Archive for the 'Libraries' Category

Give Us a Dollar: Any interest? (Redux)

Posted in Libraries on July 18th, 2012

I think it’s worth asking the question once again:

Is there any interest in Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four?

Here’s a blurb (thanks again to Laura Crossett):

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.

To get the best idea of what I have in mind, read the first six pages of the one-column version of the July 2012 Cites & Insights (or use this HTML version instead), up to “The Current Structure.”

I think the book–as now conceived–could be useful both as a snapshot of how America’s public libraries did (using a number of measurable service metrics) in FY2010 and, for individual libraries, a quick way to position themselves against libraries of similar size and funding, to help improve or at least retain funding levels.

I could use expressions of interest, which are not in any way commitments to purchase.

[If it matters: Assume that the PDF price will probably be around $15 and the paperback price around $25, possibly less–and that price includes the assumption that I’ll email each purchaser the data line for his or her own library on request, making it even easier to position his or her library.]

A simple email–“Yes, this might be interesting” (or, on the other hand, “No, we don’t want any more data” or “We already have all the money we need” or “We don’t trust your work”)–to waltcrawford@gmail.com, or a simple comment to this post would help.

[I have no idea when IMLS will release FY10 numbers. Could be next week. Could be October. I figure the book should take about six weeks to two months to do, once the IMLS figures are available.]

Public libraries rarely close

Posted in Libraries on July 10th, 2012

Of the more than 9,000 public libraries in the U.S. (library systems and standalone libraries, not branches), only 36 have closed and remained closed over the 12 years from 1998 through 2009.

Thirty-six. Less than 0.4%. Over a dozen years.

Breaking down the 36

Of those 36, four are in communities that have full access to other public libraries within less than three miles.

What of the other 32?

  • Fourteen served fewer than 500 people each (including five serving fewer than 200).
  • Another seven served 539 to 984 people, but still fall into the smallest library category.
  • “Larger” public libraries include five serving 1,000 to 2,499 people; two serving 2,500 to 4,999; one serving 5,000 to 9,999; and three—one of them a bookmobile—serving 10,000 to 24,999. Not one of these is large enough to be classified as an urban library.
  • The total served by all 32 libraries: 73,931 people—not a trivial number, but still 0.02% of the population served by America’s public libraries, even though it’s roughly 0.4% of the nation’s libraries (noting that more libraries have opened than have closed over those 12 years).

For more information

For much more detail, including how I arrived at these figures, read “Libraries: Public Library Closures: On Not Dropping Like Flies” in Cites & Insights 12:3 (April 2012)–a preliminary study looking only at reported closures in 2008 and 2009–and “Libraries: Public Library Closures 2” in Cites & Insights 12:4 (May 2012).

And if you think this is important information for libraries trying to avoid budget cuts and closures, and faced with the claim that “public libraries are shutting down all across the country,” please link to this post or the articles.

Give Us a Dollar: The Open Question

Posted in C&I Books, Libraries on July 2nd, 2012

UPDATE: Here’s a new and much better paragraph* describing the (future) book, quick notes on who it’s for, and then the original post.

Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four

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.*

Who It’s For

The key audience

This book is for directors of small and medium-size libraries, those who make the case for funding directly.

It’s for the people in larger libraries who make the case for retaining and improving funding.

It’s for library boards as they look at library performance and library funding, and for Friends groups concerned with library performance and funding.

Other audiences

Some library consultants will find it useful in working with public libraries.

Some state library agencies may find it a useful supplement to their own work.

Library schools should find it useful as one aspect of contemporary public library usage and funding.

And a few library people may find it worth reading.

Does this sound interesting?

If this sounds interesting and worthwhile, let me know. And maybe read the original post, under the first line below. I’m not suggesting that you go buy the book right now: The preliminary version might be useful, but the new idea (discussed below) is much, much better.

But mostly: If you think it might be worthwhile, let me know.

*Thanks to Laura Crossett for this wording. Good editing and copywriting too often go unappreciated.


Original post follows.


