Archive for Monday, April 23, 2018

Lawrence Public Library’s visitors up significantly since renovation, but checkouts drop

Lawrence Public Library, pictured Aug. 20, 2015.

Lawrence Public Library, pictured Aug. 20, 2015.

April 23, 2018


Although the number of people visiting the Lawrence Public Library has increased significantly in recent years, more of those visitors may not be coming for the books.

The library’s $19 million renovation and expansion added more study rooms, meeting spaces and even a recording studio to the building, 707 Vermont St. And since 2012, the last year the library operated at full capacity before the renovation, the number of annual visitors has increased by about 30 percent, according to data from Kansas State Library survey. In that same time span, though, the number of checkouts, both physical and digital, has fallen by about 12 percent.

Library Director Brad Allen said the library’s portfolio of services has diversified considerably. Allen said although books remain important, as do efforts to increase checkouts, the library’s programming — which includes story times, children’s performers, speakers, technology tutorials and book clubs — has become one of the library’s signature functions.

“To me, the ways that you can consume information have expanded and transformed so dramatically from what a traditional library was,” Allen said. “I don’t really care where the inspiration comes from, and I don’t think singularly about any particular mission. To me, it’s all of a piece.”

Year Checkouts Visitors Library program attendance Programs Meeting room reservations Computer sessions
2012 1.42 million 520,417 46,259 1,273 Not applicable 121,573
2017 1.25 million 668,412 53,617 1,358 10,467 105,552

Programming has long been a piece of what the library does, and both children’s and adult programming continue to grow. Since 2012, the library has added 85 programs, according to the data. In that same time span, overall program attendance has increased by 16 percent.

An increased emphasis on programming may be part of a national trend for libraries. According to the Pew Research Center, a large majority of people surveyed said that libraries should have programs to teach digital skills, and many said they hope libraries provide comfortable reading and working spaces. At the same time, checkout of printed books is still by far the most popular activity at libraries, with 64 percent of library users ages 16 and older having checked out a book in the last year, according to the survey.

2017 Checkouts

Books: 737,809*

Videos: 316,115*

Audiobooks: 85,328*

Music: 71,951*

Magazines: 12,589*

Video games: 20,989

Other: 265

Total: 1,245,046

*Includes both physical and digital checkout

— Source: Lawrence Public Library

For Allen, books still define the library. Allen said that even as he sees the library as a place to meet up, work creatively or attend events, providing physical and digital books and other material is still the library’s “bread and butter.”

“If the library just had programs and a place to hang out, it would be a radically different place,” Allen said. “Our brand is still the book, and it’s clear by the amount of people who come in and check out things.”

Allen said the library continues efforts to increase checkouts. He said the library has undertaken some new strategies to make checking out books easier, which he thinks are making a difference in the trends. Between 2016 and 2017, for example, overall checkouts increased by about 1 percent despite double-digit drops in DVD and CD checkouts — a trend Allen attributes to the popularity of streaming services such as Netflix, Spotify and YouTube. Considering that, Allen said he thinks even relatively flat checkout numbers are encouraging.

“I would say I’m very encouraged we’re holding steady when we’re having these massive decreases in our DVD checkout and our music CD checkout especially,” Allen said.

Allen said efforts to increase book checkouts include creating displays of popular adult books in the children’s section to make browsing easier for parents of young children and new ways of displaying books. He said staff have hand-picked books for smaller displays, covers facing out, that he likened to the candy and magazine displays placed at grocery store checkouts.

The library’s 2017 report, which lists checkout, visitor and other stats for the year, was provided to the Lawrence City Commission at its most recent meeting.

Contact city reporter Rochelle Valverde
Have a tip or story idea?
More stories


Jake Davis 3 weeks, 6 days ago

Of course the numbers are is a transients paradise. I am sure the police departments calls for service there are up also.

Kevin Elliott 3 weeks, 5 days ago

As a regular visitor of the library, I do not find what you say to be true. I do not see a strong increased presence of people who are homeless.

Perhaps you are just making something up that is false, presenting it as truth to support your personal biases.

Chris Bohling 3 weeks, 5 days ago

This argument doesn't make sense because they likely had roughly the same number of "transients" in the old library. You wouldn't get a drastic increase in usage between 2012 and 2017 due to that. The main reason it's gone up is because the new library has more usable space and offers more services.

Chris Anderson 3 weeks, 6 days ago

Re the book- and people-graphics used in the print edition to illustrate increasing visitors but declining checkout volume: I appreciate the effort to jazz up the front page of the LJW with some USA Today style graphics, but the result is not an informative one. Using slightly smaller people and slightly smaller but differently colored books to convey an order of magnitude confuses rather than informs the reader. Simple bar or column graphs with linear scales would have been appropriate. Sometimes less is more, and this was one of those times.

Bob Summers 3 weeks, 5 days ago

This is an example of another brilliant investment by those that plunder.

