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Displaying Circulation History in the Catalog

   May 19th, 2011

Catalog card with commentsMy 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?

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12 Responses to “Displaying Circulation History in the Catalog”

  1. Stephanie Willen Brown Says:

    I love telling visiting authors how many people have checked out their books (of course, I only do this when n > 0).

  2. Stephen Francoeur Says:

    Take a look at the catalog at the University of Huddersfield and also read Dave Pattern’s blog posts about repurposing usage data for recommendation systems and other services.

  3. Jeff Scott Says:

    I have done this with databases in a consortium. There was shocked silence at the cost per click, but it helped us make better decisions on what we are subscribing to.

  4. Deborah Says:

    I would love our catalog to have a “you might like this…” feature. People are more used to Amazon nudging them to more items with a picture and title than to clicking on subject headings.

  5. laura Says:

    This is why I miss the old-fashioned due date slips of the sort that stuck with the book–I loved looking to see when things had been checked out, and how far back, and how frequently. It was sort of like a more mysterious version of seeing who had your textbooks in high school in the years before you.

  6. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Stephanie: we have one older gentleman local author who comes in once a year to ask how many times his book has circulated. Some years it doesn’t go out at all, but the years it does you can tell it makes him feel pretty good.

    @Stephen: thanks for the links – I like the rating and “people who borrowed this also borrowed…” features. The latter especially seems useful, and should easily be possible and still preserve patron privacy.

    @Jeff: when we talk about it, we’re all shocked at the range in pricing different towns (of very similar size) pay for the same database – we’re talking thousands of dollars difference in some cases.

    @Deborah: I like that feature too. We just signed up for Novelist Select, so I’m hoping that does the trick until the catalog can handle it on its own.

    @laura: totally. I went to a small Catholic school, and occasionally I’d get a book with one of my older cousins names in it, even though they were ten years older than me.

    Incidentally, in the library’s archive are the circ logs from about 1900 – notebooks of peoples’ names and the books they checked out. It’s fascinating, but I don’t know at what point it cross from a privacy issue to an object of historical interest.

  7. Elizabeth Thomsen Says:

    Dan Scott is working on code for socializing the Evergreen catalog using Activity Streams and XFN which could make it easy for users to selectively share information on what they’ve checked out, rated, reviewed, lists, etc. Not quite ready for prime time, but definitely moving forward! You can check out his presentation from the Evergreen Conference a few weeks ago here:

  8. Oleg K. Says:

    Thus far I’ve only heard about this sort of thing done as public art (see, for example, George Legrady’s piece at Seattle’s Central Library), so it’s fascinating that you’re exploring how it might look in the catalog where people’s reactions are certainly more private. Though mixing this with the social aspects of some of today’s catalogs could lead to some interesting comments from patrons.

    Now, how would revealing these stats work from the perspective of a librarian providing reference? I know I don’t typically check circ stats when recommending books neither for education nor pleasure. But all other things being equal, if the circ info was just “out there,” I just might try to give that underdog a little push.

  9. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Elizabeth: the best thing about open source is that many hands make light work. I’m looking forward to all sorts of new features being added down the road, as they are developed and made available.

    @Oleg: a former Assistant Director here once had the idea to make a “last chance” book display – it would consist entirely of books about to be weeded, with a message on them saying “if no one checks these out, we’re throwing them away.” He wanted to use this picture to emphasize the gloom, but sadly we never put that display together.

  10. Gamer Librarian Says:

    My childhood library only recently barcoded their collection. When they were done, they had lots of cards from the books.

    The librarian had a great idea – she sold them at a town craft sale. People happily paid money for a card with a loved one’s name on it, often in their own handwriting. Others were cut down and made into bookmarks.

  11. Mary Ellen Says:

    Only slightly related to your question: I recently checked a book out of my local library that had a post-it note in the front with a note from a patron saying that she would like to purchase the book if the library were going to discard it. She included her complete name. I left the note in the book when I returned it.

    Those little items do make the books more interesting.

  12. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Mary Ellen: that is great – kind of shocking, but I like seeing that library materials don’t have anonymous lives.