REAL PUBLIC LIBRARIAN

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Statistics

It's that time of year again- annual statistical returns are due. While we are collecting and collating statistics all the time - for the quarterly reports to Council in particular but also just to collect stats about things we are just monitoring or curious about - it's quite an exercise to massage the figures for an outside third party (in my case, the State Library). (Actually that sounds a bit shifty, I'm not implying that I'm falsifying the stats in any way, it's just that the State Library wants stats in a slightly different format to how we collect them internally for our own information.) A lot hangs on how easy it is to extract the appropriate stats from your LMS - and from the emails I see on the Spydus list I think I can say that we all suffer the same anxieties - is our system really giving us reliable stats? Especially if your stats have fallen mysteriously, as many on the list have been noting. Or is it so mysterious? Are we actually (horrors) just lending fewer items? Well, that seems to be true for us. After what seems like decades of steady increases year to year (varying between 2-12% with a population increase of between 2 and 6%), I think the trend is definately establishing itself in the downward direction, despite steady population increases. It seems to be a state/national/international trend. So for instance, our total loans* for the last few years have looked like this:

03/04: 335,618; 04/05: 342,491; 05/06: 333,360; 06/07: 321,19

*Not including renewals. Although the State Library likes us to report on total loans INCLUDING renewals, for my own purposes I obstinately stick to "first loan" figures only. I just feel it's cheating to count renewals, since they are pretty much done automatically or increasingly by the borrowers themselves. And the figures with renewals will differ from library to library depending on loan period and how many renewals are allowed - this is just my little foible. No-one else cares.

Not so dramatic changes, and probably statistically insignificant at this stage, but still it was nice in the past to be able to point to consistently rising loan statistics (but of course now we point to rising Internet usage and attendances at library programs).

One of the interesting parts of the stats was collating the "Collection Performance" figures. Here's some interesting comparisons:

The top 7 collections ranked by absolute usage were:

1. Adult Fiction 33% of total loans
2.Adult non fiction 17%
3. Junior fiction 12%
4. Magazines 11%
5. Large print 9%
6. Music CDs 6%
7 DVDs 4%

That means that Adult Fiction and Adult Non-Fiction still accounted for 50% of total lending activity; print accounted for 86% of total loan activity, and av/audio/video accounted for 14% of total lending.

Here's some of the performance of our "minor" collections:

Adult Fiction Romance - 1.8% of total loans
Adult Sci Fi - 1.9%
Westerns - a whopping 2.4%! (Still lots of gentlemen who devour this genre, though logic tells us with the aging demographic this figure must surely be starting to drop!)
Graphic Novels - 1.7%
Young Adult - 1.6%
Junior Non-Fiction (a disappointing but not unexpected - hardly any kids need JNF for "assignments" any more, most JNF loans are for extracurricula interests) - 2.1%

The "hardest working" collection was the DVDs, with each item averaging 10.8 loans within the 12 months; closely followed by the Westerns (!?!!) (6.8); the music CDs (5.8); and a new entry from the fairly new graphic novel collection with 734 items being borrowed 4067 times averaging 5.5 loans each (and a lot more being read in house without being charged at verbYL).

So in summary, print is still a massively important part of our current business; with quality AV and electronic resources an important complement to our offering.