A blog from the Southern Ontario Library Service

10,000 Books: A capstone project

When I enrolled in APLL, I knew I’d have to undertake a project for one of the final assignments. I just didn’t think it would end with me moving over 10,000 books!

I registered in the fall of 2014 wanting to make sure I was prepared for the new challenges awaiting me at the library. The start date for APLL happened to be a few weeks before the end of my maternity leave, when I was due to come back to the library and begin a new position, Collection Supervisor.

The next two years were full of coursework on topics ranging from Library Legislation to Organizational Culture, both online and in-person. The Local Library project is meant to be a practical and have a real benefit for our library. Mine would be a survey of the circulation statistics (five years worth!). I wanted to see where we were, and plan for the future.

When I got into the numbers, it soon became clear that our nonfiction wasn’t circulating much. I discovered that although nonfiction made up 25% of the collection, it was only generating about 9% of the total circulation – most of that, new titles. Working with the library’s CEO, we decided to use the lower level of one our small branches as a “warehouse” and store anything that we thought shouldn’t be weeded because it was local or significant in some way but that wasn’t regularly being borrowed. Users can still find these items in our online catalogue and place holds just like any other title. They’re still available, just not taking up valuable floor space.

In the space created by this project, we have been able to start a used bookstore, a Musical Instrument Lending Library and provide much-needed patron space for reading, study and laptop use. In our Wellington Branch, we swapped the location of the nonfiction and fiction, moving almost every item in the branch in the process.

I worked on weeding, and warehousing titles in 4 of our 6 branches. After it was complete, we conducted what I called the world’s easiest survey: “Did you find what you were looking for? Do you have any comments about the library collection as a whole?” The overwhelming response from respondents was positive for the 4 branches that I have completed, and the two remaining branches came back with the repeated response that the collection was stale and never changed.

But since I began this project by looking at the numbers, I think it’s important to evaluate its success by the numbers. As an example:

In the Wellington branch I compared September 2014 (before) to September 2015 (after).  We had a 36% increase in circulation, with all item types up except Audio (down 32%) and Large Print (down 19%) – those are the only two item types in Wellington that we hadn’t yet changed. It was amazing to see the change reflected so clearly in our stats.

Despite a recent downward trend in circulation, we ended 2015 a little above the past few years and best of all, we see happy patrons using the newly open spaces. Through patron feedback, increased usage, and additional offerings in the new space, I feel confident that this has been a worthwhile project.  

To find out more about the Advancing Public Library Leadership program, check out the SOLS website or contact Anne Marie Madziak. Registration will open for the next cohort sometime this spring.