Libraries serving 1,150 to 1,649 patrons

More comments on the tables in Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-13) [$11.99 PDF, no DRM; $21.95 paperback; $31.50 hardcover--and yes, a few people/libraries have purchased the hardcover]…this time on libraries serving the third-smallest patron size category: 1,150 to 1,649 potential patrons.

Yes, that’s a small population range, only slightly larger than the previous one—but that’s the reality of America’s public libraries. The chapter covers 496 libraries, with another 58 omitted for various reasons. Libraries in this category are fairly typically distributed in terms of expenditures per capita, with slightly fewer at the top and bottom and slightly more in the middle.

Open hours

The first thing that struck me about this benchmark table is that there is one library (or library system) serving fewer than 1,650 people and open at least 4,000 hours. It’s a very well funded library at $398.04 per capita. It’s less surprising that only half of the libraries are open at least 1,500 hours (29 hours a week) or that only about one out of nine is open at least 2,100 hours (40 hours a week).

While the median expenditures on the benchmark table aren’t neatly correlated (largely because some of the brackets have so few libraries), the median hours in the budget table are—that is, as expenditures increase (except for the two lowest-funded brackets), median hours consistently increase as well.

Personal computers with internet access

The median overall here is 4.0, same as in Chapter 5 and still a strong number, with a third of libraries having six or more PCs for patron use and nine having more than a dozen.

Circulation and reference transactions per capita

What may be most interesting here is that the diversity of these small-community libraries is such that circulation distribution is almost precisely the same as for public libraries overall. That’s generally true for reference as well, except that the middle brackets are slightly on the low side and a higher percentage of libraries fall into the lowest bracket (no more than one reference transaction for every 20 patrons). Those are generally poorly-funded libraries (the median is $20, a full $7 lower than the next bracket), but low reference counts aren’t all in the very poorest libraries. Namely, half of libraries with $5-$16.99 spending have at least one reference transaction for every five patrons, while one-quarter of those with $17-$20.99 funding have no more than one for every twentyfive patrons).

Program attendance per capita

The percentages for program attendance are slightly top-heavy and very slightly bottom-heavy. About double the overall percentage of libraries average 1.1 or more attendance per capita. In some ways, the budget table for program attendance is more interesting: Libraries with high program attendance are scattered throughout the top three brackets, but never make up even half of a bracket (the median for the best-funded libraries is 0.85 attendance per capita).

PCs per thousand patrons

As with even smaller libraries, the numbers are clustered toward the top, with 78% in the top three brackets and only 5% in the bottom three brackets.

Circulation and patron visits per hour

These libraries are also, by and large, relatively quiet: only 7% average at least one circulation every three minutes and fully two-thirds average no more than one every ten minutes. There’s a one-library anomaly in patron visits per hour (a poorly funded library that’s the busiest in terms of visits per hour) but overall, it’s a similar picture: 5% have more than one patron visit every five minutes, 60% have less than one every ten minutes.

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