Archive for June, 2012

Mystery Collection Disc 31

Posted in Movies and TV on June 26th, 2012

Double Cross, 1941, b&w. Albert H. Kelley (dir.), Kane Richmond, Pauline Moore, Wynne Gibson, John Miljan. 1:02.

One of those hour-long programmers that keeps right on moving. This time, a cop’s gotten friendly with a hard-edged woman who co-owns (?) a nightclub/gambling hall. He’s visiting her when he should be on duty. When the cops raid the joint, she manages to grab his gun, shoot another cop, and shove the gun into his hands as the cops shoot him. That’s just one double-cross in a movie that has its share.

The bulk of the plot involves another cop (friend of the first one), his fiancée (who takes photos at the club), his father (a police captain who’s about to be named commissioner), some semi-undercover work, the backer of the club who sees to it that it keeps reopening (big surprise here), and a surprisingly effective movie. Nothing really special, but this one works. Given the length, I’ll give it $1.

Ellis Island, 1936, b&w. Phil Rosen (dir.), Donald Cook, Peggy Shannon, Jack La Rue, Joyce Compton, Bradley Page, Johnny Arthur, George Rosener. 1:07.

This oddity is really a semi-slapstick comedy about a park ranger who cheats on his long-time fiancée, gets caught at it, wants his buddy ranger to bail him out by lying (saying it was the buddy’s cousin and the ranger was just meeting her at the train as a favor)…and eventually Gets the Girl. Which is a little sad, actually.

The movie’s “mystery” plot is about a ten-year-old bank robbery (one that suggests Federal Reserve guards are worthless) that yielded $1 million, with the trio of robbers—all immigrants—captured and put away for ten years. Now they’re out and being deported (through Ellis Island, where part of the action takes place), with a deportation process that seems to assume nobody’s ever going to put up a fuss or try to escape. Various shenanigans happen, with hoodlums trying to find out where the money’s hidden, a phony Treasury agent also trying to find the money, the niece of one of the bandits involved, and a moderately clever twist.

Not great, not terrible, but an unsettled blend of semi-mystery, romantic comedy, slapstick comedy and more (there’s a stereotypic farmer-with-shotgun, the “get offa’ my land, you chicken thieves!” type). It does not help that the cheating boyfriend is an incredibly annoying character. I can’t really give it more than $0.75.

Exile Express, 1939, b&w. Otis Garrett (dir.), Anna Sten, Alan Marshal, Jerome Cowan, Walter Catlett. 1:11 [1:09]

Another one that’s part slapstick, part murder mystery (with a spy story and an evil chemical formula thrown in), part romance. And partly seems as though they’re making it up as they go along.

The plot: A beautiful Ukrainian immigrant is a chemist’s assistant, on the eve of getting her citizenship. She’s being courted by a handsome young rogue she doesn’t really love. The chemist has combined a number of specific pesticides to create a super-pesticide that’s sort of a permanent Round-Up: It not only kills all the pests and all the crops, it makes the land useless for years to come. He plans to turn it over to the Feds…and when a spy shoots him, he manages to spill acid on the formula before he dies. (The assistant, having been approached by a spy from her homeland, calls him and warns him—and as he’s about to put the formula in his safe, he gets shot.)

The cops assume that the woman had something to do with it and send her off for deportation after she’s acquitted (I guess—it’s just a bunch of headlines). Since she’s in San Francisco and you can only deport people from Ellis Island, she’s put on the “exile express,” a four-day train ride, along with a tax evader/big-shot criminal who’s happy enough to be going home. And a dashing young reporter who’s looking for some story, although it’s not quite clear what. Oh, there’s also a bedraggled Bolshevik; after anybody talks to him, they start scratching themselves.

Anyhoo…the young rogue sees to it that she escapes from the train with the story that she’ll get married to some American chump, go across the border to Canada, then come back as the wife of a citizen—but, of course, the young rogue’s really the spy’s boss. Without going into the rest of the plot, let’s just say that she winds up happily (I guess) married to the reporter.

All a little helter-skelter. OK, it’s a mess. The print’s mixed, but the sound’s worse: It fades in and out, possibly due to some automatic attempt to reduce background noise (it’s dead silent except when there’s dialog or sound effects, at which point there’s lots of background noise—and sometimes the fade-in misses a line of dialog). I suspect this kind of mixed-genre short movie was enormously popular at one point, but it’s hard to make work well. $0.75.

Hollywood Stadium Mystery, 1938, b&w. David Howard (dir.), Neil Hamilton, Evelyn Venable, Jimmy Wallington, Barbara Pepper, Lucien Littlefield, Lynne Roberts, Smiley Burnette.

Based on the description, I was expecting another variation on the “Who in this big crowd pulled the trigger?” theme—but this nonstop flick isn’t quite that. There’s a murder in the first two minutes, but that’s not the crime. We have a beautiful female mystery writer and a handsome male DA who meet cute, are immediately antagonistic to one another, and of course are going to wind up married by the end of the movie. We have a couple of actual murders—one of them the challenger to a boxing title, murdered in a way that involves an odd scent. We have a comedian playing himself, doing a little act to distract people being held for questioning. We have a murderer who seems like an unlikely candidate. There’s humor, some misdirection, and generally almost too much plot for a short film. All in all, fun and well done. Based on the sleeve’s “66 minute” timing, the movie’s missing 13 minutes. In any case, I’ll give it $1.00.

