Making Book S12: Graphing Public Library Benefits

As noted earlier, I eventually grew unhappy with Give Us a Dollar… because it was so table-heavy. I remedied this to some extent with supplements in Cites & Insights, but those were mostly text.

So I produced Graphing Public Library Benefits: An Experimental Supplement to Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-13): Public Library Funding and Benefits.

Whew. Quite a title. Here’s what I said in the introduction:

This book is an attempt to do two things: Provide graphs to supplement some of the tables in Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-13) and illustrate some of the choices and issues involved in making visual sense of datasets, specifically the datasets used for that book. It’s an 8.5×11″ PDF (or, if at least two people tell me they’ll buy it, a very expensive print book) because I wanted to make the graphs as wide as possible—and because, in most cases, I felt that multicolor graphs would be readable where graphs using that many different line types simply wouldn’t. (If there’s a print version, the added cost will be entirely production: I’ll make the same amount per copy, give or take a dime or so. But production costs for books with color are much higher than for black-and-white books.)

If you don’t have the other book, you should get it. It’s almost entirely tables and provides a richly detailed picture of nearly all of America’s public libraries and how they measure up on the quantifiable metrics reported to the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences for fiscal year 2010. You may also want to get Cites & Insights for November 2012 and Fall 2012; those issues provide textual commentary (and in the latter case, an additional set of tables) lacking in the book.

In the first chapter, I considered ways you could graph the information in the book—including several alternatives in a couple of cases.

The rest of the book was almost entirely graphs; in all, 222 pages (8.5″ x 11″ PDF), most pages with two graphs, some with three. If I’m counting correctly, 597 graphs in all. (If I’d done Chapter 20 in the book, state-by-state, there would have been hundreds more and the book would have been at least 100 pages longer.)

I almost left this one out as “the book nobody saw,” but that’s not quite right: In fact, after I reduced the PDF ebook price to $4, there were two sales. And since the book is explicitly labeled CC BY-NC, it’s possible that lots of other people have copies. Not likely, but possible.

(How expensive would the book have been in print form? The production cost would have been something like $48.90, so I would have charged around $59.)

The multicolor graphs had ten different colored lines; there’s no way to provide enough different line patterns to make ten lines readable in black and white.

Still…it’s an interesting project with a lot of neat graphs, and if anybody contributing to Cites & Insights at the sponsor level would rather have this than something else, I might be willing. It’s a fairly big PDF (8.5MB), but then it’s a big, slow-loading Word document (basically the same size).

Crawford, Walt. Graphing Public Library Benefits: An Experimental Supplement to Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-13): Public Library Funding and Benefits. 2013.

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