Archive for September, 2012

Better funding = more circs: The broad picture

Posted in $4, Libraries on September 13th, 2012

Chapter Two of Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-13) ($11.99 PDF, $21.95 paperback, $31.50 hardbound) gives the overall picture for 8,659 U.S. public libraries in FY2010 for each of ten metrics. I find that the 15 tables on pages 22-26 paint an interesting picture of American library funding and usage even before breaking libraries down by size.

Circulation per capita

By my reckoning, the largest piece of calculable public library benefits is still circulation–58% of the total in my simplistic calculations. And circulation per capita correlates very strongly with funding per capita. That makes sense: Libraries with better funding are typically open more hours (so people can borrow items), have better and more contemporary collections (so people want to borrow more items) and are likely to have better displays, reader’s advisory and other features (so people are enticed to borrow items).

When you look at circulation per capita on a benchmark basis–that is, dividing libraries by the number of items circulated per potential patron–the numbers are fairly clear and compelling:

  • 38% of the libraries circulate at least 10 items per capita; 25% at least 13 (that is, more than one a month)–and 6% at least 24 (at least two per month).
  • As you go down in circulation per capita, the median expenditures per capita also goes down–but even faster, so that the benefit ratio (strongly based on per-cap circulation) gets lower.
  • So, for example, the 24+ elite are typically well-funded (median expenditures per capita $75.82, in the top funding bracket) but also have a high benefit ratio (median 6.8). Those circulating 10-12 items per capita have median expenditures of $38.40–and median benefit ratio of 5.57. It’s a clear drop in each bracket, going down to the fortunately-small 6% of libraries circulating fewer than two items per capita: median expenditures $11.76, median benefits 4.61.

Looking at circulation from an expenditures viewpoint, the numbers are equally clear–in a manner that a graph might not show, since (as you’d expect) some libraries circulate more items relative to funding than either.

But as you move down in funding brackets from the highest ($73-$399, where median circulation per capita is 18.88 and the 75%ile is 26.65) to the lowest ($5-$11, with 2.60 median per capita circulation and 75%ile of 3.74), there’s always–in every one of the ten expenditure brackets–a drop for 25%ile, median, and 75%ile. But the brackets overlap, as you’d expect–e.g., the 75%ile for libraries with $53-$72 expenditures per capita (19.46) is higher than the median for $73-$399, but significantly lower than the top category’s 75%ile.

It’s a detailed version of “libraries that spend more do more” in the largest and clearest measure. If your library spends $31-$35 per capita and circulates 9 items per capita, you’re just above average for your expenditure category–and you’d be below average for libraries spending $36-$42 and in the top quartile for libraries spending $21-$25.

The numbers seem to move in two-bracket jumps–that is, the 75%ile for one spending bracket, typically 10% of the nation’s libraries, will be roughly equal to the median for two brackets higher. The 75%ile–the point at which one out of four libraries is doing better–is 7.67 for libraries spending $17-$20, where the median for libraries two brackets higher ($26-$30) is nearly identical at 7.69.

What’s that all mean? Your library can make the case that better funding, with the kind of effective spending that good public libraries should have, will lead to significantly higher use.

This post has some additional information on the book.

 

Overperforming and well-appreciated

Posted in $4, Libraries on September 11th, 2012

Calculating conservative benefit ratios for countable/reported public library benefits, half of the U.S. libraries in FY2010 were in the sweet spot, delivering $3 to $5.99 in benefits for each dollar spent–and about 10% were well-appreciated (with such strong uncountable benefits and presence that they’re funded well enough to have benefit ratios below $3). But that leaves 28% seriously overperforming and probably stretched very thin (delivering $7 and more per dollar spent)…and 8% delivering more than $10 in benefits per dollar spent, which doesn’t seem sustainable. Lots more in Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four. Read more about it here.

Cites & Insights 12:9 (October 2012) available

Posted in Cites & Insights on September 10th, 2012

The October 2012 issue of Cites & Insights (12:9) is now available for downloading at http://citesandinsights.info/civ12i9.pdf

The issue is 24 pages long. A single-column 6×9″ version, designed for online reading (and optimized for online display rather than printing), 46 pages long, is at http://citesandinsights.info/civ12i9on.pdf (It’s a much smaller file than the two-column version, if that’s an issue.)

The issue contains the following essays, available as HTML separates through the links below (if you’re viewing a web page) or from http://citesandinsights.info:

The Front:
     Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-2013)  pp. 1-4

Information on my new book, designed to be a tool for public libraries aiming to improve or retain funding, including its availability as an $11.99 PDF, $21.95 paperback or $31.50 hardcover. While it’s a tool, it’s also an interesting set of detailed tables on the activities of public libraries–if you’re numerate, since the tables deliberately lack textual commentary.

