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Monday, April 25, 2016

Data You Can Use: Why People Buy Books

One of the newer topics I have become obsessed with is using data to improve service to readers. In fact, I have started a new blog tag, “data” to track this topic and my feelings about it here on the blog. I am also in the process of creating a few new presentations that incorporate my thoughts on how data can be best used to improve our library service to leisure readers.

While you can look for those thoughts here on the blog in the coming months, today, I want to share what I learned when thanks to today’s  RA Rundown, I was pointed to this article, “8 Reasons Why People Buy Books."

From the article:
Over the past couple weeks, I’ve been reporting on observations that Jellybooks has made about readers after collecting data about when, where and how they read. Do readers rant or rave about books? Do they read fast or slow? Do they even finish the books they begin reading? 
One of the more interesting phenomena we observed was that there are books that sell well but are not read, or at least they appear not to be read by many of the people who buy or otherwise acquire them. Our first reaction was to ask, “Can we trust the data?” But we then came to the conclusion that, indeed, we could (more on data integrity, sampling bias and statistical validity in a future post). Having convinced ourselves that the observations were genuine, we started wondering as to the reasons and started thinking in more depth about the question, “What motivations do readers have for buying specific books?” Below, we outline some of our thinking on this topic, which is also a manifesto of sorts for future research. 
1. Entertain Me Now2. Entertain Me in the Future3. Inform Me4. Obligation to Read5. Social Pressure to Read6. Makes Me Look Smart7. Need for a Gift8. Impulse
The article then goes on to look more closely at reach type of reader. Go and read it for yourself and then come back because I have a few thoughts about how to make this article work for you-- the library worker who helps leisure readers:

  1.  Ignore the fact that this is about why people BUY books. Look at this list with a wider lens and think about why people read in general. There are some observations, specifically about what readers expect to take away from the reading experience that will help you to better serve your leisure readers.
  2. You can turn most of these 8 reasons into actual RA Conversation topics.  For example, think about all of the readers who come into your library to read the book everyone is reading-- aka-- social pressure to read. Is the person you are helping at the library there to get A book or any book? The answer makes a difference in how you will help that person. 
  3. We can take data about why people read the books they do and use it to craft better passive RA service such as displays or our online promotions.  This is a topic I am currently developing into a program. I will have more to share in June including concrete examples of how to use data to improved service to readers.
  4. We need to be paying a lot more attention to the work Jellybooks is doing for us. The publishers are giving them ebooks that they then turn around and offer to readers for FREE in exchange for the consent to collection data on HOW the readers are reading. This is information we can use in libraries too.
  5. The founder of Jellybooks, Andrew Rhomberg has written and will continue to write more articles on the topic of data, readers, and publishing, and I think we should both be reading his past works and keeping an eye out for new information too.
Again, this is an ongoing conversation and one of RA biggest trends right now-- using data to improve service to leisure readers. Think of today’s post as the beginning of our conversation.

My goal is to make the idea of front line, public service desk using data less scary. Goodness knows the idea scared me at first. But data is no longer just for administrators and tech services.  RA for All embraces the idea that every library worker can help leisure readers-- well let’s explained it to data for all! 

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