Release notes

Posted in Cites & Insights on June 26th, 2012

Two items of possible interest related to the July 2012 Cites & Insights (12:6), released yesterday:

  1. This turns out to be issue #150. Unlike some previous milestone issues, I have no plans to do anything special–and especially not anything that involves reprinting old material–to celebrate issue #150.
  2. The PDFs (the print-oriented version and the single-column, 6×9″, ereader-oriented version) both came out larger than I expected when created directly within Word, using its Save/Send function (saving as PDF does exactly the same thing, as far as I can tell). When I was creating the PDF for the preliminary version of Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four, the PDF also seemed very large–so, since I have Acrobat (albeit not the most current version), I tried printing it to PDF rather than converting directly. The resulting PDFs were much smaller–e.g., for the print-oriented version, 320K as compared to 2MB. But–and it’s a big but–a little checking showed two things: First, the navigation panel no longer worked in Adobe Reader (that is, you could no longer navigate directly to a heading). Second, hyperlinks didn’t work: they looked like hyperlinks, but weren’t active. Neither of those mattered for the book; both did for C&I. So I restored the larger PDFs generated directly by Word.

If you encounter an earlier issue of C&I that appears to have hyperlinks but in which they don’t work, let me know: I’ll reconvert it. (That offer only stands for the recent issues that have hyperlinks.)

Oh, and I’ve received a donation from someone who found the two-part fair use essay worthwhile. Thanks!

Cites & Insights 12:6 (July 2012) available

Posted in Cites & Insights, Copyright, Libraries on June 25th, 2012

The July 2012 issue of Cites & Insights (12:6) is now available at http://citesandinsights.info/civ12i6.pdf.

The issue is 32 pages long. A single-column 6×9 version, designed for use on ereaders, is also available at http://citesandinsights.info/civ12i6on.pdf. The single-column version is 62 pages long and intended only for ereading, not for printing.

The issue includes:

Libraries: Give Us a Dollar: A Case Study  pp. 1-6

Would a refined version of Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four be directly useful to a few hundred (or a few thousand) public libraries? This two-part example shows how a mythical New York library (directly based on two real libraries) might use a heavily revised version–and how it might use the current version. I’m still looking for reviewers and feedback before deciding how to proceed; these case studies might help.

Policy: Copyright: Fair Use, Part 2   pp. 6-29

The second part of the fair use roundup that began in the May issue. This part includes cites & comments for eleven items relating to fair use and academic libraries (other than the GSU case), ten items on various aspects of fair use in the real world–and a “once over lightly” on GSU events since the judge issued her decision, noting 18 discussions on what’s happened since.

The Back    pp. 29-32

Ten brief essays on various possibly amusing topics.

The three essays are also available as HTML separates (the headings above are links if you’re reading this on a blog) at http://citesandinsights.info

 

Box Office Gold Disc 10

Posted in Movies and TV on June 20th, 2012

Portrait of a Showgirl, 1982, color (made for TV). Steven Hilliard Stern (dir.), Lesley Ann Warren, Rita Moreno, Dianne Kay, Tony Curtis, Barry Primus, Hamilton Camp, Kip Gilman. 1:34 [1:36].

A first-rate cast, a good print (VHS quality), an OK story. It’s slice-of-life time for three dancers in Las Vegas: A newly arrived hard-edged former Fosse dancer, just in from New York in her Mercedes; a naïve young thing in from St. Louis; and an Italian stalwart who lives in town with her husband, a hotel concierge who dreams of making it big. The stalwart wonders if she has one more good show left in her—but at whatever age, it’s hard to think of Rita Moreno (Italian, right? and married to Tony Curtis) as being less than superb as a dancer. Lesley Ann Warren does hard-edged superbly, and a combination of bad at making romantic choices and good at telling the truth even better. The rest of the cast includes some notably good talent as well.

The foreground story? Not much, really, Caesar’s Palace (where it was filmed) has decided to go back to a showgirl revue, and the troupe is getting ready. It all revolves around that. Nothing terribly deep, and the St. Louis newbie is a little too naïve to believe—but it all works fairly well. It’s made for TV, but it’s a good job. All in all, it gets $1.50.

Casablanca Express, 1989, color. Sergio Martino (dir.), Jason Connery, Francesco Quinn, Jinny Steffan, Jean Sorel, Donald Pleasence, Glenn Ford. 1:25.

Set in French Africa (Algeria) and Morocco in 1942, based on the plan of Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin to meet in Casablanca and plan their war efforts. Churchill’s now in Algiers, and the idea is to get him to Casablanca alive—despite the clear presence of collaborators (Vichy French and Arabs who regard the Third Reich as liberators).

