Message to the community from Luren E. Dickinson:
Two years ago when I began working at Shaker Heights Public Library, there was a dramatic shift in the public’s preference for video materials. More people were beginning to borrow DVDs from the library instead of videotapes. Within six months of this discovery, the rate of usage was even. In another six months, DVDs accounted for almost three-quarters of the videos borrowed.
While non-print materials have become increasingly popular in recent years, the number of books checked out by the public has also continued to rise. A review of usage figures for the past few years, however, seems to indicate that non-print materials may surpass print materials (including books and magazines) this year. While it is still too early to get an accurate measure, usage of non-print materials is 6% ahead of print usage through the first third of the year.
Print material usage beat non-print usage by 4% in 2004. This margin dropped to less than 1% in 2005, but grew to more than a 2% advantage in 2006. Many print materials, especially children’s books, are circulated during the summertime, so there may be a surge during the summer reading program. In terms of overall library use, the number of items being checked out by the public, both print and non-print, continues to grow.
Throughout the CLEVNET Library Consortium, a new method of counting loans of library materials allows us to get a better picture of actual circulation transactions. The old method of counting considered only items owned by Shaker Heights Public Library. The new method counts every item that users check out at our circulation desks, no matter which library owns it, and also includes “back door” circulation – that is, the number of items we lend to other CLEVNET members. More than a quarter of the items we lent between January and April were handled in the receiving room as they arrived from or were shipped to other libraries, and that figure doesn’t count items shipped between the Main Library and the Bertram Woods Branch!
As it turns out, the Shaker Heights Public Library is a “net lender” among CLEVNET libraries, meaning that we lend more materials to our partners than we receive from them– about 50% more! Using the new method of counting, circulation activity for the first four months of this year has risen by 25% over the same period last year. Even according to our old method of counting, circulation is up by 11% over last year. Since we also made some changes to lending policies in spring of last year, and we’re not comparing apples-to-apples in the counting, it’s difficult to say if this early trend of double-digit increases will continue. By the year’s end, we should get a fuller picture of how 2007 compares to 2006. What we do know is that we seem to be busier than ever!
Another type of non-print transaction that has not been measured with any regularity is the use of electronic resources, such as licensed databases or downloadable materials that do not get “checked out” and counted like other non-print materials. Several states have begun establishing statistical standards for electronic resources, but because there is no federal standard, most states, including Ohio have not done so. The numbers are small now, with just a few thousand uses during the year for all of these “e-resources,” but they are bound to rise in the future as long as libraries can afford to fund them. This was a main topic of the May 21 Library Partnership Summit that brought together academic, public, and school library directors throughout the state.
Public libraries across Ohio have been in a funding freeze since the year 2000 and we are now
hoping for additional support. The Governor’s proposed budget, which continues the freeze through December, will be challenged before the Senate Finance Committee in June. A joint letter from the Ohio Library Council, the Ohio Municipal League, the County Commissioners Association of Ohio, the Ohio Township Association, and the Ohio Parks and Recreation Association is asking the Senate to follow the recommendation of the Local Government and Library Revenue Distribution Task Force to end the freeze at midyear and incorporate a 3% increase into the new funding mechanism. The biennial budget must be approved by June 30.
While we continue to follow trends, adapt to change, and plan for our future, our constant goal is to keep our library growing with materials in the many formats you may choose.
Luren E. Dickinson,