• If you are citizen of an European Union member nation, you may not use this service unless you are at least 16 years old.

  • Social distancing? Try a better way to work remotely on your online files. Dokkio, a new product from PBworks, can help your team find, organize, and collaborate on your Drive, Gmail, Dropbox, Box, and Slack files. Sign up for free.


Is it a branch library

Page history last edited by Kim Miller 6 years, 2 months ago

March 21, 2014





Nicolle Steffen (CO)


We’ve got a library jurisdiction that has added library computing centers in four locations. In my book they come very close to being branch libraries, but miss on the “organized collection” stipulation of the definition…sort of. Library patrons can access the entire eCollection, plus they can pick-up/drop-off materials from the physical collection.


Here’s how the locations stack up against the definition:


·         The four library computing centers have “separate quarters” within existing buildings (two rec centers, one Kmart, and an office building).

·         There is not  an organized collection of library materials onsite, but at two of the locations patrons can pick-up and return physical materials and access electronic materials.

·         There is library staff onsite during hours of operation.

·         There are regularly scheduled hours.


Seems like two of location are definitely not branch libraries. However, the two locations with pick-up/drop-off of materials come pretty close. Thoughts?


Thinking Big Picture…Do we need to start contemplating when and how we count other types of outlets? I feel like I’m channeling Bruce. :-)


Happy Friday.


SDC Comments


Ann Reed (OR)


We have a similar situation where a city wanted to set up a group of computers, buy no physical items and call the place a “library.”  The local library coop they wanted to join sure didn’t think of them that way.   The definition states a library provides “at least the following… an organized collection of printed or other library materials or a combination there of.” 


I can see an argument about available e-materials filling that requirement, if all patrons had email and computers at home, or the ability to download device and carry off a copy to use for a while. 


On the other hand, we say “provides at least an organized... collection,” not “provides access to.”  Then too, can one really say you have a balanced collection meeting the public’s needs with only e-items?


I’d be leaning to saying no, not a branch.  


In a similar problem, what about self operated kiosks?  Has space, collection, public funding, but no staff.  Argh.  Beats head on desk again.


Carlos Manjarrez (IMLS)


This is a fascinating discussion.   Folks here at IMLS would be curious to know how many other states have new service configurations that toggle just below your state's definition for a public library.  Also, are you witnessing growth in these new (things).


Scott Dermont (IA)


Sounds to me like a remote computer lab or an Internet café, not a branch. Personally I am resisting the urge to call a collection of Internet computers a library. This seems like a very slippery slope to me. But I guess that is me talking as a librarian.


Beth Bisbano (PA)


Sharing this article as the reality of the future:



I’m not sure why we would want to be in denial about it.



Susan Mark (WY)


Looking at the definition, I'm having a hard time figuring out how we can deny that these are libraries. They have staff, space and a schedule. They have a collection -- it's just electronic, rather than physical. We're collecting stats on ebook holdings -- how are they suddenly not a collection just because we recoil at the idea that without books, there is not a collection?


I just checked the definition, and it says nothing about the collection having to be physical.



This doesn't mean we may not want to revisit the definition. All I am saying is that under the current definition, I am scratching my head trying to come up with a justifiable reason to deny these.


Diana Very (GA)


Thanks, Beth, for sending this article. I can see the need to think through this technology change instead of naming it an internet cafe and not counting it as a library service branch.


Scott Dermont (IA)


I’m definitely familiar with the bookless library in Bexar County, and I disagree that this library is the reality of the future. In Iowa we are already seeing the use of library computers declining, not increasing. The main reason is that many schools are now going to a one to one ratio for computers to students. Anecdotally, we are seeing an increase in the amount of wireless use. I am also not seeing a huge spike in the number of e-resources that are being used. More libraries are buying into our two statewide e-book consortia, but I am not seeing much increase beyond that.


