Trying to measure a library's success by its footfall is like...

... trying to count the number of people entering a country by only checking the airports, and ignoring those who come by sea or land. It's like trying to count book sales just based on what has been sold in the shops, and not online.

It's like trying to measure BBC viewing figures without taking iPlayer into account.

It's like trying to measure an album's success just by CD sales, without taking downloads into account.

It's like trying to measure a newspaper's success just by physical sales, and not by use of the website.

It's like trying to judge a supermarket's success without taking into account online shopping.


Picture of an angry man

Let's settle this once and for all - as I've written before (PDF), and previous to that Ian Clark has written before, and any number of others have pointed out: library use has changed, people do stuff online now. People renew books online (around 40% of renewals happen online, according to my research - every single one of those is a visit to the library building saved), people reserve books online (around 18% of reservations happen online according to my research - every single one of those is a visit to the library building saved). And people access the library's resources online - e-books, e-journals, e-newspapers, databases, and so on and so forth. Take my local library, in York - in three years, online user activity (which is to say, searches of online library resources - not 'use of computers in the library') has gone up by 9,385%. That's over NINE THOUSAND PERCENT! So stop telling me that because less people visit the building, that means the library is being used less - it is a hopelessly anachronistic paradigm and no longer fit for purpose, damnit!

So thanks, BBC Breakfast, for your ill-considered piece this morning which did NOT take that into account (despite the best efforts of library campaigners who gave you their time), and was editorially led, rather than balanced.

Of course, this post is nothing more than an impotent rant that will be read only by Information Professionals who already know everything I've just said. Aaaaargh! How do we get this information beyond the echo chamber? How can we make people understand that footfall doesn't cut it as a measurement of success on its own any more?

In the meantime, if you wish to make your feelings known to the BBC about the report, you can do so via the BBC's feedback page. If we all do this it WILL make a difference.