Circulation numbers at the aren’t down—it just may be that what’s being checked out, and how often it’s being taken out, is changing.
According to library director Joe Galbraith, the library recorded almost exactly the same number of checkouts—the number of times any books, CDs, DVDs, etc. were taken out of the library—in 2010 and 2011: 170,166 and 169,990, respectively.
Not much to see there, according to Galbraith.
However, Monday perhaps tell a different story. Between 2010 and 2011, the number of items checked out of the library multiple times decreased drastically, and the number of items not checked out at all jumped from 46,049 to 83,997. According to Carew’s numbers, which he crunched with Galbraith, a total of 37,568 items weren’t checked out at all in 2010 or 2011.
Carew indicated the numbers reflect a growing trend in library usage: “The electronic media that we’ve been discussing probably has a lot to do with this.”
But Galbraith said some of those numbers are variable, like the percentage of items taken out zero times.
“That number is not significant,” he said. “It might shift.”
What may be significant is how the township uses those numbers to inform its decisions concerning the new library. Carew has some of the library’s undercirculated books in “closed stacks”: an unfinished—and more important to the township, cheaper—section of the library, where they would be less accessible, but still available to the public.
Galbraith has argued against closed stacking, pointing out the majority of library users are browsers, who may take a book off the shelf, flip through its pages, but never check it out. Statistics don’t measure that, he said, and reducing browseability might turn off some library patrons.
He also suggested taking items off the floor could be a drain on library staff, who would then be tasked with going to retrieve them when patrons ask. He used the 37,568 items not checked out between 2010 and 2011 as an example.
“If you put a third of your collection in closed stacking, your staff’s going to be mighty busy,” he said.
Though he and the township may not see eye to eye on the issue, Galbraith said Carew and other members of the township administration have continuously kept him in the loop and sought his counsel.
“I’m more than confident Mr. Carew will be very cautious in thinking this through with me,” Galbraith said, adding he understands where Carew and council are coming from.
“If they could get the moon and the stars for the amount of money they want to spend, they would,” said the library director. “But they’re looking at trying to do something in the most inexpensive way possible. I don’t know that that’s the right approach.”