology by  Heather Braum
Straight from the DOE: Dispelling Myths About Blocked Sites by Tina Barseghian

The use of social media – from blogging to online social networking to creation of all kinds of digital material – is central to many teenagers’ lives.

Some 93% of teens use the internet, and more of them than ever are treating it as a venue for social interaction – a place where they can share creations, tell stories, and interact with others.

The Pew Internet & American Life Project has found that 64% of online teens ages 12-17 have participated in one or more among a wide range of content-creating activities on the internet, up from 57% of online teens in a similar survey at the end of 2004.

Preparing teens for their future in a digital, connected world is imperative this day and age.  Technology will continue to become a larger part of our lives every day, and it is in our best interest to offer these teens access to the tools they need now to give them the best chance they have to succeed tomorrow.

Books, ebooks, Libraries, Music, Things


  1. The whole eBook thing  reminds me of what happened to the music industry after Napster and continues to happen to this day (death of the physical product, digital music sales up, piracy of digital goods, resurgence of a dead physical format as a niche collectors market (vinyl)).  Yet here we all are debating and discussing when instead we could be copying/pasting/learning from the music industry.  What have they taught us?  Physical formats will stick around, but the market for them will just keep getting smaller (CDs and Vinyl=Physical books) and digital sales will continue to rise.  Now let’s move onto the next step…
  2. Why the hell do we care about the eBook thing so much?  To me, this is a clear indication that LIBRARIES STILL BELIEVE THAT BOOKS ARE THE FOCUS OF WHAT WE’RE DOING.  When music started going digital were we freaking out about our physical library collections?  Maybe some of us were, but as a whole we were not.  We just kept on buying physical CD’s thinking that everything was gonna be alright.  Libraries lack of care about music going digital and the freak out about eBooks shows that we still believe purchasing and lending books is our primary function.  To some, this may be true, but I urge you to take a look around your library and see how people are using it: reading books, using computers, borrowing DVDs, music, video games, reading to their children, working on personal work/work work/school work, resting, browsing through magazines and newspapers, and much more.  That should be our focus.  Being everything and everything to our patrons.  Not just catering to the book market.