Count
those books ! |

The DCMS Service Standards actually *encourage* library services to cut the
number of books they keep (to settle at a level of 1.5 books per resident
eventually). One bold service
(Croydon) actually says in its 5-year policy document:

"Too much stock on shelves can make it
difficult for users to identify what is available".

We are sure you will agree that to save us hours of unnecessary browsing,
it is best that those highly skilled library managers select a minimal set of
choice titles for us. After all,
the purpose of the book fund is to continually change the stock so that the few
readers left can find different books they haven't read. It is not meant for building up large
collections that even avid readers could not exhaust. The managers are campaigners at heart
and want those lean years, when the councils cut their book funds to zero, drawn
to public attention. Nobody would
notice if their libraries were always full of books.

Thus the need for a "comprehensive" collection can be quietly dropped as
has already happened with the need for an "efficient" service that requires less
than Ј10 spent on infrastructure for every Ј1 spent on books.

Although all authorities' book counts are published each year (London
boroughs' range from 1.1 (Lambeth) to 4.0 (Westminster) books per resident, for
example), you will not find the number for your own __individual__ library
unless you are privy to management figures (and they can be wrong or
missing).

**
But you can count them for yourself fairly accurately in about 10
minutes!**

The method is based on the fact that the
average book is one inch
thick and, for simplicity, it uses imperial units rather than metric ones. (Check
a few random shelves
if you aren't convinced!) Cheap
paperbacks and other "genre" books are much thinner (about half an inch) but
we hope you will agree that libraries that stock a disproportionate number of
these
are cheating their public and so we should use an "equivalent book" one inch
thick in our counts. Children's
books are even thinner, usually, but we propose that these, along with the large
print books, be left out of the present survey.

First check that the shelves are the standard 35 inches wide (0.9 of a
metre) – make corrections as you go for the few that are not.

Then *methodically* walk round
noting the __total number of shelves__ as well as the total number of
__empty shelves__ (combining partially empty ones to give an equivalent
number).

Unfortunately, in
refurbishing some libraries recently, "designers" have created shelf mazes to
make it more of a challenge for the public to find the books they want. However, if you are lucky enough to have
an orderly library, the counting task becomes even easier:

just note in
columns:

number of shelf units
number of shelf
how many
how many empty

(of the same B and H) bays per
unit shelves
high shelves (or
equivalent)

"U"
"B"
"H"
"E"

Each row in this table
represents a block of shelf units of the same type. So for each, if you multiply: __U ____x
____B
____x____ H__ you get the number of shelves "S" in
each block which you can write in a fifth column.

(By the way, some librarians may treat *you* like a fifth column if they spot
you.)

When you have done all the rows, add up this S-column and you have the
total number of shelves.

Add up the E column for the total number of __empty__
shelves.

The __total S__ minus __total E__ is the number of __full__
shelves ( -equivalent) which you can then __multiply by 35 to give the total
number of books__ (or at least, our 1"-standard books).

We suggest that you do the non-fiction and fiction separately and perhaps
the "genre" fiction books in a third total (1"-standard, of course).

A further useful figure is the total book capacity of your library. This is all the S-totals (__without__
subtracting the E-totals) multiplied by 35.

You'll soon get the hang of it, honest! Then you will want to do it at least
once a year to watch the gradual decline of your library (or the opposite, if
you live in the Borough of Utopia).

Perhaps you would be kind enough to share your figures with us so that
eventually we can compare libraries in terms of book-quantity if not
quality.

Please fill in this standard
form and return it to [email protected]

............................................................................................................................................

**Library Authority
(borough):
......................................................**

**
Library:
......................................................**

**
Date of taking count:
......................................................**

__(Adult)
Books:__

**
Non-fiction total:
...........................**

**(alphabetic) Fiction
total:
...........................**

** (separate)
Genre fiction total:
...........................**

**
Grand total:
...........................**

__(Adult)
Shelves:__

**Total book capacity
of your library:
...........................**

If you would like the
credit, your name:
....................................... Many thanks!