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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.

Usage of the Library Continues to Grow

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, March 13, 2011

Usage of our library system grew by 11 percent in 2010.


That percentage of growth is unknown for any one year of library operations.


It is an amazing number considering that we reduced hours, reduced staff, and nearly eliminated the budget for purchasing new library materials such as books and DVDs.


I would think if you asked one of the library staff if they noticed the increase, the answer would by a definite “yes.”


On the other hand, the library may have created its own growth by the placement of the levy on the ballot in 2010.  That much promotion and publicity for a library tends to increase the usage of the library system in question.


Librarians are “counters,” and it was a lot easier twenty years ago to count what was happening at a library.


We loved to count the number of books checked out, and were always talking about “circulation.”  We still count circulation, but now we could computer use, and accessing databases, and online genealogical scanned documents to name only a few.


Our collection includes 221,572 items, things that you can check out of the library.  Actually that number is really 6.5 million, which is the number of items in the database of 77 library systems that are part of SEO system, and can be requested for borrowing.


The Local History and Genealogy Collection continue to grow, now up to 6,429 items from the 300 items it contained in 1985.


Books on Tape are shrinking, while Books on CD are growing in number and usage.  The newest media, E-Books now have 25,000 in the shared database, as well as 15,000 downloadable audio recordings.


The same is true for videocassettes, as they shrink and DVDs are growing as part of the library collection.


Another amazing statistic is the number of library cardholders.  This past year, we deleted all of the former bookmobile cardholders from area schools, a service that was ended in 2009.


By the end of 2010, the number of library cardholders had increased to the point it passed our previous total and was nearing 34,000 people with cards.


The computer has made the collection of statistics to be an easy task, but on the other hand it has created countless more things that can be counted.


It alerts librarians to books and DVDs that are in demand, or not owned by the library.  You can combine usage of the library with time-of-day, and provide a spread sheets as to library users and where they reside.


The computer takes thousands of requests for library materials, and manages the requests based on location and ownership of the item.


There are days that I look at the “card sorter” that hangs on my office wall, as a memory of days gone-by.


Before computers, librarians sorted those book cards by hand, with the assistance of a card sorter.  Large libraries used “needles” to separate the cards into category, and the statistics were recorded in large library record books and totaled at year’s end.


One staff member would do the “daily count” which could take most of the morning to complete.


If someone requested a specific book, we always smiled on the outside, but inside we were groaning and thinking that the request would require someone to sort through those silly card trays until the checkout card was found, and the “red clip” was attached.


The big groan took place when someone would exclaim, “Hey, I found a red clip on the floor,” which would provoke the need to re-sort the cards to find the request from which the red clip had become disattached.


The card sorter makes a wonderful wall hanging today, and I do have a few red clips hiding in my drawer to remember the old times.


As I have said before, times are changing, and the library remains as a public service agency as other services disappear in our society.