This claim about library funding is BS right?

Was just shown a facebook comment wherein someone claims, based on their having worked at a college library, that funding for libraries typically stems in part from how many books were looked at. Not checked out–looked at. Hence, went the comment, it’s important not to reshelf your own books.

Totally false, right? Just making sure.

As a former circulation clerk, I was told the reason we asked for the pros to do the resembling was to avoid books be mis-shelved and lost for god knows how long. Now, I do recall being asked to keep a tally of how many we had to do. So, while I doubt this was for funding, I don’t recall being told why we were to do that. I presume it was for workforce management.

The public library I volunteer at periodically has signs all over the place telling people not to re-shelve books and other items, presumably for this reason. They also discourage re-shelving anyway, because people put things back in the wrong places all the time.

There’s probably a kernel of truth in there, but it’s way way buried.

Most libraries with which I’ve been affiliated keep statistics on usage, and those stats are used to make the case for more funding. “We checked out 10,273 books last week, and patrons used another 4,067 in the library, and asked 2,703 questions at the reference desk, and spent 3,923 hours logged onto and downloaded 27,333 articles from our paid subscriptions database, and requested 247 books and 712 articles via interlibrary loan and the librarians gave 11 presentations and 2 seminars and led 16 tours and this and that and the other, and that’s why we need a budget increase.” At many libraries, book circulation is declining as more stuff is available online, so showing how many people are using materials onsite helps to justify why the library is still spending money on books instead of just funneling the entire budget into online services.

The library isn’t going to be funded based on how many books were looked at, but that will be one of the many many statistics they’ll track to document the library’s value and spending choices.

Librarian with 25 years experience here. What you’re referring to is probably the "in library use " statistic. It could certainly be used to make it appear that the library is used more than it actually is. In my case I work at a Montessori school where students can spend a good part of the day researching in the library. In this case, it gives a more complete picture of how much the library is used.

I’m an amateur librarian (I organize my church’s free library). Probably about two thirds of the time I spend on it is taken up books that get put in the wrong place, despite all of my efforts to get people to just leave them in a box for me to shelve. There are a few people who actually know how alphabetical order works and put things in the right place, and I don’t mind at all if those few people shelve books, but they’re so few that it’s just so much easier to say that nobody should do it.

So I assume it’s counted just by counting how many books are re-shelved?

Guess I’d be doing the library a huge favor if I accidentally knocked over an entire shelf.

As P-Man said, “in-house use” (that is, books that weren’t checked out but were used in the library, as evidenced by their being left lying around) is sometimes tracked as part of the library’s circulation stats. This is not the case everywhere, though – it was true at the university I attended for library school, but not at the university where I currently work. The circ stats can play some role in how much funding the library gets, but it’s not as simple as more circulation = more money.

Where in-house use stats can be more important is when it comes to making decisions about what old books should be removed from the collection to make room for new books. For instance, there could be some large, heavy book that people often consult in the library but decide not to check out because they don’t want to lug it home. If in-house use is being tracked, there will be evidence that this book is being used more than the checkout stats would indicate.

For the most part though, the reason to leave books to be reshelved instead of trying to do it yourself is that the average patron is likely to put the book back in the wrong place, which can cause a lot more hassle for the staff (“The catalog said this book was available, but I looked and looked and it’s not there!”) than just leaving the book for them to shelve. Clumsy reshelving can even cause smaller adjacent books to get shoved back so far they fall down between the shelves, where they can be hard for even trained staff to find.

Or even for one book to get jammed between the pages of another.

It would be a simple matter with today’s technology to put a barcode on the catalog number sticker on the spine of each book. A library staffer could then walk the stacks swiping the spines, and the machine beep every time it scanned a book out of sequence. The scanner could even record any book that is absent, by matching the scan with the library inventory.

That’s called a shelf read, and has been a feature of library management probably since they had that big place in Alexandria. Back in the dim distant days of my youth, the “technology” for a shelf read consisted of two students: one read the title out of the shelflist, and the other confirmed presence on the shelf, rearranging if necessary and flagging cards in the shelflist for items not found. Even with new scanners, though, it;s an incredibly labor-intensive process, at a time when library labor is stretched thin. Moreover, modern circulation systems do use stickers with barcodes, but they are usually on the front or back cover, not the spine, because the cover is a nice flat surface and spines come in all sorts of different widths and curvatures.