Archive for the 'Cites & Insights' Category

Important, useful, used, interesting: Part 2

Posted in Books and publishing, Cites & Insights on May 7th, 2013

Before getting on to the challenging items, here are a few cases where there wasn’t much question as to an item’s importance or usefulness:

  • Old movie reviews (what used to be Offtopic Perspectives): Purely for fun, and no, I don’t plan to gather them all together, add an index and publish them. Not a chance. Nor do I plan to stop doing them until the movies run out (and unless something happens I’m down to the last…hmmm…240 or so, so that could happen in 2-3 years).
  • The Back in Cites & Insights–I hope it’s interesting, I know it’s fun, it’s rarely of any importance.

Mildly tricky cases

Then there are cases where I thought something was either important or usefully interesting, but couldn’t see it being either long enough or used enough to be anything but a Cites & Insights essay. With those, I’m always interested in tracking apparent readership. For example:

  • The pieces demolishing the myth that public libraries are closing down all over the place. I thought that work was important, but it’s only useful if someone’s raising that particular nonsense. So it belonged in C&I (I think–it was too long for one of the trade journals). Readership of those issues has been solid (2,400 to 2,500 between articles and issues, through the end of last year). Was the point made? Damned if I know.
  • Academic library circulation: I thought this was interesting, and it turned out that the common knowledge was offbase. Still…not really book material (I don’t think), especially because it wouldn’t be directly useful and it’s probably more interesting than important. The odd thing here is that the March 2013 readership, so far, has been considerably lower than either of the two OA issues before it–but also considerably below the “mostly random pieces” issue after it. (As in: through the weekend, 990 downloads for 13:1, 1149 for 13:2, 914 for 13:4–but only 573 for 13:3, the one on academic library circulation). Still–573 readers isn’t bad, and the readership will continue to grow.
  • The Mythical Average Public Library: This was fun for me and interesting. Important? Useful? Dunno. So far–and it’s really early yet–it’s doing OK.

Were all of those worth doing? Were any of them important enough to deserve something more prominent than publication in an odd venue such as Cites & Insights? I don’t have ready answers.

And those are the relatively easy cases. Maybe more about tough cases–and one potential case in particular–in another installment.

Oh, meanwhile and slightly off-topic: Thanks to whoever picked up not only The Big Deal and the Damage Done but also Graphing Public Library Benefits, Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-13)…and Library 2.0: A Cites & Insights Reader and Open Access and Libraries. Hope you find them all worthwhile. (I’m assuming that was a single order, although I really don’t know that.) If you’re considering me for some possible work that I might be suitable for…well, the email address is



Important, useful, used, interesting: Part 1

Posted in C&I Books, Cites & Insights on May 6th, 2013

This is the first of what may be several introspective posts that others may or may not find too introspective to be worthwhile. Consider yourself warned.

Write What You Want

A colleague–one of the many LSW-FF folks who I’ve learned from, argued with and generally counted on to keep me from turning into a complete hermit–said a while back that I should just take on those projects that really interest me, ‘cuz (and I’m paraphrasing here) there was no plausible way to anticipate whether anybody else would find them worth doing or the results worth paying for.

It was good advice. I sometimes remember to take it. That and other advice convinced me to drop the Liblog and library blog series as just not being worth the effort.

The last two books in the Liblog series are still available–The Liblog Landscape 2007-2010 and But Still They Blog: The Liblog Landscape 2007-2009–and, for that matter, The Liblog Landscape 2007-2008 is still available on Amazon (the CreateSpace edition).

You could say that I ran the Liblog series into the ground. I probably wouldn’t argue the point. I’ve toyed with the idea of doing a tenth-anniversary look (my first, very partial, examination of liblogs was in 2005, so that would be next year, 2014, although I could also wait until 2016 or 2017 and use 2007 as a starting point), but it’s really unlikely that I’ll do it. Blogs are old hat (still useful, but part of the background) and it would be a lot more work than it’s worth.

That’s partly a digression (something I specialize in, especially in blog posts) but it also suggests that there’s a little more to the equation than just “write what I want.”

Important, useful, used, interesting, fun

Thus the formulation in the post title–and I’ve added a fifth element: fun.

