or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

Displaying Per-Circ Costs

   May 17th, 2011 Brian Herzog

Unit Price TagYou know how stores display the "unit price" along with the retail price for items? I like this mandate, and often use that unit price to decide whether or not to buy something (or at least, which size to buy).

I was talking with some colleagues recently about bringing this practice into the library world. We decided the data we'd like to display is the cost of the book, with the "unit price" being the cost of the book spread out over the number of times the book has circulated.

Since it would constantly be changing, it'd be hard to show this on shelf (or spine) labels. But, it should be a pretty easy thing to add to the catalog's item display.

Item cost is generally not something shown in the record, but I thought if you made it somewhat interactive and interesting, people might be curious about "cost per circ." But what we couldn't decide was this:

  • would patrons be more likely to check out a item with a low unit price, because it's a better "value" to the community, or
  • would patrons be more likely to check out item with a high unit price, because it's a better "value" to them (as the item hasn't been used very much and is therefore of higher perceived quality)

I couldn't decide, or really even decide if it would influence my check out decision one way or another. But I do know that I would definitely be curious to look at this number every time I checked an item out.

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