Academic library circulation always down

Posted in Libraries on May 2nd, 2014

I thought I did a pretty good job of demolishing this long-standing myth (“all academic libraries have falling circulation”) in the March 2013 Cites & Insights. looking at circulation between 2008 and 2010. I was astonished to see at least one high-profile academic librarian dismiss my findings saying there were Studies saying this was true (all such studies based on either a subset of libraries or the *overall* figures), therefore…well, the “therefore” wasn’t quite clear, but had to be either “you’re doing the math wrong” or “the facts don’t matter.”

My sense is that the facts don’t matter to librarians who want to use “circulation’s falling everywhere, that’s just the way it is” as part of an argument to stop bothering with collections–but that’s a complicated argument.

I’m starting to work on a self-published book that will serve as a complement to the 2002-2012 study of academic library serials, “books” (all acquisitions except current serials) and “remainder” (everything else) spending. The complement will look at some other factors–circulation per capita, book coverage, book spending per capita, professional librarians per thousand students and overall staffing per thousand students. (Expect to see it in late May or early June.)

In working with spreadsheets to make this book reasonably easy to put together (I’m learning to love named Excel columns a lot) I found it worthwhile to add yes/no columns showing rise or fall of some metrics (where no change counts as a rise, but absolutely no change almost never happens). This made it easier to answer three subsidiary questions to the first question.

The first question: Is it true that all academic libraries show falling circulation from year to year?

The answer: Not even close–and I’m making it tougher by using circulation per capita, given that academic libraries serve a lot more students now than they did in 2002 (about 30% more overall).

For any given biennium, between 35% and 45% of all academic libraries have higher per capita circulation than they did two years ago. (As far as I can tell, the “all” isn’t remotely true for any significantly large subset of academic libraries.) (45% was 2010 compared to 2008, the best biennium for circulation growth.)

A related question: Well, then, is it true that all academic libraries have lower circulation in 2012 than they did in 2002, even if there were some temporary rises?

The answer: Closer, but still not even close. The percentage of libraries with more circulation per capita in any given year than in 2002 ranges from about 36% to about 25% (for 2012). That’s still one out of every four libraries.

Those were easy questions. The three others are a little tougher, and they deal with extremes:

First: What percentage of academic libraries have had rising circulation per capita every biennium since 2002?

The answer, as far as I can tell, for the 2,594 libraries I’m studying (which represent 95% of all academic library spending–ones excluded either weren’t around for the full 2002-2012 period or failed to respond to the NCES survey in either 2002 or 2012): Very few: actually six, or 0.2%.

So if you wanted to cast the most negative light possible, you could say that (almost) all academic libraries have seen circulation drop during at least some portion of the last decade.

Second: What percentage of academic libraries have had falling circulation per capita every biennium since 2002?

Now, actually, this to me is the implication of the (paraphrased) universal assertion: the answer to this question should be 100%, or very close to it.

The actual number: 153 libraries or 5.9%.

That’s right: Only six percent of academic libraries have had consistently falling circulation per capita from 2002 through 2012.

Third: What percentage of academic libraries have had higher per capita circulation than 2002 in every biennium since then?

This is a different question than “how many have consistently grown?” as a library could, for example, have 10% more circulation in 2004 than in 2002, then drop 5% in 2006…

The answer: 208 or 8.1%.

So: more libraries have consistently had higher circulation since 2002 than they did in 2002, than have had consistently falling circulation.

And, of course, most libraries are in the middle–just under 94% have seen circulation grow some times and shrink some times.

But that’s not a convenient message if you’re trying to dismiss collections.




Not ready and other notes

Posted in Cites & Insights on May 1st, 2014

For several months now, Cites & Insights for a given calendar month has emerged on the first or second day of the previous month.

There have been good reasons for this–getting ahead to leave room for the Library Technology Reports project and staying ahead for a while primarily.

That’s not happening for the June 2014 issue, and a few notes on what is happening may be useful. Or not.

The Slowdown

To be honest, I haven’t written any copy for Cites & Insights since, oh, about a week before the May issue appeared–in other words, more than a month at this point. (“I haven’t been writing at all” would be close, but not quite accurate.)

