NAQ on me and public library research

A little followup to yesterday’s post–and if you didn’t already guess, “NAQ” is what a great many FAQ’s should really be called–that is, Never-Asked Questions.

IMLS has released the 2011 public library figures. Wouldn’t your work be more popular if you updated it?

To IMLS’ considerable credit (and I have only good things to say about IMLS and NCES), it put up its survey figures when they were available–not when it had its commentary ready. $4 to $1…is based on the 2011 IMLS data, the most recent available (and makes comparisons to 2009 in some areas).

Do you blame anybody for the lack of public library attention and sales?

Other than myself? No. I admittedly hoped for word-of-mouth publicity, since there’s not a lot I could do directly without spending substantial sums of money, but that clearly didn’t happen. Nor is there any good reason it should have.

Why were you doing public library research anyway?

First, because my heart is in public libraries (although, unlike my wife the librarian, I’ve never worked in one). I thought and hoped that an analysis making it fairly easy to show that public libraries are enormously good values even if you only count the easily countable, and that better-supported libraries offer even more value to their communities, would be valuable to librarians and consultant–and maybe to Friends, to help get better support for libraries.

Second (the selfish reason), because I hoped to get enough feedback and ongoing support that I could do some deeper number-crunching, including longitudinal research (time series), of aspects of countable public library performance that might be worth knowing about. I have a bias toward treating small public libraries as seriously as large ones, and I think that bias would be useful. (In case you weren’t aware: in 2011, three-quarters of America’s public library systems served fewer than 23,000 people, and more than half served fewer than 9,000. Most public libraries are small libraries.)

So why not keep doing it anyway?

First and foremost, because if only four librarians, libraries or others were willing to buy the 2011 book, I’m not reaching anybody with this stuff–and particularly not the smaller libraries. There’s not much point in doing it if it’s of no use. That may be the most important reason.

Second, because while it can be fun, it’s not enough fun to make large efforts reasonable with no income at all. If I had 1,000 fans kicking in $100 (just to be silly), or more plausibly 100 supporters kicking in $50 per year, I’d be inclined to ask them what they thought was worth doing…and pay a lot of attention to those wishes. If half or one-third of those supporters were public library people, I’d probably keep doing some of this, possibly even making it available for free. But I don’t see that happening: an Indiegogo drive was absurdly unsuccessful (and even then, several times as many people were willing to commit money as turned out to be ready to buy the book); my Cites & Insights sponsorship drive is stalled in neutral, having crept forward only 3% of the way toward a plausible goal.

Why don’t you line up a sponsor or grant support?

I did a little looking into grant possibilities. I have no institutional affiliation. Next question? (I could go into more detail, but that’s probably enough.)

Sponsorship would be a great idea. Dunno how that would happen, though–especially since I’m neither an extrovert nor an entrepreneur.

What next?

On the academic library side, I did find a way to make some pointed research both much more widely distributed and worth my time to do.

In general…well, I’m still doing C&I (for now at least), and there are always future possibilities…

Bitter or discouraged?

Bitter, no. Nobody promised they would buy this stuff. Nobody recruited me to do it.

Discouraged–well, obviously, when it comes to this sort of public library research.

Mostly a little disappointed.

Meanwhile, on to the supplementary research on aspects of academic libraries that may interest some librarians, in addition to the core research that’s already done and will appear in late spring. And, to be sure, to reading, TV, polishing the essays for the next C&I, hiking, chores, all that other retirement leisure stuff…


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