How to use a public library

Checkout trends over the years from the Seattle Public Library.

How to use a public library

Jan 3, 2019 · 6 min read

Update January 6th, 2018: The folks at the Seattle Public library pointed out that I used an outdated inventory dataset to produce the list published in the older version of this post. The error resulted in ignoring from my analysis all items that were added to the library since September 2017. I’ve updated the dataset and the analysis below is up to date.! Huge thanks to David from SPL for finding the error!

What day and time are the m o st busy for checkouts from the public library? Do checkouts peak in January with reading resolutions or in the summer for beach vacations?

How to use a public library

Public libraries are one of society’s great institutions. They provide an opportunity for anyone with an appetite to read, learn and socialize with their community.

What, how and how much people checkout from a public library can provide an interesting lens on how the community is feeling and behaving.

The Data

I used this dataset as well as the original source of the data to explore checkouts from the Seattle Public library. The final dataset I used includes all checkout of items from 2006 up to Dec 26, 2018. Besides the checkout records, the dataset includes a detailed inventory and data dictionary in order to translate checkout records back into physical item title, type and author.

In case you missed it, I used the same dataset to create a ‘Most Checked Out’ items list for every year from 2006 to 2018. You can find that post here.


All the checkouts together (from 2006 up to 2018) come up to about 67M records, a size fairly large to be loading all at once for analysis (especially since the records are accompanied by their metadata). The files come separated in years hence one can load each year’s dataset one by one, but I wanted to be able to do analysis across years all at once. The solution I used was to take a random 10% sample from each year’s checkout records and creating one file with all these samples. That left me with one representative dataset of about 6.7M records across all available years.

I also created a dataset with all the unique items and how many times they were checked out (this was created from the entire dataset, not the sample). I used this dataset to get such lists as most checkout each year.

Let’s dive in the analysis and the results.

How to use a public library

We observe a generally steady trend in the number of book checkouts (again, not including renewals), without around 4M checkouts a year.

Audio/Visual checkouts peak in 2009 and follow a slow but steady decreasing trend since then. This might be because of the rise to prominence of streaming services (like Netflix for TV and Spotify for music) that provide easy and (kinda) affordable access to a vast catalog of TV and music on demand and with no waiting time.

Since this dataset is only for physical checkouts only, I wonder if book checkouts remain steady but more and more users checkout e-books.

Let’s explore what type of trends people exhibit when they checkout items from the library. I explored trends for time of the day, day of the week and month of the year.

Time of Day

Let’s start with the most micro of the temporal trends, time of day. The Seattle Public library is mostly open from 10am to 8pm. It closes at 6pm on Friday and Saturday and has reduced hours on Sunday (mostly 1pm-5pm).

We see in the data that 4pm is the most popular hour for checkouts. This is true for both Books as well as DVD/CDs. We also see that that even though this trend changed slightly over the years, 4pm has been the most popular checkout hour for every year in the dataset. But we see that the hours between 1–5pm are not far behind.

We also see that the trend for digital goods (DVDs and CDs) is almost identical to that of Books. This observation remains true even when we look at day of week and month of year trends (see below) and it indicates that people don’t go to the library on separate trips for their book and digital needs.

How to use a public library

Day of Week

Having seen the time of day trends, let’s look at the day of week. Like I mentioned above, the Seattle PL is open every with slightly reduced hours on Friday and Saturday and heavily reduced hours on Sunday.

We see that Saturday is the most popular day for checkouts, for both Books and DVD/CDs. And again, we see that even though there has been a trend change in 2009, Saturday remained the most popular day for all years in the dataset. Furthermore, Friday and Sunday are the least popular days.

When we look at the trend across the years we observe a shift around 2009–2010, with Friday becoming substantially less popular. Could this have been caused by a change in the library open hours? It looks like Monday and Tuesday picked up the checkouts that were “dropped” by Friday after the trend change, with Saturday remaining relatively stable.

How to use a public library

Month of Year

Finally, let’s look at the month of year temporal trends. Do checkouts peak in the summer when people go on vacations and need a good book to read or maybe around the new year when people start new resolutions?

