Archive for the 'Cites & Insights' Category

Cites & Insights May 2013 (13:5) available

Posted in Cites & Insights on April 2nd, 2013

The May 2013 issue of Cites & Insights (volume 13, number 5) is now available for downloading at

[If you want a shorter URL, will also work.]

The two-column PDF version is 28 pages long, The 6×9″ single-column version, designed and optimized for e-reading, is 60 pages long.

Unless you plan to print out the issue, the single-column version may be preferable: the issue includes 31 graphs, each of which is nearly twice as large (40% wider, 40% taller) in that version, frequently with more detail.

The issue consists of one essay:

Libraries: The Mythical Average Public Library

There is no such thing as the average library. That may be obvious–but you might be surprised at just how far away from average most measures for most libraries are. For that matter, for any derivative measure, which average is average?

This essay discusses averages and a few low-level statistical terms, then shows where American public libraries stand–not only for 2010 (the most recent IMLS data) but for changes from 2009 to 2010. I believe you’ll find it revealing and interesting.

Announcement links now go to the home page, where I hope you’ll note “Pay what you wish” before going on to the issue itself.

Thank you also

Posted in Cites & Insights on March 16th, 2013

A followup to this brief post:

Another donation to support Cites & Insights received, for which I am also grateful.

Thank you.

You might think of C&I not so much as a free ejournal but as a “Pay what you wish” ejournal. I receive no ad revenue, grant funding, sponsorship or other support beyond Paypal donations. And, to be sure, I have no salary or other steady sources of earnings either (there’s a little royalty now and then, but “little” is the appropriate term).

I’ve tried a variety of library-related initiatives, so far without much success. I love doing C&I and participating in the field, although financially I’d be much better off finding a part-time job stocking shelves at Costco or greeting people at Home Depot. (Thanks in part to the Fed’s ongoing campaign of punishing any elders or others so foolish as to actually save money and forcing us to be risk-takers, “financially” continues to be an issue, maybe more so than a couple of years ago.)

So I particularly appreciate these payments. Who knows? Someday I might be able to justify going back to ALA…or to some other conference where I’m not being paid to speak.

Thank you!

Posted in Cites & Insights on March 11th, 2013

Just a quick note: I received two donations for Cites & Insights today.

Both are appreciated.


Cites & Insights 13:4 (April 2013) available

Posted in Cites & Insights on March 8th, 2013

After three Big Serious Issues in a row, and with a Big Serious Essay on the Mythical Public Library coming up in May, it’s time for a little break…

The April 2013 Cites & Insights (13:4) is now available for downloading at

It’s 34 pages.

The 6×9″ single-column “online version,” optimized for e-reading, is also available at and is 63 pages.

The issue includes:

The Front (pp. 1-2)

The Year of Both? My possibly-too-hopeful sense that more and more sensible people, and even some pundits, are recognizing that ebooks and print books are both likely to have substantial roles going forward.

The Middle: Deathwatch 2013! (pp. 2-19)

Catching up with the doomcryers (excluding print books–but see below).

Words: The Death of Books (or Not)  (pp. 19-27)

 What it says.

The Back (pp. 27-34)

Catching up with miscellaneous snarkiness through 2011 (and more recently for magazine items).


17 Categories of Academic Library Where Most Have Growing Circulation

Posted in Cites & Insights, Libraries on February 25th, 2013

People seem to love lists, so here’s one: Seventeen categories of academic library (some of them overlapping) where most libraries (with any circulation at all) had more circulation in 2010 than in 2008. (I’m leaving out an eighteenth, “all of them”—but that would also be a true statement.)