After the setup, it’s mostly set on a train, the Casablanca Express, and it’s a bloody ride as the Germans try to kidnap Churchill. What else can I say about the plot? There’s a modest twist at the end, and we all know that Churchill wasn’t captured by Hitler. In any case, it’s a fairly good cast, the acting is OK, and all in all it’s not a bad ride (although, reading the poisonous IMDB reviews, it’s apparently wildly inauthentic). Filmed where it’s set, by an Italian company. (It’s a “sons” picture—Connery and Francesco are the sons of Sean and Anthony.) $1.25.

Cold War Killers, 1986, color (made for TV). William Barnes (dir.), Terence Stamp, Robin Sachs, Carmen Du Sautoy. 1:26.

The title’s a little misleading. Yes, the plot does involve several deaths—but only one during the film itself, and that one’s off-screen. This movie is a moderately complex espionage flick involving the KGB, the Mossad and at least two different (I think) branches of British intelligence, all somehow trying to solve a 30-year-old mystery when a crashed plane emerges as a large pond is being drained.

What you need to know (and what may explain why this rather good movie is in this set—well, that and its TV provenance): No explosions. No high-speed car chases. No gun battles. Indeed, the most violent action is a window being broken (twice during the film—and we’re expected to believe that a high-level British operative breaks into a store by, wait for it, taking a tire iron to the window instead of using lock picks).

And it’s really quite good. I’m not sure why I liked it, but Terence Stamp is clearly part of the reason. I found this compelling and entertaining. Not a great movie, but pretty good, and exceptional as a TV movie: $1.75.

Delta Force Commando, 1988, color. Perluigi Ciricai (dir.), Brett Baxter Clark, Fred Williamson, Mark Gregory, Bo Svenson. 1:36.

The only way I can plausibly review this flick is as a modern Spaghetti Western, only with grenade launchers, helicopters and an atomic weapon that’s readily carried by one person instead of horses, saloons and acrobatic shooting—although it still has a prostitute (sort of) if less nudity than usual. It’s Italian, it’s got pretty decent production values, it stars a wronged handsome fellow and his unwilling sidekick who seem immune to bullets and leave an enormous body count. I mean enormous. I didn’t even try to count. (The guns all seem to have limitless firepower—even though people are changing clips once in a while. Verisimilitude is not, shall we say, this film’s strong point.)

The “plot”: Some Latin American revolutionaries swipe this backpack bomb from “U.S.Base” in Puerto Rico (I think that was the name), thanks to a lecherous Sergeant who takes a really sleazy hooker to his upscale barracks and…well, never mind. Just know that on the way out, the trigger-happy bomb thieves manage to shoot the pregnant wife of Our Hero.

Somehow, the 50-person Marine Delta Force can’t leave the carrier where they’re staked out waiting to find this bomb—and there’s even a BBC reporter (who reads words very slowly and wouldn’t last a day on the actual BBC), invited there by a State Department idiot who seems to be in control, and… well, never mind. The hero hijacks a helicopter and we’re off and running, er, gunning.

I won’t spoil the plot twist, but it makes no sense in any case. Let’s just say this is mano-a-mano with a few dozen other dead manos (and women) thrown in for good measure. (The plot summary on the sleeve and at IMDB is just wrong.) Viewed strictly as over-the-top Italian action flick making, it’s maybe worth $1.00.

Transforming Your Library Through Strategic Dynamism

Posted in Stuff on June 19th, 2012

Maybe that should be the theme of my next effort.

Heck, maybe I could become a Strategic Dynamism guru.

Or, you know, maybe not.

[Although Strategic Dynamism has the considerable guruhood strength of being a wholly meaningless bit of bafflegab, as far as I can tell. Unfortunately, I couldn’t keep a straight face long enough to Earn Big Bucks as a Strategic Dynamism Guru.]

Kickstarter: From trilemma to dilemma

Posted in Books and publishing on June 19th, 2012

If you were just about to write something in response to yesterday’s “Which one if either? A Kickstarter trilemma,” I think it’s now down to a dilemma (and have modified the post to say that).

Namely, given the digital publication of “Public Library Funding & Technology Access Study 2011-2012,” the American Libraries Summer 2012 Digital Supplement, I don’t believe Project One is plausible in terms of possible Kickstarter support.

I’m suspicious of some social networking numbers in the digital supplement (70% of American libraries being on social networks is an awfully big jump from the 54% or so of libraries in 38 states that I found last fall), but that’s neither here nor there. The added value I could provide almost certainly isn’t worth the time it would take, barring some other (miraculous) form of funding.

Still interested in responses to the dilemma–that is, whether there’s enough “there” there in Project Two to be worth pursuing. And as noted there, silence is a legitimate response: A negative one.

Which one if either? A Kickstarter trilemma

Posted in Books and publishing, Stuff on June 18th, 2012

Regular readers (if such an animal exists) will know that I’ve been enthusiastic about two research projects, both related to public libraries, either of which involves money issues and either of which could potentially be funded via Kickstarter.

[There’s also The Librarian’s Guide to Micropublishing, which could leader to speaking invitations, and Open Access: What You Need to Know Now. And, for that matter, Successful Social Networking in Public Libraries, which will emerge from ALA Editions later this year. That last is directly related to the first of these two projects.]