It seems a little of both, even though there is no major trend across the months with the highest value happening in July and the lowest coming in February and September. Adjusting for the fact that not all months have the same number of days, the trend can become even more stationary. Nevertheless, the beginning of the year and the summer seem to be the most popular months for checkouts, with September and December the least popular.

Again, we see that the trend is mostly similar for both DVD/CDs and books but we do see that book checkouts fall much more in December than audio-visual items. Reversely, we see that books over-perform in the summer months compared to audio-visual items.

How to use a public library

So there you have it: 4pm, Fridays and January & July are the most busy times for checkouts from the Seattle Public library, mostly both for Books and DVD/CDs. The trends also mostly persisted throughout all the years in the dataset (2006–2018) although we observed changes such as a drop in the checkouts on Fridays from 2009 and on.

Like I mentioned above, this dataset is only for physical items and undoubtedly there is a shift towards more digital items especially in a tech-savvy city like Seattle. It would be very interesting to see the digital checkouts too in order to get a wholistic understanding of the trends.

This data is also only for Seattle’s Public library. Do you know of any other public libraries that open source their data? It would be interesting to investigate if trends differ by city.

Thanks for reading.

You can find my story on the most checked-out items from the Seattle PL (using the same datasource) here .

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Teaching Children to Use their Public Library

Most public libraries offer a wide variety of children’s books and magazines, with many in Spanish and other languages. In addition to printed materials, libraries often lend audiotapes and videocassettes of children’s books and movies, and more libraries are making computers available to the public.

Many libraries also sponsor special programs, including children’s story hours, summer reading programs, and homework help. If a child has special needs, ask about services the library offers for children with visual or hearing impairments, those who are gifted, or those who need remedial help.

Here are some things you can do to introduce children to the library:

  1. Include children — even toddlers — in tours of the library, and encourage them to come often.
  2. Help and encourage children to get a library card.
  3. Encourage children to use the library to find information for their homework.
  4. Encourage children to ask for help with finding books from reference librarians.
  5. Work with the library staff to teach older children how to find things in the library on their own.
  6. Teach children how to take care of themselves in public places. Stress common-sense guidelines for behavior in the library.

Library Activities

Become a Member
For young children

  1. Parents of young children can sign up for a library card themselves and check out books to learn stories, songs, and rhymes to use at home to stimulate and encourage a young child’s development.
  2. Young children should be encouraged to get a library card as soon as possible. (Some libraries will issue a card as soon as a child can write his or her name.)
  3. Encourage young children to check out books. This encourages responsibility, too.
  4. Take young children to the library for special programs.

Get Into the Act
For elementary school children

  1. Help children enroll in reading programs at the library. Many children earn certificates or other awards for reading books through special library and school programs.
  2. Help with children’s visits to their school library, encourage them to meet their librarian, and see what the library has to offer. Help out with any book fairs that the school sponsors. This is a great way to share your love of reading with children and the community.
  3. Help children enroll in computer courses the library may offer.

Reference Desk
For more advanced students

  1. Encourage children to use the library for schoolwork. Help them determine if the library has the resources they need or if they need to find other information sources.
  2. Give children encouragement, advice, and critical assistance if they need it, but resist the temptation to take over an assignment. Let children be responsible for researching and writing their reports.
  3. Check out the special services your library offers for helping students with school assignments, such as homework hotlines and term paper clinics.


  • Wings of Wonder Storytime — 6:30 PM — Wings of Wonder Butterfly Garden

62 Days of Summer 2021 Final Party

How to use a public library

Join us in celebrating our fantastic 62 Days of Summer on Saturday, August 14 from 11:00 AM-1:00 PM. We weren’t sure, at first, if we could be together for a celebration, but we are super happy to see everyone and have a good time! This event will take place in our back parking lot and spread into the Wings of Wonder butterfly garden. Activities and attractions include:

  • STEAM for Everyone – Explosive Science (11:00-11:30AM)
  • Miss Paula and the Candy Bandits – high energy, punk rock for family fun. (12:00PM-1:00PM.)
  • Carousel Acres – Live Petting Zoo
  • D&M Art Studio – Face Painting
  • Cold treats – Koolies Ice Cream
  • Friends of the Canton Public Library – book table
  • Free Comic Book Day
  • Outdoor game playing field

And much more! Can’t wait to see you there!