There are several reasons for that:

  • I decided to try starting out a possibly-silly project and felt I could spare some time for it. Still not convinced whether it’s silly or not, but it’s also 80% done, so… And it’s taken a lot of time.
  • I did spend time on a followup to the LTR project (and on revisions to that project), which will emerge late in May 2014.
  • It appears that the project–which involved spending hours and hours and hours staring at both displays (which are different sizes and at different distances) and dealing with small type may have finally pushed me over the edge on eyestrain, to the point where I’ve had a varying headache for better than a week now. (I also visited an opthalmologist, got the first new prescription in six years, and now find it very believable that this is the problem: my right eye moved from profoundly nearsighted to very nearsighted, a three-diopter change, so it appears that it’s always struggling with the current classes. I won’t have new glasses for a week or so. I’m hoping they arrive early.)
  • Attempting to reduce the eyestrain slows down the project–and the headache discourages other writing in any case. (Stopping the project entirely might not matter much–after all, as long as I’m wearing glasses and reading, watching TV, enjoying nature, anything, there’s new eyestrain.)
  • Then there’s motivation. My attempt to find a core group of supporters and sponsors started out slow (three people) and stopped cold. It’s still at three people. Meanwhile, more than 3,000 read the Beall essay and more than 1,400 so far have read the Bohannon essay. (The ebooks-and-pbooks essay also had strong readership.) But apparently (almost) nobody thinks it’s worth throwing a couple of bucks at. This does not give me huge motivation to start writing more.

The June 2014 Issue

There will be a June 201g4 issue. It will announce and promote the Library Technology Reports issue (not for my own financial gain: LTR is a one-time payment, with no royalties–but I think it’s an important and timely report) and discuss the self-published book that accompanies it for those wanting to explore further.

Not clear whether there will be anything more to the issue; if there is, it’s likely to be “The Back” or something like that.

Expect a short issue. Expect it in very late May 2014.

The July 2014 Issue

This issue will be based on the project. It will be a single-topic issue. I have no idea how long it will be–10 to 22 pages seems like a good initial guess. It should be interesting for a bunch of people. It represents a form of real-world research that sensible people wouldn’t attempt; I won’t necessarily admit to OCD, but there’s a touch of it in this case.

It will come out no less than a week after the June 2014 issue. Otherwise, “when it’s ready”–I’m guessing sometime in mid-June.

Meanwhile, I’ll also be setting time aside to help my wife with a genealogy-based book (a very special occasion), trying to preserve my health, and generally relaxing.

After July 2014?

I honestly don’t know.

A little more support/sponsorship surely wouldn’t hurt.

It’s exceedingly unlikely (based on past track record) that C&I will just disappear at that point.

I just don’t know.



50 Movie Gunslinger Classics, Disc 8

Posted in Movies and TV on April 16th, 2014

Kid Vengeance (aka Vengeance or Vendetta or Take Another Hard Ride), 1977, color. Joseph Manduke (dir.), Lee Van Cleef, Jim Brown, Leif Garrett. Glynnis O’Connor, John Marley.

This flick mixes two plots I’m familiar with from other Westerns: One in which a kid, somehow not killed when outlaws kill his parents, grows up to take vengeance on them—and another in which a man, with evidence that outlaws have killed his wife and compatriots, manages to kill the outlaws off one by one using a range of techniques. But this isn’t quite either of those, partly because the kid (in this case, Leif Garrett) doesn’t grow up: he starts taking out the killers shortly after he becomes aware that they’ve raped and killed his mother, killed his father and kidnapped his sister. (Oddly enough, that last part was accidental…)

But there’s more! A black miner (Brown), after having an assayer confirm that he’s got good-quality gold ore, encounters a quartet of idiots/thieves, bests them (and one dies, shot by another one), rides out of town and sets up another plot, as well as some comedy relief in what’s otherwise a pretty gritty picture. This time, Lee Van Cleef is full-on villain, the head of an outlaw band and the rapist in question.

