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Highlighting the Value of Library Use

   May 8th, 2012

Here's a more in-your-face twist on the Library Value Calculator. Another library in my consortium figured out how to display the total cost of a patron's items on their checkout receipt, and since we never let a good idea go to waste, we adopted it in my library, too.

Basically, it's a little macro that pulls the cost figure from each item's record, adds them all up, and provides a total. We present it in kind of a cutesy context, but the intent is to show people how much they save by using the library. Check it out:

receipt with cost

Our phrasing is deliberate - if people bought the items themselves, they'd get to keep them (which obviously isn't the case with libraries). Also, we only print out receipts if people ask for them (to save on paper), so I'm not sure what impact this will have - we'll see.

Also: speaking of valuable things, I'm off for the next week to see my family over Mother's Day weekend (hence all the audiobooks I'm checking out above). So no Reference Question of the Week this week, and I'll be back next week.

Update 5/17/12:
This is how I was able to add this to our receipts - as far as I know, this only works with Evergreen version 2.1 and later. If you have a different ILS, contact your vendor and demand they offer it:

  1. In Evergreen, open the Receipt Template Editor
  2. Choose the checkout template
  3. At the bottom of whatever you have in the Line Item, add this:
    <span style="display: none;" sum="sum1">%price%</span>
  4. Somewhere in the footer, add this:
    You saved: $<span sumout="sum1" fixed="2"></span>
    (or whatever you'd like it to read. Also, the fixed="2" rounds to two places.)
  5. Click the Save Locally button

Keep in mind that if the items checked out somehow don't have price values assigned to them, the receipt will read "You saved: $0.00" at the bottom.

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29 Responses to “Highlighting the Value of Library Use”

  1. Mindy Says:

    That’s a really cool idea. I would love to know how much I am “saving” by using the library. Love it! πŸ™‚

  2. Kristin Says:

    Such a great idea. I’m suggesting it to my library. I would love to know the total of everything I check out.

  3. Caitlin Says:

    I like the concept, but it is preaching to the choir – those who use the library likely already find the value in it. This would be a good idea for an advertising campaign though, to remind those who don’t use the library.

  4. Keegan Says:

    That is a great idea! That’s a big reason why I use the library, and when I was a student, I checked out all my textbooks (either from our collection or ILL) instead of buying them. That’s the hint I always give students now–CHECK THE LIBRARY!

  5. Alex Says:

    I’m curious about what system you use. Are you stand alone or consortium? Do you think the macro would work regardless of system?

  6. Jason Says:

    Alex: I think I read some time ago that Brian’s library was using Evergreen (Whether he mentioned it or not, I can tell by the receipt shown). We use it here also and to the best of my knowledge it’s the only system with this degree of customization. The templates are just HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. I drone on about it a bit at http://loquaciousthesis.blogspot.com/ . There’s really a lot of options, but the total price thing shown here is much easier to do with Evergreen 2.1 (or 2.2, which is nearly out)

    Caitlin: It might be possible that if people saw a large enough number down there that they might remark on it to people that might not use the library. There are a lot of “maybe’s” in that sentence, but that’s how word of mouth goes I suppose. πŸ™‚

    Brian: Thanks for sharing this! I might see if there’s a good place to put that on our receipts without overcrowding things.

  7. Cari Says:

    Very cool! Enjoy your trip and your audiobooks!

  8. Mary Burkey Says:

    Genius! Library marketing at its best.

  9. lisa Says:

    I definitely like the idea of this. Have you been getting any feedback from patrons yet?

  10. Judy Says:

    It might also make people a little more aware when they “lose” a book, just how much it will cost to replace said book!! πŸ™‚

  11. Jamie Says:

    I hope you like Carter Finally Gets It! It is one my favorites and made me laugh the entire time! The narrator hits it right on!

  12. looloolooweez Says:

    This is such a cool idea. I’ve sent it to my supers, though I don’t think our ancient POS circ system can handle it (or that our tech guys would appreciate the suggestion). Thanks for sharing πŸ™‚

  13. Joy Wandrey Says:

    This is a great idea. A library near me prints out a full-page list of items checked out, on the back is that months events calendar or the program-advert of the day, great way to make best use of that paper and cut down on clutter and waste too

  14. moonflowerdragon Says:

    Could this data be converted to a daily or weekly tweet of the value of materials circulated during the week? Would anyone enjoy seeing such a tweet?

  15. philip willems Says:

    So you’re taking audobooks with you to visit your mother. Afraid she’ll speak to you??

  16. Brian Says:

    That’s pretty cool. I’d like to know what the coding would be for the macro if you would share!?!

