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A Hefty Slice

January 16, 2012

When library staff explored the reporting features of our new library catalog, they printed a pie chart of circulation for December 2011. They were stunned by the hefty slice for DVD checkouts.

DVDs accounted for 36% of December’s circulation. This happens to accord with the experience of many libraries, but I guess I never mentioned a number to the staff, who would merely note the visceral experience of checking in and re-shelving billions and billions of DVDs.

However, a year ago in December 2010, DVD circulation was—ta-da! —35% of the total. We’ve been there for a while. Some library budgets mirror this kind of use: 1/3 each to audio-video, children’s materials, and adult books.

We’re not there. We currently spend about 20% of our budget on video. This year, we’ll also begin buying e-books. I know some of you have already been borrowing e-books through the Marmot Overdrive collection.

Marmot is the name of the library network we joined in December; Overdrive is the name of an e-book lending service that most libraries use (although we’re watching the development of new services, including a pilot project involving Marmot).

We felt hardly any pressure to provide e-books until after Christmas 2010, when many people got e-readers, mostly Kindles. But Kindles could not borrow library e-books because of restrictions designed into the Kindle by Amazon.

That changed this past October, when Kindle e-books became available through Overdrive. And it changed for our library users in December when we joined Marmot. Many people were chomping at the bit to borrow e-books.

Of course, it isn’t as if everything, or even just our small library’s collection, magically became available in e-book form. The books have to be available as e-books; they have to be bought.

Note that there are many free e-books available outside the library. We have a list of sites on our website under Books & Literature. Of course, those books are usually out-of-copyright works, often the classics. But it’s about time you read Moby Dick anyway.

If you don’t agree, read “Why read Moby Dick?” by Nathaniel Philbrick, who wrote “In the Heart of the Sea” about the whaleship Essex that was sunk by a rogue sperm whale, the event echoed in Moby Dick.

“Why read Moby Dick?” is a brief but fascinating book.  I’ve pulled L’s heavily annotated copy of Moby Dick from the shelves at home. I’m ready to go, after I finish a couple of books I bought at Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon. Now there’s a Mecca for readers. It’s also called City of Books, and that’s just what it’s like.

But I digress. Some of you keep reading lists, and some of you kept them in your account on our old catalog system. Right now, you can still recover those lists. Get in touch with me, and I’ll send you the link you need. Do it soon. I’m not sure how long it will remain accessible.

We continue our campaign to add email addresses to our patron accounts. If you use email, we would love to send you notices, such as hold or overdue notices, by email. This will save us a great many phone calls to alert you of holds waiting and a great many stamps for overdue notices.

The system will also send you a pre-overdue or courtesy notice three days before items are due. We can save on stamps, and you can save on fines.

Hmm. Maybe there is such a thing as win-win.

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