Archive for the 'Libraries' Category

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 waltcrawford@gmail.com


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.

Public Libraries in the United States/IMLS (FY2010)

Posted in Libraries on January 24th, 2013

I’m delighted to note that the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) has published Public Libraries in the United States Survey: Fiscal Year 2010, the latest in its series of reports based on its national survey of public library statistics.

This is just a quick post, but I should mention that–in my opinion–IMLS has done a particularly good job this year. The report’s split into three parts: A reasonably brief (58-page, I think) overall report, state-by-state profiles that can be individually downloaded or downloaded as a group, and a group of supplementary tables.

If you care about public libraries at all, or think you should know something about them, download and read the main report at the very least, and the state profiles for your own state (and maybe for others: they’re interesting, colorful, informative and very brief).

The one qualm I had on first reading–the two scatterplots in the main report seemed difficult to read–went away when I gave them a little more time. (I’ve grown fond of scatterplots for showing correlation between service metrics and spending, as these two do–although what IMLS does is much more difficult and ambitious than what I’ve been doing. While I’d love to take credit for inspiring IMLS in this regard, I’m about 99.9% certain I had nothing to do with it–they couldn’t have read Graphing Public Library Benefits, since nobody’s purchased that enormously expensive $4.99 PDF, and the examples in my state-by-state posts didn’t really start early enough to have had an influence. By the way, if anybody from IMLS reads this: Send me an email, waltcrawford at gmail dot com, and I’d be delighted to send you a link to a free copy of Graphing Public Library Benefits.)

The IMLS Report and Give Us a Dollar…

Does this report supersede Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-13)? Not at all: They’re complementary. The IMLS report includes some enormously useful time studies and a lot of national and state-level information, clearly stated and well worth reading. My book works at a different level, trying to offer a tool for individual public libraries to compare themselves to libraries of similar size and funding. It is, of course, based on precisely the same data as the IMLS report.

Anyway: A great report, even better–in my opinion–than the excellent reports from prior years. And the price is, as usual, right: The downloads are all free.

 

Academic library spending on e-serials: A quick-and-dirty note

Posted in Libraries on January 16th, 2013

Karen Harker has a thoughtful post, “Analyzing changes to journal prices over time,” at her Being and Librarianship blog, discussing an article from an AAP person claiming that library serials prices aren’t really increasing all that much–and using ARL figures to make that claim.

I’m not going to analyze the claim and the figures: I lack the expertise, time and authority to do so meaningfully. Harker raises a number of excellent questions, ones that deserve digging into by those in a position to do so.

But I thought I’d take one quick look at, well, not 20 years of change over 120-odd large academic libraries–but two years of change over essentially all the academic libraries in the U.S.–as reported in the NCES biennial survey.

This is just a quick-and-dirty note. I just imported the 2010 and 2008 databases into Excel and did Autosums on the entire columns for print serials expenditures and e-serials expenditures (which notably omit one-time backfile purchases).

The key points in what I found:

  • Between 2008 and 2010, total print serials expenditures increased by 4.7% (which is still above inflation, which apparently was 1.28% for the two years).
  • During that same time period, total electronic serials expenditures increased by 24.3%.
  • TWENTY-FOUR POINT THREE PERCENT: Just under 25%. In two years. Years with very low inflation.
  • Putting that in dollars, e-serials took $245 million more out of academic library budgets in 2010 than they did in 2008.

Again, those are quick-and-dirty figures: I spent maybe 10 minutes putting them together.

(Separately, I’m working on a Cites & Insights piece on which academic libraries have increasing rather than decreasing circulation–and there are quite a few of them that do. If somebody says “circulation is falling at all academic libraries,” they’re not only wrong, they’re seriously wrong. You’ll have to wait for the March C&I for details.. Oh, and by the way, now would be a really good time to go to C&I and contribute something to keep it going, either in HTML form or in general.)

Oh, and hat-tip to Stephen Francouer for pointing to the post…and I’ve now subscribed to Harker’s blog.

When you’re wrong on the message…

Posted in Libraries on September 27th, 2012

…attack the messenger, using whatever tactics are necessary.

That, apparently, is appropriate public relations, at least if you’re the American Chemical Society and the message is that your e-journal bundles are priced out of reach of smaller institutions with library directors who behave responsibly.

