Graphing Public Library Benefits

Graphing Public Library Benefits: An Experimental Supplement to Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-13) is now available as an $11.99 PDF ebook at

Yes, that does mean that if you buy it today, November 27, 2012, and haven’t already used the DELIRITAS coupon code, you can get it for 30% less. Or, y’know, get both the supplement and the book in PDF form for less than $17.

What it is

This ebook–let’s call it GPLB for short–is a graphic supplement to Give Us a Dollar…, providing either one or two (or sometimes three) graphs that reflect the data in each of the tables in Chapters 2-19 of that book. Each benchmark table is represented by a scatterplot; each budget table is represented by a multicolor line graph that may be in one, two or three parts depending on the data.

It’s an experiment, and I’m looking for feedback. Do some of these graphs actually add value? Would other forms be more valuable?


I have at least informally applied a Creative Commons BY-NC (or, since Lulu doesn’t offer that as a direct option, BY-NC-SA) license to this book. That means you are explicitly free to pass copies of it on to others, as long as you’re not charging for it. You can announce its availability in your blog with a link to the copy you’ve saved. I won’t (can’t) sue you, and I don’t mind.

Fair warning: The PDF is more than eight megabytes. Don’t plan on attaching it to emails.

I encourage people to pass it along to others who might have opinions to offer (and I’d appreciate getting those opinions at I’m working on the honor system: If you or somebody else finds the book useful, I’d be pleased if you’d (or somebody else) would buy your (their) own copy–or, better yet, buy a copy of Give Us a Dollar… and publicize its worth to your public library colleagues.

What? No paperback version?

As it stands, GPLB is only available as a PDF. (It’s a PDF/A document, and it does include bookmarks to replicate the contents table and make that redundant. There’s no DRM.)

That’s because the multiline charts–each with ten lines–require color. Which means Lulu charges $0.20/page instead of $0.02/page for printing. Since the book is 222 pages long (8.5×11, in order to make graphs as large and useful as possible), that means production costs for a paperback version are roughly $50–so I’d need to charge $62.50/copy to get $10 back.

If two people send me email committing to buy a paperback copy, I’ll generate a cover (essentially the same as the Give Us a Dollar… cover) and make it available. Heck, if four people want paperback copies, I’d earn enough to pay for my own copy (no, I don’t have a print copy).

Realistically, though, most people should print out only the pages they want to have in print form–I’d suggest the appropriate chapter for your library, typically 10 or 11 pages long. That’s a whole lot cheaper than buying the whole book in color. (The PDF’s optimized for e-reading but pages appear to print just fine.)

Here’s a crude screen-capture version of what part of a page looks like:

Partial page from Graphing Public Libraries

Data p**n

One of the leading lights in library statistical analysis commented that you could call graphs “data p**n.” If that’s the case, this is one feelthy book: It includes 588 graphs in all (and a few thousand words of text).

No Chapter 20?

Well, there is a Chapter 20–but it doesn’t offer a complete set of graphs parallel to the tables in Chapter 20 of the main book. That’s because there are just too many of them. Chapter 20 in the main book is half the book; if I did equivalent graphs, GPLB would be something over 450 pages long and include around 1,200 graphs.

I show how those graphs would work, using an “average” state as an example: California, which actually has almost exactly one-fiftieth of the nation’s public libraries and systems (the only respect in which California or its libraries could be considered average).


There it is. It’s an experiment, looking for feedback.

It means there are actually three parts to Give Us a Dollar…:

  • The book itself, consisting mostly of tables with some introductory text.
  • This supplementary book, consisting mostly of graphs.
  • Limited commentary in two issues of Cites & Insights: Comments on Chapters 1-19 in the November 2012 issue and comments on Chapter 20 in the Fall 2012 issue.

State and group-of-state custom reports

I do believe some of these graphs would be useful in custom reports for states or groups of states, which I’d be delighted to do for a price. (One such report, for a two-state combination, will appear next spring in conjunction with a speaking engagement. More on that later.) I discuss that possibility on the final pages of the Fall 2012 Cites & Insights, although that discussion did not contemplate graphs. (They wouldn’t add much to the prices.)


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