No point going through more of the plot. Once you grant that a kid who has to be starving can sneak up on sleeping experienced bandits, stand there for a while, stuff a scorpion into one of their shoes, and walk away…well, sure, it all works. Garrett is very good, Brown’s fine, Van Cleef is Van Cleef. An Israeli production. I guess it’s worth $1.25.

Rage at Dawn, 1955, color. Timn Whelan (dir.), Randolph Scott, Forrest Tucker, Mala Powers, J. Carrol Naish, Edgar Buchanan, Denver Pyle. 1:27 [1:25]

This one’s unusual in that it’s a full-length, color, mid-’50s Western, and a fairly traditional Western at that. It’s the story of the Reno Brothers, a group of brothers who rob banks (with a couple of colleagues) and have a bad tendency to shoot anybody who causes trouble. They own the local officials (three of them share in the proceeds) so their Indiana county is a refuge. They actually live in their sister’s house (she hates the robbing but can’t turn them out) and have an honest brother who’s a farmer. With one possible exception, they’re not the brightest bunch; in some ways it’s amazing that they aren’t all already dead.

The Peterson Detective Agency brings in a tall, handsome undercover agent (Scott), who stages a train robbery to show the Renos that he’s hotter stuff than they are (they never tried train robbery), and eventually gets them involved in a train robbery as a way to get them arrested. Or killed (and it certainly gets some others killed!). Meanwhile, he’s taken a liking to the sister, and it’s clearly mutual.

Strong cast. It’s OK—although I found the last few minutes a little tough to swallow (but won’t pass on the situation). Not great, not bad: $1.50.

Billy the Kid Returns, 1938, b&w. Joseph Kane (dir.), Roy Rogers, Smiley Burnette, Lynne Roberts/Mary Hart, Morgan Wallace, Fred Kohler, Wade Boteler. 0:53.

I find that it makes sense to review and rate films in some sort of context; the context for the one-hour “oaters” is different than that for full-length features, and the context for singing cowboys is different still. And of the latter, Roy Rogers stands out for his voice, his looks—and the fun he seems to bring to every role, where he’s pretty much always playing a character named Roy Rogers.

That said, to buy into this movie you have to believe that Billy the Kid was a dead ringer for Roy Rogers—and that Billy the Kid, while admittedly a cold-blooded killer, was a hero to homesteaders, as he was the only one defending them from the cattlemen who wanted to prevent any farming. Roy Rogers first plays Billy the Kid, hero, thief and killer…up to and including the night where Pat Garrett shoots him dead. Then Roy Rogers rides onto the scene (Lincoln County, New Mexico—about all this flick has in common with Billy the Kid’s actual life), having left Texas after he lost his deputy sheriff’s job because he was too young (or something like that), and finds himself dealing with a band of outlaws who are stealing horses and burning down a farmhouse. The outlaws are, of course, part of the cattlemen’s group and in cahoots with the businessman who has a monopoly on trade in the town.

That’s just the start of a movie that moves right along…and mostly involves Roy Rogers impersonating Billy the Kid first in an attempt to help the homesteaders, then in an attempt to bring the cattlemen’s gang to justice by tricking them into committing a Federal crime, so they won’t just be set free by their peers. Oh, and Pat Garrett’s continuing suspicion that Roy Rogers is no better than Billy the Kid…

A lot of fun, a lot of music (I figure there’s about an hour’s TV episode worth of actual plot here: the other 11-12 minutes is singing), Smiley Burnette with his special “froggy” vocals. Roy gets the girl (Roy always gets the girl). What can I say? It’s what a singing cowboy movie should be, and probably no less plausible than most. $1.25.

Curse of Demon Mountain (orig. The Shadow of Chikara), 1977, color. Earl E. Smith (dir., also producer, writer), Joe Don Baker, Sondra Locke, Ted Neeley, Joy N. Houck Jr., Slim Pickens. 1:54 [1:32]

First we get some Civil War sequences (it’s clear the filmmaker is a Grey at heart even before they use “TheNight They Drove Old Dixie Down” in the soundtrack, the only song in the movie). Then one Confederate officer (Joe Don Baker), his half-Irish/half-Cherokee sidekick and scout (Houck) and a dying older soldier (named “Virgil Cane,” to be sure, and played by Slim Pickens who only has a few minutes to masticate some scenery) are off on their way—and as he’s dying, Virgil tells theofficer about the treasure he’s hidden in a cave in a mountain—some “transparent stones” he got out of Arkansas rivers.

