Thursday, 28 May 2009

On book issues in these tough economic times

I'm a curious soul. I like to find things out. I hope that's one of the things that makes me good at my job: I'm genuinely enthusiastic about finding information for people, whether that's the availability of the book they've come looking for or the British Standards relevant to tea*.

So being curious, I asked our LMS-wranglers to pull some stats on books classed at 322.024. This little number covers your personal financial advice books: Alvin Hall (remember him?), Martin Lewis, general hints and tips on making the most of your cash.

I had a hunch that these books might have been more popular since we entered the economic downturn/credit crunch/recession/moneygeddon. Logic - or a certain brand of logic - suggests that there ought to be significant interest, given the blanket news media coverage of the situation, and the fact that our books (and reservations) are free.

In Q1 2008, we issued 126 of these books; in Q1 this year, we lent 171. That's a 35.7% increase. Q2, Q3 and Q4 2008 showed pretty consistent business in this area, with around 120 issues per quarter followed by a dramatic upturn from the start of this year.

I'm aware how unscientific this is, and I'm not claiming it's representative of a new direction for public libraries: rather, I think it's probably indicative of how existing public library stock can meet new demands with little effort. It's also worth pointing out that I took it upon myself, one relatively quiet afternoon, to set up a credit crunch book display at the Central Library. It stayed there for a couple of months and had to be topped up regularly.

Nothing happens in isolation, but there are sometimes opportunities for us to rise to. What's your library doing to help people meet new challenges?

* This is not a genuine enquiry (or at least not one I've ever had), but BS 6325 is my absolute favourite standard ever.