  1. Academic institutions in the Great Lakes states: IL, IN, MI, OH, WI. This region includes 501 libraries serving 2,307,450 FTE with 22,915,607 circulation. Of those, 251 (50.1%) had more overall circulation in FY2010.
  2. Academic institutions in the Southwest: AZ, NM, OK, TX. This region includes 297 libraries serving 1,544,746 FTE with 14,685,903 circulation. Of those libraries, 150 (50.5%) had growing overall circulation.
  3. Academic institutions in the Southeast: AL, AR, FL, GA, KY, LA, MS, NC, SC, TN, VA, WV. This region includes 828 libraries serving 3,499,810 FTE with 25,587,943. Of those libraries, 428 (51.6%) had growing overall circulation.
  4. Schools of art, music and design. This group includes 92 libraries serving 148,590 FTE with 2,281,734 circulation. Forty-eight of the libraries (52.2%) grew in total circulation.
  5. Health profession schools other than medical schools and medical centers—e.g., institutions that award most of their degrees in fields such as chiropractic, nursing, pharmacy or podiatry. This category includes 84 libraries serving 69,342 FTE with 504,641 circulation. Forty-four of those (52.3%) grew in total circulation.
  6. Institutions where bachelor’s degrees represent at least 10 percent but less than half of undergraduate degrees. This group includes 80 libraries serving 226,661 FTE with 1,108,987 circulation. Forty-two of the libraries (52.5%) grew in total circulation.
  7. Associate degree institutions, public, rural, serving small communities/areas. This category includes 96 libraries serving 96,123 FTE with 499,506 circulation. Fifty-two of the libraries (54.2%) were growing overall.
  8. Associate degree institutions, public, rural, serving medium-size communities/areas. This category includes 277 libraries serving 677,669 FTE with 3,195,228 circulation. One hundred fifty-four of the libraries (55.6%) grew overall.
  9. Academic institutions in the Far West: AK, CA, HI, NV, OR, WA. This region includes 433 libraries serving 2,468,872 FTE with 22,908,372 circulation. Two hundred forty-five libraries (56.6%) had growing overall circulation.
  10. Associate degree institutions, public, rural, serving large communities/areas. This category includes 136 libraries serving 792,792 FTE with 3,224,141 circulation. Seventy-eight of the libraries (57.3%) grew overall.
  11. Associate degree institutions, public, suburban, single-campus. This category includes 103 libraries serving 605,463 FTE with 2,322,250 circulation. Fifty-nine of the libraries (57.3%) had more overall circulation.
  12. Public 2-year colleges in general. This sector includes 890 libraries serving 4,212,965 FTE with 16,849,788 circulation. Of those, 521 libraries (58.5%) had growing overall circulation.
  13. Associate degree institutions, public, suburban, multi-campus. This category includes 88 libraries and systems serving 721,936 FTE with 3,584,304 circulation. Fifty-two of the libraries (59.1%) had more overall circulation in FY2010 than in FY2008.
  14. Private for-profit, 4-year and above [excluding institutions reporting no circulation, e.g. University of Phoenix]. This sector includes 255 libraries serving 497,575 FTE with 1,376,850 circulation. Of those, 154 libraries (60.4%) had growing overall circulation.
  15. Associate degree institutions, private for-profit. This category includes 195 libraries serving 190,513 FTE with 345,399 circulation. One hundred twenty-five of those libraries (64.1%) had growing overall circulation.
  16. Private for-profit 2-year colleges (not quite the same group as above). This sector includes 180 libraries serving 153,752 FTE with 173,808 circulation. One hundred eighteen libraries (65.6%) had growing overall circulation.
  17. Associate degree institutions, public, urban, multi-campus. This category includes 125 libraries serving 1,218,789 FTE with 3,651,040 circulation. Eighty-three of the libraries (66.4%) had growing total circulation.

Omitted from this list: eight other sectors with fewer than 50 institutions, where most libraries reported growing circulation, including associate degree, public, urban, single-campus; public and private for-profit 4-year institutions offering primarily associate degrees (two categories); schools of engineering; technology-related schools not included elsewhere; law schools; “other special-focus institutions” (e.g. military institutes) and tribal colleges.

Bonus List: Five Growing Categories by FTE

  1. Institutions with 10,000-14,999 FTE: 182 libraries, of which 52.2% had growing circulation.
  2. Institutions with 1,000-1,499 FTE: 369 libraries, of which 53.7% had growing circulation.
  3. Institutions with 600-999 FTE: 352 libraries, of which 53.7% had growing circulation.
  4. Institutions serving 4,000-4,999 FTE: 205 libraries, of which 58.1% had growing circulation.
  5. Institutions serving 3,000-3,999 FTE: 257 libraries, of which 58.8% had growing circulation

For lots more information…

Including circulation per capita changes, the extent to which libraries with growing circulation also had more circulation per capita than those with shrinking circulation, and another brief study taking this back to 2006-2008 and 2006-2010, read the March 2013 Cites & Insights—in the one-column “online version” if you’re planning to read it on an e-device (the charts and tables in the second essay are easier to read), in the two-column “print version” if you plan to print it out.

Cites & Insights 13:3 (March 2013) available

Posted in Cites & Insights, Libraries on February 11th, 2013

Cites & Insights 13:3 (March 2013) is now available for downloading at

The issue is 32 pages long. For those reading online or on a tablet or ebook reader, the single-column “online edition” is available at The single-column (6×9) version is 67 pages long.

