Every reader his or her book; Every book its reader.

Lorcan Dempsey’s post Evergreen and Pines refers to a Georgia Public Library Service (GPLS) report Use of Georgia’s public libraries continues to rise in Internet Age and echoes one I made earlier here entitled Save the time of the reader. Briefly, all three deal with increases in the use of Georgia Public libraries generally and PINES particularly. But Dempsey makes a point of mentioning the consortial aspect of PINES and I have been thinking about this very point since my post a few weeks ago.

PINES, of course, runs on Evergreen and although Evergreen is running individual systems, the fact is that Evergreen is the most consortially-aware ILS—open source or proprietary—has resulted in some fascinating dynamics which these cited posts allude to.

In my post, Save the time of the reader, I reported on my attempt to measure the change year over year in three PINES use measures that could be compared before and after the switch from the legacy vendor to Evergreen. There are dramatic increases which I attributed largely to Ranganathan’s law it referred to because the reader’s time was saved as a result of better design of the interface, particularly of holds.

However, there is a measurement problem that brings out something more important that had implications I didn’t understand a month ago. Not all public libraries in Georgia are in PINES and the number changed over the period of my analysis. If we want apples to apples, as the saying goes, we should analytically remove the libraries that were added during the year so that we would have circs, holds, and such at the same set of libraries, that is, so that increases reported are not because of the addition of new libraries but rather because of easier to use software with better features. People, though, are just a bit complicated and that simple statistical manipulation would miss something key.

Georgia has a universal borrower card so if your local library is not in PINES, you can go to one that is and borrow from the PINES system. And what library users are doing is pretty clear, they are making the drive: they want access to the 2 million bibliographic entities and the over 9 million items owned by the libraries in PINES. As a result, the obvious statistical treatment itself would miss this dynamic aspect of people’s behavior. They don’t hold still and they react to changes in their environment.

To come full circle, I offer this speculation: that some of the growth in the number of PINES systems (44 to 49) since Evergreen went live in 2006, may be a result of this behavior.

I was graduated from library school in 1971 and I have seen various fashions about how best to do library service: big regionals or small local and intimate libraries. Back and forth. Back and forth. I believe the jury is now in. Library users are voting with their feet; they want the big, resource rich library.

Chris Jowaisis’s Texas Library Systems wiki has an ILS Discussion in which he offered an opinion I thought insightful about the Georgia experience: “(CJ opinion) political agreements are as impressive as the technology achievements of Evergreen.” I have quoted Chris’s observation often. Now, after seeing the experience in Georgia up close, I think that while we librarians and politicians care about the politics, the people who use libraries don’t. If you build the resource sharing consortium, they will come.

Bob Molyneux