Background

The American Chemical Society (henceforth ACS) is, no doubt, an important professional society. It publishes 41 journals, including some highly-regarded ones. It also accredits undergrad chemistry departments at universities and colleges (one easy way to support that accreditation is to subscribe to the ACS journals, although it turns out that’s not the only way).

And it charges a lot for institutional access to the journals in electronic form, making substantial profits that support other aspects of ACS.

Tangent: Brian Crawford of ACS was for years, and may still be, a prominent opponent of open access and other attempts to reform scholarly communication, misleadingly suggesting that OA would undermine peer review among other questionable statements. I’ve mentioned him several times, usually quoting others.

Also tangent: I’ve argued for years that it’s wholly unreasonable of professional societies, including ACS, to subsidize their operations at the expense of college and university libraries–and that in the long run it’s unsupportable. As a humanist, I’m acutely aware that science, technology and medicine subscriptions can and will chew up all of a library’s acquisitions budget, leaving no room for the monographs and other resources that humanists and social scientists require. While the OA situation may not be directly relevant to this discussion, the “bleeding libraries dry to support professional society operations” situation is, I think, directly relevant–but it’s still background.

SUNY Potsdam has a relatively small chemistry department. The university librarian, Jenica Rogers, has kept the chemistry faculty informed on the growing cost of the ACS bundle and the difficulties it posed for the library.

ACS has been moving to “value-based pricing,” a process that, for this year, would have SUNY Potsdam spending 10% of its entire acquisitions budget just to provide access to the ACS journals. Jenica Rogers discussed the situation with the faculty and concluded that it just wasn’t workable: That SUNY Potsdam would have to drop the bundle and support its chemistry department through other means. It was a carefully considered move, and one Rogers was reluctant to make. She knows the ACS journals offer quality resources. She also knows that state support for the university libraries has been shrinking and that it’s her professional duty to see that funds are allocated appropriately.

The chemistry department supported Rogers’ decision. So did the university administration. It was, under the circumstances, the only reasonable thing to do.

More tangent. It’s not just SUNY Potsdam and it’s not just academic libraries. Steve Kolowich wrote “Paying by the Pound for Journals” on December 2, 2010 at Inside Higher Ed, noting the ACS situation and its effects on corporate and government libraries as well as smaller academic libraries, including one where a university’s price for digital access to the ACS bundle would go up 1,861 percent in 2011. In that article, Glenn Ruskin said it was “misguided” to suggest that ACS was trying to control price increases for academic institutions by overpricing access for corporate and government subscribers. Maybe he had a point there: ACS was also ready to overprice academic access.

Foreground

Jenica Rogers explained SUNY Potsdam’s decision clearly and eloquently in “Walking away from the American Chemical Society,” posted September 13, 2012 on her first-rate blog, Attempting Elegance. If you haven’t already done so, you should read the post. Read the comments as well, to get some indication of other institutions dealing with this–and just how long ACS journal pricing policies have been problematic (one Nobel laureate apparently quit the society because of the policies). You’ll also see an anonymous comment attacking the decision and praising ACS. I’ll wait.  (You may also want to read “kittens, glitter, and unicorns,” posted September 17, 2012, about the reactions to the original post.)

Jennifer Howard of the Chronicle of Higher Education interviewed Rogers and wrote “As Chemistry Journals’ Prices Rise, a Librarian Just Says No” (published September 26, 2012: if you’re not a CHE subscriber, you may not be able to read it; Howard was kind enough to send me an accessible version). As you’d expect, Howard asked ACS for comment–and got this back:

“We find little constructive dialogue can be had on blogs and other listservs where logic, balance and common courtesy are not practiced and observed,” Glenn S. Ruskin, the group’s director of public affairs, said in an e-mail message. “As a matter of practice, ACS finds that direct engagement via telephone or face-to-face with individuals expressing concern over pricing or other related matters is the most productive means to finding common ground and resolution.”

Say what? That was my reaction, and I suspect it held for quite a few others. Ruskin doesn’t respond to the actual decision and its background; instead, he attacks bloggers and list participants for lacking “logic, balance and common courtesy” and basically says “we’ll talk to you in private and off the record.” It’s probably worth talking about non-disclosure agreements and the damage they do to libraries in general, but that’s another discussion, and not one I’m qualified to make.