Note: If you don’t plan to print this issue out, the single-column version may be preferable: Graphs and tables take advantage of the wider single column.

This issue includes the following:

The Front  (pp. 1-3)

On the Contrary: Notes on being a contrarian (or a skeptic)

Libraries: Academic Library Circulation: Surprise!  (pp. 3-17)

We all know that circulation in (nearly all) academic libraries has been dropping for years, right? What does (nearly all) mean? Would you believe that a majority of U.S. academic libraries reporting circulation in both 2008 and 2010 (excluding clearly anomalous cases) actually had more circulation in 2010 than in 2008? This article looks at changes in circulation (overall and per capita) by type of library (as broken down in NCES reports–by region, sector, and Carnegie classifications), and also shows the difference between overall average, average of institutional averages, and median figures–frequently surprising differences.

Media: 50 Movie Box Office Gold, Part 2 (pp. 17-26)

Seven discs, 28 movies, all color, some I refused to finish watching.

Libraries: Academic Library Circulation, Part 2: 2006-2010  (pp. 26-32)

Was the period from 2008 to 2010 (2010′s the most recent NCES report) anomalous? This study compares circulation (overall and per capita) between FY2006 and FY2008, FY2006 and FY2010 and FY2008 and FY2010, breaking things down in the same categories as part 1, but this time showing the percentage of libraries with significantly growing circulation, significantly shrinking circulation, and circulation staying about the same. (Overall, 40% grew significantly from 2006 to 2010 and 50.6% shrank significantly; 37.9% grew in per capita circulation and 54.6% shrank significantly–where I defined “significant” as 2.5% over two years or 5% over four years.)

The April issue will not be heavy on original research and statistics. Come May, we’re probably back to public libraries…but that’s a long way away!

The data you need? Musings on libraries and numbers

Posted in Books and publishing, Cites & Insights, Libraries on January 29th, 2013

One of many tweets from ALA Midwinter said something like this, apparently quoting a speaker:

We need more techies with “library values” to give libraries the data we need.

That’s a paraphrase, taken out of context. I found myself thinking about it–and deciding it was worth commenting on even if my assumed context is entirely wrong. (Which it might be. Don’t point me at streaming video for the program: That’s really not the point.)

My basic thought:

There’s no shortage of library data, and there’s no shortage of people with both technical skills and library values to massage that data. What there may be a shortage of: Libraries/librarians ready to use that data–and decide what data they actually need or can/will use.

That’s a wildly overbroad statement, and I may be dead wrong. I’m basing the statement on my own experience, what I know from a couple of colleagues, and what I see or don’t see in the library conversations and literature. (Well, I don’t see much of the library literature these days, at least not the literature that’s behind paywalls.)

The data

There’s plenty of data. IMLS does a first-rate job of gathering and reporting fairly detailed figures on some 9,000 public libraries on an annual basis. IMLS does its own reports based on that data–but it also makes the datasets freely available.

Pro tip: If you want to massage IMLS data and don’t have or know Access, download and unzip the Access version anyway: Excel can open the Access database once you tell it to do so–that is, once you use the Open file pull-down menu and select “Access databases” from the list–and once you convert the whole thing to a table, it works nicely as a humongous spreadsheet. Then you can select the columns you actually need, making it a lot more workable. Do read the documentation. Unless you’re much cleverer than I am, I wouldn’t mess with the flat file: Access-via-Excel is a lot easier. If you’re an Access guru, of course, you can ignore that.

NCES does the same for more than 3,000 academic libraries, although only once every two years. Same pro tip applies. NCES even allows you to do some “compare library X with comparable institutions” on the fly. (If the columns and documentation for the NCES academic library tables and the IMLS public library tables have some vague similarities…NCES used to do the public library tables as well.

There are other sources, to be sure, but these are the biggest. (A couple of ALA divisions produce sets of numbers for partial sets of libraries…for a price. I haven’t looked at those: See “for a price.”)

Does your library work with those numbers at all–other than to report your own stats, that is?

The data you need

There’s the rub. NCES and IMLS provide impressive, readily-operable sources of raw data. But it’s probably not the data you need.

What is the data you need? More to the point, what data will you pay attention to, use, pay for (that is: pay to have massaged into the form you want and written up so you find it meaningful)?

