Consortial Borrowing

University Libraries belongs to several cooperatives that provide our students, faculty and staff with enhanced access to materials beyond our local print and digital collections.  The big four for Mason are:

LocalWRLC (Washington Research Library Consortium)

StatewideVIVA (Virtual Library of Virginia)

RegionalASERL (Association of Southeastern Research Libraries)

National CRL (Center for Research LIbraries)

A Mason reader can request an item held in the collection of any library affiliated with one of these cooperatives and its delivery will be expedited thanks to something rather akin to the “favored nation” status that exists between members of each collective.

As you might guess, thanks to ease of networked discovery and physical resource proximity, researchers at Mason borrow a fair amount of material from fellow member institutions in the WRLC.   What might surprise you is that Mason is a net lender to our fellow WRLC institutions (e.g., they borrow more from us than we borrow from them) and we have a similar status with the ASERL membership as well.  I view this as marker of the strength and currency of Mason’s collections…though I know the danger of basing an argument  on data viewed in isolation (e.g., a contrarian might argue that the collections of others are equally strong and also heavily used and we’re just racking up lending numbers as the backup source for that 2nd or 3rd copy of something).  “Data-informed” is safer than “data-driven.”

Wondering how that activity is distributed across potential users and our collections, I decided to generate a “snapshot” dataset of every item currently checked-out to an affiliate of WRLC.  Then I graphed the level of ‘borrowing-from-Mason’ activity by staff, undergraduate, graduate and faculty users at each member library (click to enlarge the graphic):

Wrlc Borrowing

WRLC Borrowing from Mason by School and Borrower Status

Graduate students at George Washington are our most active borrowers (with 115 items in circulation).  Seems odd but GW faculty are tied with an identical 115 items charged at the moment.  As you move down the left column, you find AU faculty coming in third with 89 items, followed by Georgetown graduate students at 87, and so on down the list.

What sections of our library collection most interest WRLC borrowers?  The next graph shows by Call Number stem just how many items are currently in circulation to various WRLC borrowers.   The PR classification (English Literature) leads the list with 160+ items. QA (Mathematics…but you’ll find most of the computer books carry a QA classification as well) comes in a close second.  Love the fact that Z (Library Science and Bibliography) trails the list  :)

WRLC borrowing by LC Class

What Mason Lends WRLC members by LC Classification

Posted in General

A few Primo numbers…

2016 04 05 12 02 38

A few observations based on 12 months of data from our Primo discovery system (Jan 2015 ~ Dec 2015):


  •  333,091 unique sessions
  •  Roughly 2% originated outside the U.S.
  • Users signed in 5382 times (roughly 1.5% of sessions)

Great to see there were 333K sessions during the year but the fact that fewer than 2% of our users ever sign in is particularly worrisome for a library that serves a geographically-dispersed community. A number of our content providers require that their material be excluded from discovery and delivery if you can’t show that you have a Mason affiliation. Working from a device on the campus network meets that test for most of these vendors but a signon with our Primo satisfies them all.

So, whether you’re studying in a local coffeeshop before your evening class, or you are a Mason Online student hundreds of miles from campus, to search Primo for content from ARTstor, MLA International Bibliography,  Web of Science and several other resources  you’ll have to sign in.


Worth mentioning a few other benefits that signing-on delivers:

– tweak the relevance of Primo’s retrieval–ranking materials in your area of interest more highly

– store items on your personal e-shelf between Primo sessions

– increase the number of results per page (up to 50)

– access your circulation record

– set up recurring queries

– build RSS feeds of result sets

…and more


  • 1.1 million searches were performed
  • 999,731 of those were basic searches (90.3%)
  • 106,314 were advanced searches
Posted in General

Laptop borrowing…

A few months ago we placed a 12 unit laptop self-checkout kiosk in one of our libraries.  It is certainly being used though not as much as I had originally expected.  Possible reasons:

  • it’s a new service so it takes time to be discovered and incorporated into a student’s routine.
  • maybe we haven’t yet found the sweet spot on circulation parameters so demand is affected (we offer 3 hour loans and a $5 per hour overdue fine (max $120))
  • perhaps most students bring a device to the library when they know they’re going to do computer-assisted research
  • quite possibly it’s something else altogether

Ignoring checkouts by library staff, we had 857 circulations of a laptop over the past 53 days (since 02/01/2016).  Averaging the activity across that time period comes to 16 laptop loans each day.  If we also toss out loans of less then 10 minutes, the number drops to 842 circulations or roughly 15 per day.

Given the hours the library’s open and the inherent downtime required for laptop recharging, we can guesstimate the average availability for each of the twelve laptops at something like four (4) borrow/return cycles per day.  It follows then that a 12 unit kiosk could support perhaps 2500 charges during a 53 day period.    Using those parameters, we’re utilizing roughly 33% of the system today.   That seems OK for a newly minted service and I’ll be interested to see how the numbers track up or down in coming months.

Later (and mostly because I’m looking for things to graph as I study Tableau),  I decided to dig a bit deeper.