Rogers wasn’t thrilled with Ruskin’s response, and said so in “Respecting your customers,” posted September 26, 2012–I know, that’s yesterday, this has turned into a fast-moving story, one I was originally planning to ignore. Go read that one too: It’s short and to the point.

Where it all turns sour…

Ah, but it turns out Ruskin was misinterpreted–or the lack of a comma after “listservs” was vitally important. As he made clear in later email (to the blogger at ChemBark), he wasn’t writing off blogs and lists in general. Nope, he was attacking one particular notably female blogger who he chose not to name. Quoting directly from quoted material in “ACS to Bloggers: Shove It” (posted September 26, 2012 and updated to include this quote):

It was not my intention, nor the intention of ACS, to denigrate blogs or users/contributors of blogs.   My comment was directed toward the blog that was the subject of the CHE story.  Unfortunately, CHE did not use the totality of my comment as I think it would have been clear that I was speaking specifically to the blog that was the point of the story.  Here is the totality of my statement (bolded section was omitted by CHE):

“We find little constructive dialogue can be had on blogs and other listservs where logic, balance and common courtesy are not practiced and observed.  As a matter of practice, ACS finds that direct engagement via telephone or face-to-face with individuals expressing concern over pricing or other related matters is the most productive means to finding common ground and resolution.  Therefore, we will not be offering any response  to this blog posting or the conversation that has ensued.

I respect and appreciate responsible bloggers, those that thoughtfully engage on those blogs as well as those that utilize listservs.  No insult was intended, and apologies to those that interpreted the comment that way.  These outlets provide important avenues to further dialogue and collaboration and are valuable assets in the ever evolving digital age.

The individual responsible for the above cited blog certainly has the right to her opinion, but that does not excuse rude behavior or her use of profanity and vulgarity in addressing ACS or its employees. While not evident in the most recent postings, I won’t repeat what she has posted in the past.  But I think you would agree that vulgarity and profanity postings do not lend themselves to meaningful, productive and civil discourse, thus our decision not to engage any further with her on this topic.

“Vulgarity and profanity postings”? I don’t remember any particular vulgarity or profanity in Rogers’ posts, and certainly not in the CHE article. It is, of course, true that pointing to “vulgarity and profanity postings” is a classic way to derail an actual discussion: “You used bad language so I won’t attempt to deal with your actual message.”

But Rogers didn’t use bad language in her posts.

Ah, but when Rogers-responded to Ruskin’s attack (in a list post at CHMINF-L–responding to his statement on, ahem, that same list–ah, but it’s not a Listserv, since it uses Sympa list software, not Lyris’ trademarked Listserv, so I guess it’s OK), he responded by sending Rogers a screenshot from a Friendfeed conversation.

Here’s the thing. The Library Society of the World on Friendfeed is a few hundred library folks who feel free to let our (yes, “our”) hair down and talk about a variety of things–serious library issues, earworms, whatever. Frequently including frustration over serious library issues. Freque

Rogers is a relatively young and extremely talented university librarian. She’s female. She’s young (under 50, by quite a few years). She’s a librarian. Oh, and she frequently says what she means–always eloquently, always professionally on her blog, but more casually on Friendfeed.

Yes, she used Bad Language on Friendfeed. So have I. So has almost everybody in LSW who actually contributes to discussions. Sometimes you need to let off steam.

I really should call Jenica P. Rogers “Jenica,” since I’ve met her, “chatted” with her and regard her as a valued acquaintance, but I also regard her as a valuable library director and one of many younger librarians who convince me that the future of libraries is in good hands, so I’m giving her last-name respect.

I’ve been privileged to know dozens (maybe hundreds) of library directors in my long non-career, including quite a few of the Biggies, directors of ARL libraries. I’ve been around some of them in informal settings. Guess what? Nearly all of them have been known to let off steam, using some well-chosen words they wouldn’t use in a professional setting.

Doesn’t make them less professional. Does make them more human.

Rogers is an easy target: She’s a she. She’s under 50. She’s a librarian. She says what she thinks.

She’s also a stupid target–because she’s right. She worked with her faculty. She worked with her administration. She raised serious issues.

None of which is vitiated by the fact that Rogers occasionally uses informal languagein an informal setting. As most of us who are living, breathing human beings do.

