Some days I go home and collapse. When I update these charts with our patron usage data and circulation statistics, I realize why.
When my co-librarian (and library soul mate) Alden and I were hired in 2007, we didn't inherit organized patron usage data from our predecessors. They did have the students sign in when they visited the library, but it was all by hand; when we started, we just didn't have the time to crunch the numbers from the prior school year's sign in sheets. Shortly after we began, we purchased a computer program called Preston from a local software developer that runs on a touchscreen monitor. Students sign in to the library by entering their name and reason for visiting; I have access to a password-protected website where I can pull up the data, which I enter into Excel to create these pretty charts. [Side Note: this data only includes individual student visits to the library; it does not include any whole class visits. So our actual patron usage is much higher than this.] Occasionally I email the charts to my administrators. I have also been known to chase them down around school and force them to "ooh" and "ahh" over them.
Circulation in our library has also steadily risen each year. Sometimes I look at this data and can't believe it's real. But when I look at it with the patron usage data, I have to believe that we're able to draw more and more students into the library each year, which helps increase our circulation.
This past summer I did a major weed of the collection, which allowed me to eliminate 2 bookshelves and rearrange the library space. Thanks to Gaylord, I acquired a new (3rd) study table for the kids to use (now I want a 4th!), so the kids have even more room to sit and use the library. I believe this has been the reason for the increase (already!) in both patron usage and circulation. If you build it, they will come.
We do have circulation data from the year before Alden and I were hired (see the navy blue line on this graph). We were thrilled at the end of our first year that we were able to increase circulation as much as we did. We attributed the increase to the creation of a small collection of graphic novels and purchasing books that the children requested. At the end of our first year, we created a Young Adult fiction section for the middle school and high school students. Again we saw an increase in circulation.
I attribute the increase in each subsequent year to purchasing new materials that the kids like and maintaining an environment where the kids feel welcome and respected. I also try to keep it fresh and new in the library; every year I change things, add things... buy new furniture or hang new decorations... keeping things lively and "new" brings the kids in more and more. Again... if you build it, they will come.
I dream of the day when we go under construction and expand the library. It would be such a dream to have more computers and more study space for our students. But until then, I will just rearrange, add, change, and keep things fresh so the kids will enjoy it.