Ithaka Faculty Survey

The 2012 Ithaka Faculty Survey of information behaviors hit the street this week. I’m not sure there are any great surprises in the report. The progression towards use of electronic materials continues at about the same pace. The disciplinary differences between humanities, social sciences, and sciences seem about the same as previous years. They are all shifting in their behaviors in the same direction.

What is fairly constant as well, is that most faculty continue to think that the most important activity of the library is to acquire or provide access to scholarly material. “The library pays for resources I need…” is uniformly the highest response in several questions about the role of the library. (See pages 63-76.) Of course, anyone who has looked at Libqual data will know this as well.

Contrast this with responses from library directors, especially regarding the development of library support services for scholars, and you begin to see a disconnect between scholar desires (or knowledge of library services, at least). On some issues there is almost a 40% difference in response rate between faculty and library directors. “The library supports and facilitates my teaching activities,” for example, or, “The library provides active support that helps to increase the productivity of my research and scholarship,” are both questions to show a wide gap between faculty and library directors.

Library collections continue to be very important for scholars. We need to continue thinking about the best ways to serve those scholarly information needs.

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