Libraries Serving 25,000 to 34,499 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]…this time on libraries serving the fourth-largest patron size category: 25,000 to 34,499 potential patrons.

We’re now into the smaller number of libraries and systems sometimes called urban—those serving at least 25,000 patrons, which total only 2,025 out of the 8,659 libraries fully studied—or about 23%—and an even smaller percentage of all U.S. public libraries, since fewer of these libraries were omitted.

This group includes 500 libraries in the tables with another 20 omitted. More libraries have very high funding; slightly fewer fall into the $12-$16.99 bracket.

Open hours

Probably the most relevant figures here are that nearly three out of five libraries and systems are open a total of 60 hours per week or more and four out of five are open 52 hours per week or more—and, conversely, only 3% are open less than 40 hours per week (including a single library open less than half-time). While expenditures and open hours don’t track perfectly in the top three brackets, the sparsely-populated bottom three brackets are all poorly funded.

More striking in some ways is the budget table: In every expenditures bracket, even $5-$11.99, at least half the libraries are open more than 51 hours per week, and that rises to more than 60 hours per week when you get to $26 per capita or more.

Computers for patron use with internet access

The biggest bulge: 39% of the libraries have 20 to 39 computers—and all but 6% have more than nine. (Only two libraries have fewer than six.)

Circulation and reference per capita

For both of these, libraries track slightly high: e.g., 43% of the libraries circulate 10 items or more per capita, compared to 38% overall.

Program attendance per capita

Conversely, program attendance tracks slightly low in the upper categories, with 38% showing at least 0.4 attendance per capita, compared to 42% overall. For this metric, expenditures per capita do track consistently with program attendance—and that’s true from both directions.

Computers per thousand patrons

This metric is on the low side, with more than half the libraries offering less than 0.8 PCs per thousand patrons. The overall median is 0.76 PCs per thousand patrons, compared to 1.30 for all of the libraries.

Circulation and patron visits per hour

These are busy libraries: The single largest bracket, with 29% of the libraries, is the top bracket, 110 or more circs per hour (with all outlet hours counted). Nearly half have 70 or more. In this case, expenditures do track, with the median for that busy 29% being $53.65 per capita. (The median benefit ratio is also higher for the busiest libraries than for the others.)

Coming at it from the budgetary side, for every bracket $31 and above, half the libraries circulate more than 75 items per hour. The top two expenditure brackets are even busier: half of those funded at $53 to $72.99 have at least 117 circ per hour—and half of those funded at $73 or more do at least 134, with the top quarter exceeding 200 per hour.

Visits per hour are also on the high side, with half the libraries at 45 or more per hour and roughly three-quarters at 30 or more. The two top spending categories both show half the libraries with more than one visitor per minute—nearly 80 per hour for the top category. At the other end, half of even the worst funded libraries circulate more than 26 items and have more than 26 visitors per hour.

Bonus for anybody who actually reads this

I’m playing with producing Graphing Public Library Benefits: A Supplement to Give Us a Dollar. Just as these posts (and the November 2012 and Fall 2012 Cites & Insights essays they’re taken from) add textual commentary to the tables in the book, the new item would graph some or most of the tables, with textual commentary on what I’m doing. The new item would probably be PDF-only because some of the graphs require color in order to be functional, and it would have 8.5×11″ page images (with slightly narrower margins) to give the graphs as much room as possible. The PDF would probably sell for $11.99; if there’s a book version, it would be relatively expensive because color means $0.20 per page instead of $0.02 per page printing costs.

The question: Would you find such a book useful at all? It would have some discussion of chartjunk and alternative methods, and would use the tools most people have (namely Excel and Word). Your feedback welcome at

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