Words:
    Thinking About Blogging, Part 2  pp. 4-19

The second part of the two-part essay that began in the September 2012 issue, this one’s almost entirely by and about librarians and libraries–and the stopping and starting of blogs.

Intersections:
    The Liblog Landscape: Where Are They Now?  pp. 19-24

Those of you who knew about the various studies under the rubric “Liblog Landscape” may have figured out that there wasn’t a 2011 version and isn’t going to be a 2012 version. But I still had a spreadsheet with the most complete list of English-language liblogs ever assembled (I’m pretty sure)–and it only required a few hours to see how the 1,304 liblogs that began before June 1, 2010 were doing in late July 2012. This piece summarizes the results and links to a webpage with that liblog list in two parts.

 

 

Give Us a Dollar…(2012-13) Now Available

Posted in $4, Libraries on September 7th, 2012

I am delighted to announce the publication of Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-13), based on FY2010 IMLS public library data. If you’re in a public library, I believe you’ll find this book worthwhile. Here’s why:

Your public library is in competition with a lot of other agencies–city, county, district, even state–for money. You want your library to sustain its current services and expand them in the future. You know you get a lot of bang for your buck, but how do you show that to the people who hold the purse strings? One way is to use the data in Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four. Walt Crawford has compiled, analyzed, and organized library funding and service data from all around the United States. Give Us a Dollar will let you compare your services to those of other similar libraries at a glance and will help give you the data you need to show your funders how much you already stretch their dollars–and how much more you could provide with even a few dollars more.

The link above is for the $21.95 trade paperback (272 pages long).

The book is also available as an $11.99 PDF (no DRM: if Douglas County, Califa or anybody else desires to purchase this and mount it on a library ebook service, for the odd patron who might find it interesting, they have my blessing) and, for library schools or others who might want it that way, a $31.50 casebound hardcover.

Lulu frequently has sales during weekday periods. Check the home page at lulu.com, then search for Give Us a Dollar.

While this book is designed primarily as a tool for public libraries telling their stories to improve and retain funding, it may also be interesting for people who care about public libraries. Not a single library is named in the book, but more than 8,600 are compared in groups ranging from a few dozen to a few hundred.

There’s more information on the book in the October 2012 Cites & Insights. The book is ready to buy and use. I believe PDF will be the best format for most smaller public libraries: Despite the different “cover,” it’s exactly the same content, and at 6×9″ with margins it should be easy to read on most devices with reasonably large screens.

Click on the “$4″ category in the sidebar for a growing set of posts offering comments on a few of the tables in the book.


Note added September 12, 2012: This post has been edited to remove time-sensitive information because I’ll be pointing to it for some time to come, from various other posts here and on social networks offering bits & pieces of commentary on some of the tables in the book.

That means that one comment below may not make sense. It called my attention to the vagueness of “this week” in the original post, referring to a sale that ended September 7, 2012. To avoid such vagueness while this post is in use, I’ve done an overall edit rather than a strikeout/replacement edit.

Box Office Gold Disc 11

Posted in Movies and TV on September 6th, 2012

The Day Time Ended, 1979, color. John ‘Bud’ Cardos (dir.), Jim Davis, Chris Mitchun, Dorothy Malone, Marcy Lafferty, Natasha Ryan, Scott C. Kolden, Roberto Contreras. 1:19 [1:20].

The sleeve description is wrong on many counts—but it’s hard to fault it, because trying to come with a right summary of this film, other than “They grow that stuff strong in California,” isn’t easy—unless the moral is “Don’t power your house with solar energy: It draws strange neighbors.” Consider any attempt at plot description here to be useless: There really is no plot. Although at two points there is a truly odd little (about 6″ tall) dancing and beckoning alien—or possibly the same footage used twice.

Jim Davis (Jock Ewing in the first seasons of the original Dallas, until his death), the classic crusty old Westerner, is with his son (or son-in-law?) picking up both of their wives, his daughter (or daughter-in-law) and son (or other son) and granddaughter, and taking them to their spectacular new vaguely pyramid-shaped adobe solar-powered house, with its similar stable.