Just at a guess, if Dick Dougherty (oh, sorry, Richard Dougherty) had raised those issues when he was the University Librarian at UC Berkeley–older, male, and at a big campus that has had to cancel large numbers of serials several times because nobody’s budget can handle some price increases–you wouldn’t get a PR person pointing out that Dougherty’s a motorcycle rider who’s been known to use colorful language, and thus should be ignored or treated contemptuously.

But that’s just a guess.

Reading more…

This has already gone on too long. I’m not even the right person to be saying this. I shock easily (I’m old). I’ve never been shocked by anything Jenica Rogers has said. I was shocked by Gleen Ruskin’s behavior.

For further reading, I’ll suggest (among others):

 

 

“America’s Biggest Library”

Posted in Libraries on September 18th, 2012

A colleague shared a link to an interesting story on Banoosh with this intriguing headline: “Abandoned Walmart Now America’s Biggest Library

The story is about a closed Wal-mart in McAllen, Texas being remodeled into a public library. Here’s the key paragraph:

Meyer, Scherer & Rockcastle transformed an abandoned Walmart in McAllen, Texas, into a 124,500-square-foot public library, the largest single-floor public library in the United States.

Seeing the two key qualifiers in that sentence–“single-floor” and “public”–I was ready to blame the headline writer. But, oops, backing up a sentence, we get:

But at least one of those buildings has been transformed into something arguably much more useful: the nation’s largest library.

No qualifiers. The nation’s largest library. Which caused my BS-meter to go straight into the red zone.

I can pretty much guarantee that there are dozens of academic libraries with more than 124,500 square feet of space, and that the Library of Congress has a whole bunch more space than that.

As for public libraries? Well, as fate other research would have it, I had a handy copy of the IMLS FY2010 Public Library Outlet dataset on hand (the Outlet dataset includes all branches and bookmobiles; I use the other report, that’s just libraries and systems, for most of my research). That dataset includes square footage.

McAllen would appear to be the 72nd largest public library building in the U.S., assuming no other huge libraries have been built since 2010. There’s a little library about 462 miles from McAllen, but still in Texas, that’s a little more than five times as large (Dallas Public at 646,753 square feet) and one 225 miles away that’s 1.9 times as large (San Antonio PL at 238,000 square feet).

Not putting down the McAllen project: That’s a great use of reclaimed space and a good-size public library. But the largest library or biggest library? Not even close, not even in Texas.

For obsessives only

Here’s the list, from largest down (click on the post title to get the sidebar out of the way, although it’s still gonna be wide…)

