A Library Question for those Gentle Librarians amongst us, and I’d love further answers if y’all pass it along.
I just asked our Database Guy for a report: for all the books currently checked out, give me the most recent date it previously circulated. The Database Guy conceded that the information was in the system, but would be tricky to get out. I trust the guy on this—there are far more obvious reports that took a very long time to set up, and it still isn’t possible to suppress the record for one volume of a multi-volume set in the catalogue—so that’s not the question. The question is… well, it’s a three-part question. Does this (A) seem like useful information to have, and (2) seem like something close to a report you already have and use, and (iii) seem like I am asking for the right information in the report to find out what I want to know?
OK, the last one requires context. We are expecting to go through a major cull of our open stacks soon, either moving off-site or withdrawing 40% of the books. It seems that people who don’t work in a library think that the cull should largely consist of getting rid of books that don’t circulate, for a variety of definitions of circulating. Which, of course, makes sense: if nobody uses a book, why have it? Or certainly why have it on-site. The thing is that those of us at the circulation desk see stuff with a last date-due stamp of APR 21 1995 or NOV 3 2008 go out all the time.
All the time! What does all the time mean? I have no idea! And then—most of the books that go out circulate a lot, but what does a lot mean? I have no idea! Are the patterns different for books in D (History) and L (Education)? I don’t know!
So while mostly this is idle curiosity (is the thing I believe I am experiencing actually happening) and recalcitrant anti-culling (30% of the books currently out had sat on the shelves for eighteen months or more before somebody wanted them and WAS ABLE TO FIND THEM), it also seems like potentially useful in curating a collection carefully, since in fact weeding is an essential part of the job. And one thing that being a baseball fan has taught me is that
the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation data is more accurate than experience.
Does this all make sense? Is there something else I should be looking at? Or is this something that all the other libraries already do?
Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,