Busyness in public libraries

Here’s the final post offering commentary based on Chapter 2 of Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-13)*, before we move on to library-size chapters (and, eventually, libraries by state).

Two metrics measure busyness–how busy a public library is. That’s different from the total number of transactions or even the transactions per capita; it relates to the number of open hours (for all outlets) and overall transactions.

Circulation and visits per capita show how heavily a library system is used. Circulation and visits per open hour show how busy a library system is—and how busy its outlets are. At one extreme, one out of ten libraries and library systems does booming business, averaging at least 110 circulations per hour (for a four-branch system, that means 440 circulations per hour). At the other, 15% of the libraries and systems average fewer than six circulations per hour or one every ten minutes. The median is 22.8, a little more than one circulation every three minutes. The correlation between expenses and circulations per hour is inconsistent, although the median is under $27 for libraries circulating fewer than 20 items per hour and over $30 for all those circulating more than 20 items.

The budget table for circulation per hour is all over the place, and since poorly-funded libraries are likely to be open fewer hours, that’s not too surprising. Although the median does rise with each higher funding bracket, the 75%ile for the lowest bracket ($5-$11.99) is higher than the median for the fourth highest bracket ($36-$42.99).

As for visits per hour, I’m not sure how much there is to say. The median overall is 14.87, that is, one patron every four minutes. But the 75%ile is 37.32: that is, one out of four libraries has more than a visit every two minutes. And, sigh, the 25%ile is 6.6: one out of four libraries has only about one visitor every nine minutes.


*That link is to the $21.95 trade paperback. The book is also available as an $11.99 PDF (no DRM) and a $31.50 hardbound (casewrap).

And don’t forget: Through the end of Friday, October 5, 2012, there’s a sale. For US customers, use the coupon code PLUMA to save 20% on your order (one order, but as many books as you want); for other customers, go to the Lulu home page and check the coupon code.

One Response to “Busyness in public libraries”

  1. Bonnie Cribbs Says:

    Great blog! Great articles! I am doing some research for an article I’m having published about library blogs and found myself here doing some research. I’m looking forward to mentioning your blog in my article.

    Thanks for the in-depth content!


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