UT libraries see a decrease in library book circulation since the 1990s

Tehya Rassman

Book checkouts from UT Libraries have declined about 59 percent since 1997, around the start of the internet. To meet the demand for online materials, UT Libraries regularly evaluates which physical materials to keep and which to put only online.

In 1997, the overall circulation of books in UT Libraries was 1,739,720. In the 2016–2017 school year, the circulation dropped by about one million to just over 700,000 books. Travis Willmann, communications officer for UT Libraries, said the decrease in books is a result of a technological shift brought on by the internet.

“It’s the same way anytime you move from one type of media to the next,” Willmann said. “It takes some time for people to adapt to it, but technology helps us become more efficient in how we do things.”

UT Libraries choose whether the resources go online or stay in the library based on their circulation. After each technological milestone, reading and writing has become more efficient for people, Willmann said. 

“When the printing press came into being, people didn’t read parchment anymore,” Willmann said. “When the typewriter came around people could, rather than writing things out or using the printing press, they could just create their own written resources. So, things change over the course of time and I think it’s always an improvement.”

Krystal Wyatt-Baxter, head of assessment of UT Libraries, said she thinks UT Libraries struggles with checkouts more than public libraries because people tend to go to them for different reasons. “Lots of people go to their public library for leisure reading and that’s a different kind of activity than doing research (at UT libraries),” Wyatt-Baxter said.

English junior Hailey Kriska said she has only checked out two books from the Perry-Castañeda Library since her freshman year because she does not have time to read outside of class.

“It was freshman year and I was wildly optimistic that I’d have leisure reading time,” Kriska said. “I just always thought of it as the research library. I didn’t think about going to get books for fun.”

Kriska said she thinks fewer library books are being checked out because of technology such as audio and e-books, but she prefers tangible readings and said she would love to read for leisure like she did when she was young.

“I definitely checked out more books when I was younger and from my school library too,” Kriska said. “I like the feeling of snuggling up with a book.”