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Public Library Statistical Report

Help for completing the annual Oregon Public Library Statistical Report.

Part 6 - Circulation Services - FAQs

What is the essence of circulation?

A circulation count is all about the patron taking an item (or file) for use outside the library. With this essence, one would not count:

  1. items sent to other libraries
  2. items sent to internal library functions - such as bindery
  3. items used and left on tables in the public area

Do I count the circulation of all books belonging to my library?

No. Remember that the essence of circulation is the patron taking an item from library. See other questions for circulation of downloadable items. Some items belonging to a library are sent elsewhere on interlibrary loan, but that is not counted in circulation.


We offer reusable canvas book bags, which we check out with the books, do we count it?

Not everything that is tracked through the integrated library system's circulation module should be reported as circulation. Remember that the reason you go through this exercise is to have fairly concrete numbers for advocacy and as this author often says "shameless money grubbing." The essence of circulation is the library putting materials in the hands of patrons. Is including book bags in your circulation total is something you'll proudly defend at a public meeting? This author would blush. It would be best to back that out.

On a related note, many libraries use the circulation module as a reserve system to control use of public access Internet terminals. That circulation should also be backed out of total circulation. The firmest basis for that decision would be the definition of circulation, which really counts items taken for use outside of the building. A more self-serving reason is the following. There are many factors which will influence circulation, even if everyone follows the same definition, so why add distortion to the data? Think about what happens if City A, population 200,000 follows the definition and backs out computer use of 400+ terminals. City B, population 100,000, leaves it in - and has 200+ public terminals in operation. City B would appear to out-circulate City A while having a much smaller budget. This would put downward pressure on City A's budget - and preempt City B from making a successful argument on improving their budget.


We use our circ system to track computer use. Do we count it?

No! A library can keep that figure and report it in the technology section under users of public access internet computers, but it should not be reported in circulation.


What does it mean when a public library shares an ILS with an academic library or uses an academic-oriented ILS?

It is crucial to be aware that, for valid reasons, the definition of circulation counts is different for public library and academic library surveys. When using a canned report on circulation from the ILS vendor, be sure you know exactly what is being counted and be sure to insist on having a report that will accurately report public library circulation according to federal definition.

The public library definition is:

The total annual circulation of all library materials of all types, including renewals. Include interlibrary library loans received from other libraries and checked out to your users. Do not include books loaned to other libraries on interlibrary loan, or interbranch loans. Do not count in-house circulation. Report adult’s and children's materials circulation separately if your local circulation procedures differentiate the two. If your local procedures do not differentiate, mark "n.c." on the lines for adult and children's circulation, and report the total circulation on the line for "Circulation not separated into adult’s or children's materials."

The academic library definition is:

General circulation transactions - Report the number of items lent from the general collection. Include both initial transactions and renewals.

Note that this does not include inter-library loans borrowed from another library and checked out to the academic library patron. Another difference is that in-house reserve material circulation is tracked.


Do I count the books left on tables in circulation?

No. Once upon a time in a survey far, far, away in-house circulation was tracked. The states made the decision to stop counting this some years ago. A library can choose to count this for internal purposes.


How should a consortium count web-based renewals?

The consortium members can decide how to credit web-based renewals in the members circulation counts. What matters most is the consistency of the application of the method chosen over the years.

Here are some possible scenarios:

  1. The renewal could be credited to the library where the patron initially checked out the book.
  2. The renewal could be credited to the library that owns the book.
  3. The web-based renewals can be proportioned among the members based on the ratio of circulation of the members. For example, Blue Library checks out 6,000 items a year. Mauve Memorial checks out 3,000 a year, and Green Library checks out 1,000. Blue has 60% of total area circulation, Mauve 30% and Green 10%. Given 100 web-renewals, Blue gets 60, Mauve 30 and Green 10.

Do I count circulation of Library2Go titles from ODLC if they aren't in the library's automation system?

Yes! However... Library2Go circs should only be reported in Question 6.28, and then other circs where appropriate. The survey tool will automatically total your library's circulation numbers.


Do I count circulation from ODLC (Library2Go) if my library is in a cooperative?

You bet! If circulation from Library2Go can be attributed directly to your library, by all means count it. If you are part of a cooperative in which circulation is not broken down into member libraries, the cooperative should come up with some mathematical model to distribute circulation of Library2Go materials to members. This could be done on a population ratio or a circulation of physical items ratio, just as an example. The key here is to pick a distribution method and stick with it.


Freegal: where do I report the downloads?

Count Freegal as a database, and do not include anything with circulation. So why not include the downloads of Freegal with circulation? Now since circulation of downloadable e-books, audio books and videos is included with circulation, this is a fair question. Read on...

Freegal is a service that allows people to dowload up to three songs a week from the Sony archives and keep them. At least you get to keep the item and it doesn't go "poof" like with Library2Go. The basis for the different treatment of these electronic materials is because of their selection and licensing. Freegal acts like an aggregated periodical database such as EbscoHost or Gale. Libraries do not select the individual content. Content is determined at the will of the owner, and can change without notice. The library either subscribes and gets access to the whole thing, or doesn't subscribe and gets nothing. After a subscription ends the library "owns" nothing. While a library has access, people can search and download articles they want.

Contrast this with the current most common model for downloadable e-books, audiobooks and videos. The Oregon Digital Library Consortium chooses which titles become available through Library2Go by purchasing the rights to access from Overdrive. There are a limited number of "copies" that can be checked out, much like a print item. When their time is up, the item vanishes from their device, and is available for the next person. If the library has a lot of patrons wanting the same title, they can buy multiple copies of it to be used. If the library stops buying titles from Overdrive, it still has rights to access the ones it paid for.

If we counted the downloads of Freegal as circulation, it would be a lot like including number of periodical articles printed - large, and unrelated to comparison with print and other materials with limited simultaneous users. Library2Go acts like other parts of the collection, so it can fit in with the traditional count of circulation.


Where do I report circulation if I can't separate adult and children's materials, and first circ or renewals?

If a library cannot separate a count of circulation of adult and children's materials for any part of the collection, nor separate first-time circulation from renewals, then record those items in:

  • First-time circulation not separated into adult or children's materials (use this blank ONLY if you do not count separate adult and children's materials circulation - Enter n.c. if using 6.27 – 6.30 instead)
  • Pile circulation from Library2Go here with everything else if you are NOT using the adult/children's material circulation break-down.

How is "Electronic Content Use" calculated?

This is a new item that automatically adds Circulation of Electronic Material (6.26) and Successful Retrieval of Electronic Information (6.10) together for a total count. The hope is to provide meaningful, usable data without additional effort on your part.