Libraries at University of Nebraska-Lincoln


Date of this Version



Copyright 2019 David Tyler & Brianna Hitt


On numerous occasions over the course of the UNL Libraries’ continuing discussions concerning the allocation of collections monies, the UNL Libraries’ liaison librarians have made a variety of assertions, arguments, and claims concerning their patrons and their patrons’ needs. For example, the humanities librarians have repeatedly staked a claim to the humanities’ being the “book” discipline and have made a variety of assertions concerning humanities patrons and humanities books that could be treated as testable hypothesis.

For example:

1) Humanities patrons use books more than do other disciplines’ patrons;

2) Humanities patrons use more books than do other disciplines’ patrons;

3) Humanities books are used more than are other disciplines’ books;

4) Humanities books’ circulation is an inadequate and/or inaccurate measure of humanities’ patrons’ need for and/or use of their books because it does not account for in-house usage, for ILL requests for returnables, or for circulation renewals (Note: this last argument has been that humanities patrons use books for deeper scholarship and for longer periods, so some portion of their potential circulations will be transformed into and lost as renewals);

5) …and so forth.

It would be, of course, impossible to provide a complete and comprehensive analysis of collections usage that would address every issue and objection, but the authors hope here to address a few of the above points somewhat.

Unfortunately, we cannot address the points concerning humanities patrons using books more or using more books than do the patrons of the other disciplines. Not least because of privacy concerns, the UNL Libraries simply does not track their patrons in a way that would allow for those analyses. Likely, patrons’ revealed preferences in this area could only be approached somewhat obliquely via citation analysis. For similar reasons, we cannot address the point concerning in-house usage by patron affiliation without arranging for data to be collected through direct observation and demographic interviews. The point concerning ILL borrowing of returnables might be addressable in future as the Delivery/ILL department collects a tremendous amount of data, but that data is not available for analysis at the moment.

The questions that we can somewhat address here involve the books themselves:

1) Was a greater percentage of any one discipline’s books circulated over the interval? Renewed? Did it matter who selected the book?

2) Did any one discipline’s books experience more circulations? More circulations-and-renewals?

3) Which variables, in future, might be useful for predictively modelling circulation and/or circulations-and-renewals?

4) Could early relative performance predict future performance?