Libraries Serving 54,000 to 104,999 patrons

Have you purchased your copy of Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-13) yet? ($11.99 no-DRM PDF, $21.95 paperback, $31.50 hardcover)… If not, these comments on the group of libraries with the second-largest potential patron groups may not make that much sense…

Yes, this group covers almost as wide a population range as the first 15 groups combined; that’s how America’s public libraries are distributed. The tables cover 501 libraries, with 14 omitted.

Relatively fewer of these libraries have the highest expenditure level or spend between $36 and $42.99; relatively more fall into the two lowest spending brackets, specifically the second lowest ($12-$16.99).

Open hours

The good news here: none of these libraries and systems is open less than 35 hours a week and 93% are open at least 52 hours a week. (Four out of ten, most of them presumably systems with more than one outlet, are open 4,000 to 10,000 hours a year.)

Computers for patron use with internet access

Nine out of ten of these libraries and systems have at least 20 patron access computers; six out of ten have at least 40. (Four poorly funded libraries have fewer than nine.) Expenditures track well with computer availability.

Circulation per capita

Low at the high end, high just below the middle: Where half the libraries nationally circulate at least eight items per capita, only 39% of these libraries reach that mark. Expenditures track well with circulation levels and the budget table shows an equally consistent correlation between expenditure brackets and median circulation.

Program attendance per capita

While there’s a consistent correlation between benchmark levels of attendance and median expenditures per capita—libraries with more effective programming consistently spend more overall—the numbers are on the low side, with only 37% having at least 0.3 attendance per capita, compared to 54% overall.

Computer use per capita

A similar story to program attendance: Consistent (with one slight exception) correlation between the metric and expenditures, but libraries tend to be on the low side. More than half (56%) offer less than one PC per thousand patrons, compared to 43% overall, and the overall median point is 0.93. But looking at the budget table, half of libraries spending at least $26 per capita show at least one PC use per capita, a figure that keeps rising to 2.09 for the best-funded libraries.

Computers per thousand patrons

Also on the low side: no libraries with three or more computers per thousand patrons and only 5% with 1.5 to 2.99; nearly two-thirds offer less than 0.8 computers per thousand patrons. The median for libraries this size is 0.68, not much more than half the overall median (1.30), and only the highest funding bracket shows at least half the libraries with more than one PC per thousand. (Actually, that bracket—$73 to $399.99 per capita—has the same median point as all libraries nationally, and the 75%ile is lower than the overall national figure, at 1.61 compared to 2.48.)

Circulation and patron visits per hour

These are also very busy libraries, with 38% circulating at least 110 items per hour and 82% circulating 30 or more. Notably, median expenditures per capita for all benchmark levels below 45-69 is under $18. The budget table shows more than two circs per minute for more than half of all libraries spending at least $43 per capita, rising to more than 3.5 per minute for the best funded. The top quarter of the best-funded libraries, including all hours for all outlets, circulate more than five items per minute.

Nearly three-quarters of these libraries are visited at least 30 times an hour, with four out of ten having 70 or more visits. “Or more”? The median point for the best-funded libraries is 105.16 visits per hour, and the 75%ile for every expenditure level $31 and higher is 115 or more.

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