Libraries Serving 34,500 to 53,999 Patrons

Back to larger libraries in this set of comments on the tables in Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-13)
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Tables in this chapter cover 511 libraries, with 14 omitted. Distribution of libraries by expenditures is slightly concave—a little high at the top and a bit more so at the bottom, a little low in the midrange (with the biggest deviations in the $31-$35.99 and $36-$42.99 brackets, each 8.2% as compared to 10.0% and 10.2% overall).

Open hours

Nearly three-quarters of these libraries and library systems are open 3,100 hours (call it 60 hours a week) or more, with one-third open 4,000-10,000 hours. Nearly all are open at least full-time: 95% more than 46 hours a week, 98% more than 40 hours per week—but there are two libraries this size open less than 29 hours per week. Since 65% of the libraries fall into two brackets (3,100-3,999 hours and 4,000-10,000 hours), it’s not surprising that median expenditures per capita are all over the place.

Computers for patron use with internet access

Three-quarters of these libraries and systems have 20 or more public access computers and only 10 libraries have fewer than nine; here, except for anomalies at the bottom (two brackets totaling three libraries), expenditures do rise consistently with PCs—or, more likely, vice-versa. The overall median is 31 computers, with a quarter of the libraries having 44 or more.

Circulation per capita

Slightly fewer libraries in the upper brackets, with 44% circulating eight or more items (compared to 50% overall); slightly more in the two bottom brackets, with 26% circulating less than five items per capita (compared to 21% overall). Here, the expenditures per capita do rise consistently with circs per capita—and the benefit ratio range, omitting the top and bottom brackets, is very narrow: 4.15 to 4.78. Worth noting, and not that unusual: the median benefit ratio for the libraries with the lowest circulation and expenditures, 3.62, is considerably lower than for the highest circulation and expenditures, 5.05: Those active and well-funded (median $92.77) appear to be better values than the most poorly-funded (median $12.81).

Except for one small deviation (as in some other size categories, libraries spending $31-$35.99 seem to be more active than you’d expect), the budget table also shows step-by-step consistency. At the low end, half of the libraries circulate 2.63 items or fewer per capita; at the high end, half circulate 17.03 or more.

Reference transactions per capita

The numbers themselves are a little better than average, with a higher overall median and more libraries in higher benchmark brackets—but this is also worth noting because both benchmark and budget tables show absolute step-by-step consistency in spending/performance correlation. Notably, three-quarters of the best-funded libraries have at least 1.11 reference transactions per capita, and a quarter of them have 2.18 or more.

Program attendance per capita

Four out of ten libraries have between 0.11 and 0.29 program attendance per capita (as compared to three out of ten overall), and only 44% exceed that level (compared to 54% overall). Expenditures track well with program attendance. The budget table shows no expenditures bracket where even the most active 25% of libraries hit or exceed 0.75 attendance per capita.

Computers per thousand patrons

Strikingly low figures here: Only one library system in the top two brackets combined, only 8% of the libraries have at least 1.5 computers per thousand patrons (compared to 43% overall) and 56% of the libraries and systems are in the bottom two brackets (less than 0.8 computers per thousand patrons), compared to 29% overall. Expenditures track consistently with the metric. Notably, the median for all these libraries is 0.73, compared to 1.30 overall and actually lower than the 25%ile overall—and only the highest funding bracket shows a median larger than one PC per thousand patrons.

Circulation and patron visits per hour

These are also busy libraries, even more so than in the previous size group: 36% circulate 110 or more items per hour, and 77% circulate at least 30. (Eighteen libraries are in the doldrums, circulating less than 10 items an hour.) Looking at the budget table, more than half of libraries in the top three brackets circulate more than two items per minute across all branches—and a quarter of the libraries do at least three per minute, or more than four per minute for the best-funded libraries.

Patron visits per hour are similarly high, with 34% having 70 or more, 82% at least one every three minutes—and ten libraries with less than one patron visit every ten minutes.

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