Podcast: Libraries and their data: Introducing LibraryData, a new product from BookNet Canada

We're pleased to introduce BookNet Canada's latest project: LibraryData.

While LibraryData is currently in beta only for select libraries who are providing their circulation and hold data, we're happy to share all the possibilities, realities, and general joy this new industry tool will bring.

In this episode, we're also sharing some highlights from our study on library use and book buying in Canada, Borrow, Buy, Read.

Do you work at a library and want to know how to participate in LibraryData? Get in touch at librarydata@booknetcanada.ca!

(Scroll down for a transcript of the conversation.)

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Further reading:


Elizabeth Barker: It's ALIVEEEEEE! on beta. BookNet Canada is proud to announce that LibraryData is now open-for provider libraries. And if you are, or are not, screaming in delight at this announcement, then this podcast episode is for you. I'm Elizabeth Barker, your host today as we examine the possibilities, realities, and general joy this new industry tool brings. Today I'm joined by the famous face of LibraryData, Monique Mongeon, who outside of being a force in the publishing industry, is also the Product Manager. Hello Monique, thank you for being at work today.

Monique Mongeon: It's always a joy to be at my workplace.

Elizabeth: Glad you made it. So, what is LibraryData?

Monique: LibraryData is our library circulation data collection and reporting platform. So, if you're familiar with SalesData already, where we collect retail sales data from across the country, we're now doing a similar project for library data. We're collecting the loans, holds, renewals, copies owned, and copies on order from libraries across the country so that we can open up some more views into how patrons and borrowers at libraries are using the materials available to them.

Elizabeth: That's awesome. Okay. How many libraries are participating right now?

Monique: So far since we're still in beta we have 20 libraries participating. They have over 500 branches between them which is pretty significant. And their libraries serve approximately 20% of Canada's total population. So, that's not a bad start.

Elizabeth: No.

Monique: We have five ILS providers working with us. So, an ILS is like a point of sale system for libraries. That's where they track all of their circulation information. We're working with Symphony, Horizon, Polaris, Evergreen, and Koha so far. So, if you are using one of those ILS providers, we can take your data almost immediately. So, get in touch.

Elizabeth: Okay. So, we have all this data now, what can we learn from that? What real-world applications does it have?

Monique: Since we've just unleashed the data into the hands of some of our libraries, we're just beginning to kind of understand what some of the real applications will be. And there's a lot that we'll learn over time as we amass more data. But so far, some of the best applications are for comparative reporting. If you're looking to improve your collection or learn about what's working well at other libraries that you can bring into your own, we have a lot of reporting on that looking at trends across the entire sort of ecosystem of libraries. We have use of data that include all of the libraries so you can see at a glance sort of like we do in SalesData where you can see the view of all the stores, you can see the view of all the libraries as well, and also looking at regional data. So, because each library represents its own municipality, you can view the data in sort of at the city level to see sort of where mystery is most popular or are people in BC really interested in books about hiking and those sorts of things. So, we're working on that and we're also doing a lot of comparative tools between library and SalesData.

When a book experiences its peak sales, five weeks after that is when the holds tend to peak at the library.

So, we've learned some interesting things so far. For example, when a book experiences its peak of sales, so the highest sales point, five weeks after that is when the holds tend to peak at the library. So, when we think about the ways that we know readers learn about new books to buy or books to read, they're often hearing about them through word of mouth. So, if let's say everyone buys a book at the beginning of a month, it maybe takes them if you're like me, you bring it home and you put it on your coffee table and then you have it on the coffee table for a while. And then maybe a month later you finally have gotten into it enough to start telling your friends. And so when we look at the data and we can see that five weeks later there's an additional peak in the holds, that's kind of the impact of that word of mouth possibly.

Elizabeth: Okay. Okay. Okay. I wanna play a game with you.

Monique: Great.

Elizabeth: Okay. So, I'm gonna give you a scenario and you're gonna tell me what report I should run in order to figure out what I wanna know.

Monique: Okay. I think I can handle this.