STABR LIBNAME CITY SQ_FEET
MA BOSTON PUBLIC LIBRARY BOSTON 970,000
IL CHICAGO PUBLIC LIBRARY CHICAGO 756,000
NY STEPHEN A. SCHWARZMAN BUILDING NEW YORK 660,000
TX DALLAS PUBLIC LIBRARY DALLAS 646,733
OH CINCINNATI AND HAMILTON COUNTY, PL OF CINCINNATI 544,202
CA CENTRAL LIBRARY LOS ANGELES 538,802
CO DENVER PUBLIC LIBRARY DENVER 538,350
CA DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. LIBRARY SAN JOSE 475,000
WI MILWAUKEE PUBLIC LIBRARY MILWAUKEE 457,919
MI DETROIT PUBLIC LIBRARY DETROIT 420,000
NY BUFFALO & ERIE COUNTY PUBLIC LIBRARY SYSTEM BUFFALO 403,000
DC MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. MEMORIAL LIBRARY WASHINGTON 400,000
CA MAIN LIBRARY SAN FRANCISCO 376,000
IN ALLEN COUNTY PUBLIC LIBRARY FORT WAYNE 367,000
WA CENTRAL LIBRARY SEATTLE 362,987
MN CENTRAL LIBRARY MINNEAPOLIS 353,000
MD ENOCH PRATT CENTRAL BALTIMORE 349,713
TN MEMPHIS PUBLIC LIBRARY AND INFORMATION CENTER MEMPHIS 330,000
FL ALVIN SHERMAN LIBRARY, RESEARCH & INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY CTR FORT LAUDERDALE 325,000
OH CLEVELAND PUBLIC LIBRARY CLEVELAND 324,450
NJ BAYONNE FREE PUBLIC LIBRARY BAYONNE 307,560
OH TOLEDO-LUCAS COUNTY PUBLIC LIBRARY TOLEDO 302,693
FL MAIN LIBRARY JACKSONVILLE 300,000
NY BROOKLYN PUBLIC LIBRARY BROOKLYN 300,000
TN NASHVILLE PUBLIC LIBRARY NASHVILLE 300,000
FL ORLANDO PUBLIC LIBRARY ORLANDO 295,000
PA FREE LIBRARY OF PHILADELPHIA PHILADELPHIA 286,556
AZ BURTON BARR CENTRAL LIBRARY PHOENIX 280,000
OH COLUMBUS METROPOLITAN LIBRARY COLUMBUS 279,200
TX HOUSTON PUBLIC LIBRARY HOUSTON 268,663
GA AFPL – CENTRAL LIBRARY ATLANTA 265,155
FL BROWARD COUNTY MAIN LIBRARY FORT LAUDERDALE 256,000
NY SCIENCE, INDUSTRY AND BUSINESS LIBRARY NEW YORK 250,000
SC RICHLAND COUNTY PUBLIC LIBRARY COLUMBIA 242,000
UT SALT LAKE CITY PUBLIC LIBRARY HEADQUARTERS SALT LAKE CITY 240,000
TX SAN ANTONIO PUBLIC LIBRARY SAN ANTONIO 238,000
AL BIRMINGHAM PUBLIC – CENTRAL DOWNTOWN LIBRARY BIRMINGHAM 229,800
NY QUEENS BOROUGH PUBLIC LIBRARY JAMAICA 217,750
FL MAIN LIBRARY, MIAMI-DADE PUBLIC LIBRARY SYSTEM MIAMI 200,000
NY ROCHESTER PUBLIC LIBRARY ROCHESTER 200,000
MO CENTRAL LIBRARY ST. LOUIS 190,870
KS TOPEKA AND SHAWNEE COUNTY PUBLIC LIBRARY TOPEKA 178,600
MO CENTRAL LIBRARY KANSAS CITY 175,000
TX FORT WORTH LIBRARY FORT WORTH 175,000
KY LOUISVILLE FREE PUBLIC LIBRARY LOUISVILLE 167,031
IL SCHAUMBURG TOWNSHIP DISTRICT LIBRARY SCHAUMBURG 166,501
CA SACRAMENTO CENTRAL LIBRARY SACRAMENTO 160,000
NY MID-MANHATTAN LIBRARY NEW YORK 159,880
NC CHARLOTTE MECKLENBURG LIBRARY CHARLOTTE 156,000
MI GRAND RAPIDS PUBLIC LIBRARY GRAND RAPIDS 153,000
MA WORCESTER PUBLIC LIBRARY WORCESTER 150,000
PA CARNEGIE LIBRARY OF PITTSBURGH PITTSBURGH 148,845
IN EVANSVILLE-VANDERBURGH PUBLIC LIBRARY EVANSVILLE 147,500
LA NEW ORLEANS PUBLIC LIBRARY NEW ORLEANS 146,902
FL JOHN F. GERMANY PUBLIC LIBRARY TAMPA 145,061
CA SAN DIEGO CENTRAL LIBRARY SAN DIEGO 144,560
AK Z. J. LOUSSAC LIBRARY ANCHORAGE 140,000
IL GAIL BORDEN PUBLIC LIBRARY DISTRICT ELGIN 139,980
NY NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS, NEW YORK 138,384
LA JEFFERSON PARISH LIBRARY METAIRIE 135,777
CA MAIN LIBRARY LONG BEACH 135,000
CA PASADENA CENTRAL LIBRARY PASADENA 135,000
CT HARTFORD PUBLIC LIBRARY HARTFORD 135,000
IN MONROE COUNTY PUBLIC LIBRARY BLOOMINGTON 135,000
OK CENTRAL LIBRARY TULSA 135,000
IL SKOKIE PUBLIC LIBRARY SKOKIE 133,190
AR CENTRAL ARKANSAS LIBRARY LITTLE ROCK 132,000
IL ARLINGTON HEIGHTS MEMORIAL LIBRARY ARLINGTON HEIGHTS 132,000
CA BEALE MEMORIAL LIBRARY BAKERSFIELD 128,165
OR CENTRAL LIBRARY PORTLAND 125,000

Better funding = more circs: The broad picture

Posted in $4, Libraries on September 13th, 2012

Chapter Two of Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-13) ($11.99 PDF, $21.95 paperback, $31.50 hardbound) gives the overall picture for 8,659 U.S. public libraries in FY2010 for each of ten metrics. I find that the 15 tables on pages 22-26 paint an interesting picture of American library funding and usage even before breaking libraries down by size.