  17. Teague Says:

    For God’s sake man, hide this post where publishers can’t see it!

  18. Dominique Says:

    Philip : I see you live in Nederlands, I’m guessing visiting your mom doesn’t mean a 5+ hours drive as it might in the US πŸ˜‰

  19. Brian Herzog Says:

    re: the macro: I updated the post with the code, but it looks like the method we use only works with Evergreen v2.1 and higher. For other ILSs, contact your vendor and demand they offer it.

    @Alex: @Jason is correct, we use Evergreen, and we’re “versionless” (we are always on the latest version of the code). Our network admins created some of these macros because they disabled the use of javascript in receipt templates (due to potential threats). My library is part of a consortium, and Evergreen allows each library to customize their own receipts.

    @lisa: no feedback yet, but it’s still early days. I’m glad everyone here likes it.

    @Jamie: sadly, I didn’t get to listen to it. I also had Terry Pratchett and Simon Winchester in the car with me, and it’s hard to pass them up. Next time (or I’ll read it for real).

    @Joy: I like it – there’s lots of ways to be creative. Now you’ve made me curious about double-sided receipt printing. Hmm. Receipts would also be a good place for a QR code, if the printer can handle it.

    @moonflowerdragon: I remember hearing something about a library posting to their website/tweeting the last ten items checked out, but now I can’t find it. It feels like it would have been darienlibrary.org or tscpl.org – I’ll keep looking.

    @Teague: ha. But I still believe that library circulations can lead to sales – I just wish I had some stats to back it.

    @Philip & @Dominique: it’s actually a 10+ hour drive to my parents house, so the more audiobooks the better.

  20. Jason Says:

    Ah, I forgot your library is in MVLC. I’ve heard about how it constantly keeps up with the master branch and was curious how that works out for the member libraries. How is it in practice? Constant fires or not too out of the ordinary?

  21. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Jason: like anything, it’s been both good and bad. Good in that we get all the latest features (which there are still plenty of, since Evergreen is still growing), but bad in that I don’t know how much testing each update gets. We get updates once or twice a month, and I think there has been maybe one time we didn’t have problems the next day (or for multiple days afterward, or sometimes have to roll back or patch the update). I’ve heard talk that we’ll shortly be moving to the regular versions rather than just the trunk code – which is nice, because running the trunk means we can’t customize anything for our consortium either.

  22. The Mom Says:

    The books are priceless, the library is priceless and YOUR WORK (and explanations) are priceless πŸ˜‰ I am sending this to all my techy librarian friends!

  23. Brian Herzog Says:

    @The Mom: thank you very much – I’m always happy to know I’m helping, and that someone finds this useful.

  24. Scott Hackstadt Says:

    Out of curiosity, I went to Amazon and priced the new hardback prices of all four items and came up with $64.14 ($34.66 for the paperback totals) with free shipping and no sales tax. If this is to be done on receipts, it is probably best to not use the costs associated with the library’s acquisition.

    Conceivably, someone without knowledge of library acquisitions could use this information to imply that the library is mismanaging funds, much like the $800 hammer DoD stories of the 1980’s.

    I do think the concept is important to stress the library’s relevancy to the community. I just wonder if it might be better to show a more realistic cost to the public based on what they would pay.

  25. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Scott: sorry about that – it’s not clear on the receipt, but these are four audiobooks, not printed books. It always shocks me how expensive audiobooks are. I liked the idea of comparing them to Amazon though, but Amazon didn’t list a “new” price for a couple of them.

    Although, the price listed isn’t necessarily accurate, anyway. Libraries often get big discounts on books, but the price included in the record is the retail price. And if we buy a multi-volume set, we usually put the full set price in for each individual record – because if any part is lost, we’d need to replace it by purchasing another complete set. And I think that if a book is donated, and no record exists for it, it gets a price of $0.

    Not perfect, but hopefully it gets them thinking.

  26. Scott Hackstadt Says:

    Thank you for the clarification. Good work on this by the way.

  27. Kristen Says:

    A friend of mine spends thousands of dollars each year on books, with the end result that most of her books are in storage, and she is quite poor. I’ve been trying to get her to embrace her local library, and I really think that if her library put your system into practice, she’d realise just how “priceless” this service is.
    On the other hand, she is probably all that’s keeping the remaining Australian bookshops in business!
    When I get a job after my library course, I will definitely recommend this.

  28. New Highlighting the Value of Library Use – Stephen's Lighthouse Says:

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  29. Pauline Says:

    Why buy books that will only end up forgotten on a shelf when you can access loads of books, reading material and countless other resources for free. Also using librarys provides jobs for people. Come on folks – do your society a favour – read more – use community computers and resources more – use it or loose it.