After the former officer finds out that his house has been taken over for a Federal office and that his wife—who ahd been told he was dead a year before, but never mind that—has taken up with a Federal officer. Following a big fight scene, the officer (Joe Don Baker), his sidekick and a geologist they pick up from a local university are off to find the stones and see what they are.

After that, it’s lots of trouble—a dead group of settlers shot with odd black arrows, a black arrow arriving out of nowhere, a woman (Locke) apparently raped who they take with them, the scout concluding that those shooting the arrows must be demons, since they leave no tracks, a trio of bushwhackers (who the four adventurers happily kill by seting off a landslide) and, eventually, the mountain. Which the scout says he’s heard about, the Mountain of Demons.

Don’t expect happy endings. I figured out the twist about ten minutes before it was revealed. It’s not a bad twist. Unfortunately, it’s also not a very good movie—sloppily filmed, poorly played, just not really very good. Maybe the missing 22 minutes (apparently including a bar sequence, since a bartender and barmaid are both in the credits but there’s no bar that I can remember in the movie) would have helped. Maybe not. Generously, $0.75.

Links not working in 2014 Cites & Insights issues

Posted in Cites & Insights on April 3rd, 2014

It’s been called to my attention that the hyperlinks in the May 2014 C&I don’t work–and the reason they don’t means they won’t work in earlier 2014 issues either.

See the announcement post (now modified) for a partial explanation.

I’ll fix the *one-column* version of 14:5 later today. I’ll fix the earlier issues some time. Unclear whether I’ll fix the two-column versions; I assume people aren’t much linking from them anyway.

Update: The one-column tablet/online-oriented versions are now fixed. I haven’t decided whether to fix the 2014 two-column versions.  I’m not currently planning to change the two-column versions, on the assumption that most people link from the single-column version.

Thanks to Will S. for pointing this out…



Cites & Insights 14:5 (May 2014) available

Posted in Cites & Insights on April 2nd, 2014

The May 2014 Cites & Insights (14:5) is now available for downloading.

You’ll find it at for the 34-page print-oriented two-column version

or at for the 65-page 6×9 online/tablet-oriented single-column version.

The issue includes two essays:

Ethics and Access 2: The So-Called Sting  (pp. 1-20)

John Bohannon wrote a news article in Science that either shows that many open access journals with APC charges have sloppy (or no) peer review…or shows almost nothing at all. This story discusses the article itself, offers a number of responses to it–and then adds something I don’t believe you’ll find anywhere else: A journal-by-journal test of whether the journals involved would pass a naive three-minute sniff test as to whether they were plausible targets for article submissions without lots of additional checking. Is this really a problem involving a majority of hundreds of journals–or maybe one involving 27% (that is, 17) of 62 journals? Read the story; make up your own mind.

Future Libraries: A Roundup (pp. 21-34)

Pretty much what the title suggests–not a sequel to a nineteen-year-old book I coauthored, but a roundup of some thoughts from other folks.

A note on formatting

I believe I’ve solved the “emphasis added” problem–that bolded material within quoted passages should now actually appear bolded. In the process, I’ve also cut the download size (and presumably time) considerably, especially for the print-oriented issue. I’ve retroactively done the same for all 2014 issues; let me know if you see problems.

 Update, April 3, 2014:

Well, yes, that “fix” solves the emphasis-added problem…and makes all links within the publication unworkable. (Thanks to Will S. for pointing this out.)

[Previous grumpy discussion deleted. Let’s just say that, for now, given the non-budget on which C&I currently operates, the single-column C&I will have working links but non-working boldface emphasis, while the two-column C&I will have working boldface but non-working links.]

Starting a tenth year of randomness

Posted in Writing and blogging on April 1st, 2014

This here blog began on April 1, 2005–a date chosen deliberately.