Elizabeth: Okay. I'm a librarian, life-long dream, and I want to know what people are reading or at least what they're intending to read so I can make selections for my book club. So, how do I find out the titles that they're seeing the most circulation, or collecting the most holds?

Monique: Right. So, one of the reports available is called the "Popular Books" report and you can rank to find the most popular books based on either the loans, or the holds, or the renewals, or even the number of copies on order if you wanna see what's popular in terms of what other libraries are ordering. So, there's lots of possibilities in terms of the popular books report. And if you're hosting the book club at a specific branch, you could look at the popular books for that specific branch location so that you know what the readers who are visiting that location are interested in

Elizabeth: Okay. So, I'm still librarian and I'm culling the shelves trying to make room for incoming books and I come across a title that only has a few copies but they're kind of in pretty bad shape. So, it's not like an obsolete title, but it's not exactly new. So, how do I determine whether or not to order new copies for this book, or to turn it out to pasture?

Monique: If you wanna look at a single title, there is a report called the "Book Activity" report where you can look at the more in-depth view of one title's performance. You can drop the ISBN of the book into that report and what you'll get back is the week-over-week performance. You'll see if there's been any loans. There's also a great graph there that shows you at a glance all the circulation activity at once. If you like graphs that could be really helpful.

Elizabeth: I do. I really, really do.

Monique: But at that point, you can see if there's been any interest in this book, you can also look at other libraries and see if they have interest in this book and then you can use your professional wisdom to decide whether or not you wanna keep the book in your collection. But you have more tools now to see sort of if anyone across the country is taking out this book or reading it. 

Elizabeth: Okay. So, I'm a selector for my library and I get to go to a conference and I see another librarian there and they get to talking, and they're going on about how much they've improved their selection of children's books about blended and non-heteronormative families. So, how do I find titles that are missing from my collection that are doing as well in theirs?

Monique: Great. Yes. So, this is one of the coolest types of reports that we have available. This reporting tool is called the "Collection Gaps" and you can use this to identify titles that are missing from your library that are performing well somewhere else. So, if you wanted to find the titles about sort of blended and alternative families, that's the BISAC code that's assigned to books in this subject area. Then you would use the subject selector to identify those subjects and then you'd pick yourself as the home library, and then you would pick the Conference Presenters Library as your comparison library. And what it would return back to you is all the titles that are the highest performing at their library that your library doesn't already own.

Elizabeth: That's awesome.

Monique: Yeah. It's really, really cool and it's a really great way if you're trying to build your collection to find those titles that are high-performing that are missing from your shelves.

Elizabeth: Okay. Another librarian one.

Monique: Okay. Great. I'm ready.

Elizabeth: I got a thousand of these. Okay. So, I just wanna check out the week's bestsellers and see how my branch's collection of these titles are stacking up, or maybe like, I wanna put a display together...I can put a display together like, right in front of the library.

Monique: Yup.

Elizabeth: I'm getting way too into these scenarios. I think I missed my calling. Anyway. So, yes. So, I'm trying to put a display together for people coming in over the weekend, like can these reports help me or is it kind of just like a guess?

Monique: These reports can definitely help you. Like I mentioned before because we've been working with SalesData now for over 10 years, we have all of these sales information included with the libraries' access of SalesData. So, the libraries could run the bestseller circ report which returns the best selling titles for the week that they've chosen, and then it shows their library's holdings of that title and how it's performing. So, if you, let's say the best selling book this week is a book about Dalmatians and then you can see also your libraries whether you have any copies, if you have some on order, if you have them in and they're circulating, how much they're circulating. So you can see all of that information. So you know what you have. So you know A which books are actually in the library so you can pull them in for a display, or you can see if they have all been checked out. Then like great news, the best sellers are doing great at your library. But you can see that information at a glance there through our partnership with the SalesData platform.

Elizabeth: That's so cool. Okay. I'm gonna switch it up..

Monique: Okay.

Elizabeth: I'm a children's publisher now.

Monique: Excellent.

Elizabeth: Okay. So, I'm planning my future seasons' of books and I'm trying to identify what the library market is like for, let's just say, I'm really big on French- language graphic novels.

