Dollars & Sense #12: Being Selective about Selection

Circulation reports are not as boring as you think! These reports can be an invaluable source of information for those librarians who find themselves dollar short. Most circulation software has the capability to run a myriad of reports that can instantaneously inform librarians of circulation trends in their library, which is wonderful because each community is different, and each group of patrons has unique needs. It is well worth your time to consult the technical manuals to learn about which reports your software can generate and familiarize yourself with the functions of each.

Circulation reports can give you a “snapshot” view of what is circulating in the library in general, but you can also focus in on different media circulation and different sections of library materials. A good beginning report is the overall top ten or twenty circulated items in the library. This will give you an idea of what media (e.g. books, graphic novels, audio books, playaways, DVDs, etc.) are most popular with your patrons and will allow you to find out which sections you need to examine more closely. Note which formats appear on this list because you will want to run another “top ten” list for each format to see which movies, books, graphic novels, and audio books are circulating most often.

I like the “top ten” lists because the ten most circulated items in any format, genre, or section is enough information about reading trends to give you a picture of what is popular. You can also isolate different Dewey sections such as the 500s to find out which topics within these sections circulate most frequently. That first overview report will give you clues about where to look next.

The purpose of the reports is to inform you of the circulation trends in your library so that when you create your acquisition list on a limited budget, you will know the trends that will inform your selection of “read alikes,” most popular series and authors, favorite formats, and topics that interest your patrons. While we often cannot order everything we would like to order, we can focus on patron interests, hobbies, and reading selections to hone our selection skills and make our spending more meaningful.

A reverse process is to find out what is NOT circulating. While this report gives you very different information, what librarian intentionally orders books that will not circulate? These reports work right along with the top ten to inform our purchases to make sure we get more “bang for the buck.” These reports can also be used as valuable marketing tools…but that is another blog.

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Paula Griffith

Paula Griffith teaches young adult literature at the University of Houston Clear Lake. She is a member of YALSA's Legislative Committee.