As I’m looking back at what I’ve been doing and consider what I might do, assuming that nobody comes swooping in with an offer that makes guaranteed dollars a significant part of the equation, I think it boils down to these five elements to answer two questions:

  1. Is X worth [investigating or writing about]?
  2. If the answer to X is yes, how should the results appear?

#2 could be stated as a multiple-choice test: Should the results appear as…

  • One or more Friendfeed or LSW-Friendfeed items?
  • One or more blog posts?
  • A single or multipart essay in Cites & Insights?
  • A self-published book?
  • A commercially-published book?
  • Some combination of the above

When it comes to the third, fourth and fifth possibilities, another set of questions–much less easy to answer than the first two–come into play:

  • Will it be well-read?
  • If it’s self-published, will it draw enough sales to make it worth the trouble?
  • If the intent is for it to be commercially published, will a publisher find it salable–and will they be right?


I may get back into the “self-published vs. commercially-published” issue in a later post–it’s complicated, as it also involves my lack of marketing expertise and the status of self-published books.

(I was reminded again of the special role of self-publishing in Christopher Harris’ column **see below** today at The Digital Shift in which he basically writes off all self-published books as worthless, especially since there are so many traditionally-published books. Yes, he’s talking about school libraries, but it’s still a pretty sneering look at anything other than Big Traditional Publishers, especially as he explicitly equates “so-called independent publishers” with self-publishing. Oh, and seems to say that “adult fiction” is automatically erotica, and that’s what “so-called independent publishers” are all about. He may be talking about K12 but he explicitly generalizes his lesson to all libraries: “I just can’t believe that self-publishing is ever going to be the next big thing for libraries. Not when there are so many other great books still waiting to be read from the expert and established publishers with whom we already work.” Thanks a lot, Christopher.)

Anyway: One way to recast the set of questions that I probably should explicitly ask myself is this. I’ll offer this, then–for the sake of (hah!) brevity–just give one example. Later, if I’m inspired, I’ll come back to some other cases and the questions that arise.

As with most of my blog posts, this one isn’t even getting the level of self-editing that C&I and my Lulu books get. It’s stream-of-blather, which is like stream of consciousness but following a really good lunch.

  • If X is fun but not very important, and not fun enough to attract paying readers, it belongs in C&I (and doesn’t deserve a lot of time).
  • If X is interesting but not something people will find directly useful, it probably belongs in C&I. (I have explicit examples of that.)
  • If X is clearly useful and really too long or Big for C&I, it probably belongs as a book–but “useful” doesn’t guarantee “used” (and purchased).
  • When something seems important but it’s not clear how directly useful my treatment can be–then the questions are really difficult.

As noted, future posts may deal with examples of several of these and other permutations. For now, I’ll look at the current case–one that I’m 100% certain is important, 90% certain is useful, much less certain will be widely purchased and read, and that is too big for C&I.

Case #1

Namely, The Big Deal and the Damage Done. [That's the $16.50 paperback. Here's a link to the $9.99 PDF ebook, having the same no-DRM policy my PDFs have always had.]

Important? Absolutely. (For more info, read the post introducing it–it really has been out only five days since I announced it!]

Interesting? I think so, or I wouldn’t have done it.

Useful? That’s up to readers; I believe that knowing the details of the situation is useful.

Used/read? We’ll see. It’s off to a plausible start–a couple of sales a day, mostly ebooks, which is fine with me (in some ways, the PDF is a superior version, since it has color in the graphs).

Would it have made sense for a traditional publisher? I honestly don’t see how, especially given timing issues. Nor would I be willing to try to convince a publisher that they could sell, say, 600-800 copies at $45 a shot.

Which then leads to a question that came up this weekend: What would it take to make the book freely available (in ebook form)–that is, downloadable for $0.00 rather than $9.99?

If I was doing sponsored research–being paid up-front–the question might not arise: I’d be delighted to see it made freely available. My best guess, trying to estimate the time I spent on the report, is that about $4,000 worth of work (at a relatively cheap consulting/contractor rate) was involved.

If some group offered me $4,000 to make the book available for free in PDF form, I’d probably take it. And, significantly (especially if there was another guaranteed sum), I’d almost certainly do the 2012 followup that may or may not be more depressing and even more important.

But that’s just the latest example–one where I’m nearly certain the publication is important and should be read by quite a few people, but can’t show how it would be directly useful to their everyday life.

Was it fun to do? Well, it was interesting…and there’s another project still very much up in the air, which, if I do it, would benefit from the experience of doing this one.

Anyway, that’s the end of the musing for today. More later. Maybe tomorrow, maybe later this week, maybe weeks or months from now…

1,258 words. A really good editor could turn this into a nice crisp 200 words, I suspect. Hooray for good editing!

