line-chart-lgTwo very different stories from two different cities, but when you combine the both of them you can get a decent picture of the library world today.

From Chicago comes a report of a 30% jump in overall circulation. People are finally realizing that they can get free entertainment at the library. Or if they’re not “finally realizing” it, they are at least remember it. I still get quite a few people in my branch who are totally unaware that we have DVDs and CDs. More and more, I hear patrons telling me that they don’t mind waiting a little while for the latest book to come there way on the request list. Afte all, it’s cheaper than buying it at a store.

Meanwhile, the Seattle Public Library is instituting some changes in how many things are checked out at a time. Obviously, they’re doing this so that people have more equal access. In other words, some folks were checking out way too many things while other folks went without. Interlibrary Loans are no longer free and patron’s are going to get hit with a US$5.00 fee. Finally, the cost of non-resident cards is going up from $55 to $85.

Some patrons aren’t happy, sure. Still, as a ravenous reader and a circulation manager, I have a hard time figuring out why anyone would need 50 items at once, let alone more. The rising cost of the non-res cards dismays some because they suffer from the misconception that libraries should be free. Last I checked, someone pays for libraries (we call them taxpayers) and those who do should get to use them. Those who aren’t paying taxes to support the library should have to foot the bill for use. After all, why should someone get something for free when everyone else is paying for it?

What’s obvious to me is that we’re seeing the standard library economic model. As the economy falters, library use rises. And as library use rises due to economic woes, that’s when the libraries start losing money.