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!)


Bonnie Shucha said...

There are a couple of interesting articles along these lines in the March 17th issue of the New England Journal of Medicine: "Quiet in the Library" and "2015 - the Future of Medical Libraries" Although they focus on medical libraries, the most of the issues are applicable to law libraries also. Note the mention of coffee being served in the future library.

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