This is an ALL AGES, drop-in, free event. All snacks and goodies available while supplies last!

Upcoming sessions

  • Read more about 62 Days of Summer 2021 Final Party
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Learn About Your Library

Complete this 62 Days activity by learning something you didn’t know about the Canton Public Library or by asking us questions.

Exercise Your Curiosity about the Library

    Use the “Ask a Librarian” option on our Contact Us form to ask a reference question remotely.

Use Social Media to ask us a question, tell us how we are doing, or learn more. Find and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Explore a limited staff directory and meet a few of the people who keep CPL up and running.

How to use a public library

Meet Thorndyke and LB

Thorndyke T. Bear is our resident library bear. Thorndyke and his friend LB (Little Buddy) keep an eye over the Children’s Library and have adventures. You can follow their exploits at Thorndyke Thoughts.

  • Take a virtual tour of the Children’s Area and see if you can spot LB!
  • Look at Thorndyke’s Life Story on Flickr, or take a look at his family album.
  • View the adventures of LB the Traveling Bear on Flickr.
  • Write a letter or visit another square and Send a Postcard to Thorndyke. Our resident bear loves getting mail! Thorndyke will respond on his blog to a selection of questions and comments he receives. Simply address your letter or postcard to:

Thorndyke the Bear
1200 S. Canton Center Road
Canton, MI 48188

Explore Hidden Gems of the Library

  • Have you noticed the art located in and around the library? Discover our sculptures, quilts, paper mache works, bronze statues, vintage posters and more in a video, see most of the art with a ‘walk’ through via Google, or stop by the Information Desk to get a map and see the art in person.
  • Get a quick look at our sorting system when it was first set up. The sorter room is our hub for all returning materials and is visible through the glass doors on the way to the Children’s section.

Learn about the Library’s History

  • Discover how Canton Public Library began on our About Us page.
  • Visit our YouTube page and take a trip back through 30 years of library history. You can also find videos of the current building opening and a technology flashback, among other treasures.

Take a Deeper Dive into Libraries

Explore these resources to learn even more about libraries beyond the Canton Public Library. We are just a small part of a larger tradition of community service.

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Explore Michigan with MAP

January 19, 2021 | Kaitlyn M

How to use a public library

Discover Michigan’s premier cultural and natural attractions using your Canton Library card.

The Michigan Activity Pass (MAP), presented by The Library Network, is a partnership between Michigan libraries and hundreds of Michigan state parks, historic sites, cultural attractions, campgrounds, and recreation areas.

Library patrons can access hundreds of participating institutions by visiting the Michigan Activity Pass website to print or download a pass to their mobile device. Some partners offer complimentary or reduced price admission; others, discounts in their gift shop or other exclusive offers for MAP pass holders only. Each Michigan Activity Pass expires one week from the date it is printed or downloaded.

As of May 2021, thirteen metroparks, including Delhi Metropark in Ann Arbor and Lower Huron Metropark in Belleville, are now included in MAP passes.

Here is just a small sample of places that are open and waiting for you:

  • Plymouth Historical Museum
  • Plymouth Community Arts Council
  • Maybury State Park
  • Mill Race Historical Village
  • Yankee Air Museum
  • Proud Lake Recreation Area
  • Cranbrook Art Museum
  • Detroit Institute of Arts
  • Michigan Science Center
  • Pinckney Recreation Area
  • Troy Historical Village
  • Longway Planetarium
  • Gilmore Car Museum
  • Howell Nature Center

For the latest information before visiting, check out MAP’s Facebook page or website. Patrons are encouraged to use a mobile pass and to check the partner destination’s website for any restrictions currently in place.

Queens Public Library has computers and Wi-Fi available for free public use.

