This was kind of a fun question. Earlier this week, we received the following email message from a patron:
I have been referred to you by Town Hall. I am hoping to find some archived material relating to the tornado that hit Chelmsford on 21 July 1972. I am quite interested in learning more about the precise path the tornado took through town, the response by the town, and, since I am a meteorologist, more about the weather situation on that day.
This was actually the first time I'd ever heard of this tornado. I knew we wouldn't have any books or anything on such a local phenomena for this time period, so the first place I looked for information was the library's secret weapon, the Vertical File.
A few years ago, staff indexed our vertical file into an Excel spreadsheet, so doing a word search for "tornado" was a snap - and produced these two news clippings:
While I wouldn't call most of the findings exactly shocking, I was surprised to learn a few things:
The number of librarians in 2009 (212,742) is roughly the same as 1974 (the year I was born) - and down almost 100,000 since the peak in 1990
My home state of Ohio, which always seems like a hotbed of library activity, isn't one of the states with the most librarians nor the most librarians-per-capita
Today, only 17% of librarians are male - by my math, that works out to 36,166 of us. In other words, if we average 6' tall and were laid end to end, we would stretch for about 41 miles
This part of the conclusion also stood out to me:
[T]he internet seems to be having an effect on the field, as it has faced a significant decline since 1990. That decline seems to have slowed substantially since 2000, as librarians adjust to and find new roles in the internet age and the extensive increase in information that it has brought about.
That's interesting - I had chalked up fewer librarians to wave after wave of budget cuts and hiring freezes. I know people sometimes ask, "we have the internet now, why do we need librarians?" but aside from factual reference questions, my library is still as busy as ever. Our Town Hall has never said, "your stats are down, so you don't need as many employees" - instead, they've said, "every town department is being cut 5%, and probably more next year." Maybe that is why I hadn't drawn a direct correlation between the loss of jobs and the rise of the internet - nor that the decrease in jobs would stabilize once we find our information age niche.
If anything, I could hire more staff specifically to serve as a information technology help desk, to support all our patrons who end up with devices and online services they don't know how to use. Maybe that is the new role we are looking for. Really, I don't think the decline in librarians can be as simple as that, but it is an interesting correlation.
Thanks to OUP for mining and compiling this data - and to Lauren for the heads-up.
My last post and peoples' comments got me thinking about displaying the circulation history of items, and how it might make items more interesting.
I don't know how many library patrons consider the fact that other people have used an item before them (unless, of course, they find some evidence of that use). But if we started showing the cost-per-circ, it might prompt some people to wonder about the X number of people who also were interested in the same thing as them.
Obviously, libraries couldn't cross any privacy lines, but I do think there are ways to highlight the "shared resources" aspect of the library, and to emphasize a sense of community among our patrons.
Some ideas for what could be shown:
Detailed stats on cost-per-circ (including a breakdown on the library's cost for that item - price we paid for it, processing cost, etc) - and, as Walt said, this would be particularly interesting for databases
Number of local checkouts vs. ILLs and network transfers (along with current number of holds)
Along with number of checkouts, calculate the popularity ranking vs. total library items checkouts
Date the item was added to the collection, and date of last checkout (and check-in)
Some catalogs by default have an opt-in reading history for patrons; they should also have an opt-in way to make their checkout history public, on an item-by-item basis
Some catalogs, and some third-party plugins (like ChiliFresh and LibraryThing for Libraries), allow patrons to include their review and rating for items right in the catalog record
Ebook readers should be able to leave comments and notes in the ebook, which subsequent patrons could either turn on or off depending on if they wanted to see them
Some of this information is available in our staff view, and I use it all the time - why not make it available to the public, too?
One drawback to making this kind of item information available is that we might get a lot more "weeding suggestions" from patrons, on items they don't feel have provided enough value to the library (or that have been used too much). Of course, I get this to some degree already, so it's just a matter of having - and employing - a good collection development policy.
Does anyone's catalog include features like these? How do patrons like them?
Darlene Fichter, Research Services Librarian, University of Saskatchewan Jeff Wisniewski, Web Services Librarian, University of Pittsburgh Michael DeMars, California State University–Fullerton
Darlene - Counting is easy, knowing is hard
We must looks for signs of success, and places where we're falling down.
Good tools for detailed information:
Type in your library's name, and it searches the web to find comments posted about that you
it also shows trends/frequency of postings (be sure to use all phrases/names your patrons might call you)
they give you a small bit of code that you past in your site, and instantly starts tracking activity
it gives you rich data on how your site is used - activity, times, locations, popular resources,
this gives you actual numbers, so you don't need to rely on national standards which may not actually reflect the makeup of your community
gives you real data to make decisions, instead of basing everything on anecdotes (where people come from, what their connection is, how people are finding you [search engines, keywords], etc) - this gives a voice to the patrons you never see
having a short time-spent-on-site metric is a good thing, because it means people are coming to your website, finding the database/website/resource they need, and linking out to it
it will tell you what device people are using, and thus if you need a mobile website (and which devices to focus on)
For the last few years at my library, our public computers all looked the same - Windows XP with a custom wallpaper displaying instructions on how to print. Our setup looked like this:
A month or so ago, we upgraded to Windows 7, and thought we'd also change the wallpaper.
Our goal in this was to improve patron privacy. The timer software we use is Time Limit Manager (TLM), by Fortress Grand (the little "Time Remaining" clock at the top of the screen above). I like this software because it is very customer service oriented, and patrons don't need to log in with a barcode to start their session - they can just sit down, click "I Agree" to our policies, and go. The timer is basically a courtesy reminder, and for the most part we can get away with using the honor system (TLM does offer additional features for when push comes to shove).
But the main problem we were seeing wasn't that people wouldn't leave the computer - it was that patrons weren't ending their session when they left the computer. This set up the scenario where a second patron could come along and just continuing using the session of the previous patron.
This never caused a real problem in my library, but the potential was there, so we thought the upgrade would be a good time to address it.
With the Windows 7 rollout, we designed new wallpaper, hoping to prompt people end their session when they were finished with the computer. The new wallpaper looks like this:
The result? Absolutely no change whatsoever.
I didn't do a scientific survey, but just from the number of times staff has to end the session at an abandoned computer, the privacy reminder didn't seem to affect anyone at all.
I can't believe people aren't seeing this message, so it's tough not to conclude that, at least in my library, most patrons don't care much about their privacy.
So, I wanted to ask the question here - what do other libraries do to get patrons to end their session?
A few weeks ago I was searching for a quick and easy online database, and stumbled across DabbleDB.
It looks like it's been around for awhile, and after watching their 8-minute demo video, I was really impressed. It seems incredibly easy to use, and excels at turning those flat spreadsheets into the databases we all want them to be. Plus, being online, it is amazingly easy to create simple and powerful web forms to work with the data.
I was looking for an online database to create a searchable catalog for our Town-Wide History Project. After looking around and talking with the other groups involved, iwe're going to use PastPerfect Online instead, but I'm kind of sad not to get to play with DabbleDB. For a little more tech info on it, check out this post on TechCrunch.
If you've got 8 minutes, watch the demo video - it's all good, but my favorite parts are towards the end: how easy it is to move data around (the email example) and their interface for building web forms. I can hardly wait to get some time to develop an online search tool using DabbleDB - hmm, maybe our Vertical File?