Just a quick note: I received two donations for Cites & Insights today.
Both are appreciated.
Just a quick note: I received two donations for Cites & Insights today.
Both are appreciated.
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…
It’s 34 pages.
The issue includes:
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.
Catching up with the doomcryers (excluding print books–but see below).
What it says.
Catching up with miscellaneous snarkiness through 2011 (and more recently for magazine items).
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.)
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.
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.
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 http://citesandinsights.info/civ13i3on.pdf. 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:
On the Contrary: Notes on being a contrarian (or a skeptic)
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.
Seven discs, 28 movies, all color, some I refused to finish watching.
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!
One of many tweets from ALA Midwinter said something like this, apparently quoting a speaker:
We need more techies with “library values” to give libraries the data we need.
That’s a paraphrase, taken out of context. I found myself thinking about it–and deciding it was worth commenting on even if my assumed context is entirely wrong. (Which it might be. Don’t point me at streaming video for the program: That’s really not the point.)
My basic thought:
There’s no shortage of library data, and there’s no shortage of people with both technical skills and library values to massage that data. What there may be a shortage of: Libraries/librarians ready to use that data–and decide what data they actually need or can/will use.
That’s a wildly overbroad statement, and I may be dead wrong. I’m basing the statement on my own experience, what I know from a couple of colleagues, and what I see or don’t see in the library conversations and literature. (Well, I don’t see much of the library literature these days, at least not the literature that’s behind paywalls.)
There’s plenty of data. IMLS does a first-rate job of gathering and reporting fairly detailed figures on some 9,000 public libraries on an annual basis. IMLS does its own reports based on that data–but it also makes the datasets freely available.
Pro tip: If you want to massage IMLS data and don’t have or know Access, download and unzip the Access version anyway: Excel can open the Access database once you tell it to do so–that is, once you use the Open file pull-down menu and select “Access databases” from the list–and once you convert the whole thing to a table, it works nicely as a humongous spreadsheet. Then you can select the columns you actually need, making it a lot more workable. Do read the documentation. Unless you’re much cleverer than I am, I wouldn’t mess with the flat file: Access-via-Excel is a lot easier. If you’re an Access guru, of course, you can ignore that.
NCES does the same for more than 3,000 academic libraries, although only once every two years. Same pro tip applies. NCES even allows you to do some “compare library X with comparable institutions” on the fly. (If the columns and documentation for the NCES academic library tables and the IMLS public library tables have some vague similarities…NCES used to do the public library tables as well.
There are other sources, to be sure, but these are the biggest. (A couple of ALA divisions produce sets of numbers for partial sets of libraries…for a price. I haven’t looked at those: See “for a price.”)
Does your library work with those numbers at all–other than to report your own stats, that is?
There’s the rub. NCES and IMLS provide impressive, readily-operable sources of raw data. But it’s probably not the data you need.
What is the data you need? More to the point, what data will you pay attention to, use, pay for (that is: pay to have massaged into the form you want and written up so you find it meaningful)?
I’d love to have answers to that question, and I suspect those answers differ by type of library and subtypes within types. (For that matter, defining a subtype is tricky…)
I’ve done some work with both data sources, partly out of curiosity, partly out of contrarian stubbornness, partly pursuing ideas I thought could be broadly useful. For example:
Most national reports deal with averages over time–and while the “over time” part is vital, averages vastly oversimplify the library picture. Sometimes, I believe averages are actually harmful; mostly, I believe they’re not very useful.
That will be the underlying theme of an upcoming article in Cites & Insights, I think–one that was planned for the March issue, until I became contrarily interested in another meme, the “fact” that academic library circulation (as opposed to e-usage) has been dropping all over the place and continue to fall in all or nearly all academic libraries.
I already knew “all” was nonsense. I assumed “nearly all” was right, but began to wonder what “nearly” actually meant. Did 1% of academic libraries have steady or increasing circulation? Five percent? Ten percent–as unlikely as that seems?
So I set aside the “trouble with averages in public library data” article–which I hadn’t actually started writing yet–and spent some time looking at academic library circulation and circulation per capita, first comparing FY2008 and FY2010 (the most recent available), then going back ty FY2006.
The results will make up most of the March 2013 Cites & Insights, when I publish that issue, and without offering too many spoilers let’s just say that ten percent is wrong–but not the way you might expect.
I could rush that issue out, as early as the end of this week or early next week, if I thought it would be received well and used broadly. At this point, I have no reason to believe that’s true.
What would, I think, be interesting is to see whether there are reasonable predictors of continued healthy circulation in academic libraries–what other factors appear to correlate well with, let’s say, traditional library use. But that’s a significant project. Even at my “pretty much retired, enjoy doing this, so can charge much lower fees than any proper consultant” rates, it would almost certainly be a four-digit job.
Similarly, I’d love to do some time-based analyses of public library performance within groups: Not averages, but percentages and correlations. Not to find “stars” (LJ has that down pat) but to help libraries see where they are and where they could be. And to help tell the complex story, not of The Average Academic Library or The Average Public Library but of the thousands of real, varied, diverse, actual libraries.
Here’s the thing: I don’t know whether I’m asking the right questions. I don’t know whether there is analysis that would be worth doing. I don’t know whether I can find the ways to make those facts meaningful and useful to librarians.
And I don’t know whether librarians are willing to deal with data at all–to work with the results, to go beyond the level of analysis I can do and make it effective for local use.
I wonder how many public and academic librarians really get, say, the difference between overall averages (e.g., circulation per capita for the U.S. public libraries), institutional averages (e.g., the average library circulation per capita–that is not the same figure) and median figures (e.g., the point at which half of libraries circulate more per capita and half less). I wonder how many understand at a gut level that many (maybe most) real-world statistics don’t follow the neat bell shape curve or the not-so-neat power-law curve–and why that matters.
