Save the time of the reader

Evergreen went live over the Labor Day weekend in 2006. How are the users of PINES adapting to the new ILS? The results of this preliminary analysis show rapid growth in use of PINES libraries.

We only have fragmentary data from before the change but the following table shows changes in selected measures of use of the PINES system. Year over year changes are the best way to calculate this kind of change because there are seasonal effects—for instance December is generally a slow month—and I have chosen to use percentages rather than raw numbers to make comparisons easier. In the table, the row “September 2007” lists the percent increases in the various raw figures of September 2007 over September 2006. Thus, September 2007 saw an increase in PINES libraries’ circulations of 10.1% over the September 2006 figures. Blanks in the table indicate there are no matching data to calculate percentage increases.

The table below has percent increases in circulations, total holds, and unique patrons requesting holds. Holds are those place by users in the library when some cataloged item is not available. Although Evergreen is used to measure the in-house use of both of cataloged and of uncataloged items, these types of circulations are not included here. The circs are by the standard definition—these are items going out the door.

We can see that circs have increased a bit over 10% for the four months we have matching data. Holds increased a good bit more and we have data for a longer period. The range of increases of these holds is from a bit under 30% increase to over 50%, depending on which month one examines. The change in holds is dramatic.

% increase in
% increase % increase in Unique Patrons
in Circulations Total Holds Requesting Holds
September, 2006      
October, 2006      
November, 2006      
December, 2006      
January, 2007   35.2  
February, 2007   40.8  
March, 2007   39.2  
April, 2007   50.0  
May, 2007   45.9  
June, 2007   38.5  
July, 2007   52.0  
August, 2007   38.4  
September, 2007 10.1 51.4 39.5
October, 2007 15.0 36.5 30.4
November, 2007 10.0 29.7 25.0
December, 2007 11.1 28.9 25.5

The right column shows the increase in unique patrons requesting holds. This column presents an interesting set of statistics because we see a striking increase in the number of patrons using this service.

So, the number of people requesting holds is going up, too. The number of holds per person (not shown) is up only slightly averaging fewer than 4.

Why these increases? I think we are seeing an “Evergreen Effect” which I would define as increases in library use brought on by saving the time of the reader. I don’t believe Ranganathan would be surprised by these data. Those readers are responding to a lower bar between them and materials they are seeking by using the PINES system and materials from its constituent libraries more. Evergreen was designed from the ground up with close consultation with librarians, Georgia Public Library Services staff, and library users. Modern notions about presentation of data were included from the beginning, not bolted on to an aging system. Hence, it is easy to use and intuitive.

These figures overstate the changes slightly. The number of systems at the start of PINES was 44 (including the State Library) and by December, 2007, there were 47. We did look at backing the data from the newer libraries out and that would decrease the raw numbers and percentages about 4%, we estimate.

But we ran into a problem and that was that people living in the service areas of libraries not served by PINES have been using PINES libraries in order to get access to the large, virtual library. There are currently 1.82 million titles in PINES libraries with 9.4 million copies. As I said: a large virtual library and one with many resources to share to library patrons with a PINES card. Any Georgia citizen can get one and we know that library users from non-PINES are availing themselves of these resources and 1.82 million titles is a powerful draw and, not inconceivably, a draw for some of the non-PINES libraries to join. In any case, if we took the effect of the newer libraries out, many of the users in the new systems were already users of PINES. There is an apples to oranges comparison but the currently unmeasurable effect is likely small—probably lower than 4% but we just can’t measure it. So, for December 2007 increase in circulations over December 2006 might be as low as 7%. The holds might also be about 4% lower, that is, perhaps 25% increase in total holds for December 2007 over December 2006. Teasing out a better number is going to be tricky.