Monique: Okay.

Elizabeth: Is there anything that can help me with that one?

Monique: Yes. If you're looking not at an individual title level, but if you're looking for the performance of an entire category, a subject or a language, like here we're talking about French graphic novels. The report you wanna use is called the "Trend Analysis." And what that does it's a bit like a market share report so it shows of the library that you pick like, how many of all the loans are French-language graphic novels. And then you can chart that over time. So, you could see, for example, if a month ago or not a month ago, let's look farther. Let's say six months ago the average sort of loans for a French graphic novel category in a month was like 500 and you can see maybe six months later, now it's closer to 1,100, then you can see there's been a lot of growth in that category. And it could be that maybe there's a really big book that came out in that category and that kind of thing.

So, it's a good starting point for more analysis. So, if you run a trend analysis for French-language graphic novels and you think like, "Oh, there's been a lot of growth here. Maybe I want to bring some stuff in.That might be a great time to run a Collection Gap's report on French graphic novels to find the best-performing ones that you don't have or run a Popular Books on the French graphic novel so that you can find the ones that are the best performing and see if any of those are things you wanna bring in. So, that's a couple of ways you can use the Trend Analysis report. It's also really great for libraries to as they're planning their collection buys to see how things are growing and changing in their own libraries, as well as for the publishers to decide what they want to publish.

Elizabeth: Okay. So, you've mentioned SalesData a couple of times now. How is the demand between libraries and the retail market different?

Monique: This is a super great question.

Elizabeth: Thank you.

Monique: We know that through a lot of different methods and sort of areas of our research both using SalesData and LibraryData, and through our research reporting that there is a very big difference between the library and the retail market. Okay. Actually, I wanna introduce my lovely colleague, Hannah, to come talk a bit about libraries and retail, and some of these great stats more generally. Let's bring in Hannah.

Elizabeth: Let's bring on the stats. Hi, Hannah.

Hannah: Hi, Elizabeth.

Elizabeth: Okay. So, Mo kind of alluded to this, but can you supply some numbers to kind of prove that the retail market is different than the library one?

Hannah: For sure. So, when we were looking at the number of unit sales and loans last June to December in 2018, we found that certain subjects are more popular in the library market than in retail. So, in the retail market, the market share, so, the percentage of the entire market that is the specific subject.

Elizabeth: Okay. 

Hannah: Thirty-nine percent is Juvenile and Young Adult, 26% is adult Fiction, and 34% is adult Non-Fiction, this is in the retail. In libraries though it's 48% Juvenile and Young Adult. So, a lot higher. Twenty-seven percent adult Fiction and 25% adult Non-Fiction.

Elizabeth: Even like changed ranking order.

Hannah: I know. So, unsurprisingly, Juvenile Fiction and Thrillers topped the list for both SalesData and LibraryData. So, there are some perennial favourites that are gonna be consistent across both markets.

Elizabeth: What I'm sure our listeners really wanna know is do people who use the library also buy books? Or are they mutually exclusive?

Hannah: Well, according to a new BookNet Canada study that just came out...

Elizabeth: You don't say.

Hannah: I know. Borrow, Buy, Read is the name of the study. It's on library use and book buying in Canada. We can definitively say Canadians who both buy and borrow books purchase more books, on average per month, than buyers who don't use the library at all. So, we found that those who'd visited a library at least once in the last year purchased an average of three books per month whereas, those who had not been to a library in the past year only made 2.6 purchases on average. But we also found that at the peak, buyers who were visiting the library 10 to 14 times a month, really the super users, purchased an average of six books each month.

Elizabeth: Wow. What else are some key findings from this study, Borrow, Buy, Read?

Hannah: Well, we were able to see some more data about how users are accessing the titles that they wanna read. So, 41% of borrowers purchased a new print book in the last year, 12% bought an ebook, and 4% bought an audiobook.

Elizabeth: Interesting.

Hannah: But we also found that in terms of the frequency, borrowers are listening to audiobooks way more than readers in general. Nine percent were listening daily compared to 7% of overall readers, and 18% listened several times a week compared to 16% of readers. We also have some stats on just general usage finding that 56% of Canadian readers used a public library in the past year and 40% of Canadians visit the library monthly.

