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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

Counting library things

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, February 18, 2007

It is the time of the year when librarians are counting and totaling statistics for the previous year.


In the old days, only a decade ago, we counted the number of times a book was checked out of the library during a given year.


Counting the number of book cards monthly; then totaling the yearly number tabulated that statistic.


We still do that, but it is accomplished with computer reports that can even tabulate where the borrower lives and which location owned the book.


Over the last decade, there is another statistic that is growing.


That is the number of times people access the library's resources without physically stepping foot in the library.


That number passed a quarter of a million for 2006 for our library system.


It isn't just people "hitting" our web site, it is real uses of library databases providing information.


The most popular databases involve local history and genealogical information.  Heritage Quest and Ancestry both provide research tools for family tree searches.


Combined with our Digital Shoebox, containing 50,000 pages of local history information, they are the most popular electronic items that the library offers to the public.


Our online databases are used to obtain full-text journal and magazine articles, as well as for reference sources for a myriad of topics.


Do you remember the days when libraries kept large back files of periodicals and you looked in an index to find the one you wanted?


Wow, has that changed in a relatively short time.


Databases of auto repair information and legal forms are the most popular electronic items of a specific nature.



Know it Now 24 X 7 is an online reference forum available to Ohio residents through our web page, and keeps statistics by zip code.


E-books are a new format that is completely accessed with a librarian's intervention.


The user selects the book, downloads it, uses it, and it automatically returns to the library's e-book collection.


Electronic communication allows our library system to be part of information retrieval worldwide.


Our web page attracts users wanting information about area history and genealogy, and we gladly provide the answers.


If you still want the old-fashioned paper book, it is possible to search the library catalog online, select the book, place a request, and have it delivered to your local library.


As of January, our Information Portal (I still say card catalog) contains 5.8 million items contained in 73 libraries.


What a transformation in such a short period of time; from a cabinet with drawers of 3 x 5 cards arranged in some magical order that only librarians seemed to understand, to a portal of information online.


The interesting part is that the checkout of traditional library materials continues to set records every year, even with all of the other information alternatives.


With such changes in the information marketplace in the past decade, what will it be like in 2017?