There are still other possible routes through which I could get enough funding to maintain some level of research (and keep my hand in librarianship, including attending at least one conference a year most years), but there’s no real progress on those routes.

So I’m at a decision point of sorts–a trilemma: Do I try for a Kickstarter project on the first project, the second project or neither?

Here’s how I see the situation right now. Your advice & suggestions are very much invited. You might find this post to be useful overall background, although it preceded the preliminary example of the second project.


Update, Tuesday, June 19, 2012: Given the new American Libraries Summer 2012 Digital Supplement, “Public Library Funding & Technology Access Study 2011-2012,” and given responses to this post to date (none), I now believe that Project One is off the table. The study doesn’t cover quite as many libraries, and I’m not sure I believe the 70%-social-networking figure (that represents enormous growth in the past eight months, or maybe the other 12 states have 100% participation to balance the just slightly over half of libraries in 38 sates), but I just can’t see people contributing to an expensive survey that slightly extends a freebie. The 38-state study formed the basis of what I believe will be a good book; barring miracles, I’ll leave it like that. So the question really is:

Is it plausible to attempt a Kickstarter project for #2, or isn’t it?

Silence constitutes a perfectly reasonable answer: It isn’t.


Project One: Social Networking Survey

Background: Primarily this prospectus, with additional notes here and here.

Short version: The first year of a possible ongoing external survey of all public libraries in the U.S. (systems and standalone, not branches) and their social networking activity, specifically looking at Facebook, Twitter and Google+, including (for the first year) changes over time for libraries in 38 states. Also, as part of the first-year project, gathering “library mottoes” that appear on library websites toward a little “A library is…” book.

Size: The Kickstarter project would need to be for $18,000 to make sense, given the overhead of Kickstarter itself and the incentives needed; the idea would be to net $15,000.

Results: A booklength study of the results, plus an available spreadsheet. The spreadsheet would be CC 0 (it’s data in any case, even though it springs from hundreds of hours of labor); the PDF of the book would be free or nominally priced, while the print version (or EPUB version if done) would be priced so as to yield some revenue for a second year’s study. Also, the “A library is…” book.

Incentives: Probably a free PDF version of “A library is…” for sub-$100 levels, probably a print version for $250, a signed print version (or a hardcover version) for $500, and a signed print version and $500 discount on a future speaking engagement (if desired) for $1,000 or more. Alternatively, print versions of the study itself could be offered.

Pluses: The output would carry forward and enhance what I believe will be a worthwhile book (based on the 38-state 2011 study); this would be interesting and possibly worthwhile documentation on how (and the extent to which) public libraries are using social networks and how that’s changing over time, which should be useful to public libraries; the “A library is…” would, I think, be charming and fun, although perhaps not deeply meaningful.

Minuses: It’s a huge amount of work–data gathering alone would involve several hundred hours of the kind of work you can’t keep doing without lots of breaks. And, frankly, it’s never been clear how many public libraries are interested in studies of change over time or of having actual objective evidence of their use of social networks.

Project Two: Give Us a Dollar…

Background: The best background is the preliminary edition of the book itself, Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four. But there’s also a four-part post (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4), the fourth part of which suggests an alternate vision for the next time around. (Note: These links do work–the Tuesday one was mangled in Part 3 and Part 4, and those have also been fixed.)

Short version: This study would happen after IMLS releases the 2010 public library database. I’d massage the data, creating a benefit ratio and several derivative measures, and prepare a book-length study that should allow libraries to help prepare their cases for better funding (or at least to avoid funding cuts), by showing that they’re good stewards of public funds, how they compare with “similar” libraries and where they could provide even better value through added funding.

Size: If I used Kickstarter, it would be to create an ebook (yes, I’d get it into EPUB format) that was available at nominal prices (the least Lulu would allow for distribution purposes, and free as a PDF from Lulu itself) and a print book (priced to yield about $1.50 net per copy). I’d say $8,500: Basically, a dollar for each library fully included in the study (assuming that about 700 libraries fall out in 2010 as they did in 2009). Note that this price includes my promise to email data lines for libraries on request; I don’t want to mount the whole database because I’m not interested in making it easy to do invidious comparisons.

Incentives: Not clear. If the $8,500 is to free the ebook, then what do I send people that doesn’t wind up chewing up the revenue?

Pluses: I think most public libraries could benefit from this, and for several thousand libraries, it’s a better deal than paying for a consultant or priced library data services. Also, since I’ve already done some of the prep work, it’s not an enormous project–maybe 50 to 100 hours of data analysis and a couple hundred hours to put the book in proper shape. Plus, to be sure, five minutes for each library that asks for a data line…

Minuses: I’m not sure that public libraries are interested. After an initial six sales of the preliminary edition on the first day, there have been exactly zero since, even though the price was as low as $24 for a while–and two open calls to request free PDF review copies have, to date, received exactly one request. If 10% of American public libraries thought this was worthwhile, no Kickstarter or other funding would be required. If 1% (90) were interested enough to try the preliminary edition and provide feedback, I’d probably proceed in any case (if the feedback says I should). On the other hand, if less than 0.1% are interested, well, there’s really no point. Oh, and I’m really not sure what to offer as incentives (other than thank-you notes).