Circulation per capita

By my reckoning, the largest piece of calculable public library benefits is still circulation–58% of the total in my simplistic calculations. And circulation per capita correlates very strongly with funding per capita. That makes sense: Libraries with better funding are typically open more hours (so people can borrow items), have better and more contemporary collections (so people want to borrow more items) and are likely to have better displays, reader’s advisory and other features (so people are enticed to borrow items).

When you look at circulation per capita on a benchmark basis–that is, dividing libraries by the number of items circulated per potential patron–the numbers are fairly clear and compelling:

  • 38% of the libraries circulate at least 10 items per capita; 25% at least 13 (that is, more than one a month)–and 6% at least 24 (at least two per month).
  • As you go down in circulation per capita, the median expenditures per capita also goes down–but even faster, so that the benefit ratio (strongly based on per-cap circulation) gets lower.
  • So, for example, the 24+ elite are typically well-funded (median expenditures per capita $75.82, in the top funding bracket) but also have a high benefit ratio (median 6.8). Those circulating 10-12 items per capita have median expenditures of $38.40–and median benefit ratio of 5.57. It’s a clear drop in each bracket, going down to the fortunately-small 6% of libraries circulating fewer than two items per capita: median expenditures $11.76, median benefits 4.61.

Looking at circulation from an expenditures viewpoint, the numbers are equally clear–in a manner that a graph might not show, since (as you’d expect) some libraries circulate more items relative to funding than either.

But as you move down in funding brackets from the highest ($73-$399, where median circulation per capita is 18.88 and the 75%ile is 26.65) to the lowest ($5-$11, with 2.60 median per capita circulation and 75%ile of 3.74), there’s always–in every one of the ten expenditure brackets–a drop for 25%ile, median, and 75%ile. But the brackets overlap, as you’d expect–e.g., the 75%ile for libraries with $53-$72 expenditures per capita (19.46) is higher than the median for $73-$399, but significantly lower than the top category’s 75%ile.

It’s a detailed version of “libraries that spend more do more” in the largest and clearest measure. If your library spends $31-$35 per capita and circulates 9 items per capita, you’re just above average for your expenditure category–and you’d be below average for libraries spending $36-$42 and in the top quartile for libraries spending $21-$25.

The numbers seem to move in two-bracket jumps–that is, the 75%ile for one spending bracket, typically 10% of the nation’s libraries, will be roughly equal to the median for two brackets higher. The 75%ile–the point at which one out of four libraries is doing better–is 7.67 for libraries spending $17-$20, where the median for libraries two brackets higher ($26-$30) is nearly identical at 7.69.

What’s that all mean? Your library can make the case that better funding, with the kind of effective spending that good public libraries should have, will lead to significantly higher use.

This post has some additional information on the book.

 

Overperforming and well-appreciated

Posted in $4, Libraries on September 11th, 2012

Calculating conservative benefit ratios for countable/reported public library benefits, half of the U.S. libraries in FY2010 were in the sweet spot, delivering $3 to $5.99 in benefits for each dollar spent–and about 10% were well-appreciated (with such strong uncountable benefits and presence that they’re funded well enough to have benefit ratios below $3). But that leaves 28% seriously overperforming and probably stretched very thin (delivering $7 and more per dollar spent)…and 8% delivering more than $10 in benefits per dollar spent, which doesn’t seem sustainable. Lots more in Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four. Read more about it here.

Give Us a Dollar…(2012-13) Now Available

Posted in $4, Libraries on September 7th, 2012

I am delighted to announce the publication of Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-13), based on FY2010 IMLS public library data. If you’re in a public library, I believe you’ll find this book worthwhile. Here’s why:

Your public library is in competition with a lot of other agencies–city, county, district, even state–for money. You want your library to sustain its current services and expand them in the future. You know you get a lot of bang for your buck, but how do you show that to the people who hold the purse strings? One way is to use the data in Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four. Walt Crawford has compiled, analyzed, and organized library funding and service data from all around the United States. Give Us a Dollar will let you compare your services to those of other similar libraries at a glance and will help give you the data you need to show your funders how much you already stretch their dollars–and how much more you could provide with even a few dollars more.