In case it wasn’t clear, I’ve entirely dropped the idea of a Kickstarter campaign for an ongoing social network survey–and the survey itself, since without institutional support it’s too much effort, and such support is unlikely given the Gates-supported self-reporting survey that includes social networking. In some ways that’s a relief; the book from ALA Editions will, I believe, be useful (and have ALA Editions’ marketing…), and doing another round would take several hundred hours I could use for reading, other writing, watching old movies, etc., etc…

The one response that I did receive to either or both Kickstarter possibilities was email and pretty clearly sent with the expectation that it would not be shared, so I won’t. Let’s say it wasn’t exactly encouraging–and used this phrase regarding the Give Us a Dollar project: “Give Walt money so he can play with spreadsheets”

If what I was trying to do with Give Us a Dollar comes down to “Walt playing with spreadsheets,” then obviously I should abandon the idea completely. The person sending the email had not read the book or requested a review copy, but had read at least parts of my related blog posts and found them incomprehensible–and felt that most other people would also find them, and the whole point of the project, incomprehensible.

And if that’s the case, I should abandon the idea completely.

But…I really would like to hear at least one or two other opinions, possibly including some from somebody who’s actually attempted to use the book. (I know there are seven copies out there, and I’m once again offering free review/feedback copies to those willing to provide feedback. But, as you’ll see below, what I think could be done isn’t at all what I did do.)

So: Here’s a one-paragraph version of why I think a much different version of Give Us A Dollar could be worthwhile for a few dozen or a few hundred libraries (certainly not every library!), possibly a few or a few dozen library consultants, and possibly a few state libraries or library groups:


Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four: What it could be good for

Your library competes with other agencies for improved or retained funding. Establishing that you use public funds well, and showing how better funding could make your library more beneficial, can help. With this book, you can readily determine how your library compares with libraries of similar size on a selection of key usage metrics and how funding affects those metrics. You can also determine how your library compares with others in your state, and in both cases the baseline for how much return the public gets for each dollar spent. By showing where you’re lagging and leading, and how funding correlates with use, you can help make your case for improved and retained funding levels.


Now, if the paragraph above doesn’t seem interesting at all, then the game’s over. Public libraries have the tools they need, or readers don’t find my idea worthwhile.

If it does interest a few of you, I’d still be happy to send PDF review/feedback copies (and the library stats line to support them) to those who’re willing to provide feedback (up to some not-yet-set limit). Send me a request. (waltcrawford at gmail dot com).

But the preliminary version is badly flawed–it slices the same set of data too many different ways, and fails to provide enough detail in some areas. It’s both too long and too short.

You’re really better off reading the first six pages of the one-column version of the  July 2012 Cites & Insights (up to “The Current Structure”) as an example of what I have in mind (if you prefer straight HTML and want to avoid tables split across pages, use this instead, again up to “The Current Structure”).

I need feedback–positive or negative, although in the lack of additional feedback the totality of current feedback is negative enough to discourage this or any future projects.

If there’s some reason to believe that a cleaned-up version with 2010 data could be useful for 10% of America’s public libraries (directly or via consultants, state libraries or groups), I’d definitely do it. If there’s reason to believe it would be useful for even 1%, I might do it.

I don’t need to make a decision until the 2010 IMLS database is available (which I’m guessing might not be until October, but I have no inside knowledge). But the lack of any additional feedback by the end of the summer will, at least, be strongly suggestive. And maybe that’s right.

[As to Kickstarter, where my lack of salesmanship and video editing qualities have always made me reluctant to mount a project even before the strongly negative feedback: If there was significant positive interest, one way to approach it could be to do a Kickstarter “watch-style” project, that is, use Kickstarter as basically a way to sell the book in advance. I don’t know that this is particularly sensible, however, and in the absence of “Yes, that’s what you should do” comments, I’m inclined to stay well away from Kickstarter.]

Cites & Insights 12:6 (July 2012) available

Posted in Cites & Insights, Copyright, Libraries on June 25th, 2012

The July 2012 issue of Cites & Insights (12:6) is now available at http://citesandinsights.info/civ12i6.pdf.

