Community Analysis and Materials Use: Do ‘lifestyles’ result in differing use of public library materials?

According to a 1995 study I found  in my files yesterday, Hazel Davis and Ellen Altman studied public library circulation patterns in 10 different communities, with median household incomes ranging from $15,000 to $77,000. They also compared cities number of college graduates, how lively they were to spend money on pets, electronics, furniture, and sporting goods. Over 8 million circulation records were divided, subtracted, twisted and turned. In the end they found: No real difference.

Fiction and AV materials accounted for 2/3 of materials use.  Fiction is about 70% of circulation. Patterns of use for children were similar. Dewey range circulations? Similar!

The study, “The Relationship between Community Lifestyles and Circulation Patterns in Public Libraries” appeared in Public Libraries, January, February 1997. It confirms a similar study made in Indianapolis by Ottensmann, Gnat and Gleeson  “Similarities in Circulation Patterns among Public LIbrary Branches Servicing Diverse Populations.” (Library Quarterly, Jan 1995)

The authors point out that this doesn’t reflect on total use of the libraries, simply that, whatever demand is placed on a library’s collection, the proportion of materials checked out is astonishingly the same. Is this because libraries tend to buy the same stuff? Or that the public wants the same stuff? And what happens if a library starts changing its acquisitions to reflect those differences in demand that do exist?  Good questions all, but for the moment, it makes me question the value of ‘Community Analysis’ that I was taught in library school. And they found a line from John Cotton Dana, 1903:  ‘Like their elders, the children are fond of story books, and select them seventy-four times out of a hundred. Adults read seventy novels to thirty other books.’ The 70% fiction rule seems to be a standard. Is that true in your public library?

Tony Greiner

tony_greiner@hotmail.com

 

 

 



One Comment on “Community Analysis and Materials Use: Do ‘lifestyles’ result in differing use of public library materials?”

  1. John Cotton Dana to present. Wow! I’ll bet it’s still true.


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