Statitics vs perception

I’m the first to admit there are times when I’ve wanted to save a book from weeding just because I like it or think it’s ‘worthy’ somehow. Haven’t we all? Recent news articles about some USA librarians creating fake patrons to borrow books so the books don’t get weeded got me thinking about our own deletion practices in South Taranaki. We use a combination of stats and librarian knowledge, with a base set of guidelines re book age etc.

I spent a lot of time this week delving a bit deeper into our stats, looking at turnover rates for individual collections. I worked out the turnover rate per branch per collection, then the average across the district, and ranked each collection by branch from highest to lowest turnover. Interesting stuff!  

One thing I’ve realised is that what staff say about a collection, and what the stats say, can be *very* different.

 Here’s a couple of examples:

  • One branches staff have said that adult graphics are a bit of a waste of money because they don’t go out. The stats say their branch has the highest turnover rate of adult graphics of any of the seven branches.
  • Another branch was asking for more books in a particular collection because they can’t keep up with demand. The stats say their branch has the lowest turnover rate of all seven branches for that collection and they have 400 title that have not gone out in the last year.

I am not saying they are lying … it’s about our perceptions versus reality.

Where there are simple changes we can do easily, we’re doing them. If a collection is underused in one library and overused in another, we’re shifting x number of titles. For some collections it’s more complicated than that and we’re discussing how to handle it. For example, our main branch needs probably 500 more picture books but is jammed full already while we wait for our new building in about 3 years. We might be able to rearrange some space, or cull a little older material, but really any overly busy collections in Hawera might need to stay that way for now.

The big lesson for me is to take the time and effort to create, then understand, the stats you need; not to rely on perceptions. 2017 is going to be a year of instinct combined with fact-based decisions. If anyone has anything to share re turnover rates, I’d love to hear it.

Holiday programme fun at Waverley with Pam J.

Holiday programme fun at Waverley with Pam J. They made balloon powered land yachts.

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One Response to Statitics vs perception

  1. Thank you for this! Yes, once you run the numbers you really get to see and understand what your collection actually does. When we did our “big weeding project” here at the Benson Memorial Library, a lot of the staff were very surprised to see that certain things they believed checked out did not check out at all! We also got to see that our Youth Services collection generally makes up for about 45-50% of all of our circulation.

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