New year, new reading data

As tends to happen, the end of the semester bustle combined with the holidays kept me from posting here — but I did get in some wonderful end of the year reading time. For more on that, check out my other blog, bookconscious. Here at Nocturnal Librarian, I write fairly often about examining assumptions, so when I came across this reading habits infographic page today in a newsletter, I was intrigued. I was fresh from absorbing the many wonderful examples of graphical presentation of data at the Information Is Beautiful 2018 awards page over the weekend so I was primed for some more infographics.

I find some of this unsurprising — it’s well known among people in the book world that reading is still quite popular, for example. But bits of this were really interesting. For example, I had no idea Estonia and India were such book loving cultures. Or that all but one of the eight most checked out books from Australian libraries are Harry Potter volumes. Hey America, do we ever try to determine the most checked out library books here? We apparently DO track the bestselling books, but I know the infographic is not accurate because it doesn’t list Becoming, which Publisher’s Weekly reported was the bestselling book of 2018, in the “Top 20 Print Books of 2018.”

The part most relevant to me as a college librarian are the reading “myths” and the stats on eReading.  I was especially interested in the data on reading eBooks on computers, which happens more than on eReaders, a stat I can only assume is related to the increase in academic eBooks, which students (including this one) often read on their laptops rather than phones or tablets. And I love that indexes are still popular with readers.

I’m not sure that I’d swear by this infographic, but it certainly got my attention and got me thinking about the assumptions we make in my library about readers and reading — that people aren’t reading for pleasure, that they won’t read eBooks, that we have to teach them how to download eBooks, that for our busy students, magazines might be preferable.  I’d like to learn more in the new year about our patrons’ reading tastes and habits. College campuses are survey-saturated, but I’m hoping to talk to our regular borrowers and also to get out of the library more and ask people who maybe aren’t coming in what they read. Most of all I’d like to keep on questioning assumptions!

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Recreational reading in college

I am taking on something several people have told me is hopeless at my new library: celebrating, supporting, and encouraging recreational reading at a university. I’ve had numerous people tell me students don’t read anything they don’t have to, and very little of what they do have to. Professors, I’ve been told, like to read in the summer but won’t read a thing for fun during the academic year.

Maybe I’ll find this all out the hard way, but I’m convinced that this isn’t exactly true. Maybe most students aren’t reading War and Peace for fun, but I don’t know anyone who doesn’t consume any written words, in print, online, or in audio. Yes, I’m expanding my view of what reading is. I know a lot of voracious readers who also listen to audiobooks and no one questions whether that’s really reading. So aren’t podcasts like audiobooks? I think so. I know several (and am married to one) people who read magazine and newspaper articles, essays and short stories more frequently than books.So then, aren’t blogs like other short form writing? I think so.

Yes, I’m hoping people will read books, too, and I’m working on ways to promote our book collection, too. But even more importantly, I’m hoping to affirm this: whatever you have time for, whether it’s your favorite fashion blog or a true crime podcast or last night’s Red Sox scores, you are reading, and if you don’t have time for a book right now, the library will be here for you later when you do.

Stay tuned. And if you have ideas that have worked at your academic library to promote reading, leave a comment and tell me what worked.