Elizabeth: Okay. So then, did they actually give reasons for the main reasons why this?

Hannah: They did and it might be... I'll let you guess. What do you think the main reason was that people were using the public library?

Elizabeth: I would say a sense of guilt leftover from childhood.

Hannah: Absolutely. That's the number one reason! No. We we found that borrowing books is the number one reason that people were using the library.

Elizabeth: Oh. Oh. I didn't even think.

Hannah: Right? I know. It's not an obvious one. But 44% of users are using the library to borrow bestsellers. 

Elizabeth: Nice.

Hannah: Another 44% to borrow other Fiction, and another 44% to borrow Non-Fiction. And when it comes to discovery of new titles, the public library is the fourth most popular way that readers of all kinds are discovering the books they want to read.

Elizabeth: That's because librarians are amazing. Okay. But are there differences in why borrowers are reading versus those who buy?.

Hannah: Yeah. There are some differences. So, we found that borrowers read for the same reason that all readers do, and the top reasons are to relax and for enjoyment or to use their imagination. However, some reasons for reading were more popular with borrowers than with all readers. More borrowers are reading to learn, reading to discover topics or become immersed in another world, and to read for inspiration, motivation or for work or study. Yeah. We're also seeing that books stay popular longer in libraries with higher popularity of backlist titles in library circulation than in retail sales. So, 55% of sales are frontlist titles, but only 25% of loans. So, backlist is really the bulk of library circulation.

Elizabeth: What other cool things do you have for us today?

Hannah: Well, my colleague, Ainsley, who works in marketing here at BookNet recently put up a blog post on basketball books in light of the Raptors historic run to the NBA championship. She did a post looking at how basketball books, as a category performed over time, are Canadians reading basketball books more than hockey books or baseball books? And what are the best selling books about basketball and its stars?

Elizabeth: Interesting.

Hannah: So, I thought it would be fun to look at similar questions using LibraryData because we know now how basketball books perform in retail, but how do they perform in public libraries?

Elizabeth: That's a very good question.

Hannah: So, we see similar performance over time. There was a rise in loans and sales in early May 29 possibly related to the aforementioned Raptors success. And like with book sales, loans of hockey books far outpaced loans in the other sports and recreation subgenres. Perhaps not surprising seeing as we're here in Canada even at the lowest points for the hockey subgenre, none of the other top sports really come close in terms of circulation.

We also compared how top-selling titles in SalesData compare to the highest loans in LibraryData. And we did see some similarities titles like, The Mamba Mentality, Kobe Bryant's book, 5-Minute Basketball StoriesRelentless by Tim Grover, Basketball by Dan Flores, and Open Look are all in the top 10 in both LibraryData and SalesData for the January to May period this year. So, yeah. So, it's just interesting because with the dual platform of LibraryData and SalesData, we can compare the performance of subjects in both markets to get a more holistic view of how certain subjects might be performing.

Elizabeth: This is so exciting. And that's all we have for you today. So, I wanna say first a huge thank you to Monique for sitting down and talking about relevant things related to LibraryData and another huge thank you to our newest edition of the BookNet team, Hannah Johnston, Project Coordinator of LibraryData. And if any point of the information present to you when, "Oh that's neat." Well, Hannah put that together for this podcast. So, thank you. But of course, we also need to recognize all the hard work that went into the Borrow, Buy, Read study. So, thank you, research team, you did amazing. And as well as Ainsley Sparkes who now knows a lot about basketball books. Anyway, that neat exclamation has led to an interest in obtaining access to LibraryData when we eventually open it up to the public.

We've added the contact information in the notes, it's librarydata@booknetcandidate.ca. And someone from the team will be in touch with all the details. In the meantime, a huge thank you again to you, the listener, to tuning in and listening all the way through. And thanks as always to the government of Canada for their support for this podcast, to the Canada Book Fund. We will be back in a month with another episode. Until then, I'm Elizabeth Barker and I definitely will see you next time the word library is in the episode title.