The link above is for the $21.95 trade paperback (272 pages long).

The book is also available as an $11.99 PDF (no DRM: if Douglas County, Califa or anybody else desires to purchase this and mount it on a library ebook service, for the odd patron who might find it interesting, they have my blessing) and, for library schools or others who might want it that way, a $31.50 casebound hardcover.

Lulu frequently has sales during weekday periods. Check the home page at lulu.com, then search for Give Us a Dollar.

While this book is designed primarily as a tool for public libraries telling their stories to improve and retain funding, it may also be interesting for people who care about public libraries. Not a single library is named in the book, but more than 8,600 are compared in groups ranging from a few dozen to a few hundred.

There’s more information on the book in the October 2012 Cites & Insights. The book is ready to buy and use. I believe PDF will be the best format for most smaller public libraries: Despite the different “cover,” it’s exactly the same content, and at 6×9″ with margins it should be easy to read on most devices with reasonably large screens.

Click on the “$4″ category in the sidebar for a growing set of posts offering comments on a few of the tables in the book.


Note added September 12, 2012: This post has been edited to remove time-sensitive information because I’ll be pointing to it for some time to come, from various other posts here and on social networks offering bits & pieces of commentary on some of the tables in the book.

That means that one comment below may not make sense. It called my attention to the vagueness of “this week” in the original post, referring to a sale that ended September 7, 2012. To avoid such vagueness while this post is in use, I’ve done an overall edit rather than a strikeout/replacement edit.

Coming Soon…

Posted in C&I Books, Libraries on September 4th, 2012

It’s time for a progress report on what I’m now calling Give Us A Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-2013). And other stuff, like a return to “normal” blogging, whatever that might mean.

Updated Friday, September 7 to reflect reality–things went faster than expected.

The Book

It’s going very well. In fact, the first draft is finished. I need to revamp the Introduction (splitting part of it into a Preface), add a full-scale example to the Introduction, revise the Appendix, and touch up Chapter 2.

And decide whether to prepare a travel-photo-based cover similar to those on most of my other self-published book, or use the clean bright geometric Lulu-provided cover design I used on Library 2.0: A Cites & Insights Reader. Opinions welcome. At the moment, given the functional nature of this book, I’m inclined toward the geometric design.

I’ll also edit the text in Chapters 3-20…but there’s only one paragraph of text in each chapter, so that’s not going to take long.

Which brings me to…

Some Book-Related Decisions

As I was working on the first three chapters (which set the tone for the rest of the book), I thought about how this book can and should be used and what that meant for the rest of it. I also thought about sheer length, which influences use and certainly influences cost (for those buying the print book).

Here’s what I concluded:

Content

  • The heart of the book is tables, showing how (all but a few hundred of) America’s public libraries stack up on ten different metrics, designed so that an individual library can readily compare themselves to other “similar” libraries as part of the process of telling the library’s story for the purposes of improving and retaining budget. Public libraries not only provide excellent value, they continue to provide excellent value as they’re better funded: That’s clear from most tables and it’s an important point.
  • My own comments on what I found interesting about specific tables and the relationships among tables are probably superfluous for most users and have the possibility of biasing conclusions. They also add pages to the book–probably a lot of pages.
  • So I’m not providing any commentary on the specific tables. I show how they work, I’ll provide one example of how a library can use the tables, and that’s it…for the book itself. The rest is tables. Lots of them. (No graphs. No infographics. Except for the first two chapters, no table has more than 11 rows of data.)
  • I will offer comments on individual tables and what I find looking across tables, probably, but in Cites & Insights (November 2012 and later).

