A study of branch library catchments in two London boroughs

Pages121-143
Publication Date01 May 1999
DOIhttps://doi.org/10.1108/EUM0000000007140
AuthorClaire Creaser
SubjectInformation & knowledge management,Library & information science
Journal of Documentation, Vol. 55, No. 2, March 1999
© Aslib, The Association for Information Management.
All rights reserved. Except as otherwise permitted under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act
1988, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in
any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise without the prior
written permission of the publisher.
Aslib, The Association for Information Management
Staple Hall, Stone House Court, London EC3A 7PB
Tel: +44 (0) 171 903 0000, Fax: +44 (0) 171 903 0011
Email: pubs@aslib.co.uk, WWW: http://www.aslib.co.uk/aslib
A STUDY OF BRANCH LIBRARY CATCHMENTS IN TWO
LONDON BOROUGHS
CLAIRE CREASER
c.creaser@lboro.ac.uk
Library & Information Statistics Unit, Loughborough University
Loughborough, Leicestershire LE11 3TU
A number of interesting associations are described between levels of
service point use, population information and library inputs, based
on data obtained from two London boroughs in respect of indi-
vidual static service points. Methods of deriving catchment area
data using membership information or postcode data from a user
survey are outlined. Data for the resident population by age, unem-
ployment rate and ethnicity extracted from 1991 census data, infor-
mation on levels of stock and acquisitions, opening hours and
proximity to shopping facilities were analysed for their relationship
to issues, visits and enquiries at each service point. Regression
analysis was used to develop mathematical models for predicting
levels of issues per capita, visits per capita and stock turnover,
depending on the values of the available inputs. No satisfactory
model could be developed for enquiries per head of resident popu-
lation, and that for visits was far from ideal. A method is described
for using these models to identify individual service points which are
performing particularly well, or badly, on one or more of these indi-
cators, as a diagnostic tool for chief librarians seeking to improve
their services.
INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND
A number of recent reports [1, 2] have highlighted the activities of public libraries
in the UK, and there is much debate over their future direction [3, 4]. Much of the
information considered has been qualitative in nature, but there is increasing inter-
est in quantitative comparison of performance between public library authorities –
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Journal of Documentation
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Journal of Documentation, vol. 55, no. 2, March 1999, pp. 121–143
the introduction, and publication in league tables, of a set of basic performance
indicators by the Audit Commission is just one example of this [5]. Another is the
requirement for public library plans submitted to the Department for Culture,
Media and Sport to include comparisons over time with other authorities [4].
Since 1994, the Library and Information Statistics Unit (LISU) at Loughborough
University has provided comparative trend analyses on a consultancy basis for indi-
vidual library authorities, to allow them to monitor their performance relative to
their sector average and to the average of a small group of other, similar, authorities.
In 1994, LISU was approached by the South East London Performance Indicator
Group (SELPIG) to investigate the link they believed to exist between the relative
social and economic deprivation of their populations and the level of use of their
public libraries. Such links were identified, and substantiated in similar analyses for
the metropolitan districts of England [6]. A number of recommendations were made
for further research, one of which was to investigate relationships at the level of
individual service points [7, p. 24].
The aim of this research was to give library authorities a tool with which to
make comparisons between individual service points. It was supported by
SELPIG, on the proposition that there is a causal inter-relationship between the
demographic characteristics of a lending library population catchment, the build-
ing site and design, shelf stock size and money spent on new materials, and the
use of that library in terms of loans, visits and enquiries. The objectives were:
To identify the elements that have a significant impact as predictors of
library use, measured by loans, enquiries and visits per year; in partic-
ular, the elements of census data that are relevant in this respect, so
that library catchment area population profiles can concentrate on
these (see Figure 1).
JOURNAL OF DOCUMENTATION vol. 55, no. 2
122
Journal of Documentation, Vol. 55, No. 2, March 1999
© Aslib, The Association for Information Management.
All rights reserved. Except as otherwise permitted under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act
1988, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in
any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise without the prior
written permission of the publisher.
Aslib, The Association for Information Management
Staple Hall, Stone House Court, London EC3A 7PB
Tel: +44 (0) 171 903 0000, Fax: +44 (0) 171 903 0011
Email: pubs@aslib.co.uk, WWW: http://www.aslib.co.uk/aslib
Figure 1.
Elements in the model
LIBRARY INPUTS
e.g.
Opening hours
Shelf stock
Accessions
DEMOGRAPHIC
e.g.
Unemployment levels
Ethnicity
Age
LIBRARY OUTPUTS
Issues
Visits
Enquiries
GEOGRAPHIC
e.g.
Proximity to shopping
facilities

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