Thursday, January 27, 2005

Is Usage in Law Libraries Up or Down?

Well, it appears that its a little of both. Blair Kauffman, Professor and Law Library Director at Yale Law School, did an informal survey of law libraries user statistics. The results are fascinating, as Prof Kauffman points out:

"About half the libraries increased and half decreased initial check-outs and total circulation over the past two years. A few libraries, like Georgetown, provided data going back five years, and in at least Georgetown's case, the drop last year may be a blip, as they've bounced up and down over the five-year period. Also, some libraries, like Michigan, provided a wealth of related data, such as number of people entering the library, books reshelved and so on. In Michigan's case, most of these numbers (library entries and books reshelved) increased over the past three years (although check-outs dropped last year). If we all kept data like this in the same manner, the comparison might be a lot more useful. Do we want yet more ABA questionnaire categories? I'm not sure about the usefulness of what we've got here, but it seems to indicate that the use of libraries as measured by circulation is up this year over last at about as many of the reporting libraries as where usage might be down.

The next question is why is it up at some and down at others? Do coffee bars encourage the use of library materials? Pittsburgh (with it's well known coffee lounge) didn't report, but I believe William & Mary has a coffee cart, and they're numbers are off the chart."

A couple of other things should be kept in mind when thinking about and looking over the chart. First, as a rule, law libraries actually circulate very little material. In fact, the vast majority of many libraries only circulate Reserve Materials. Second, it would be helpful to note how such things as seating space, new building projects, full-time/part-time programs, etc., relates to library usage.

You can look at a PDF version of Prof. Kauffman's Excel chart here on my "Irregular Page". (So named for its irregular contents..... Wipe that smirk off your face!)

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Are Librarians Dodo Birds?

Professor Roy Mersky thinks not! Read his insightful comment, written with the assistance of Ronda Haskins, "In the Age of Google, will libraries become extinct?" published last year in the Austin American-Statesman. A true gem, the article makes some very good observations about the future. For one thing, without saying it explicitly, he observes that virtually the sole area where the web has displaced traditional library materials is in the area of ready reference. I agree. Perhaps the only types of materials that have met their match with the web are encyclopedias, almanacs and dictionaries. Although the jury is still out about how well they supplant these things. Just try to look up online the spelling of a word you can't remember how to spell!

Sunday, January 16, 2005

"Access by Google," Comment on Library Journal - Almost insightful

Library Journal's Editorial for this month attempts to address the "Google" phenomenon. But clearly the editor, Francine Fialkoff, misses the point. She frets about copyright issues, damage to print materials, and sees sales of books as a major concern for Google's project.

The point she misses is that while Amazon's Search Inside the Book feature has resulted in increased sales for Amazon, the analogy for libraries is that the Google service will likely result in patrons coming to the library to read the books that aren't readily available in the marketplace! It is my firm belief that a patron that finds Blackstone on Google, won't download the full text to his/her computer or handheld and read it in electronic format; rather, they will most likely either print it out or go the library and check it out. Printing the classic work will take reams of paper, and purchasing it will cost more than most consumers want to pay for an academic read.

I think that the time is ripe for libraries to begin thinking about expanding reading rooms. Particularly in their rare book rooms!