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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.

Statistics for the Library

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, January 22, 2012

A few years ago, I would have reached for my three-ringed binder that contained the monthly statistical sheets that I had accumulated for each of our library locations.


Each month I would complete a mimeographed tally of the number of items checked out of each library, how many new cards were issued, and the number of people who attended various programs at the library; and place a copy in that binder.


Each January, I would gather all the information in the binder into one report to share with all, and send to the State Library of Ohio by the designated date.


I am embarrassed to even tell how it all used to work back in the days of card catalogs, and card files in the library; it sounds so obsolete in comparison to today’s statistic gathering.


Today, there are servers and mainframe computers all talking to each other, gathering statistics and presenting them to me whenever I want them.


Our system has software called WebReporter, and I have my own administrative account that assembles information just for me.


The problem is that I get sidetracked looking at the potential statistical reports that I could produce, and forget that I still need the basic information to complete the State Library’s report which is now done online.


I did manage to ask the system how many library cardholders we have in Jefferson County, and I knew the number would be reduced since we deleted all of the school bookmobile accounts.


I was wrong on that one, as we have 31,791 active library cardholders which is an 8 percent increase over the past year.


Those library cards work in other area libraries in Ohio, since we collaborate with libraries in our surrounding counties with East Liverpool joining the network.


Those same library cards that allow you to check out books, DVDs, CDs, Audio Books, and magazines from your local library also provides access to databases and eBooks through the library website.


Those same library cards allow you to search the collaborative library catalog online, and make requests for materials from home or office.


The network is up to 78 library systems with over 6 million items, with 3 more libraries joining the system as you read this.


All of that “stuff” that is requested is pulled from the shelves and moved by 5-days-per-week delivery services among 275 library locations.


Over one-half million items were moved by our library system in canvas bags, laundry tubs, and plastic shipping bins.


Half of those requests are done in our libraries by the public, or by staff upon request, and the other half are done from homes or offices.


Yes, people still check books out of libraries, as well as DVDs and CDs, which accounted for 800,000 checkouts just within our library system.


Then there are the “other” things to be counted.  The number of times that people access databases, and download eBooks, and simply come to the library to use the Internet, or fax something, or get something scanned.


I haven’t gotten to those figures yet.


How about the fellow who used his GPS to locate the nearest public library, so he could check his e-mail and send messages to his corporate office?


Or the person in California who linked to our Local History Department seeking some family history, and we scanned and sent it to him?


Or the people who wanted to honor their friend and relative by using our PayPal account to send their Memorials directly to the library?


Those statistics would never have fit in my 1980s three-ringed binder, and my mimeographed sheet had no place for such transactions!