This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Wednesday, May 16, 1990

May 16, 1990 - Who reads what?

Library statistics are like community fingerprints. No two communities use a library in quite the same way.

The number of people registered for library cards is a good index of a community's interest in literacy and education. In Douglas County almost half the population of the county has a library card. As is true throughout the country, most of our library users (70% in Douglas County) are women.

Now for the really interesting question: what do the people of Douglas County like to read?

Douglas County's libraries keep track of 31 different statistical categories for our materials. But just four of those categories account for about 75% of our business.

Based on the number of checkouts, the number one category at every library branch is kid's picture books. The percentages of our total circulation vary from a low of 27% at Philip S. Miller (where we have our biggest collection of adult materials), to a high of 37% at Oakes Mill.

The use of children's pre-school books speaks very highly of Douglas County library users. As I've written in an earlier column, children exposed to books early on in life are far more likely to become readers. There is no simpler, cheaper investment in your children's intellectual (and recreational) future than to get them in the habit of going to the library. Obviously, many of you already know that.
The second, third, and fourth biggest categories jockey for position at each of the agencies. Overall, adult non-fiction accounts for 20% of our circulation. Adults read non-fiction to learn how to do things or stay current; younger people use the non-fiction collections for school assignments. Providing up-to-date factual material about a broad range of subjects is a major responsibility of the public library.

The third busiest collection is adult fiction, accounting for about 15% of our business overall. This number combines various other smaller categories you might call "reading for fun": new fiction, older fiction, paperback fiction, and genre fiction (westerns, mysteries, science fiction, etc.).

The fourth best-used collection isn't books at all. This is the up-and-comer in library services: videotapes. Overall, videos account for almost 9% of our business -- 13% at Oakes Mill. We're not talking, necessarily, the kinds of movies you see in rental stores. We have a fairly extensive collection of children's videos, how-tos, and science videos, such as the popular Nova series.

The other categories -- combining with the top four to account for over 95% of our circulation -- also have a lot of overlap from branch to branch. The biggies are children's fiction, periodicals, and audiotapes (books on cassette, old radio programs, and the like).

The main use of Douglas County libraries continues to be books: still the most convenient package for information and reading pleasure. But we are making way for newer materials in keeping with technological advances (videotapes) and changing lifestyles (audiotapes -- read while you drive!).

Statistics are more than just interesting. At the Douglas County Public Library System, we use these numbers to determine how much money to put into different categories -- matching your tax investment with your demonstrated interests.

You can count on it.

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