Public Computers

Queens Public Library provides public access to library computer workstations at all our locations. Public use requires a customer account—a Queens Public Library card number and PIN—for all public access workstations except:

  • Catalog-only workstations designated by the Library to access the Library’s online catalog and subscriptions to full-text magazine articles, newspapers, and other designated electronic resources.
  • Adult Learning Centers, where students can use computers to develop literacy skills.
  • Designated workstations at the Central Library available on a first-come first-served basis with access to the library catalog, databases, and other software.

Computers at Queens Public Library use the Windows 7 operating system, with plans to upgrade to Windows 10 by Spring 2019. Microsoft Office 2010 is available on our computers, with plans to upgrade to Office 2019 by Spring 2019. Internet Explorer and Firefox web browsers are available on our computers, and we are planning to add Microsoft Edge in Spring 2019.

Due to high demand for computer workstations, customers are limited to one hour of customer use per day, which may be divided into multiple sessions. Customers may not use a library card other than their own.

A free non-resident computer membership is available to those not eligible for a free library card. Please speak to library staff for more information.

Wireless Access

Queens Public Library offers free Wi-Fi access at all locations at all times. The name (SSID) of our wireless network is: QPL_Wi-Fi

To use the Library’s Wi-Fi service, you must have a computer device that supports wireless access. The Library Wi-Fi is not secure and use of it is at your own risk; you must also take every precaution to secure your equipment and personal belongings while in the library.

Queens Public Library is not able to provide technical assistance to you for your hardware, and there is no guarantee that you will be able to make a wireless connection. If you need assistance, contact the manufacturer of your laptop or software. The Library is not responsible for any changes you make to your computer’s settings.

Computer Usage Rules

Queens Public Library’s Cyber Center (located at the Central Library) provides computer workstations with access to the resources available at Queens Public Library, research databases, the Internet, and other software.

In order to preserve the integrity of the Cyber Center and to ensure equal access for all customers, the following rules apply:

  • Customers can sign up for a maximum of one (1) hour per day.
  • All computer workstations are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Workstations are assigned by Cyber Center staff. Customers must begin their session in a limited amount of time.
  • If you leave the workstation during your session, “lock” it and notify staff, otherwise the workstation will be considered available for the next customer. When you are finished with your session, please click on “End Session”.
  • Groups are limited to two customers per workstation. Chairs must remain at their own workstation.
  • Our staff has a general knowledge of the software or resources available for public use. Limited assistance in use of the software is available as staff time permits.
  • Customers may not download and/or install and run software on Cyber Center computers.
  • The Library seeks to balance the rights of all customers to access all types of information and to respect the sensibilities of customers of all ages. Therefore, the display of sexually explicit graphics in this shared area is prohibited.
  • The Library is not responsible for damage or loss of data from the use of equipment, software, or other library materials.
  • For questions or problems with the system, please alert staff immediately for assistance.
  • Please conserve paper. Print only what you need. There is a maximum of 20 pages per session permitted.
  • Violation of these rules may result in suspension or the loss of privileges to use computer resources at the Library.
  • Customers are responsible for adhering to these guidelines and are required to leave their workstations at the appointed time or when requested to do so by a librarian or library staff member.

Computer usage rules at other Queens Public Library locations may be slightly different from the rules at the Central Library Cyber Center. Please contact your local library directly to learn their specific usage rules.

Computer Classes
Queens Public Library offers basic computer classes at all our library locations, including classes for older adults, introduction to basic programs like email and Microsoft Office, and more. These classes are separate from public computer usage. Please contact your local library directly for a schedule of their classes.

Read Our Library Policies concerning website and Internet use.

Wi-Fi Access

Queens Public Library offers free Wi-Fi access at all locations at all times. The name (SSID) of our wireless network is:

How to use a public library
Please join Mandy Roberge of Wicked Good Henna on Zoom!
Tuesday, August 10 at 2:00 PM. You will learn the history of henna as an art form and how to create your own paste. On the second day, watch a recorded follow-up Zoom program and learn to check for dye release and how to get your past into cones, along with some simple practice techniques.
Registration is required to receive a Zoom link. Register on the Library Calendar page from our website. Contact Youth Services Librarian Mary Claire O’Donnell at [email protected] for more information.