The issue is 32 pages long. A single-column 6×9 version, designed for use on ereaders, is also available at http://citesandinsights.info/civ12i6on.pdf. The single-column version is 62 pages long and intended only for ereading, not for printing.

The issue includes:

Libraries: Give Us a Dollar: A Case Study  pp. 1-6

Would a refined version of Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four be directly useful to a few hundred (or a few thousand) public libraries? This two-part example shows how a mythical New York library (directly based on two real libraries) might use a heavily revised version–and how it might use the current version. I’m still looking for reviewers and feedback before deciding how to proceed; these case studies might help.

Policy: Copyright: Fair Use, Part 2   pp. 6-29

The second part of the fair use roundup that began in the May issue. This part includes cites & comments for eleven items relating to fair use and academic libraries (other than the GSU case), ten items on various aspects of fair use in the real world–and a “once over lightly” on GSU events since the judge issued her decision, noting 18 discussions on what’s happened since.

The Back    pp. 29-32

Ten brief essays on various possibly amusing topics.

The three essays are also available as HTML separates (the headings above are links if you’re reading this on a blog) at http://citesandinsights.info

 

Review Copies of “Give Us a Dollar”: Another Offer

Posted in C&I Books, Libraries on June 14th, 2012

If you read my three-part case study of how the preliminary edition of Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four might be directly useful for a public library (part one, part two, part three)–and, for that matter, today’s part four, offering a very different possibility for a future edition–and if you either work in or direct a public library, work with or for any group of public libraries, or for that matter have a strong interest in public libraries:

Review copies of the book (in PDF form) are available.

My previous offering stated some conditions–ones I thought and think are reasonable. Namely, if you’re asking for a review copy, it would be nice if you actually review the book (even if the review is one sentence long, maybe as a comment on this post).

But for now, let’s just say: If you’d like to review the book (in PDF form), send me an email request: waltcrawford@gmail.com.

I’ll honor at least the first six requests and probably more.

And yes, if you request a review copy, you can (and probably should) request the data row for your library (or one library you want to use to see how this all works). That can be a separate email, but if you include the name (and city and state) of your library in a review-copy request, I’ll send the data line along with the review copy.

 

Give Us a Dollar: Case Study—Part 4

Posted in C&I Books, Libraries on June 14th, 2012

This concludes the story of Fourbuck Public Library in New York (a mythical library based on the average of two real libraries) and how it might benefit from a revised version of Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four. If you find this revised version more useful, please let me know.

Earlier portions appeared Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, June 11-13, 2012.

Deeper and Different?

As I was stepping through this case study, I found myself thinking of a very different approach to the heart of the book—basically, everything after Chapter One. The different approach would rely almost entirely on derived numbers, numbers that should be comparable across very different libraries. It would have fewer but much longer chapters.

Here’s what I have in mind. I need feedback as to what is likely to work best, and whether this model or the current book should be the basis for refinement.

Fourbuck’s Data

With the new model, almost every book purchaser would want to send me email asking for the library’s data line. While everything in the data line can be readily calculated from 2009 IMLS reports, there are more derivative figures and it’s easier to just get the bunch.

Here’s what Fourbuck would get back from me (collapsed into a few lines instead of one line per label-data pair):

St: NY Key: NY999X LSA: 10,768 Exp: $280,057 Vis: 48,019
Ref: 3,590 Circ: 94,886 ILL: 23,625 Attend: 2,922 PC: 5
PCUse: 6,189 $/Cap: $26.01 Ben/Cap: $140.21
Hrs: 2,559 PC: 5 Circ/c: 8.81 BenR: 5.39 Att/c: 0.27
PC/c 0.57 Ref/c: 0.33 Vis/c: 4.46 Circ/hr: 37.1 Vis/hr: 18.8

I’ve omitted most of the derived benefit amounts and partial benefit ratios, added two new derived figures (circulation per hour and visits per hour), and moved things around—mostly so the last 10 data elements appear in the same order as they do in tables.