From there on out, things just get strange. The little girl sees a big tall green semi-pyramidal building that makes music, befriends her and somehow becomes an inch-tall building she can carry around—and that makes things happen for her. There’s a presumably-evil alien (?) hovering machine that never actually harms anybody (IMDB calls it the “Vacuum Cleaner of Doom,” which is a good description); a simultaneous triple supernebula that basically takes over the whole sky, lots of strange alien lights and whirly things and…

I don’t know what to say. At one point, the alien force acts as an instant glazier, fixing a broken wall mirror. At one point, “prehistoric monsters” that were never in any Earth history are doing battle in the yard. At one point, the front 400 acres seems to have become some sort of universal graveyard for flying and other machines. There’s a huge daytime moon taking up one-third of the sky at one point, a sun (or not) taking up even more at another. Especially in the last third of the flick, the family—whatever there is of it at any time—seems to have turned spectators in their own story.

And at a key point, the crusty old father says it must be a space-time warp, the two missing people (they’re not missing for long) must have been swept into the vortex, and they’ll just have to make do. Oh, and before this all begins there’s a starscape with some distorted narration about trying to reach people but not knowing where or when the person was, but now he knows that time is all there at once. Or something. This was Jim Davis’ final picture, but I’m sure he was prouder of his legacy as Jock Ewing: The plots made a lot more sense and the general acting level was higher.

I suppose you could call it sci-fi, but even most bad B flicks have a slightly more coherent “plot” than this thing. It’s bizarrely amusing (but doesn’t make a lick of sense) and the visuals aren’t bad; for that, I’ll give it $0.75.

Hard Knox, 1984, color (TV movie). Peter Werner (dir.), Robert Conrad, Red West, Joan Sweeny, Bill Erwin, Dean Hill, Dianne B. Shaw, Stephen Caffrey. 1:36

The plot’s familiar enough, with a number of variations: New [student, teacher, administrator, recruit, headmaster, whatever] shows up at [school, military school, platoon, whatever] full of misfits and turns it or them around—changing himself or herself in the process.

Whether you like this formula or not depends primarily, I think, on how you like the protagonist. And I like Robert Conrad just fine, in this case as Col. Joe “Hard” Knox, the most decorated fighter pilot in the Marine Air Corps, who’s just been grounded for medical reasons and has a 30-day leave before he accepts (or doesn’t) a promotion and a desk job. He returns home—and to the low-rent military school he graduated from, which has fallen on hard times. You can almost guess the rest. He agrees to be headmaster for two weeks; his trusty sidekick shows up to help out; and, well, the rest is what it is.

I found it surprisingly enjoyable. Nothing terribly deep, not lots of character development, and clearly not a huge-budget movie. I wasn’t surprised to find that it was a TV movie. But, well, I thought Conrad and his crew did a good job of what they did. $1.50.

Arch of Triumph, 1984, color (TV movie). Waris Hussein (dir.), Anthony Hopkins, Lesley-Anne Downs, Donald Pleasence, Frank Finlay. 1:33 [1:35].

I found it impossible to watch this movie to completion. That was partly the print: portions were so dark it was difficult to tell what was happing. It was partly the way it was directed and cut. And it was, I’m afraid, partly my own unwillingness to sit through such a downbeat movie.

A shame, probably, as the cast is first-rate. Since I didn’t finish it, I provide no rating. Maybe more serious cineastes would love it. Or, given that it’s a TV movie and the reviews I read, maybe not.

Jory, 1973, color. Jorge Foris (dir.), John Marley, B.H. Thomas, Robby Benson, Brad Dexter, Anne Lockhart, Linda Purl. 1:37.

Fifteen-year-old Jory and his father get off a stagecoach, are told Santa Rosa’s just over the hill, and drag a trunk and a suitcase to this tiny little town. (Presumably a mythical Santa Rosa or possibly Santa Rosa, New Mexico; even that early on, Santa Rosa, California was a lot bigger than this.) It’s not quite clear why they’ve come out west from St. Louis; the father’s a lawyer, and there’s clearly no law in this version of the old west—as we find out when the father gets stabbed to death in a saloon the first night there, with the only reaction being the bartender suggesting that the killer might want to leave. Jory returns the favor, bashing the killer’s head in with a rock, which nobody sees but might just make him a target for relatives. So he heads out with a horse run (like a cattle run but with horses) on its way to a Texas ranch by way of Hobbes, New Mexico. (Why do the horsemen let him come along? Well, this flashy cowboy [B.J. Thomas] who’s a hot gun handler but who’s never shot anybody takes a fancy to him, and…)

In Hobbes, town of bright lights and loud saloons, the flashy cowboy gets shot in an unfair fight. Jory shoots his killer in a slightly fairer fight. Later, there’s an attempted stampede which Jory prevents, he’s hired on as the bodyguard for the rancher’s roughly 15-year-old daughter (since the neighboring rancher’s a thief and scoundrel)… And that’s just part of the plot, which culminates in, well, Jory leaving the ranch to find his own future. With his pa’s lawbook but no pistols (one rifle, however). I guess it’s a coming-of-age film, but it’s all so compressed and Jory seems to learn so little that it’s hard to say.

