Wednesday, July 9, 2008

What's a gate count worth?

Today's Inside Higher Ed reports on an NCES report on academic libraries, specifically the news that library gate counts are holding steady.

The immediate question that springs to mind is one that a couple of commenters on this item have already asked: with so much information online, including library holdings, are gate counts still relevant?

I'd argue that they are--as part of a composite picture that should also include usage statistics for online resources, tallies of online reference transactions as well as those at the desk, and library instruction wherever it takes place. If the use of library space is changing, which it undoubtedly is, it's also worth knowing whether that change is successful.

The library on my campus is morphing into a multi-use learning space. It's the primary computer center on campus, a preferred study and group work space for many students, and a home for related services, such as tutoring and digital media. If we were offering all of that and people weren't coming in, that would be important, if disappointing, to know. So gate counts do still matter--because while the library is online, it's also (still) a building, and a building that people use.

Especially during finals, according to our gate counts.

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