Do LIS students get some training in real-world statistics (“statistics” may be too fancy a word; this is mostly pretty low-level stuff)? Is there a good book for them to use once they’re out in the real world? Would there be a real market for such a book if it existed? (Say a title like The Mythical Average Library: Dealing with Library Statistics)
Wish I knew the answers. Wish I knew whether I had a useful and possibly mildly remunerative role to play in providing answers. (There are certainly agencies that do yeoman work here–Colorado’s Library Research Service for one. I’m not faulting those agencies.)
Feedback invited. Please. Here or as email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Modified later on January 29 to reduce the whininess and try to make it less about needing to be paid and more about whether this stuff’s worthwhile in general. Which may or may not help.
The issue is 40 pages long. A single-column 6×9 version, optimized for online reading and intended for e-readers and reading from the screen, is 75 pages long and available at http://citesandinsights.info/civ13i2on.pdf
This issue includes:
Doing the numbers: notes on C&I readership during 2012 and since it moved to its current website. Also a quick note on the (failed) HTML challenge.
The rest of the megaroundup that began in January. This installment includes Upping the Anti, Controversies, Predators, Economics, Elsevier, The Future!, A Little Humor, and a closing note on progress, snipers and inquisitors.
Cites & Insights is no longer available as HTML separates.
Psst: Have you heard the ongoing common knowledge that nearly all academic libraries have had falling circulation for quite a few years now? If your own library had rising circulation, say between 2008 and 2010, did you think you were a special flower?
A March essay looks at the reality behind “nearly all” based on NCES data. Let’s just say the common knowledge is just a wee bit off. But for that, you’ll have to wait for the March 2013 issue…
It’s been a week since the most recent update on the HTML challenge–that is, my request for people who find Cites & Insights worthwhile and want to read it in HTML form to pay a modest sum to support C&I.
Today is the deadline.
This time, I’ll offer the results in an homage to Mastercard:
212 and 118 respectively.
More than 12,000.
132,7621 [for a total of 1,121,699 since those essays were introduced]
That is: Nobody has been willing to pay even $10 to keep HTML essays going. Not one person. Not one payment. Not one sale of a C&I annual.
A wise librarian acquaintance recently said to me, not in these words, “Don’t do any library-related writing that you don’t find amusing unless you’re paid up front: Otherwise you’ll just be disappointed.”
The next issue of C&I will be out soon. It’s fair to assume that, barring a sudden burst of activity within the next few hours, it will not have HTML essays. Nor will any that follow.
For now, the ones that have already appeared will still be available: It’s really not worth the trouble to get rid of all the links in the C&I contents page. But I am now better informed as to the apparent economic value of this work. Thanks for the clarity of the message.
[Those few who answered both last year's C&I survey and an earlier one might have wondered why I didn't ask about willingness to pay this time around. That's because it became clear the last time that most people were disingenuous in their answers--that "willing to pay" did not, with two exceptions, translate into "will pay." So why bother to ask?]
It’s now a week before the cutoff for Stage 1 of the challenge: The point at which, unless there’s been significant progress toward the goal, I’ll stop doing HTML versions (effective with the February 2013 issue).
So here’s the report:
If you’ve been holding off, figuring somebody else would do it: Maybe not.
If $10 or $25 a year is just too much for your budget: My sympathy.
In the most recent post on the challenge–for those who find C&I valuable and prefer it in HTML form to actually contribute something to C&I–I promised weekly updates and how it was going.
Here’s the first update.
On December 24, 2012–admittedly not the best time to get your attention–I posted “Want HTML versions of Cites & Insights essays? It’s your click.”
Briefly, the post said that I’m reconsidering offering Cites & Insights essays in HTML form (which I’ve been doing at least most of the time since 2004), partly because the one-column 6×9 “online” PDF seems to fill the same need, partly because I’ve never been entirely happy with the results. (And, in fact, the results are terrible when graphs or pictures are involved: They’re not there.)
And continued as follows:
So: If you really want HTML versions of C&I essays, it’s up to you…to pay for them.
Total voluntary financial support for Cites & Insights in 2012 has not reached three digits, or even high two digits.
If you want HTML essays, contribute–the PayPal secure Donate button’s right there on the home page.
If I see at least $1,000 in donations between now and the time I’m ready to publish the February 2013 issue–which I’m guessing will be around January 20-22, 2013–then I’ll keep doing HTML separates at least through 2013.
If I don’t get even within shouting range of that total, I’ll probably drop them: The one-column 6×9 PDF format should meet the needs of most e-readers. And, y’know, considering the price…
Purchases of C&I annual volumes will count as contributions, at the full rate of $50 each, even though I don’t net nearly that much. And you get great travel photos on the covers, plus indexes that are not otherwise available. (The indexes alone are worth, well…more than nothing.)
So far, the first week of the HTML challenge has yielded a nice round number: $0 donations, 0 sales of C&I annual volumes.
But hey, it’s the new year. There appear to be a few hundred people who read the HTML versions–there were, in fact, more than 100,000 HTML essay pageviews in 2012–and if even 100 figure it’s worth a paltry $10 a year, it will continue.
Here’s what I might hear you thinking or saying, and my response if any:
If you find C&I worthwhile but don’t care about the HTML version…contributions are also welcome. [If they come via PayPal, I'll thank you via email--and if you specifically don't want your contribution linked to the HTML challenge, you can tell me so at that point.]
It will take 40 $25 contributions or 100 $10 contributions or, for that matter, 20 copies of the annual volumes at $50. We’ll see what happens