How you feel about this film may depend heavily on how you feel about the very young Robby Benson (he was 17 when the film was released, probably 15 or 16 when it was made, and certainly looked 15—it’s his first credited movie role). If you think he’s a fine young dramatic actor with great looks, you’ll probably give this flick $1.50, maybe more. If you find him vapid and irritating, you’ll probably downgrade this to a buck. I’m somewhere in the middle. I was sad that an uncredited Howard Hesseman only got about two minutes (he’s the bartender). It’s a good cast in general, and it’s a fine-quality print, but it’s a slightly empty picture. $1.25.

Eats, Shoots and Loses Credibility

Posted in Books and publishing on September 5th, 2012

Yes, I’m late to the party: I just finished reading Lynne Truss’ Eats, Shoots & Leaves–eight years after the first American printing.

One reason I took so long was that I picked up the book at a publisher’s booth at ALA, probably in 2004 or 2005, and, leafing through it, saw this in the preface (on page xxiv, as part of the explanation for the American printing not being an American edition):

They are unlikely to spot that American usage interestingly places all terminal punctuation inside closing quotation marks, while British usage sometimes “picks and chooses”.

[British punctuation preserved.]

To which I said...BUT THAT’S WRONG! American practice places commas and periods inside closing quotation marks. Colons and semicolons follow closing quotation marks. Question marks and exclamation points go inside or outside depending on whether or not they’re part of the quotation.

And said, basically, “if she gets that so wrong, how can I trust the rest of a supposedly ‘zero tolerance” guide?” And didn’t read it.

But, choosing my usual semi-random nonfiction book last time I was at Livermore Public Library, I picked it up and thought, “Hey, that was the preface, maybe the book’s just fine.” And checked it out.

The book is at times amusing. I don’t believe it will improve my erratic use of dashes, colons and semicolons (I found her guidance as erratic as my usage). And, well, there’s this on page 152-153:

…and American grammarians insisting that, if a sentence ends with a phrase in inverted commas, all the terminal punctuation for the sentence must come tidily inside the speech marks, even when this doesn’t seem to make sense.

So she’s blatantly, proudly ignorant wrong in the heart of the book as well as in the preface. And apparently cowed her editors and copy editors so much that they let the flatly incorrect statement stand (or are professional editors in Britain actually that ignorant of American usage?).

I don’t think of this as an American grammatical rule; I think of it as an American typographical rule–I call it the “flyspeck rule.” Namely, a period or a comma following a close quote looks like a flyspeck, some dirt that just happened to settle on the page. That’s not true for question marks and exclamation points, which go where they belong syntactically. (If it’s the end of a sentence, it can’t be a colon or semicolon, so we won’t go there.)

So then I went to Frank McCourt’s foreword. Which I must assume was written for the American edition–as it has seven quoted phrases, in all seven cases with a period or comma inside the close quote. Five of the seven are wrong British practice, as far as I can tell. All seven, of course, are correct American practice.

Did I enjoy the book? By and large, yes. Do I regard Lynne Truss as a trussworthy–oh, sorry, trustworthy–guide to punctuation usage? Nope. And my dashes (in particular), colons and semicolons may still be less consistent than they should be.

Coming Soon…

Posted in C&I Books, Libraries on September 4th, 2012

It’s time for a progress report on what I’m now calling Give Us A Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-2013). And other stuff, like a return to “normal” blogging, whatever that might mean.

Updated Friday, September 7 to reflect reality–things went faster than expected.

The Book

It’s going very well. In fact, the first draft is finished. I need to revamp the Introduction (splitting part of it into a Preface), add a full-scale example to the Introduction, revise the Appendix, and touch up Chapter 2.

And decide whether to prepare a travel-photo-based cover similar to those on most of my other self-published book, or use the clean bright geometric Lulu-provided cover design I used on Library 2.0: A Cites & Insights Reader. Opinions welcome. At the moment, given the functional nature of this book, I’m inclined toward the geometric design.

I’ll also edit the text in Chapters 3-20…but there’s only one paragraph of text in each chapter, so that’s not going to take long.

Which brings me to…

Some Book-Related Decisions

As I was working on the first three chapters (which set the tone for the rest of the book), I thought about how this book can and should be used and what that meant for the rest of it. I also thought about sheer length, which influences use and certainly influences cost (for those buying the print book).