**Re the Harris column, on rereading it for a third time: Yes, he’s primarily talking about K12 libraries, and yes, they have different problems, but he still throws in some unwarranted generalizations and, in his final paragraph, certainly seems to be referring to all libraries. I’ll certainly be warned against ever trying to do anything that addresses school library issues, if Harris’ attitude is typical–but I wasn’t likely to do that anyway.

Cites & Insights 13:6 (June 2013) available

Posted in Cites & Insights on May 1st, 2013

The June 2013 Cites & Insights (13:6) is now available for downloading from

The issue is available as a 42-page print-oriented two-column PDF or an 81-page single-column 6×9″ online-oriented PDF.

You might think of this as a side-effect issue, as both pieces grow out of work done for the Open Access preconference I did at the Washington/Oregon Library Associations joint conference last week:

The Front: The Big Deal and the Damage Done: Available Now  (pg.1)

The Big Deal and the Damage Done ($9.99 PDF ebook, $16.50 paperback) is a study of U.S. academic library spending between 2000 and 2010 for current serials, books (and all other acquisitions), and everything else–showing the effects of Big Deals and other constantly-rising serials prices. It looks at libraries by size, by sector and by Carnegie classification. The damage done? Primarily to the humanities and other fields that depend on monographs, to the ability of libraries to maintain the record of human creativity–and to library flexibility to do anything except write checks for current serials. (20% off through May 2, 2012, using code SILEO at checkout.)

Intersections: Hot Times for Open Access (pp. 1-42)

Mid-December 2012 through March 2013 has had a lot going on with OA–enough that I abandoned my plan to ignore OA for the rest of 2013 (after devoting most of the January and February 2013 issues to the topic).

This roundup looks at current issues in defining the terms, CC BY, the Gold and the Green, problems, OA in general, specific recent developments, the White House actions, OA in the humanities and social sciences, direct actions and libraries.

Three-quarters of public libraries are above average–and below average

Posted in Cites & Insights on April 16th, 2013

Just for fun, here’s one of the stranger facts from “The Mythical Average Public Library,” otherwise known as the May 2013 Cites & Insights (links for both the two-column and one-column version are here).

There’s one derived measure for FY2010 for which both of these statements are true:

  • More than three-quarters of U.S. public libraries measure above average for the measure.
  • Just under three-quarters of U.S. public libraries (72.3%) are below average for the measure.

And it’s the same measure.

How is that possible? The first average is the national overall average for the measure. The second is the library average: The average of all library figures for this derived measure.

What’s the measure? You’ll find it on page 18 of the two-column version, page 37 of the one-column version.

I think you’ll also find the essay as a whole interesting and perhaps informative. Give it a try.


Cites & Insights May 2013 (13:5) available

Posted in Cites & Insights on April 2nd, 2013

The May 2013 issue of Cites & Insights (volume 13, number 5) is now available for downloading at

[If you want a shorter URL, will also work.]

The two-column PDF version is 28 pages long, The 6×9″ single-column version, designed and optimized for e-reading, is 60 pages long.

Unless you plan to print out the issue, the single-column version may be preferable: the issue includes 31 graphs, each of which is nearly twice as large (40% wider, 40% taller) in that version, frequently with more detail.

The issue consists of one essay:

Libraries: The Mythical Average Public Library

There is no such thing as the average library. That may be obvious–but you might be surprised at just how far away from average most measures for most libraries are. For that matter, for any derivative measure, which average is average?

This essay discusses averages and a few low-level statistical terms, then shows where American public libraries stand–not only for 2010 (the most recent IMLS data) but for changes from 2009 to 2010. I believe you’ll find it revealing and interesting.

Announcement links now go to the home page, where I hope you’ll note “Pay what you wish” before going on to the issue itself.

Thank you also

Posted in Cites & Insights on March 16th, 2013

A followup to this brief post:

Another donation to support Cites & Insights received, for which I am also grateful.

Thank you.

You might think of C&I not so much as a free ejournal but as a “Pay what you wish” ejournal. I receive no ad revenue, grant funding, sponsorship or other support beyond Paypal donations. And, to be sure, I have no salary or other steady sources of earnings either (there’s a little royalty now and then, but “little” is the appropriate term).

I’ve tried a variety of library-related initiatives, so far without much success. I love doing C&I and participating in the field, although financially I’d be much better off finding a part-time job stocking shelves at Costco or greeting people at Home Depot. (Thanks in part to the Fed’s ongoing campaign of punishing any elders or others so foolish as to actually save money and forcing us to be risk-takers, “financially” continues to be an issue, maybe more so than a couple of years ago.)

