Don’t show these great statistics to your patrons

Last week Stephen Abram posted these info-graphics about libraries from OCLC:



As Stephen said,  “we big”. These numbers are wonderful and impressive. But please, don’t show them as is to your patrons.

Take off your librarian hat and be a patron for a moment. What is a “transaction” in a library? One book checked out? One person checking out several items at once? Is asking where the bathroom is a transaction? Honestly, I’m not sure I know the answer. Never mind the difference between a “transaction” and a “back-office transaction”.

What’s an OPAC? Isn’t an OPAC a database?  Are those “Database searches” included in the number of “OPAC searches” or are they separate?

Maybe we as librarians know what all this means (and I’m not even sure we can with these numbers being posted out of context,) but just a bunch of large numbers won’t do you any good unless those reading the numbers actually understand them.

5 Replies to “Don’t show these great statistics to your patrons”

  1. Or, we could spread the word that libraries are important and large. Like the fact that there are more physical library locations in the United States than McDonalds . Perhaps someone might not know what an OPAC is, but they might find it interesting that where once they knew nothing about libraries, now they know something. I think public awareness is the real key. Let the teaching moments happen after there is awareness and interest.

    Think about the statistic that was bandied about during a budget year a few years ago. People passing through a local library system’s doors in a year was greater than passed through the local football stadium’s doors. We don’t know whether someone came into the library to use the bathroom or checkout a book, but it makes it relevant and puts it in perspective. Especially if we have not had any info to start.

  2. I agree. Never (or at least rarely) show stats to library users. Why should they care? They’re for management and library professionals.

    Tell them stories about the impact of the library.
    Show them pictures or videos that challenge their perceptions of the library or reinforce their positive feelings.
    Do something different to attract attention.
    Demonstarte the difference you make.

    We big but our stories be bigger!


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