Which makes today the start of Walt at Random‘s tenth year.

It’s been an odd ten years.

No big message, but a few random facts & figures:

  • There are currently 1,930 posts (including this one), but in fact there have been a fair number of other posts that I deleted because they no longer had any meaning. Some 4,123 comments have been approved–and Spam Karma’s caught (or I’ve moderated out of existence) another 102,910 “comments.”
  • The sidebar says that my most prolific ramblings are on Writing and blogging, Cites & Insights, Stuff, and Libraries. Sounds about right. (I don’t use the Oxford Comma–but nonusers get to add a comma when it’s required for clarity. “Stuff and libraries” would be a charming category, but it isn’t one I use.)
  • Of posts that remain, more first appeared in 2013 than in any other year…but given that I was only posting for the last nine months of 2005, it had a higher average number of posts per month than any other year.
  • The fewest posts appeared in 2011. That is also the year that Cites & Insights very nearly went away. That was probably not a coincidence. (Second lowest: 2012. Also probably not a coincidence.)
  • I can only track usage statistics on a monthly basis (and some of them on a year-to-date basis), but here’s what I find for 2015 and March 2015 through about 2 p.m. on March 31:
  • The blog seems to get 7,000 to 9,000 unique visitors per month (ignoring spiders and the like), about 30,000 to 35,000 visits viewing 84,000 to 110,000 pages–plus, for March, about 268,000 pages visited by spiders and the like.
  • In March, none of the top ten most visited pages were entries created during 2014, and the full list of pages is too long to inspect.
  • Of direct visitors, 61% use Windows, 13% use Linux, 8% use Mac operating systems…and there’s a bunch that aren’t properly identified
  • Of identified browsers, IE counts for 31% (really?), the combination of Mozilla and Firefox adds up to 36%, Chrome accounts for 10%. No other browser gets a two-digit share.
  • None of which means all that much.

Yes, I know, topical posts (as opposed to announcements and begging) sometimes seem fairly infrequent. Such is life. That might improve; it might not.

There will be an announcement tomorrow of interest to C&I readers and OA aficionados. I don’t do announcements like that on April 1, for the usual reasons.



Thanks, a reminder and a clarification

Posted in Books and publishing, C&I Books on March 26th, 2014


Somebody purchased a campus-license/site-license copy of The Big Deal and the Damage Done yesterday or this morning.

That’s the fifth such sale. I count each such sale as the equivalent of four copy sales. The book might yet reach 100 copy-equivalents before it goes out of print.

In any case, it’s appreciated and I trust the campus/consortium/whatever will find it useful.


As noted in this post, The Big Deal and the Damage Done will go out of print on or about May 14, 2014.


Since some of you dealing with ebooks may read “out of print” as “will disappear,” I should clarify–as I did in the earlier post:

Cites & Insights Books do not have DRM. Ever.

Once you’ve downloaded a Cites & Insights Book, it’s yours. To keep, sell, give away, lend, backup as often as you want, transfer to multiple PDF-reading devices, whatever.

Of course, you won’t be able to download a new copy from Lulu after it goes off sale, but the copy or copies you’ve purchased–including ones with explicit permission for multiple simultaneous downloads/reading–will not be affected in any way.

[Worth noting again that, in fact, Lulu no longer supports or allows DRM on the PDFs that it sells. But it was always an option and I never chose the option.]

Temporary oops

Posted in Writing and blogging on March 20th, 2014

If you attempted to comment on yesterday’s post, you may have found that it didn’t accept comments.


It does now.

As recounted some time ago, I’ve changed the default setting for this blog so that “Allow comments” is unchecked, because so many of the posts here are not really comment fodder (C&I announcements, etc.) and because I was getting ridiculous numbers of spamments that were clearly “here’s a place we can dump a comment, and just maybe it won’t be trapped as spam” efforts.

My intention is to check the “Allow comments” box any time a post could reasonably have comments.

But I forget sometimes.

By the way, the change seems to have worked: most days spamments are in single digits or low double digits, not high double digits and low triple digits.