So I particularly appreciate these payments. Who knows? Someday I might be able to justify going back to ALA…or to some other conference where I’m not being paid to speak.

Thank you!

Posted in Cites & Insights on March 11th, 2013

Just a quick note: I received two donations for Cites & Insights today.

Both are appreciated.


Cites & Insights 13:4 (April 2013) available

Posted in Cites & Insights on March 8th, 2013

After three Big Serious Issues in a row, and with a Big Serious Essay on the Mythical Public Library coming up in May, it’s time for a little break…

The April 2013 Cites & Insights (13:4) is now available for downloading at

It’s 34 pages.

The 6×9″ single-column “online version,” optimized for e-reading, is also available at and is 63 pages.

The issue includes:

The Front (pp. 1-2)

The Year of Both? My possibly-too-hopeful sense that more and more sensible people, and even some pundits, are recognizing that ebooks and print books are both likely to have substantial roles going forward.

The Middle: Deathwatch 2013! (pp. 2-19)

Catching up with the doomcryers (excluding print books–but see below).

Words: The Death of Books (or Not)  (pp. 19-27)

 What it says.

The Back (pp. 27-34)

Catching up with miscellaneous snarkiness through 2011 (and more recently for magazine items).


17 Categories of Academic Library Where Most Have Growing Circulation

Posted in Cites & Insights, Libraries on February 25th, 2013

People seem to love lists, so here’s one: Seventeen categories of academic library (some of them overlapping) where most libraries (with any circulation at all) had more circulation in 2010 than in 2008. (I’m leaving out an eighteenth, “all of them”—but that would also be a true statement.)

  1. Academic institutions in the Great Lakes states: IL, IN, MI, OH, WI. This region includes 501 libraries serving 2,307,450 FTE with 22,915,607 circulation. Of those, 251 (50.1%) had more overall circulation in FY2010.
  2. Academic institutions in the Southwest: AZ, NM, OK, TX. This region includes 297 libraries serving 1,544,746 FTE with 14,685,903 circulation. Of those libraries, 150 (50.5%) had growing overall circulation.
  3. Academic institutions in the Southeast: AL, AR, FL, GA, KY, LA, MS, NC, SC, TN, VA, WV. This region includes 828 libraries serving 3,499,810 FTE with 25,587,943. Of those libraries, 428 (51.6%) had growing overall circulation.
  4. Schools of art, music and design. This group includes 92 libraries serving 148,590 FTE with 2,281,734 circulation. Forty-eight of the libraries (52.2%) grew in total circulation.
  5. Health profession schools other than medical schools and medical centers—e.g., institutions that award most of their degrees in fields such as chiropractic, nursing, pharmacy or podiatry. This category includes 84 libraries serving 69,342 FTE with 504,641 circulation. Forty-four of those (52.3%) grew in total circulation.
  6. Institutions where bachelor’s degrees represent at least 10 percent but less than half of undergraduate degrees. This group includes 80 libraries serving 226,661 FTE with 1,108,987 circulation. Forty-two of the libraries (52.5%) grew in total circulation.
  7. Associate degree institutions, public, rural, serving small communities/areas. This category includes 96 libraries serving 96,123 FTE with 499,506 circulation. Fifty-two of the libraries (54.2%) were growing overall.
  8. Associate degree institutions, public, rural, serving medium-size communities/areas. This category includes 277 libraries serving 677,669 FTE with 3,195,228 circulation. One hundred fifty-four of the libraries (55.6%) grew overall.
  9. Academic institutions in the Far West: AK, CA, HI, NV, OR, WA. This region includes 433 libraries serving 2,468,872 FTE with 22,908,372 circulation. Two hundred forty-five libraries (56.6%) had growing overall circulation.
  10. Associate degree institutions, public, rural, serving large communities/areas. This category includes 136 libraries serving 792,792 FTE with 3,224,141 circulation. Seventy-eight of the libraries (57.3%) grew overall.
  11. Associate degree institutions, public, suburban, single-campus. This category includes 103 libraries serving 605,463 FTE with 2,322,250 circulation. Fifty-nine of the libraries (57.3%) had more overall circulation.
  12. Public 2-year colleges in general. This sector includes 890 libraries serving 4,212,965 FTE with 16,849,788 circulation. Of those, 521 libraries (58.5%) had growing overall circulation.
  13. Associate degree institutions, public, suburban, multi-campus. This category includes 88 libraries and systems serving 721,936 FTE with 3,584,304 circulation. Fifty-two of the libraries (59.1%) had more overall circulation in FY2010 than in FY2008.
  14. Private for-profit, 4-year and above [excluding institutions reporting no circulation, e.g. University of Phoenix]. This sector includes 255 libraries serving 497,575 FTE with 1,376,850 circulation. Of those, 154 libraries (60.4%) had growing overall circulation.
  15. Associate degree institutions, private for-profit. This category includes 195 libraries serving 190,513 FTE with 345,399 circulation. One hundred twenty-five of those libraries (64.1%) had growing overall circulation.
  16. Private for-profit 2-year colleges (not quite the same group as above). This sector includes 180 libraries serving 153,752 FTE with 173,808 circulation. One hundred eighteen libraries (65.6%) had growing overall circulation.
  17. Associate degree institutions, public, urban, multi-campus. This category includes 125 libraries serving 1,218,789 FTE with 3,651,040 circulation. Eighty-three of the libraries (66.4%) had growing total circulation.