I’d love to have answers to that question, and I suspect those answers differ by type of library and subtypes within types. (For that matter, defining a subtype is tricky…)

I’ve done some work with both data sources, partly out of curiosity, partly out of contrarian stubbornness, partly pursuing ideas I thought could be broadly useful. For example:

  • I was convinced that the “public libraries are closing all over the place” meme, at least for the United States, was not only harmful as a self-fulfilling prophecy (“if everybody else is giving up on them, why should our town keep funding ours?”) but was probably false. It was and is. I proved that in the April 2012 and May 2012 Cites & Insights (with a 2010 update in September 2012). As far as I can tell, that proof has had very little impact in the profession. (A couple of blogs linked to it.)
  • I prepared the book Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-13), based on the IMLS database and designed to help public libraries–specifically smaller libraries without their own research departments or big consulting contracts–prepare their cost-benefit story to help gain or at least retain budgets. I deliberately priced it modestly–it’s currently $9.99 for Kindle or PDF e-version and much cheaper than most library books in paperback or hardcover versions–so that even the smallest libraries could afford it. I made it as easy as possible for libraries to get their relevant data points from me if they didn’t have them handy. While the book hasn’t been an utter failure, it also hasn’t been the kind of success–so far–that would encourage doing a new, leaner, more graphic version next year: To date, 67 copies have sold. Of those, 6 libraries have asked for their data. (But that’s OK: Maybe every library keeps those figures handy.) It’s quite possible–even probable–that I just haven’t figured out how to make this data meaningful; unfortunately, there’s been little feedback to help.
  • To see how graphs could improve the story, I did Graphing Public Library Benefits, e-only, originally $9.99, now $4.00. Care to guess how many copies of that I’ve sold? Zero.
  • A colleague has an outstanding track record in working with library data and making it accessible. He has a PhD. He’s now working in other library areas because he couldn’t find a paying job working with library data. I would quote him on library interest in longitudinal data–time series, showing how things change–but that would just be depressing.
  • For years, Tom Hennen produced HAPLR, Hennen’s American Public Library Ratings, and offered very inexpensive “group comparison” reports for individual public libraries. For whatever reason, HAPLR seems to have ceased–the most recent report is either two or three years old.

The data you need, redux

Most national reports deal with averages over time–and while the “over time” part is vital, averages vastly oversimplify the library picture. Sometimes, I believe averages are actually harmful; mostly, I believe they’re not very useful.

That will be the underlying theme of an upcoming article in Cites & Insights, I think–one that was planned for the March issue, until I became contrarily interested in another meme, the “fact” that academic library circulation (as opposed to e-usage) has been dropping all over the place and continue to fall in all or nearly all academic libraries.

I already knew “all” was nonsense. I assumed “nearly all” was right, but began to wonder what “nearly” actually meant. Did 1% of academic libraries have steady or increasing circulation? Five percent? Ten percent–as unlikely as that seems?

So I set aside the “trouble with averages in public library data” article–which I hadn’t actually started writing yet–and spent some time looking at academic library circulation and circulation per capita, first comparing FY2008 and FY2010 (the most recent available), then going back ty FY2006.

The results will make up most of the March 2013 Cites & Insights, when I publish that issue, and without offering too many spoilers let’s just say that ten percent is wrong–but not the way you might expect.

I could rush that issue out, as early as the end of this week or early next week, if I thought it would be received well and used broadly. At this point, I have no reason to believe that’s true.

What would, I think, be interesting is to see whether there are reasonable predictors of continued healthy circulation in academic libraries–what other factors appear to correlate well with, let’s say, traditional library use. But that’s a significant project. Even at my “pretty much retired, enjoy doing this, so can charge much lower fees than any proper consultant” rates, it would almost certainly be a four-digit job.

Similarly, I’d love to do some time-based analyses of public library performance within groups: Not averages, but percentages and correlations. Not to find “stars” (LJ has that down pat) but to help libraries see where they are and where they could be. And to help tell the complex story, not of The Average Academic Library or The Average Public Library but of the thousands of real, varied, diverse, actual libraries.

Here’s the thing: I don’t know whether I’m asking the right questions. I don’t know whether there is analysis that would be worth doing. I don’t know whether I can find the ways to make those facts meaningful and useful to librarians.

And I don’t know whether librarians are willing to deal with data at all–to work with the results, to go beyond the level of analysis I can do and make it effective for local use.