The main purpose of the computer lab is to give people without devices access to online resources. As more and more people have their own access to cheaper devices, the less this service will get used in the library. I’m not saying that it won’t get used, there will always be people who don’t have the devices. I’m just saying the model of having a bunch of devices in a lab like environment will be less useful. In some ways, the Bibliotech is a response to a need from the 1990s. I see the point of this being located in an economically depressed area. But to say that all they need in their library is a computer lab is shortchanging that community. There are lots of other services that libraries provide, beyond collections, that still make the library useful. To me, this is in some ways like setting up a Redbox and saying that is all the library that the community needs.  


I guess this doesn’t really speak to whether or not these kinds of facilities would be considered a branch or not. In the case of the Bexar County library, how is it reported for survey purposes? Is it considered a main branch or is it a branch of another library. I couldn’t find it on the IMLS site, so I’m assuming it is too new to show up yet. But that could be a model to use. Since they don’t have a physical collection, and I assume don’t provide more traditional services like story times, then maybe they could have their own category of branch. This would allow us to track them separately and watch them as an emerging trend.



Michael Golrick (LA)


I was looking at this question before I had to go to the Reference Desk and then participate in “inventory.”


Thanks for reminding us of the definition of a branch (Data element 201: http://plsc.pbworks.com/w/page/7422534/210%20Number%20of%20Branch%20Libraries). I have one library system which has a location which focuses on the electronic resources, but it does also have some seating and subscriptions. I actually went and visited it before coming to the conclusion that it really does count as a branch.


Now, as a public library director, I had an e-kiosk installed in a local mall which was simply, and purely e-resources with a printer. (We charged for printing, long story, blah, blah.) What would have complicated it was that it was in the neighboring town – although within hundreds of feet of the city border. However, it was clear that it was not a branch, primarily because of #3, paid staff.


I think that the staffing is a key part of defining a library and its services. In one of the social media fora, there was a discussion recently about “being a librarian” outside the walls of a building. While this is something outside our scope, it is an interesting conversation about the profession and our future as a profession and the institution with which we are affiliated.


Oh, and remember the Santayana quote: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” [George Santayana (1905) Reason in Common Sense, p. 284, volume 1 of The Life of Reason]


As Carlos asked, I wonder if there is a trend? (How many make a trend?) While I seem to read about some individual situations in the library press, I am not sure that I have seen enough to make a trend. Then again, we may be the ones who can first see it.


Happy Monday!



Stacey Malek (TX)


Sorry everyone, I’ve been swamped with a project and have just now started reading these emails.  Thanks to Beth for forwarding the article about the new San Antonio library, BiblioTech.  There are LOTS of articles online, if you have the time to read them, but the point is they are library without a physical collection.  They only have an e-book collection.  They certainly meet the other parts of the definition and opened in a traditionally underserved area of Bexar County.  They plan to open more branches and provide county-wide service.


I’ve read 203 FSCS definition of a public library and it does state that the collection needs to be “an organized collection of printed or other library materials, or a combination thereof.”


However, we accredited them for our current state fiscal year and I consider them a public library.  Accreditation for public libraries in Texas means they are eligible for certain services from the State Library, including the statewide databases and E-rate.


I agree with Susan.  Why are ebook holdings not a collection?  I think we may need to revisit the definition.


Darla Gunning (CA)


I agree with Susan and Stacey. My two cents, as long as there is paid staff to assist those seeking information I don’t think the format in which that info exists should be the issue. For those sites where there is no staff & it is just a drop off/pick up location only then that does not meet the criteria.


MaryAnn VanCura (MN)


Hi, all. Is it safe or fair to say I am the new “Bruce”? I have big shoes to fill!


Minnesota has several established and emerging public service outlet efforts that would fit into an “Other Public Service Outlet” category. Bruce summarized them here a while back – Counting less than a branch and more than a book station.


The libraries that provide alternative service points want to see the public service statistics generated by these initiatives reflected in their annual report. As I learn and review the Minnesota practices, it’s very helpful to hear what other states are doing for “other outlets”. 



Nicolle Steffen (CO)


Maybe it’s time to contemplate reporting outlets differently. We could collect data on full-service branches, computer labs, and...?


In Colorado we ask for a count, but not specifics about:


•             Number of outreach vehicles

•             Number of other outlets





Comments (0)

You don't have permission to comment on this page.