Oh, and there were three (count them, 3) immediate comments on my Tuesday post the same day I added it (and allowed comments, only a minute or so after the initial post). All of them were wholly unrelated spamments.

This post allows comments.

NAQ on me and public library research

Posted in Stuff on March 19th, 2014

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…


Last chance for public libraries*

Posted in C&I Books on March 18th, 2014

*Well, not public libraries themselves. I believe they have a bright future and that there will be more public libraries in, say, 2020 in the U.S. than there are now, or at least no more than 2% fewer. That deliberately provocative headline is, well, deliberately provocative.

Last chance for my books attempting to help public libraries help themselves

That’s what I mean…but that’s on the long side for a post title.

The short form

Barring at least some sales between now and April 2, 2014, the following books and ebooks will go out of print:

The longer form

I prepared Give Us a Dollar… in the belief that it might be helpful to some of America’s public libraries. I knew I wouldn’t make a ton of money from it, but thought I might at least make something close to, say, San Francisco minimum wage (call it $10 an hour). I also thought the lessons learned from doing that version would help in doing a better version when 2011 data came out.

The book certainly didn’t sell enough copies to return minimum wage; I’ve probably made around $700 so far, and I guarantee it took a lot more than 70 hours to prepare the research and write the book. Sales have yet to reach three digits…and there haven’t been any sales (at least of the Lulu version) in the last seven months or so. (The last recorded Lulu sale was in July 2013.)

I prepared the Compleat and Incompleat versions to remedy a major problem with the book: all tables, virtually no commentary and no graphs. I priced them as low as possible. Total revenue to date from those versions can be summed up easily: $0.

I also prepared $4 to $1…, which I believe to be a much improved approach. I only did libraries by size initially because it kept the size (and therefore price) down…and because it didn’t make sense to do Libraries by State unless at least a few dozen and preferably a few hundred libraries, consultants and others wanted the book enough to pay a whole $9.99 to $19.96 for it.

Again, I did this because I believed that my analysis could be of value to public libraries (and their Friends groups) and that at least some significant fraction of public libraries would find the work worthwhile.

I was (apparently) wrong.

Three copies of $4 to $1 were purchased in August 2013.

One copy was purchased in October 2013.

And that’s it.

Four copies over seven months sends me a very strong message: Public libraries really don’t give a hoot about the work I was doing; essentially none of them even find it worth risking $10.

I was apparently wrong to believe this work had any value. That’s OK; I’ve been wrong before.

(I still believe Your Library Is... is a wonderful little book, a bargain at $16.99 paperback or $8.99 ebook, but it’s selling like…well, it’s sold 11 copies, one as recently as January, so I’m leaving it alone for now. I found it inspiring to prepare. I think you’d find it inspiring to thumb through and read little by little. Although I could be wrong there as well.)

It’s too bad in a way, but I’m willing to assume it’s entirely my fault: That I simply had and have no idea what public libraries would actually want enough to pay anything for, and that what little feedback I got from the first year’s work wasn’t enough to make it worthwhile.

What I’m not willing to do: Leave my bookstore cluttered with items that are apparently unwanted.

The lesson I take from this is that, although I love public libraries, I apparently have little or nothing to offer them. I would note that I’d been approached about the possibility of doing custom data analysis for some public libraries at some point in the future, at a reasonable rate, and had in fact offered to do so at a rate far below what any sensible consultant would charge. That approach has, so far, not led to any such work, but it’s only been 1.5 years.

On the other hand, if these books are of no value to public libraries, it’s hard for me to justify offering cut-rate services to those same public libraries. So, at about the same time the books disappear from my bookstore, the offer to do such analysis at a bargain rate will also disappear. I have no reason to believe this will pose a problem for anybody.

No, I haven’t turned against public libraries. I regard America’s public library non-system as vital to the nation and its communities, I use and love my local public library, I want to see public libraries get even better (in an evolutionary rather than disruptive way–I’m mostly a print book borrower), and I may even write about them in the future. Just not on spec in the hope that they’ll pay even the most modest sums for the results. I’m a slow learner, but I’m not incapable of realizing my errors.

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