I wonder how many public and academic librarians really get, say, the difference between overall averages (e.g., circulation per capita for the U.S. public libraries), institutional averages (e.g., the average library circulation per capita–that is not the same figure) and median figures (e.g., the point at which half of libraries circulate more per capita and half less). I wonder how many understand at a gut level that many (maybe most) real-world statistics don’t follow the neat bell shape curve or the not-so-neat power-law curve–and why that matters.

Do LIS students get some training in real-world statistics (“statistics” may be too fancy a word; this is mostly pretty low-level stuff)? Is there a good book for them to use once they’re out in the real world? Would there be a real market for such a book if it existed? (Say a title like The Mythical Average Library: Dealing with Library Statistics)

Wish I knew the answers. Wish I knew whether I had a useful and possibly mildly remunerative role to play in providing answers. (There are certainly agencies that do yeoman work here–Colorado’s Library Research Service for one. I’m not faulting those agencies.)

Feedback invited. Please. Here or as email to

Modified later on January 29 to reduce the whininess and try to make it less about needing to be paid and more about whether this stuff’s worthwhile in general. Which may or may not help.

Cites & Insights February 2013 (13:2) available

Posted in Cites & Insights on January 22nd, 2013

Cites & Insights 13:2 (February 2013) is now available for downloading at

The issue is 40 pages long. A single-column 6×9 version, optimized for online reading and intended for e-readers and reading from the screen, is 75 pages long and available at

This issue includes:

The Front (pp. 1-3)

Doing the numbers: notes on C&I readership during 2012 and since it moved to its current website. Also a quick note on the (failed) HTML challenge.

Catching Up On Open Access 2  (pp. 3-40)

The rest of the megaroundup that began in January. This installment includes Upping the Anti, Controversies, Predators, Economics, Elsevier, The Future!, A Little Humor, and a closing note on progress, snipers and inquisitors.

Cites & Insights is no longer available as HTML separates.

Psst: Have you heard the ongoing common knowledge that nearly all academic libraries have had falling circulation for quite a few years now? If your own library had rising circulation, say between 2008 and 2010, did you think you were a special flower?

A March essay looks at the reality behind “nearly all” based on NCES data. Let’s just say the common knowledge is just a wee bit off. But for that, you’ll have to wait for the March 2013 issue…

Cites & Insights as HTML: Final weekly report

Posted in Cites & Insights on January 22nd, 2013

It’s been a week since the most recent update on the HTML challenge–that is, my request for people who find Cites & Insights worthwhile and want to read it in HTML form to pay a modest sum to support C&I.

Today is the deadline.

This time, I’ll offer the results in an homage to Mastercard:

Times essays from C&I 13.1 have been viewed as HTML to date:

212 and 118 respectively.

Times essays from C&I have been viewed as HTML this year:

More than 12,000.

Times essays from C&I were viewed as HTML in 2012:

132,7621 [for a total of 1,121,699 since those essays were introduced]

Apparent economic value of C&I essays as HTML:


That is: Nobody has been willing to pay even $10 to keep HTML essays going. Not one person. Not one payment. Not one sale of a C&I annual.

A wise librarian acquaintance recently said to me, not in these words, “Don’t do any library-related writing that you don’t find amusing unless you’re paid up front: Otherwise you’ll just be disappointed.”

The next issue of C&I will be out soon. It’s fair to assume that, barring a sudden burst of activity within the next few hours, it will not have HTML essays. Nor will any that follow.

For now, the ones that have already appeared will still be available: It’s really not worth the trouble to get rid of all the links in the C&I contents page. But I am now better informed as to the apparent economic value of this work. Thanks for the clarity of the message.

[Those few who answered both last year's C&I survey and an earlier one might have wondered why I didn't ask about willingness to pay this time around. That's because it became clear the last time that most people were disingenuous in their answers--that "willing to pay" did not, with two exceptions, translate into "will pay." So why bother to ask?]

Cites & Insights as HTML: Second weekly report

Posted in Cites & Insights on January 15th, 2013

It’s been a week since the last update on the HTML challenge–that is, my request for people who find Cites & Insights worthwhile and want to read it in HTML form to pay a modest sum to support C&I.

It’s now a week before the cutoff for Stage 1 of the challenge: The point at which, unless there’s been significant progress toward the goal, I’ll stop doing HTML versions (effective with the February 2013 issue).

So here’s the report:

Contributions received to date


Purchases of C&I print annuals since challenge announced.


Contributions received with “not specific to HTML” disclaimer


Percentage progress toward goal



If you’ve been holding off, figuring somebody else would do it: Maybe not.

If $10 or $25 a year is just too much for your budget: My sympathy.

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