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.

Thursday, February 3, 2005

February 3, 2005 - statistics

I realize this isn't normal, but I really looked forward to reviewing last year's library statistics.

Here's the first big number: for the first time in our history, we checked out over 4 million items. We are now very close (within a couple hundred thousand) to the levels of activity of Arapahoe and Jefferson County, both of which are larger than we are.

I have called the directors of both library systems to put them on notice. Heh heh.

Here's a broad breakdown of our checkouts in 2004:

* Adult fiction and nonfiction books - a little over 30 percent of our business.
* Audiovisual (movies and music) - a little under 30 percent.
* Kids' books (picture, fiction, non-fiction, teen): 40 percent.

That means roughly 70 percent of what people check out is print.

But AV is definitely the up and comer: it only accounts for about 13 percent of our total holdings, but generates 30 percent of our checkouts. Of course, you can watch a movie faster than you can read an adult book.

I, for one, am thrilled that our biggest crowd-pleaser is print for youth. That accounts for about a quarter of our collection, but 40 percent of our business. We have parents (you know who you are!) who check out 20 books a week per child. The books are thin, and parents and children move through them quickly.

Reading aloud, incidentally, is a wonderful way to bond with children, and may be the best investment in their developing minds a parent can make. We may be moving a lot of AV stuff, but children's books build the essential skill of literacy.

In 2004, over 2.5 million patron walked through our doors. So on average, those visits worked out to about 1.6 checkouts apiece. Of course, not everybody who comes to the library does check something out.

"Virtual visits" -- to our website -- were over half a million. The hits to our web pages were over 13 million.

While there are differences in the activity levels of our branches, there are far more commonalities. The greatest single predictor of activity is the population of the area.

That makes sense, as population drives the size of our facilities, and the facilities determine how much "stuff" we can offer.

There are some consistent ratios of activity, though. In general, most of our branches have about one reference question per 20 checkouts. (And reference transactions do tend to take longer than a checkout.)

Our programming attendance by age tends to be similar, too: an average of about 25 kids for kid programs, 11 teens for Young Adult programs, and 11 adults for adult programs.

District-wide, we now have 653,153 items, or a little over 2.6 items per capita. Over 72 percent of the households have and use at least one library card.

In general, we saw an increase in most measures of our service:

* checkouts - up 9.6 percent over last year
* reference (answering questions in person, over the phone, or online) - up 32 percent
* program attendance -- rising for adults, stabilizing for young children, and apparently falling for teens. That's a little puzzling, and we're still trying to figure that out. On the other hand, we OFFER more programs for everybody, and the number of community meetings is climbing very fast.
* volunteer and tutor hours. Volunteerism is up 7.4%, and our literacy tutors are up 43 percent!

All in all, I would say that 2004 was a winner, a milestone in the life of a library district. Thank you for your obvious interest in quality library service!

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