Third Option: Neither

When I was thinking about Kickstarter for the first project, I was also reading Jason Scott’s notes about successful use of Kickstarter, including the absolutely mandatory nature of the “optional” video. That bothered me a little, ’cause I’m not a visual artist or videographer. Sure, I have the minimal equipment (my notebook has a camera and microphone), but…

Then, as I was ramping up to make a decision, I was pointed to this post on “How to Run a Successful Kickstarter Campaign.” Which sets the bar even higher than Scott did–and which seems to be pretty sensible.

Since I’ve been dealing with “four factors” a lot this past week (writing Part 2 of a Fair Use roundup, which will make up most of the July 2012 Cites & Insights), I’m tempted to look at each factor and see where I stand.

  1. Back Other Projects Before You Launch. Fail. I haven’t.
  2. Three Things One: Only a very small portion of your network will back your project on Kickstarter. The author says not to think like “if only half of those who read my blog each month contribute…” and I’ve pretty much learned that already. If only 10% of those who apparently read Cites & Insights kicked in $25 a year, I’d already have enough funding to attend one conference a year; as it is, I don’t have enough this year to cover my domain charges and hosting fees (which total less than $200). And while Walt at Random seems to have between 700 and 1200 readers, I’m not sure that it actually has more than a few dozen. Realistically, the FF LSW community is the closest thing I have to a large network, and that’s only about 700 people. This has always been a questionable aspect for me of Kickstarter–while thousands of library people “know my name,” they’re not really a network. (They’ve already done more for me than I could have ever expected, for which I’ll always be grateful.)
  3. Three Things Two: People will tell you that your idea is stuipid or that you are the wrong person to bring the idea to life. That’s already happened, more or less, with the second project–but most feedback, such as it’s been, has been positive. So I think I’m OK on that one.
  4. Three Things Three: [Paraphrased: Will I do it whether Kickstarter succeeds or not?] A good question. I don’t have a great answer, although for Project One the answer’s pretty clearly “without some form of backing, it’s way too much of a time sink.”
  5. Make a kickass Kickstarter video. Fail, big time. If that’s the rule, and Scott also seems to suggest this, then I’m dead before I begin.
  6. Money, Money, Money, Money. (You need to read the original post–but that’s true anyway!) Not sure what to say here.
  7. Rewards Matter and They Take Time and Money to Fulfill. Understood, and more of an issue for Project Two. In my mind, the biggest Kickstarter funding to date was really a whole bunch of people paying for $100 watches in advance. I don’t have such enticing rewards. Not sure about this one.
  8. Give People a Reason to Trust You. Within the library community, I believe I win on this one–if my reputation for honesty & transparency isn’t clear, it’s too late.
  9. If You Build It They Won’t Just Come. This basically says to me that I need to be an extroverted social network champion to have a chance at this. That’s a big problem.

There are three more discussions, but I’ve probably let this run on too long as is. I see one reasonable win (#8), a couple of big hurdles (#9, #5, #2, maybe #1), and…well…I’m not sure.

Advice? Feedback? Right now, the third option seems most plausible, but maybe I’m overreacting. Not that I would ever do that, of course…

 

 

Review Copies of “Give Us a Dollar”: Another Offer

Posted in C&I Books, Libraries on June 14th, 2012

If you read my three-part case study of how the preliminary edition of Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four might be directly useful for a public library (part one, part two, part three)–and, for that matter, today’s part four, offering a very different possibility for a future edition–and if you either work in or direct a public library, work with or for any group of public libraries, or for that matter have a strong interest in public libraries:

Review copies of the book (in PDF form) are available.

My previous offering stated some conditions–ones I thought and think are reasonable. Namely, if you’re asking for a review copy, it would be nice if you actually review the book (even if the review is one sentence long, maybe as a comment on this post).

But for now, let’s just say: If you’d like to review the book (in PDF form), send me an email request: waltcrawford@gmail.com.

I’ll honor at least the first six requests and probably more.

And yes, if you request a review copy, you can (and probably should) request the data row for your library (or one library you want to use to see how this all works). That can be a separate email, but if you include the name (and city and state) of your library in a review-copy request, I’ll send the data line along with the review copy.

 

Give Us a Dollar: Case Study—Part 4

Posted in C&I Books, Libraries on June 14th, 2012

This concludes the story of Fourbuck Public Library in New York (a mythical library based on the average of two real libraries) and how it might benefit from a revised version of Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four. If you find this revised version more useful, please let me know.

Earlier portions appeared Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, June 11-13, 2012.

Deeper and Different?

As I was stepping through this case study, I found myself thinking of a very different approach to the heart of the book—basically, everything after Chapter One. The different approach would rely almost entirely on derived numbers, numbers that should be comparable across very different libraries. It would have fewer but much longer chapters.

Here’s what I have in mind. I need feedback as to what is likely to work best, and whether this model or the current book should be the basis for refinement.

Fourbuck’s Data

With the new model, almost every book purchaser would want to send me email asking for the library’s data line. While everything in the data line can be readily calculated from 2009 IMLS reports, there are more derivative figures and it’s easier to just get the bunch.

