How to improve your library’s statistics…

The problem with the justification for library closures is that it relies heavily on two statistics:

1) library usage – the number of visits to the library
2) number of issues.

Most heavily relied upon are the usage statistics as everyone knows that people don’t just use the library for books. Of course, these statistics are misleading as many of the services that once required a visit are now available online. Take for example book renewals or reservations. Every year, more and more people use the library website to renew items or reserve books. It is therefore natural that there should be a slight decline. Why visit the library to renew or reserve when you can do it online?

Visits also don’t take into account reduced hours. If the library’s hours are cut, there will obviously be less visits. Which would then lead to the council suggesting the library is underused and should be closed.

So visiting statistics are misleading and inaccurate. They also, however, have a weak spot and one which can be exploited in some cases. For example, many libraries have an automatic counter near the front entrance. This counts each time someone walks in and out. These figures are collected at the end of the day and used to signify total visits. Now, some people (not me I might add) would suggest it may be a good idea to look out for these machines and wave your hand past them a few times upon entering. This would obviously increase the total visits at the library in a misleading way (much like the way the current figures are misleading) and should not be condoned in any way. Obviously.

Another thing worth considering is taking back the books in phases rather than all in one go. Return them in two trips rather than one doubles your visits and if everyone did this there would be a marked rise in visits.

Also, when taking out books at the library, why not take out an extra one or two? It doesn’t matter if you read them, it just helps boost the figures. Take out any old book, doesn’t matter what, and you will be helping to strengthen the case against future closure.

These are just a couple of things worth trying. Who knows, if everyone did these things maybe we’d make it harder for councils to justify closing public libraries across the country.

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3 thoughts on “How to improve your library’s statistics…

  1. Also, if one is a smoker and were to take say, 35 smoke breaks a day..one could go out the front entrance and then walk around the building to smoke. Thus, increasing the count on the machine up front. I mean, if one were to do such things…

  2. The problem is that the two statistics you highlight (visits and book issues) are not enough on their own to demonstrate library use and value. The number of active borrowers would be a useful one, as would the ‘churn’ in active borrowers. Analysis of visit data could show how to increase visitors and decrease opening hours by making opening hours match service users better (this assumes that there is a miss-match) but it may be at the price of substituting existing users for new ones. You also need to look at a lot of the data at individual library level – for library services overall, it is fairly common to see a decrease in library visits each year, but in many cases hours have been cut or libraries closed. It may be that if you compared like with like, that visits have not decreased. Basically, the picture is complicated and the analysis of library service use and value shouldn’t be oversimplified.

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