print down slightly, video up sharply

Video circulation from Massachusetts public libraries doubled from 1998 to 2006. Over the same period, print item circulation fell slightly. Audio and video items together now account for 32% of total item circulation from Massachusetts public libraries.[1] Audiovisual circulation in libraries in other states might account for somewhat less, perhaps a quarter of total circulation.

YouTube, which was launched in November, 2005, now generates about 10% of broadband subscribers’ Internet traffic in North America (Ellacoya findings).

Video attracts much more attention than print. Historically, persons have spent on average relatively little leisure time reading. Most of the growth in leisure time from 1925 to the present has been absorbed in watching television. Now persons have on-demand access to large, diverse collections of videos, similar to what they have had for books.

Book digitization and internet publishing makes texts more readily accessible. But changes in access to video will have much larger effects than changes in access to print.

circulation by item format in MA public libraries


[1] Data from Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, Public Library Data, Summary Report 2006, p. 29. This is also the source for the above graph.

read the writing in the sky

read the writing in the sky

As part of the 2007 Planet Arlington World Music Festival, Jack Sanders, Robert Gay, and Butch Anthony have installed solar-powered LED’s, covered with plastic drink bottles, atop steel rods of varying length in the traffic island between N. Lynn Street and Fort Myer Drive in Rosslyn, Virginia. The work is entitled CO2LED. The Arlington Cultural Affairs Division explains:

CO2LED promotes the use of alternative energy sources as well as recycling and responds to Arlington’s environmental initiative, FreshAIRE (Arlington Initiative to Reduce Emissions). … The use of energy-efficient, solar-powered LEDs, rather than conventional incandescent bulbs, has the power to significantly reduce the release of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the environment. Conventional lighting, fueled by power plants which generate energy through burning fossil fuels, requires far more energy than LEDs, resulting in increased carbon dioxide emissions. Being solar-powered, CO2LED produces long-lasting illumination, free of toxic by-products.

Robert Gay is an enthusiastic support of the Arlington arts scene, while Butch Anthony has already made a great contribution to Arlington with his magnificent bike kiosk.

Bicyclists breathing, regrettably, produce CO2. But the effects of all gaseous output from a local cycling team probably has less effect on global warming than does an equivalent number of cows farting. Economic analysis, by a duly certified economics Ph.D., indicates that, on balance, cycling is good for people and the environment. So get on your bike, ride past CO2LED, and breath some of Arlington’s fresh air!

libraries have long lent more than books

In 1914, books accounted for 74% of items circulated from the Cincinnati Public Library. Prints accounted for 13% of circulation, lantern slides, 6%, and music rolls, 3%.[1] The Cincinnati Public Library at this time was one of the largest and most lavish public libraries in the U.S. These statistics indicate the scope of services that a leading public library provided.

Data for U.S. public libraries in 1955 show less format concentration in holdings and greater concentration in circulation. Books comprised an estimated 67% of libraries’ items and 94% of libraries’ circulation. Photos, pictures, and prints, which made up 20% of items, accounted for only 2.2% of circulation. While sound recordings and films accounted for small shares of items and circulation, these formats had relatively rapid turnover in lending (see Table). A film was lent on average 13.3 times per year. A film could be viewed much more quickly (perhaps a half hour for films of this time) than a book could be read, and loan periods for films were probably much shorter than those for books. The ratio of circulation per item suggests considerable interest in viewing films in public libraries’ collections.

Types of Materials in U.S. Public Libraries, 1955
Format Share of items Share of circ. Circ./item
Books 67% 94% 2.9
Photos, pictures, prints 20% 2.2% 0.2
Uncatalogued pamphlets 9.2% 0.74% 0.2
Sound recordings (titles) 1.3% 2.2% 3.4
Music scores
and misc. items
1.0% 0.46% 0.9
Maps 0.8% 0.03% 0.1
Slides, filmstrips 0.4% 0.30% 1.5
Microfilms (titles) 0.2% 0.00% 0.0
Films (titles) 0.1% 0.40% 13.3
Notes and Sources: see [2] below


[1] Data from Papers and Proceedings of the Berkeley Conference of the American Library Association, July 1915, published in the ALA Bulletin, v. 9. The number of (book) volumes at the end of 1914 was 463,521. The source does not give item counts for the other formats. Total circulation for all formats was 2,164,310. A large number of piano rolls are available digitally here and here.

[2] Data from U.S. Dept. of Health, Education, and Welfare, Biennial Survey of Education in the United States 1954-56, Chapter 5, Statistic of Public Libraries: 1955-56, Tables 9-13. The number of library systems reporting non-book items was only 26% of the number of systems reporting book volumes. I’ve scaled all reported figures by number of systems reporting. If systems reporting non-book items had larger than average non-book holdings, the non-book figures are over-estimates. Because nearly the same number of systems reported items and circulation, scaling matters little to the circ./item figures. For further analysis, see the underlying data for this table.

Motorola will produce show-and-tell device next summer

According to Communications Daily (June 21), Motorola CEO Ed Zander stated in his keynote address at NXTcomm that Motorola next summer will have a mobile device that allows persons to talk and share photos at the same time. Much evidence suggests that such capability has significant value in communication.

While delivering video to mobiles is attracting more industry attention, I think that the possible upside for show-and-tell devices is bigger than for mobile video. Design and marketing will be significant challenges. On the other hand, in-stream photo sharing is closely related to highly successful mobile voice and SMS charging models. In-stream photo-sharing can easily draw upon well-established user understandings of payment for communications services. That’s not the case for watching video on mobiles.