Looks Can Be Deceiving: How ACPL’s physical book collection
is actually more robust than ever
The following is an excerpt from the December, 2018 “Library Love” radio show podcast, hosted by WOUB’s Conversations with Studio B. *Updated info has been added.
Becca (ACPL Communications Officer, show host): Recently there’s been some concerns and rumors about empty shelves. Do you want to address that topic right off the bat?
Nick (ACPL Director): One reason shelves appeared so full before was because they were filled with books that weren’t circulating. That may have been because the information was outdated, or because the book was unappealing due to damage, or any number of other reasons. Once we cleared those items out of the way, the shelves appear empty because the books that are coming in to replace them are actually checking out…And librarians’ first response when someone says they can’t find something should always be to ask “What was it you’re looking for?,” because it’s rare that we can’t get the book that person wants.
Heather (ACPL Access Services Coordinator): To add to this, shipments of new materials come in almost daily. I believe we have received over 20 boxes of new stuff just this week! If patrons are seeing “empty shelves,” it’s due to upcoming renovations–like in Nelsonville this winter– and/or the materials are checked out. Which is such a good problem to have!
Becca: Well, how many books are we purchasing per year, compared to other things like video games or eBooks?—so we’re talking physical books.
Heather: We added 26,926 books in 2018—that’s for all age groups.
Becca: Do you imagine that we’ll ever go mostly, or even all digital? Or are we going to keep these physical books?
Heather: I don’t ever see us going mostly digital. Because we are part of the Ohio Digital Library, we share our e-resources with libraries all over Ohio, which gives us the ability to continue putting our primary focus on print material. We also still see a huge demand for print materials.
Nick: This year we’ll have $150,000 for purchasing adult print materials, and we have another $70,000 for juvenile books. Our entire eBook budget is $20,000. So it doesn’t even come close to these other numbers…
Around 2013 or 2014, eBook use actually plateaued, not just in libraries, but across the industry, and what I think is happening is that eBooks are filling a particular niche. They’re convenient for people who want to bring a large number of books with them but don’t want to have to pack the physical books, etc. But for classics, for nonfiction titles, for all sorts of other things, nothing will ever replace the physical book. It’s too convenient a package, it’s too efficient , and it’s too affordable.
Becca: Right, and libraries are really important to communities because of those physical books at your fingertips for free.
Taryn (ACPL Youth Services Coordinator): Including for young people—which you might not think! But Millennials love libraries, and they prefer physical books, so they’re not going away.
Becca: I discovered a book last year on our shelves that I absolutely loved–a physical book. But this year, I’m listening to it right now as an audiobook, and it is a different experience. It brings the book to life in a new way having both options.
Nick: And that’s a really good point, too, that the way we consume information generally is going to vary, not just from person to person, but even for ourselves, depending on what our needs are at the time. We as the county library system, are trying to provide those different experiences for our patrons.
Becca: Well, that leads into my next question. When we’re ordering materials for the libraries, do we have a particular audience or age group in mind?
Heather: We definitely purchase with each library community in mind [Nelsonville, The Plains, Glouster, Coolville, Albany, Athens, and Glouster], but we certainly do not cater to any specific crowd or age group.
Becca: So besides having outdated info, what are some other reasons we might need to replace a book or remove a book from a library shelf?
Heather: As part of what I like to call routine maintenance, we assess every item for damage—if the book is missing pages, if a book has a broken spine or food stains. A book with a lot of damage usually means that it’s been well read, that people liked it, so we’ll make it a point to replace those items if we can. Water damage specifically can cause mold, which can spread to other items on a shelf, so we try to keep up on that especially. But any type of damaged item has to be assessed.
Becca: So what if I’m in a library in Athens County, and I’m feeling disappointed that there isn’t a book that I really wanted to find at that library. What steps can I take to get that book?
Heather: You can look to see if another library location has it. You can submit a purchase request. We’re also part of the Serving Every Ohioan Consortium, so we can pull in books from all over Ohio. It’s very, very rare that we can’t get the book that you’re interested in.
Have questions or concerns about our collection? Can’t find a book? Please let us know! We are here to help. Director Tepe’s email, phone, and office are always open to library patrons!
Nick Tepe, Director
Listen to the whole radio show from December, 2018 by visiting this link.