This program is funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and administered by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners.

How to use a public library
Arianna Levesque is an experienced model, designer, seamstress, and sewing instructor. She graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology with a degree in Fashion Design and has been sewing for 20+ years. She spent numerous years working as a designer of women’s fashions in NYC and ran a sewing club at an elementary school in the Lower East Side. Currently, she is teaching sewing to kids and adults in Long Island.

Take and Make Kits available for Sewing Tote Bags, Produce Bags, and Reusable Sponge out of sustainable materials. Borrow a sewing machine and sewing equipment kit, register for the training, ask at the reference desk for your tote bag, produce bag or reusable sponge kit and start your sustainable sewing project.
These step-by-step Instructions are videotaped and once you register, you will receive a link to the instruction.

How to use a public library
Your sewing kit will include all the materials you will need to make the specific project you choose. Register now, only 10 kits are available for each of the projects.

These programs are funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and administered by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners.

The Friends of the Sharon Public Library will be holding its annual book sale this Fall. The Book collection begins October 25th and ends on November 9th. The Book Sale will be from Friday, November 12 through Sunday, November 14th. For more information:

How to use a public libraryAccess to this resource has been temporarily expanded to library cardholders working remotely through June 30, 2021, courtesy of ProQuest and its partner Ancestry. Click here for temporary remote access through our databases page.

Instructions: Follow the link to our Genealogy Databases page (above). Click on the link for temporary remote access. You will be taken to our Catalog; log in using your Sharon Public Library card number and PIN (‘ocln’ is the standard assigned PIN for SPL cards). Click on the logo (Ancestry Library Edition) under the words “Access Ancestry.” Only Sharon residents will be able to access this service. If you have questions or need help, call 781-784-1578 x1422 or use our Ask a Librarian function.

How to use a public library
Don’t want to browse the shelves, but want some new materials? Check out our new “LibFix” service for patrons of all ages! Whether you want 1 title or a whole bundle of 5 titles on a topic of your choice, our collection experts are ready to hand-select items to suit your unique reading and/or watching interests! Get started here:

Please note: We will do our best to accommodate your interests with what is currently available at the Library. We hope you will discover some new favorites through this service! After each LibFix, you’ll have the opportunity to provide us with feedback, so that we can further hone our understanding of your reading/watching tastes.

Once you’ve received notification that your items are ready for pickup, please follow our Curbside Pickup instructions (above) and select a time slot to pick up your LibFix.

Please limit your request to 1 LibFix per patron each time. LibFixes are available for books/audiobooks or DVDs.

If you are practicing social distancing, self-isolation, or simply exercising due caution, the Library can help you stay connected and safe through our online and remote access tools:

  • Overdrive and its corresponding free app, Libby , allow users to borrow and read or listen to e-books and e-audiobooks on their computers, phones, tablets, or other devices. Get started on your computer by visiting Overdrive and signing in using your library card and PIN (the standard PIN is “ocln“); or by downloading Libby onto the device of your choice for free.
  • The New York Times is available for free online. To access it, visit the Library’s catalog and click ” New York Times ” on the left-hand sidebar. Click ” Redeem ” next to the digital access code provided, then sign in or create a free account . When your code runs out after 72 hours, simply get a new one by following this process again.
  • Hoopla provides limited streaming access to movies, TV shows, e-books, e-audiobooks, and more. Access it through the hoopla website or by downloading the hoopla app (Apple, Android) and sign in or create an account using your library card number. Please note : SPL has a limit of 2 borrows per month for hoopla users.

Need assistance? Have questions? Check out our Help & Support page.

Still stuck after that? Contact our Reference Team through our Ask a Librarian tool.

The library is happy to announce that it has received a grant for $9,100 funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and administered by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners. The funds for this grant will support the library’s strategic planning goal to encourage student achievement by increasing the diversity, inclusion & equity of youth services programming, and to offer programs that help transition young adults into adulthood. The overall goal of this grant is to use fiber arts to explore, teach, and build new relationships among Sharon’s diverse community.

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