Price and Audience

  • The primary audience for this book is public librarians, especially those in smaller public libraries that lack full-time marketers or statisticians.
  • For that reason, the ebook version (PDF) will be priced as low as I can price it and still get a plausible return*: probably $11.95, possibly less. It turns out to be $11.99. (Without DRM, and if Douglas County, Califa or anybody else wants to mount it on their own ebook system, they have my blessing. Not that it’s patron-oriented, but…)
  • The paperback version will be priced to yield the same return per copy, which means it will probably be about $9.50-$11 more expensive than the ebook version (depending on the final length of the book). It turns out to be $9.94 more expensive for a book with 270 printed pages: $21.95.
  • There may also be a hardcover version for library schools and anybody else so inclined, priced marginally ($10 more than the paperback: that’s what Lulu wants for the binding). Final price: $31.50. Apparently the binding’s not quite $10.
  • Secondary audiences are library schools and, I think, some librarians who might find this close-up set of snapshots of public libraries in FY10–although it never mentions any library by name–interesting.
  • Oh, and possibly consultants who may find it to be a useful tool.

Beyond the Book

  • The book uses a single set of metric buckets (divisions for rows in tables–e.g., expenditures per capita, circulation per capita) for all public libraries, based on the actual national patterns in FY10. It offers a larger set of metrics for 18 groups of libraries (by size of library), a smaller set for each state. Some states or groups of states (or other groups of libraries) might find it worthwhile to have a customized presentation, either using the full set of metrics with the existing buckets or customizing the buckets for their state(s). I’ll offer such customized versions, if anybody wants them, at retired non-consultant rates (probably in the mid to high $hundreds for most projects for most states). If nobody’s interested, that’s OK too.
  • As noted above, I anticipate offering informal comments on the data in a future Cites & Insights, or maybe two issues, comments that should stand on their own but are based on the book itself (which, of course, anybody will be able to acquire for that rock-bottom price).
  • If the book’s well-received, I’ll plan to do another version next year based on FY2011 IMLS data.
  • If the book’s very well-received (let’s say 1,000 total sales), I’ll reduce the price of the PDF version to the lowest price that allows me to track sales (I believe that’s either $0.99 or $1.67, but I’m not sure) to a level that still supports my research and provision of individual-library metrics.
  • Because the preliminary version may be useful as additional background for some libraries, I’ll also make that available as a free download; the URL will be in the book.

Other Stuff

The October Cites & Insights will come out right about the same time as shortly after the book–and, of course, the lead essay in the issue will introduce the book and its versions. Best guess is either next week or the week following. The October issue should be out some time next week, no earlier than September 10 and no later than September 14. (The rest of the October issue is already written & edited: Part 2 of Thinking About Blogging and a quick update to The Liblog Landscape 2007-2010.)

I anticipate a return to “normal” blogging activity after that…well, and after I polish my speech for Computers in Libraries and, sigh, create PowerPoint slides for that speech. (The speech is related to The Librarian’s Guide to Micropublishing and will be the second part of Session A103, 1:15-2 p.m. on Monday, October 22.)


*Plausible return: $10 per copy sold, because based on previous experience I can’t honestly project sales in the triple or quadruple digits. There’s little point in being coy about prices, since Lulu’s tools allow anybody to figure out what my net yield is. Actual yield: $9.90 to $10.28 per copy, depending on format.

Oh, and by the way: If you want to buy one of my books–including the hardcover version of The Librarian’s Guide to Micropublishing–Lulu has another of its frequent sales, this one through Friday, September 7. Go to lulu.com; write down the country-specific coupon code (I think it’s CITHARA20 for the US); save 20% on one order. Searching for “Walt Crawford” from the Lulu home page should find all of my books.

Speak now…

Posted in Books and publishing, Libraries on July 30th, 2012

You already know the rest of the line, and it doesn’t really apply.

But.

I would love to have any further comments on the desirability or advisability of doing the vastly-revised Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four, based on FY2010 data.

This post is your best bet for background.

I’d particularly like to hear from you (strange as this may seem) if you think there’s a reason I should not do this–that it in some way could harm public libraries.

Why now?

Because the uncertainty as to when IMLS would release the FY2010 data has been resolved: It just did. I’ve downloaded the data and documentation, but haven’t yet started looking at it.

There are some other things I need to attend to first, but I’m guessing I could turn my attention to this in another week or so–and that, interspersed with other requirements in August, I could have the book done in six to eight weeks.

So: If this is a bad idea, I should really hear why. Now.

Thanks.

[Will there be another huge gap in C&I as a result of this project? Probably not.]


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