Sunday, July 06, 2008


So maybe it's the fact that my walk tonight was just me and Turbo. And poor Turbo wasn't going fast-- the humidity gets to him.

For whatever reason, I started to think about push to merchandise libraries like bookstores phenomenon. I've had this nagging doubt in the back of my head ever since I was first acquainted with the idea. Tonight it stopped being wisps of thoughts swirling around my head and turned more concrete.

My problem is that it thinks of libraries purely as a business, with our capitol being purely circulation. While it IS true that many cities and counties use circulation data in their funding decisions for libraries, it is not as simple as 1 circ = x dollars. The circulation data is primarily used to give an overall picture of use.

At PLA, I heard Cathy De Rosa give a talk about an OCLC study on library referenda and how the patrons that are most likely to vote to fund libraries are not the primary users, but the users that have had a library experience that really changed their life. Circulation really isn't a good measure of that kind of experience.

I'm not knocking the value of having a welcoming, comfortable space-- I see the need for that, too. But I don't think that extra book someone is grabbing off a display on their way to checkout is what is going to make or break libraries. Changing people's lives will. That is not the corporate goal of Barnes and Noble or Borders-- number of units moved is. Can we now stop pretending like they are our competition?