Archived Story

Numbers tell library’s story [UPDATED]

Published 9:35am Friday, February 8, 2013 Updated 11:49am Friday, February 8, 2013

Each year Minnesota public libraries complete an annual report for State Library Services.

Now, I can’t speak for my fellow librarians, but number crunching is not necessarily my favorite job duty (perhaps an understatement…) However, numbers can tell a powerful story and the annual report often does just that.

Libraries count the number of items they check out each year, the number of visits made to the library, the number of times people use library computers and so on. As technology continues to shape how we access and use information, the statistics gathered in the library field evolve to reflect new services as well. In 2012, as we did in 2011, we counted the number of eBooks and eAudiobooks checked-out, for example.

I am currently compiling statistics and will report on the complete set of numbers in a later column, but I wanted to take the opportunity this week to share some of the trends revealed in the initial numbers:

• Check-out of physical materials (print books, DVDs, etc.) remains steady.

• Check-out of eBooks and eAudiobooks continues to grow as we add more titles for checkout.

• Attendance at library-sponsored programs has grown by at least 35 percent over the last 5 years.

• In 2012, we counted 152,235 visits to the library; the most visits in at least six years.

• Demand for use of our meeting room and study room spaces is on the rise.

These numbers tell a good story for the library and also reveal some trends. More people are taking advantage of our digital services, programs, and the library space, in general. As staff, we can “feel” these trends at the library as well.

For example, as we did in 2011, following the 2012 holiday season, we offered more technology training classes on eReaders (Kindles, Nooks, etc.) and tablets (iPads, etc.) and one-on-one tech appointments for people who received a device as a gift. We were able to help over 100 people during the month of January access and effectively use their new devices.

Technology continues to shape how information is created, delivered and found. At the library, we will continue to respond to the changes by offering equal access to and instruction on the advanced technologies community members need to succeed, learn, and engage in today’s digital society.

In addition, a recent national survey revealed that while many library patrons are excited to see libraries offer more digital services, they also feel physical books will remain a core library service well into the future. Interestingly, it appears our numbers reveal a similar feeling.

What library services are important to you? In late March, the Library Renewal Task Force will launch a library survey and we hope you’ll tell us what you think about current and potential future library services. I’ll admit, I am already excited to crunch those numbers and see what kind of story they have to tell.

See you at the library.


Erin Smith is the director for the Fergus Falls Public Library.

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