Here’s what Fourbuck would get back from me (collapsed into a few lines instead of one line per label-data pair):

St: NY Key: NY999X LSA: 10,768 Exp: $280,057 Vis: 48,019
Ref: 3,590 Circ: 94,886 ILL: 23,625 Attend: 2,922 PC: 5
PCUse: 6,189 $/Cap: $26.01 Ben/Cap: $140.21
Hrs: 2,559 PC: 5 Circ/c: 8.81 BenR: 5.39 Att/c: 0.27
PC/c 0.57 Ref/c: 0.33 Vis/c: 4.46 Circ/hr: 37.1 Vis/hr: 18.8

I’ve omitted most of the derived benefit amounts and partial benefit ratios, added two new derived figures (circulation per hour and visits per hour), and moved things around—mostly so the last 10 data elements appear in the same order as they do in tables.

After a revised Chapter 1, the book would consist of two very long chapters (and possibly shorter commentary chapters). The first of the two chapters would discuss libraries by size (legal service area), using expenses per capita as a secondary axis. The second would discuss libraries by state, using size as a secondary axis. (Should the secondary axis, that is, the rows for each table, be ten size categories or 18? Advice?) I’ll just step through the portion of the possible Chapter 2 that’s relevant to Fourbuck.

2. Libraries by Size

Instead of the ten size categories used by HAPLR or the eleven used in other sources, both of which yield widely different numbers of libraries per section and tend to overemphasize the few hundred very large library systems, this study would use size brackets chosen based on the actual data, designed to have roughly 500 libraries in each bracket.

For 2009 data, given the exclusions I’ve already made, that means 18 size brackets, with none having fewer than 493 or more than 506 libraries. (For the number-minded among you, that’s 500 plus or minus 7.) A real-world equal-size breakdown necessarily emphasizes smaller libraries, since most US public libraries are small. So, for example, the Fourbuck library, with an LSA of 10,768, is in the 10th of 18 brackets (starting from the smallest), a bracket including 505 libraries serving 8,700 to 11,199 people.

The secondary axis, operating expenditures per capita ($ per cap), appears to work well with ten divisions. Given 2009 data, those divisions are the ones used in the preliminary edition (e.g., $82 and up, $61 to $81.99, etc.).

This methodology should mean that a typical row of data in a table (except the richest one) should cover roughly 50 libraries, although that number will vary widely (in the example shown here, it varies from 41 to 60).

So far, here’s what I think would appear in each of 18 sections of the new Chapter 2, subject to feedback, refinement, addition of commentary and possible addition of correlations and graphs if they appear to add something. There are six tables (the chapter would begin with six tables covering all libraries). Except for the first, which shows the number of libraries and percentage for each dollar bracket, each table shows two metrics—and shows not only the median library but the 75%ile (that is, bottom of top quarter) and 25%ile (top of bottom quarter). Let’s step through the actual tables that are relevant to Fourbuck and see what we find.

$ per cap

Count

%

$82+

34

7%

$61-$81

47

9%

$46-$60

41

8%

$38-$45

60

12%

$32-$37

55

11%

$27-$31

56

11%

$22-$26

45

9%

$17-$21

60

12%

$12-$16

57

11%

$5-$11

50

10%

Overall

505

Table X.1 Expenditure distribution of libraries serving 8,700 to 11,199 people

Table X.1 is the only table showing number of libraries. Fourbuck notes that it’s in one of the smaller groups—and also, significantly, that 58% of libraries in this size group have better funding. (Should there be a cumulative % column here to make that calculation trivial?)

$ per cap

Hours

Personal Computers

25%

Med

75%

25%

Med

75%

$82+

2,912

3,151

3,536

14

19

27

$61-$81

2,626

2,812

3,276

10

14

19

$46-$60

2,743

2,968

3,276

7

13

19

$38-$45

2,444

2,721

2,970

7

10

17

$32-$37

2,488

2,717

2,964

8

19

14

$27-$31

2,366

2,756

3,120

7

12

14

$22-$26

2,080

2,496

2,912

6

8

13

$17-$21

2,028

2,285

2,600

6

8

11

$12-$16

2,040

2,288

2,601

7

10

14

$5-$11

1,848

2,167

2,382

5

7

10

Overall

2,236

2,678

3,000

7

10

15

Tabke X.2 Hours and personal computers in libraries serving 8,700 to 11,199 people

Fourbuck is open just slightly longer than most libraries with its funding level—but it’s not in the top quartile. More to the point, libraries with better funding are open a lot more hours, which almost automatically means more service to the community. Adding another two or three hours per week would put Fourbuck at the median point for libraries of this size, but more would be better.

And look at the other metric! Fourbuck is really short of internet-connected personal computers for public use: Just half of the median for all libraries of its size and in the bottom quarter of libraries even with its mediocre funding. Even most libraries on starvation diets ($5-$11) have more PCs.