Here’s what I concluded:

Content

  • The heart of the book is tables, showing how (all but a few hundred of) America’s public libraries stack up on ten different metrics, designed so that an individual library can readily compare themselves to other “similar” libraries as part of the process of telling the library’s story for the purposes of improving and retaining budget. Public libraries not only provide excellent value, they continue to provide excellent value as they’re better funded: That’s clear from most tables and it’s an important point.
  • My own comments on what I found interesting about specific tables and the relationships among tables are probably superfluous for most users and have the possibility of biasing conclusions. They also add pages to the book–probably a lot of pages.
  • So I’m not providing any commentary on the specific tables. I show how they work, I’ll provide one example of how a library can use the tables, and that’s it…for the book itself. The rest is tables. Lots of them. (No graphs. No infographics. Except for the first two chapters, no table has more than 11 rows of data.)
  • I will offer comments on individual tables and what I find looking across tables, probably, but in Cites & Insights (November 2012 and later).

Price and Audience

  • The primary audience for this book is public librarians, especially those in smaller public libraries that lack full-time marketers or statisticians.
  • For that reason, the ebook version (PDF) will be priced as low as I can price it and still get a plausible return*: probably $11.95, possibly less. It turns out to be $11.99. (Without DRM, and if Douglas County, Califa or anybody else wants to mount it on their own ebook system, they have my blessing. Not that it’s patron-oriented, but…)
  • The paperback version will be priced to yield the same return per copy, which means it will probably be about $9.50-$11 more expensive than the ebook version (depending on the final length of the book). It turns out to be $9.94 more expensive for a book with 270 printed pages: $21.95.
  • There may also be a hardcover version for library schools and anybody else so inclined, priced marginally ($10 more than the paperback: that’s what Lulu wants for the binding). Final price: $31.50. Apparently the binding’s not quite $10.
  • Secondary audiences are library schools and, I think, some librarians who might find this close-up set of snapshots of public libraries in FY10–although it never mentions any library by name–interesting.
  • Oh, and possibly consultants who may find it to be a useful tool.

Beyond the Book

  • The book uses a single set of metric buckets (divisions for rows in tables–e.g., expenditures per capita, circulation per capita) for all public libraries, based on the actual national patterns in FY10. It offers a larger set of metrics for 18 groups of libraries (by size of library), a smaller set for each state. Some states or groups of states (or other groups of libraries) might find it worthwhile to have a customized presentation, either using the full set of metrics with the existing buckets or customizing the buckets for their state(s). I’ll offer such customized versions, if anybody wants them, at retired non-consultant rates (probably in the mid to high $hundreds for most projects for most states). If nobody’s interested, that’s OK too.
  • As noted above, I anticipate offering informal comments on the data in a future Cites & Insights, or maybe two issues, comments that should stand on their own but are based on the book itself (which, of course, anybody will be able to acquire for that rock-bottom price).
  • If the book’s well-received, I’ll plan to do another version next year based on FY2011 IMLS data.
  • If the book’s very well-received (let’s say 1,000 total sales), I’ll reduce the price of the PDF version to the lowest price that allows me to track sales (I believe that’s either $0.99 or $1.67, but I’m not sure) to a level that still supports my research and provision of individual-library metrics.
  • Because the preliminary version may be useful as additional background for some libraries, I’ll also make that available as a free download; the URL will be in the book.

Other Stuff

The October Cites & Insights will come out right about the same time as shortly after the book–and, of course, the lead essay in the issue will introduce the book and its versions. Best guess is either next week or the week following. The October issue should be out some time next week, no earlier than September 10 and no later than September 14. (The rest of the October issue is already written & edited: Part 2 of Thinking About Blogging and a quick update to The Liblog Landscape 2007-2010.)

I anticipate a return to “normal” blogging activity after that…well, and after I polish my speech for Computers in Libraries and, sigh, create PowerPoint slides for that speech. (The speech is related to The Librarian’s Guide to Micropublishing and will be the second part of Session A103, 1:15-2 p.m. on Monday, October 22.)


*Plausible return: $10 per copy sold, because based on previous experience I can’t honestly project sales in the triple or quadruple digits. There’s little point in being coy about prices, since Lulu’s tools allow anybody to figure out what my net yield is. Actual yield: $9.90 to $10.28 per copy, depending on format.

Oh, and by the way: If you want to buy one of my books–including the hardcover version of The Librarian’s Guide to Micropublishing–Lulu has another of its frequent sales, this one through Friday, September 7. Go to lulu.com; write down the country-specific coupon code (I think it’s CITHARA20 for the US); save 20% on one order. Searching for “Walt Crawford” from the Lulu home page should find all of my books.


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