In the visualization below, each line is a particular borrower (identifying information blurred out).  The blue line grows with each circulation by that same borrower.  To sense the scale, that user on top line checked out a laptop 36 times during the 53 day period.


Pareto would be pleased.  As the graphic demonstrates, a very few users are making heavy use of the system, others not nearly as much.    During this 53 day period, a bit less than a third of our usage (242 circulations) was racked up by just 14 users (5.01% of the total borrower population).

Finally, I decided to join the kiosk statistics with some information in our Voyager system.  The result is a visualization that highlights the academic status of our borrowers.  Each green bubble is an undergraduate borrower, the size of the bubble scaled to the number of times that person borrowed a laptop during the test period.  The orange bubbles are graduate students.   Thus far, the data suggests that borrowing a laptop from a kiosk is mostly something undergraduates do.




And what major made heaviest use?  Biology majors accounted for 17% of all laptop circulations.  2nd place? Undecided/Undeclared at 11%.

Posted in General

What’s In Circulation Today?

Starting a teach-myself-Tableau session today so I thought I’d extract some data from our ILS to keep things interesting and relevant.   Here’s a graphic showing what physical items (not e-books) are in circulation to Mason students, faculty and stafff on March 21, 2016, sorted by LC classification stem.

So, for example, we have 1,207 items with a QA classification (Mathematics, Computer Science) in circulation at the moment and 489 from the DS classification (History of Asia).

Circ snapshot

Yes, I too noticed it has been two years since my last post…

Posted in General

Primo usage data tidbits…

1.4 million

That’s the number of searches conducted on our Primo system between March 17, 2013 and March 17, 2014.

Roughly three weeks ago, I added Google Analytics code to our site and already it’s producing some interesting information (even if one of those weeks was Spring Break).  For example, seems we have a bit more global reach than I expected:


2014 03 18 09 25 39



Originating country for traffic we received over the past 20 days (13,848 visits, 7,400 different visitors).  Worth noting, of course, is that  99.5% of this traffic originated in the United States.

What browser were those 13,848 sessions using?

  • Chrome 41%
  • Firefox 25%
  • Safari  17%
  • IE 15%
  • all others less than 1%

Across all computer users, Macs have about a 13% market share.  That’s not what I see when I walk around the library so this isn’t too surprising:

  • Windows  65%
  • Mac 30%
  • iOS 3%
  • Android 1%


Posted in General

Borrowing by LC classification FY 2012-13

Working with historic circulation data the other day I discovered that affiliates of the Washington Research Library Consortium borrowed some 20,653 monograph titles from Mason’s libraries during FY 2012-13.  Thinking about Mason’s collections and those of fellow WRLC members, I assumed that the strength of our STEM collections would surely push those sorts of titles to the top of any “what gets borrowed sorted by LC classification” list…

Did that happen?

Not exactly.   Here’s an excerpt of the list that aggregates the number of titles borrowed by each book’s LC classification number.

To explain,  the first entry shows we circulated 1,067 titles with the  LC classification stem of PN (e.g.,  PN 4748.G7 C48 1997).

LC classifications with a circulation of at least 100 titles:


The top ten subject classifications account for 8,311 titles or just a fraction over 35% of the all circulation to WRLC members.    The first STEM subject appears in position # 7 (the QA’s) and not again until #24 on the list  (Medicine – Internal Medicine).   Totaling the titles for all STEM classifications shown in this list covers 1980 titles  (or about 8% of all titles circulated).   I can think of a couple of alternative explanations for this phenomenon:

  • STEM research, for the most part, doesn’t seem to involve books, or
  • WRLC member libraries have very strong STEM collections and don’t need to borrow books from Mason

A colleague pointed out yet another possibility:  my 100 circulation threshold may be suppressing the count for STEM titles–given that those areas tend to have more finely-grained LC classifications.

And finally, my friend Dorothea Salo (@LibSkrat) pointed out that “need it now” might be the reason STEM borrowers don’t request titles from other libraries:


More research needed to nail down that last one down.

[update 3/28/2014]  Today my colleague Theresa Calcagno pointed out another factor that I haven’t thought about–it might be that e-books in STEM subjects are suppressing the number of circulations for those subject areas. 

I reworked my SQL and ran a variation of the query to get numbers on titles borrowed by Mason-affiliated borrowers during the same period: broken out as before by each title’s LC classification.   This dataset included 66,733 distinct titles (the WRLC dataset had 20,653 titles).    As an aside, some 6,357 titles were common to both datasets.

Here’s the result for any class with 450+ circulations:

newmasonQA (computer books for the most part) jumped up to #2 on this chart but otherwise, the STEM titles just don’t seem to circulate like those in the Social Sciences and Humanities (next best showing for a STEM discipline was TK at #19).  I’m ready to say I have an answer for what I’ll call the  “Salo postulate”


I’m now wondering what, if anything, the similarities and differences in these two lists can tell me about collection strengths and weaknesses at Mason and WRLC libraries.

Posted in General

1 million+


Last week we logged the 1,036,791th search on our Primo system. I think I’m most impressed by the nearly vertical line between the start of this semester (August 24) and early October.

Posted in General