$ per cap

Circulation/cap

Benefit Ratio

25%

Med

75%

25%

Med

75%

$82+

12.9

19.6

24.7

2.4

2.8

3.5

$61-$81

9.5

13.4

18.6

2.6

4.0

4.6

$46-$60

7.7

10.0

14.6

2.8

3.7

4.8

$38-$45

7.0

9.2

11.4

3.4

4.1

5.3

$32-$37

6.0

7.4

9.5

3.6

4.5

5.3

$27-$31

4.7

6.3

8.9

3.5

4.7

5.3

$22-$26

4.6

6.0

7.7

3.6

4.6

5.8

$17-$21

3.9

5.1

6.8

4.4

5.3

6.7

$12-$16

2.5

3.5

4.7

4.3

5.4

6.9

$5-$11

1.8

2.6

3.6

4.8

6.3

8.4

Overall

4.2

6.9

10.5

3.5

4.6

5.7

Table X.3 Circulation per capita and benefit ratios for libraries serving 8,700 to 11,199 people

This is one of those tables that speaks to better funding fairly directly—look at the pattern of median circulation per capita as funding changes. Fourbuck’s actually in reasonable shape: Better than median for all libraries its size and well into the top quarter for libraries with its funding. Bump that funding up a little and it would still be nearly in the top quarter—but it would probably do better with more hours. (Ten circulations per capita’s a good starting target, and it’s not out of reach.)

The benefit ratio for Fourbuck is above average for its mediocre funding but not in the top quarter—but benefit ratio is one place where you really don’t want to be at the top. Note that the median for the whole size group rounds to 5.

$ per cap

Attendance/cap

PC use/cap

25%

Med

75%

25%

Med

75%

$82+

0.6

1.0

1.5

1.5

2.7

4.1

$61-$81

0.4

0.6

0.8

0.9

2.0

2.7

$46-$60

0.3

0.5

0.7

1.0

1.6

2.5

$38-$45

0.3

0.4

0.6

0.9

1.4

1.8

$32-$37

0.2

0.4

0.5

0.9

1.3

2.1

$27-$31

0.2

0.3

0.4

0.8

1.2

1.8

$22-$26

0.1

0.3

0.4

0.6

1.0

1.5

$17-$21

0.2

0.2

0.4

0.5

0.8

1.1

$12-$16

0.1

0.2

0.2

0.4

0.7

0.9

$5-$11

0.1

0.1

0.2

0.4

0.6

1.0

Overall

0.2

0.3

0.6

0.6

1.1

1.8

Table X.4 Attendance and PC use per capita for libraries serving 8,700 to 11,199 people

More money, more and better programs, more program attendance—although few of the libraries in this size category, even the well-funded ones, do really well on this metric. At 0.27, rounded to 0.3, Fourbuck’s just about average for program attendance, but could do a lot better. (Should this—and some other metrics—show two decimal places?)

As for PC use—well, when the PCs aren’t there, it’s hard for them to be used heavily. Fourbuck’s in the bottom quarter even for its funding level, barely half of the median level.

$ per cap

Reference/cap

Visits/cap

25%

Med

75%

25%

Med

75%

$82+

0.6

1.4

2.2

9.9

13.8

18.3

$61-$81

0.5

0.7

1.4

6.7

10.1

12.5

$46-$60

0.2

0.7

1.0

4.9

6.9

10.2

$38-$45

0.3

0.6

0.9

5.5

6.9

9.0

$32-$37

0.4

0.7

1.0

4.7

6.4

8.7

$27-$31

0.2

0.4

0.7

3.8

4.9

7.5

$22-$26

0.2

0.3

0.6

3.1

3.8

5.7

$17-$21

0.2

0.4

0.7

2.8

3.9

5.2

$12-$16

0.1

0.2

0.6

1.8

2.6

4.3

$5-$11

0.1

0.3

0.7

1.4

2.0

2.7

Overall

0.2

0.5

0.9

3.1

5.4

8.2

Table X.5 Reference questions and visits per capita for libraries serving 8,700 to 11,199 people

Here, Fourbucks is in reasonably good shape for its funding level, and reference is one area where the numbers are tricky. Fourbucks is roughly average for its funding (but below average for its size) on reference, above average for its funding (but below average for its size) on visits per capita. You already know the refrain: Longer hours, more programs, more PCs, probably more money for fresher materials, and visits will go up along with circulation.

$ per cap

Circulation/hour

Visits/hour

25%

Med

75%

25%

Med

75%

$82+

38.5

57.4

87.0

31.9

38.2

57.4

$61-$81

30.3

47.6

55.4

20.8

29.5

43.1

$46-$60

23.2

34.6

51.0

16.6

21.1

35.8

$38-$45

26.0

32.3

41.1

18.8

24.4

31.9

$32-$37

21.6

25.8

36.0

16.4

25.2

31.5

$27-$31

16.6

24.5

33.6

13.2

18.9

25.8

$22-$26

17.5

24.0

28.2

10.1

15.2

22.4

$17-$21

17.0

21.0

28.9

10.9

16.4

22.8

$12-$16

10.0

14.2

21.9

7.8

12.0

19.4

$5-$11

8.5

11.8

16.6

7.3

9.7

12.3

Overall

16.6

25.8

37.0

11.8

20.3

29.5

Table X.6 Circulation and visits per hour for libraries serving 8,700 to 11,199 people

These new metrics are interesting, as you might expect them to vary less dramatically than circulation and visits per capita. That’s true—but there are still substantial variations. Circulation per capita for the median library in each funding group varies by a ratio of 7.5 to one (and the wealthiest libraries have 2.8 times the circulation per capita of the group as a whole), while the ratio is 4.9 to one for circulation per hour (and 2.2 to one for the wealthiest compared to the group as a whole). Well-funded libraries attract more usage per hour, in addition to being open longer hours. Similarly for visits per hour: The ratio of best-funded median to worst-funded median is 2.6 to one, where it’s 6.9 to one for visits per capita.

