Give Us a Dollar: A Case Study—Part 2

This continues the case study of Fourbuck Public Library, a mythical New York library based on the average of two real New York libraries serving slightly fewer than 11,000 people, and how it could use Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four. You’ll find Part 1 here.

3. Library Budget Breakdowns

At $280K, Fourbuck’s total operating expenses are in the middle of the sixth (of ten) budget divisions (based on roughly equal portions of libraries), in the $250,000 to $439,000 range along with 979 other libraries. How does Fourbuck compare with other libraries with comparable budgets?

Dollars

per cap

Library

Count

Median figures

Circ/cap

Att/cap

Ben/cap

BenR

$5-$11

80

2.40

0.11

$49.06

5.87

$12-$16

96

3.88

0.19

$73.84

5.16

$17-$21

101

5.55

0.26

$101.75

5.31

$22-$26

111

5.66

0.31

$112.99

4.64

$27-$31

114

7.50

0.32

$135.91

4.65

$32-$37

128

7.78

0.44

$153.33

4.46

$38-$45

125

9.47

0.45

$171.84

4.29

$46-$60

103

11.51

0.62

$204.40

4.06

$61-$81

64

12.14

0.76

$242.11

3.50

$82+

58

21.17

1.14

$404.63

3.62

Overall

980

7.22

0.35

$141.57

4.51

Table 3.18 Median per capita benefit figures

Let’s see. There are 111 libraries with comparable expenditures per capita. Once again, it’s higher than the median for circulation—but below the median for program attendance. Total benefits continue to be on the high side, with a benefit ratio considerably higher than the median for this group ($4.64). Here, however, the correlation between expenditures and benefits is even higher: 0.78.

Ah, but there’s another table here to see how Fourbuck compares to other similarly funded libraries for overall activity:

Dollars

per cap

Library

Count

Median figures

Hours

Visits

Refer

PCUse

$5-$11

80

2,951

72,978

6,620

17,779

$12-$16

96

2,668

68,142

6,401

13,695

$17-$21

101

2,600

73,394

6,312

14,424

$22-$26

111

2,808

73,694

5,939

13,344

$27-$31

114

2,730

62,272

5,030

12,422

$32-$37

128

2,704

58,819

5,227

13,096

$38-$45

125

2,678

56,990

3,900

10,620

$46-$60

103

2,704

52,388

4,000

10,231

$61-$81

64

2,600

43,056

3,498

9,325

$82+

58

2,486

49,161

3,567

9,516

Overall

980

2,702

60,703

5,201

12,433

Table 3.19 Additional median benefit figures, not per capita

At 2,559 hours (basically 49 hours per week), Fourbuck is open fewer hours than most libraries with this level of funding (2,808 or, basically, 54 hours per week): Right there is a strong case for additional funding that would almost certainly increase community value, especially if the hours added are on weekends and evenings. Fourbuck is well below the median for visits and reference use, and not even half the median PC use: Does it need more public access computers as well as longer hours?

4. Expenditures Per Capita

Let’s dig into that $22 to $26.99 group, a group with 954 libraries in all (it’s not quite the largest group: That’s $17 to $21.99 with 955 libraries).

LSA

Count

Circ/c

Att/c

Vis/c

PC/c

BenR

0

70

5.6

0.3

4.5

1.5

8.0

1

201

6.5

0.3

4.7

1.2

6.9

2

154

6.3

0.3

4.7

1.1

5.9

5

148

6.5

0.3

4.5

1.1

5.4

10

166

5.5

0.3

4.8

1.0

4.5

25

94

5.8

0.3

4.5

1.0

4.1

50

55

5.9

0.2

4.2

0.9

4.3

100

47

5.7

0.2

3.6

0.8

3.9

250

19

5.9

0.2

4.4

0.9

4.5

Overall

954

6.1

0.3

4.5

1.0

5.3

Table 4.15 Median figures for libraries spending $22 to $26.99 per capita

As before, Fourbuck’s circulation is pretty good and program attendance is below average. Visits per capita are just slightly below average for this size library and class of funding (which I characterize as the best of the “mediocre funding” categories). But look at personal computing uses per capita: the median’s 1.0 and Fourbuck runs just over half that at 0.57. This basically confirms what we’ve already seen, slicing the libraries slightly differently.

5. State by State

This longest chapter, roughly half the book, breaks down the libraries within a state in four different tables. The first table shows that Fourbuck is one of 142 libraries in its size category (out of 740 New York libraries considered in the book).

As I discuss this, I now see that the first two tables would be more valuable with median figures rather than total figures for each metric. It’s easy enough to determine the averages, of course. Since Fourbuck is one of the smallest libraries in the size bracket, it’s hardly surprising that circulation is only two-thirds of average, and consistent with earlier chapters that program attendance is less than one-third of average.

$ per cap

Count

LSA

Circ/c

PC/c

Ben/c

BenR

$82+

148

2,673,091

14.0

2.0

$292

1.0

$61-$81

80

4,578,949

12.3

1.4

$247

3.5

$46-$60

71

3,153,121

11.8

1.8

$257

4.9

$38-$45

64

3,337,767

11.1

1.2

$209

5.3

$32-$37

55

664,884

8.8

1.2

$192

5.4

$27-$31

73

1,769,663

7.3

1.1

$157

5.4

$22-$26

74

1,128,115

6.4

0.9

$134

5.6

$17-$21

65

646,033

4.9

0.7

$120

6.2

$12-$16

70

654,427

3.9

0.6

$93

6.5

$5-$11

40

449,244

2.4

0.5

$71

7.3

Overall

740

19,055,294

8.3

1.1

$172

5.1

Table 5.134 New York median per capita metrics by expenditures per capita

Compared to all 74 New York libraries with $22 to $26.99 per capita funding, circulation is on the high side and PC usage is on the low side, with overall benefits just a little above the median and benefit ratio just a little below. Could Fourbuck offer better programs, longer hours, a fresher collection, more PCs and—don’t forget—the high-value services that don’t show up on this simplistic analysis if it had, say, $37 per capita funding (an extra $117,000, roughly)? Based on everything else in this book, it’s fair to suggest that Fourbuck would still give the community at least $4 in benefits for every $1 in expenditures—and probably $5, given the New York picture.

To be continued in Part 3 (Wednesday, June 13, 2012) and Part 4 (Thursday, June 14, 2012)

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