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

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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.

CIRCULATE OTHER STUFF

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.

THE PUBLIC LIBRARY AS AN EVENT SPACE

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

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

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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.

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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.