Give Us a Dollar: Case Study—Part 3

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.

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