How Public Libraries Are Solving America’s Reading Problem – Forbes

How Public Libraries Are Solving America’s Reading Problem – Forbes.

David Vinjamuri, who will be speaking at the next Public Library Association conference, presents a few examples of public libraries which have begun “remodeling and remaking themselves,” notably Anythink (aka Rangeview Library District in Colorado) and Tulsa’s Librarium.  Both libraries, he points out, took much of what bookstores and other retail stores have been doing for decades, including visual merchandising (e.g. “fronting up, facing out and filling up”).  Of course, this article is in a business magazine, so it is no wonder he is pointing to these methods.

The reason I’m posting this to NTLA is the measures he uses:

  • Anythink’s circulation increased 91% from 2008 (pre-renovation) to 2012.
  • And despite an increase in the size of the collection, their loans per item increased 71%.
  • Librarium’s collection, notably, was reduced from 256,000 to just 18,000; that’s a 93% reduction, compared to a 84% reduction in space.
  • Correspondingly, circulation per item jumped to from 0.42 to 3.63.

The loans per item issue has been a conundrum for me as Collection Assessment Librarian.  You reduce the inventory, then you will see an increase in per-item use.  That’s a good measure – it means you are getting more bang for your buck.  But this measure should be balanced by some measure of satisfaction with the resources.  As the same patrons return time after time, will they start tiring of seeing the same items?  And if not, that begs the eternal question – how much is enough?

David’s initial point was that there is too much stuff being published nowadays, and that libraries provide a much more selective collection, making it more inviting to readers.  After reading works like The Paradox of Choice, I understand this problem and how the collection development strategies of libraries can help that.  This conflicts, though, with the trend in academic libraries, however, of patron-driven acquisitions.  Records of whole collections of ebooks are added to the library’s catalog, and only those that are used are purchased by the library (with varying plans of rental and purchases).  This means there are many more things from which to choose – which goes against the purpose of collection development.  True, the items from which to select should already be filtered to include those which fit the collection guidelines.  But should we consider too many items in our decisions?



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