Are The Majority Of Your Patrons Coming In For Movies?

Today in "Articulating your preferred use case (what's it for?)" Seth Godin states:

"At many suburban libraries, the majority of patrons do nothing but 'rent' popular movies on DVD. This isn't an efficient use of the space or the staff, but that doesn't make it any less common."

Is that true at your library?
[Update] First few comments say he is wrong; So what if he was right? Is it a bad thing?


He has no facts or figures: note the wiggle: "many," "majority," "nothing but." There's no data here.

I did some random searches for popular movies and popular books in our consortium catalog. The system showed, e.g., 3 more copies of "How To Train Your Dragon," the book, than the movie of the same title. Hard to understand if "the majority of patrons" aren't interested in books.

But I'm prejudiced - my local library has only the book, not the movie, as they can't afford much of a DVD collection. Seth Godin would probably be surprised at how busy the place is.

Our AV circ is about 40% of our total circulation, but AV materials have shorter loan periods and faster turn around in general . . . so apples/oranges.

I think the biggest untruth in that statement is that it "isn't an efficient use of the space or the staff." We supply a wide range of materials and really don't care if patrons are watching True Grit, reading it or listening to the audiobook. So if patrons are using the library as voraciously as Seth suggests, that's pretty damn efficient in my book.

In fact, we use space so efficiently there's more than enough room for us to store all Seth Godin doesn't know about libraries.

--Terry Bosky

And you wonder why Seth Godin doesn't allow comments on his own blog?? Because he doesn't back up his outrageous statements with facts.

Would Seth like to come see what our patrons put on hold? Because just by the stacks of BOOKS on our hold shelves...

Oh, it's not worth the steam. I will not stoop to using expletives.

Thanks for posting this, though, so I at least know what untruths he's peddling today.

--Suzi W.

this is hilarious. we're told to give our customers what they want, but when we do, we're told that it's a poor use of our resources.

does he own Netflix stock, or something? because Netflix just (nearly) doubled their monthly rates... suprisingly! once they've killed off Blockbuster... and now we have some genius saying that libraries should get out of the movie business.

the library's use case is to serve our community, to give out library cards and to get those people (and anyone else) to use our services. and that's how we measure success, but the volume of our customers. we don't sell products and we don't charge for services. so we are the antithesis of what Godin is pushing. ironically, when libraries give their customers movies, they are doing exactly what Godin espouses because libraries are customer-driven.

but since we remove those customers from the retail market by "giving away" valuable products and services, we are evil.

only libraries do what libraries do. why the hell can't that bald bastard praise our uniqueness?


I don't know what strange and or podunk places you people work, if you are librarians, but there isn't a major metro library in the country that doesn't do the majority of its circ in DVDs and CDs. And yes, of course, most of that is garbage, like "Just Go With It." And you wonder why people question us as a use of tax money?

Please don't feed the trolls.

You say: there isn't a major metro library in the country that doesn't do the majority of its circ in DVDs and CDs.

I say: there isn't a major metro library in the country that doesn't do the majority of its circ in books.

Neither of use are providing any data to support these statements. So who is correct?

You may come back with anecdotal evidence of seeing people checking out DVDs. I will respond with anecdotal evidence of people checking out books. Should we make conclusions about how resources are being spent on anecdotal evidence?

Bigger question that people should answer is should libraries be circulating movies? Ultimately I think that can only be answered by the community.

At Main Library in Kansas City, KS, DVD Circulation Nears 60%

Now before you look at that story, consider if you're going to appraise the reported claims with an incredulity beyond logical skepticism. If so, you may want to consider that your ideology isn't exactly congruent with the facts.

Like Blake posted, why not focus on the issues being discussed, instead of nitpicking how he says it?

70% of our checkouts are audiobooks and books -

Yes, they do. But that still gets them into the library, where we make them aware that we have lots more to offer than just DVDs!

Table 1 from the 2010 PLDS shows mean total circ from 956 libraries to be 1.5 million per year and mean CD/DVD circ from 730 libraries to be .522 million, so that would be 30%. State library of Ohio shows the below from 2009, which is about 30% too.