That’s the set. I haven’t included correlations or graphs, and it’s not clear how many decimal places should appear. I’m also not sure whether there are other metrics that really should be included, such as benefit per capita. Remember that this set of tables (and similar state-by-state tables, but arranged by size rather than funding) would replace the other tables, not add to them.

Would this set of tables be more useful to Fourbuck and other libraries in arguing for better funding? Your feedback is needed. Does the project as a whole make sense? Again, your feedback is needed. If you’ve purchased the book, please respond to the survey. In any case, your feedback to mailto:waltcrawford@gmail.com is welcome.

Give Us a Dollar: Case Study—Part 3

Posted in C&I Books, Libraries on June 13th, 2012

This continues the story of Fourbuck Public Library in New York and how it might use Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four. Part 1 appeared Monday, June 11; Part 2 appeared Tuesday, June 12, 2012.

6. Benefit Ratios

Fourbuck is one of 1,299 libraries with benefit ratios between 5.00 and 5.99; that group, 15% of the libraries considered in the book, serves 12% of the people. Fourbuck doesn’t meet any of the suggested robust criteria for library usage—ten circulations per capita, one program attendance per capita, one reference transaction, five visits and two PC uses—but it’s close on circulation. (On the other hand, half of the libraries in this group manage five visits per capita.)

LSA

Count

Circ/c

Att/c

Ref/c

Vis/c

PC/c

0

117

7.3

0.4

0.4

5.7

1.6

1

244

6.8

0.5

0.4

5.0

1.2

2

208

6.5

0.3

0.4

4.8

1.2

5

238

6.9

0.3

0.4

4.8

1.0

10

247

6.9

0.3

0.5

5.1

0.9

25

119

8.3

0.3

0.6

5.2

0.9

50

51

5.5

0.2

0.5

4.0

0.9

100

47

5.1

0.2

0.6

3.9

1.0

250

28

8.7

0.2

1.0

5.8

1.1

Overall

1,299

6.9

0.3

0.5

5.0

1.1

Table 6.18 Median per capita metrics by size of library

Fourbuck’s still a bit above the median for circulation for this size library, below on all other service metrics.

$ per cap

Count

Circ/c

Att/c

Ref/c

Vis/c

PC/c

$82+

25

25.7

1.4

1.9

19.3

5.4

$61-$81

60

20.3

0.9

1.2

12.3

2.9

$46-$60

117

15.5

0.7

0.8

8.9

2.0

$38-$45

138

11.8

0.5

0.7

7.7

1.5

$32-$37

148

8.7

0.4

0.6

6.2

1.4

$27-$31

166

8.4

0.4

0.5

5.4

1.1

$22-$26

176

6.4

0.3

0.5

4.6

1.0

$17-$21

166

5.2

0.2

0.4

3.9

0.9

$12-$16

173

3.7

0.2

0.3

2.9

0.7

$5-$11

130

2.1

0.1

0.2

1.6

0.5

Table 6.19 Median per capita metrics by expenses per capita

And looking at per capita expenditures rather than size, still in the 5.00 to 5.99 benefit ratio area, nothing much changes—although now visits per capita are barely below the median

Summing Up

Appendix A shows something mildly interesting: For libraries with $140 to $164.99 benefit per capita—Fourbuck being at the bottom of that range—serving 10,000 to 24,999 people (Fourbuck again being near the smallest), the median per capita circulation is 8.77, nearly identical to Fourbuck’s 8.81.

Fourbuck could use better funding—to stay open longer hours, to add more computers, to add more and better programs, and probably to improve the collection (although the level of circulation is already decent). The library could also almost certainly use funding for less countable improvements: job center, teen area, adult literacy programs, micropublishing support, maybe even a makerspace.

Based on the data in this book, there’s strong reason to believe that better funding will yield nearly proportional better benefits. Oh, the benefit ratio might drop into the $4-$4.99 category, but that might be a good thing—the library’s clearly an excellent steward of public funds.

Will using this book help Fourbuck make its case? Would better measures (more median per-library metrics and fewer totals, for example) make it more useful?

I hope and believe the answer to the first is yes. If it is, then I’m nearly certain the answer to the second is also yes—and that’s where I’m hoping to get help from readers.

But Wait! There’s More!

In the process of preparing this case study, I concluded that a radically different approach might (or might not!) serve libraries better.

Part 4 of this post—much longer than any of the first three parts, I’m afraid—spells out that approach. It will appear Thursday, June 14, 2012.


This blog is protected by dr Dave\\\\\\\'s Spam Karma 2: 104665 Spams eaten and counting...