Build an big extravagant building to house books that no one reads anymore.

Does anyone know if buggy whips are sold at the concession?

This is a showplace though, for Liberal exuberant spending behavior with money they loot from the working stiff.

House books no one reads and waste expensive, precious fuel idling a dozen or so empty buses across the street.


Kevin Elliott 3 weeks, 5 days ago

Bob, I realize you are stuck in the 1950's with 2 dimensional thinking.

However, unlike you, libraries have been keeping up with the times. They know full well books are lessening in demand and yet, as the numbers prove, keep themselves relevant.

They offer movies, video games, audio books, digital books, music, recording studio, art, meeting space, seminars, activities for adults and children, computer classes, historic archives,even seeds.

I realize you presume since you have become stagnant and irrelevant so have the institutions you grew up with.

Rural libraries are also keeping up. Kansas started a cake and cooking supply library that has been proven quite popular. If you want to make a designer cake, instead of having to invest in $50 of new equipment, you can check out a cake pan from your local library and a cook book and then anyone but Bobs your uncle.

It would be nice if you could modernize and become relevant, but alas, some things are destined to go the way of the dodo.

Chris Bohling 3 weeks, 5 days ago

This argument has a strong ring of "I don't use this thing, therefore nobody must use this thing!"

And yet, the public library is packed to the brim every day with people researching, studying, etc.

Michael Dennis 3 weeks, 5 days ago

Really? Anti-library now? Did you READ the article stating that other services besides book checkouts are serving the community?

Could it be that the first three letters of library are LIB? Probably a big fan of CONSERVATories, though, right?

Clara Westphal 3 weeks, 5 days ago

The last time I visited the library to check books, it sounded like a teen hang-out.

Chris Bohling 3 weeks, 5 days ago

That's not really surprising. I work at KU Libraries and our numbers are showing the same trend. Because of the need for increased user ID validation, getting items from the library will always involve jumping through a few more hoops than, say, Netflix or the Kindle store.

That said, libraries serve a different, arguably more important function: We provide expertise and direction that you can't get from Google. Sure, a search engine is good enough if you're just trying to find the latest Taylor Swift album, but if you're looking for something obscure or hard to find, a librarian is still better than Google's best algorithm.

Kendall Simmons 3 weeks, 5 days ago

I worked at the KU Libraries for 22 years. I was there during the transition from card catalogs to electronic catalogs, and browsing through the stacks was becoming more and more popular, rather than looking items up in the card catalog.

The people who complained the most? Old-school librarians who were absolutely sure that professors and other serious researchers NEEDED the card catalog. That's how they researched...and WANTED to research.

Heck, an assistant dean had an argument with me about it at the circ. desk (I was head of circulation at the time). He didn't want to hear what I had seen in real life.

However, there was an older professor standing behind him who finally interrupted and told that dean that he was mistaken. That being able to look up something online in his office, then later going directly into the stacks, finding that particular item, then browsing through the other material there on the same subject there on the shelves was MUCH more useful than just looking through the card catalog.

The dean harrumpfed, then strode off in a fit of pique. But he never raised that argument again :-)

Change is hard for many people. And, sure, not all change is good. But so many people who are change-averse don't differentiate. ALL change is bad in their opinion...when what they really mean is that they, personally, find change stressful.

Chris Bohling 3 weeks, 5 days ago

We recently sold off the last of the card catalog cabinets on Govdeals (at least from my branch). Can't say I was sad to see them go.

Ken Lassman 3 weeks, 4 days ago

Hey, Chris: sounds like a new bumper sticker on its way:

"Librarians have the best algorithm"

Clark Coan 3 weeks, 5 days ago

The number of items checked out is due to people now being able to stream or download movies and music. Apparently, book circulation is still good. The homeless tend to congregate in one room where computers are. Maybe the Lawrence Community Shelter should have more computers.

Chris Bohling 3 weeks, 5 days ago

If we put more computers at the community shelter, the same crowd that complains about the library would complain about wasteful spending there.

David Klamet 3 weeks, 4 days ago

I was initially opposed to the new library. It seemed like a great deal of money and I wasn't sure it was being spent in the most effective manner.

Now I see the place almost always filled with a lot of people. I've been to several meetings in the meeting rooms. Organized a few myself.

I still wonder how effectively our governments, federal and local, spend our money. I also wonder if multiple libraries, spread around town, would not have been a better solution. But, this library seems to benefit a lot of people. That is the measure of its importance.

Brad Allen 3 weeks, 3 days ago

David, I'm Brad, Director of the Library. Great question about multiple library locations. In my opinion, the biggest trick about multiple locations is that we'd need considerably more staff to keep multiple buildings open. It costs much more to operate multiple smaller locations. We get considerable economy of scale operating one location. If you'd like to know more about our operations, please check out our annual report at

Sign in to comment