A New "Busy" Measure at the BPL Re-arranges the Pecking Order of the Busiest Branches but Doesn't Account for Differences in Library Hours

A new metric to assess a BPL branch's "busy-ness" is was instituted by the BPL recently, one that adds three new numbers to the "old" busy-ness measure of "circulation only." "This calculation expands the conversation beyond just circulation to capture more examples

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of the diverse ways in which a Boston Public Library location is engaged in delivery of service and user interactions," according to the BPL Weekly, an in-house newsletter. By the old standard, the Jamaica Plain branch topped all the others for busy-ness, a little uncomfortable perhaps for the Library's administration in light of their efforts to close it, together with three others --Faneuil, Orient Heights and Washington Village-- in 2009. The "new Busy" puts the West End branch first in the most-popular sweepstakes, followed by the big beautiful new library of Mattapan and the West Roxbury branch. Jamaica Plain finishes fourth. Strangely, the new measure does not take into account the number of hours a library is open. The BPL branches offer their services either 48 or 45 hours a week. Nor is it adjusted for when those hours are. As the recent Pew Charitable Trust Report "The Library in the City" points out, increased weekend hours can do a lot to generate visitors and circulation. In Boston, just nine branches offer a full day of service on Saturday; all the others open their doors a half day only. The South End branch, like many others, closes all Saturdays during the summer --just when the kids are out of school. Similarly, eleven of the 25 branches are open two evenings a week; the remaining 14, one night only. By contrast, the Central Library is open four nights a week, all day Saturday and five hours on Sunday, for a total of 61 hours. Not surprisingly, the main library has the highest busy-ness number, even though most of Boston's library patrons live near the branches, not downtown. The new busy-ness's value for "computer sessions" does not reflect the number of public-access computers available in a branch, either, although it stands to reason that the more computers can be used, the more will sessions there will be. Central Library has between 75 and 80 computers, according to its reference desk; Mattapan has 44, Brighton 31, and the remaining branches anywhere between 8 (West End) and 29 (Grove Hall), according to library staff answering the phones. The South End branch has 25. If one adjusts the "new Busy" number for how many hours a neighborhood library is open, the list of Most Popular changes again. Let's call it the "new new Busy." The top performer in that calculation is the West End branch. Jamaica Plain's branch comes in as a close second, followed by Mattapan, West Roxbury, Hyde Park and the much beloved little Faneuil library, another one on the to-be-closed list. More surprising, it beats out the new Brighton branch, down in 14th place.