Omitted from this list: eight other sectors with fewer than 50 institutions, where most libraries reported growing circulation, including associate degree, public, urban, single-campus; public and private for-profit 4-year institutions offering primarily associate degrees (two categories); schools of engineering; technology-related schools not included elsewhere; law schools; “other special-focus institutions” (e.g. military institutes) and tribal colleges.

Bonus List: Five Growing Categories by FTE

  1. Institutions with 10,000-14,999 FTE: 182 libraries, of which 52.2% had growing circulation.
  2. Institutions with 1,000-1,499 FTE: 369 libraries, of which 53.7% had growing circulation.
  3. Institutions with 600-999 FTE: 352 libraries, of which 53.7% had growing circulation.
  4. Institutions serving 4,000-4,999 FTE: 205 libraries, of which 58.1% had growing circulation.
  5. Institutions serving 3,000-3,999 FTE: 257 libraries, of which 58.8% had growing circulation

For lots more information…

Including circulation per capita changes, the extent to which libraries with growing circulation also had more circulation per capita than those with shrinking circulation, and another brief study taking this back to 2006-2008 and 2006-2010, read the March 2013 Cites & Insights—in the one-column “online version” if you’re planning to read it on an e-device (the charts and tables in the second essay are easier to read), in the two-column “print version” if you plan to print it out.

Cites & Insights 13:3 (March 2013) available

Posted in Cites & Insights, Libraries on February 11th, 2013

Cites & Insights 13:3 (March 2013) is now available for downloading at

The issue is 32 pages long. For those reading online or on a tablet or ebook reader, the single-column “online edition” is available at The single-column (6×9) version is 67 pages long.

Note: If you don’t plan to print this issue out, the single-column version may be preferable: Graphs and tables take advantage of the wider single column.

This issue includes the following:

The Front  (pp. 1-3)

On the Contrary: Notes on being a contrarian (or a skeptic)

Libraries: Academic Library Circulation: Surprise!  (pp. 3-17)

We all know that circulation in (nearly all) academic libraries has been dropping for years, right? What does (nearly all) mean? Would you believe that a majority of U.S. academic libraries reporting circulation in both 2008 and 2010 (excluding clearly anomalous cases) actually had more circulation in 2010 than in 2008? This article looks at changes in circulation (overall and per capita) by type of library (as broken down in NCES reports–by region, sector, and Carnegie classifications), and also shows the difference between overall average, average of institutional averages, and median figures–frequently surprising differences.

Media: 50 Movie Box Office Gold, Part 2 (pp. 17-26)

Seven discs, 28 movies, all color, some I refused to finish watching.

Libraries: Academic Library Circulation, Part 2: 2006-2010  (pp. 26-32)

Was the period from 2008 to 2010 (2010’s the most recent NCES report) anomalous? This study compares circulation (overall and per capita) between FY2006 and FY2008, FY2006 and FY2010 and FY2008 and FY2010, breaking things down in the same categories as part 1, but this time showing the percentage of libraries with significantly growing circulation, significantly shrinking circulation, and circulation staying about the same. (Overall, 40% grew significantly from 2006 to 2010 and 50.6% shrank significantly; 37.9% grew in per capita circulation and 54.6% shrank significantly–where I defined “significant” as 2.5% over two years or 5% over four years.)

The April issue will not be heavy on original research and statistics. Come May, we’re probably back to public libraries…but that’s a long way away!

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