Total Circulation Video Audio
circ to Library Cassettes Recordings
Users & Discs (CD's, Tapes,

CINCINNATI AND HAMILTON COUNTY, PL OF 851,494 16,372,499 4,946,828 1,754,552
COLUMBUS METROPOLITAN LIBRARY 843,582 16,526,936 3,748,895 2,187,182
CUYAHOGA COUNTY PUBLIC LIBRARY 568,306 19,006,142 6,169,649 2,377,026
DAYTON METRO LIBRARY 465,127 8,020,127 2,828,871 853,487
CLEVELAND PUBLIC LIBRARY 445,805 6,873,457 2,548,725 843,779
TOLEDO-LUCAS COUNTY PUBLIC LIBRARY 440,456 6,991,660 2,080,441 628,766
AKRON-SUMMIT CNTY PUBLIC LIBRARY 379,436 6,132,677 1,434,054 1,413,218

the numbers left to right are: service pop., total circ, DVD circ, CD circ

Out of curiosity after reading this post, pulled most recent year's stats from our consortia. About two-thirds print circ, and about one-sixth of AV was audiobooks and ebooks.

Heck, Seth don't care about no numbers. He's a Social Media Guru, a Thought Leader. That's also why he don't need no damn comments--he's always right, so what's the point. (As to Anonymous going to PLDS: Shame, shame on you. How can you have a good ideological fight based on falsehoods if someone adds facts to the equation?).

Oh, and eff, I still do not see how a maximum of 60% increase, for one plan known to be untenable, can be called doubling or even nearly doubling. In fact, Netflix did not raise its prices. It rationalized and unbundled its prices, which results in a modest increase (c'mon, we're never talking more than $6/month: so skip a latte every other week) for certain users who want both DVDs and streaming. I'll pay $4 less per month for the actual Netflix services I use (DVDs and Blu-rays): If that's a raise in prices, I'm all in favor of it. Irrelevant to Godin's nonsense (for that matter, DVDs and CDs are stored so space-efficiently in most libraries that his complaint is nonsense), but nonsense in its own right.

or maybe $9... but I dropped the service because I wasn't using it. so if the new price is $16 for dvd + streaming, then that's how I got my math.

In other words, "at some point I think I paid X" probably paid $9.95, which you rounded down to $9. So now $16 is twice the misremembered version of a rounded-down actual price that you weren't even paying any more.

I'm impressed. Fact is, as of a week ago, the cheapest U.S. Netflix disc+streaming price was $9.95: If it was ever cheaper than that, I don't remember. That price is going up 60% because it's being turned into two far more rational prices.

60% is a LONG way from "double." If you're earning $30,000 a year and are told you can double your salary by earning an MLS, I suspect you'll be more than a little pissed off if you earn that MLS and find that you make $48,000 a year.

Yes patrons come into our library and get out DVDs in large numbers and so what? We actually get lots of patrons who already belong to Netflix, Hulu Plus, buy On Demand, etc. but they like the convenience of coming to the library and getting out a DVD. Often times libraries have older movies on DVD that aren't available most places.

We also have large numbers of books circulating. It's summer reading time and for the past month we've had hundreds of kids come into the library and leave with armloads of books. Right now we have several carts of books that need to be shelved because there have been so many book returns the past week. And as many books are coming back, just as many are going out. In tight economic times, people turn to libraries for their movie and print entertainment. Right now our book and DVD circ is about even.

Of course Seth doesn't understand that because I doubt he's stepped into a public library in the past 5-10 years. If he has I'll gladly eat my words but I won't hold my breath.

Public libraries are a pillar of our democracy. And it's time, I say, to start informing the public about the essential value of libraries, including the breadth of our services. Dollar contributions can help. But more important is the public's insistence that substantive library service must be provided in their communities.

Let us take advantage of those who visit public libraries for any purpose, no less to check out DVDs or (might I add) ANY fiction. This material, often desired for relaxation and cultural understanding, is usually skillfully marketed. Instead of complaining, let's just market the items a step further to help promote libraries and their importance.

Among many ideas, library staff could:

stick a small note inside DVD cases about the value of libraries beyond the item checked out;

make displays of 'books made into movies' with both formats together (also with related music CDs);

have a 'favorite DVD checked out' library contest or ratings survey (all stats compiled by users);

ask about a DVD while checking it in or out.

hold an impromptu 'Beyond Fiction' session, to overview the scope and value of non-fiction library holdings in 15 minutes or less. Attendees at the library could be eligible for a prize. Video the presentation for future viewing.

Unspoken grudges about others' actions affect relationships. Libraries' appreciation comes from relationships between individuals who kindly communicate with, appreciate, know and trust each other.
Libraries must lead the way.

My thanks to Seth Godin for mentioning this situation which has become so commonplace that it's easy to assume that nothing can be done about it.

Each community, city etc. supports its own library. If the people in the community want to check out DVDs and that is what they want from their library (to whom they usually pay taxes) then why should they not get the services they feel they need?

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