After a revised Chapter 1, the book would consist of two very long chapters (and possibly shorter commentary chapters). The first of the two chapters would discuss libraries by size (legal service area), using expenses per capita as a secondary axis. The second would discuss libraries by state, using size as a secondary axis. (Should the secondary axis, that is, the rows for each table, be ten size categories or 18? Advice?) I’ll just step through the portion of the possible Chapter 2 that’s relevant to Fourbuck.

2. Libraries by Size

Instead of the ten size categories used by HAPLR or the eleven used in other sources, both of which yield widely different numbers of libraries per section and tend to overemphasize the few hundred very large library systems, this study would use size brackets chosen based on the actual data, designed to have roughly 500 libraries in each bracket.

For 2009 data, given the exclusions I’ve already made, that means 18 size brackets, with none having fewer than 493 or more than 506 libraries. (For the number-minded among you, that’s 500 plus or minus 7.) A real-world equal-size breakdown necessarily emphasizes smaller libraries, since most US public libraries are small. So, for example, the Fourbuck library, with an LSA of 10,768, is in the 10th of 18 brackets (starting from the smallest), a bracket including 505 libraries serving 8,700 to 11,199 people.

The secondary axis, operating expenditures per capita ($ per cap), appears to work well with ten divisions. Given 2009 data, those divisions are the ones used in the preliminary edition (e.g., $82 and up, $61 to $81.99, etc.).

This methodology should mean that a typical row of data in a table (except the richest one) should cover roughly 50 libraries, although that number will vary widely (in the example shown here, it varies from 41 to 60).

So far, here’s what I think would appear in each of 18 sections of the new Chapter 2, subject to feedback, refinement, addition of commentary and possible addition of correlations and graphs if they appear to add something. There are six tables (the chapter would begin with six tables covering all libraries). Except for the first, which shows the number of libraries and percentage for each dollar bracket, each table shows two metrics—and shows not only the median library but the 75%ile (that is, bottom of top quarter) and 25%ile (top of bottom quarter). Let’s step through the actual tables that are relevant to Fourbuck and see what we find.

$ per cap

Count

%

$82+

34

7%

$61-$81

47

9%

$46-$60

41

8%

$38-$45

60

12%

$32-$37

55

11%

$27-$31

56

11%

$22-$26

45

9%

$17-$21

60

12%

$12-$16

57

11%

$5-$11

50

10%

Overall

505

Table X.1 Expenditure distribution of libraries serving 8,700 to 11,199 people

Table X.1 is the only table showing number of libraries. Fourbuck notes that it’s in one of the smaller groups—and also, significantly, that 58% of libraries in this size group have better funding. (Should there be a cumulative % column here to make that calculation trivial?)

$ per cap

Hours

Personal Computers

25%

Med

75%

25%

Med

75%

$82+

2,912

3,151

3,536

14

19

27

$61-$81

2,626

2,812

3,276

10

14

19

$46-$60

2,743

2,968

3,276

7

13

19

$38-$45

2,444

2,721

2,970

7

10

17

$32-$37

2,488

2,717

2,964

8

19

14

$27-$31

2,366

2,756

3,120

7

12

14

$22-$26

2,080

2,496

2,912

6

8

13

$17-$21

2,028

2,285

2,600

6

8

11

$12-$16

2,040

2,288

2,601

7

10

14

$5-$11

1,848

2,167

2,382

5

7

10

Overall

2,236

2,678

3,000

7

10

15

Tabke X.2 Hours and personal computers in libraries serving 8,700 to 11,199 people

Fourbuck is open just slightly longer than most libraries with its funding level—but it’s not in the top quartile. More to the point, libraries with better funding are open a lot more hours, which almost automatically means more service to the community. Adding another two or three hours per week would put Fourbuck at the median point for libraries of this size, but more would be better.

And look at the other metric! Fourbuck is really short of internet-connected personal computers for public use: Just half of the median for all libraries of its size and in the bottom quarter of libraries even with its mediocre funding. Even most libraries on starvation diets ($5-$11) have more PCs.

$ per cap

Circulation/cap

Benefit Ratio

25%

Med

75%

25%

Med

75%

$82+

12.9

19.6

24.7

2.4

2.8

3.5

$61-$81

9.5

13.4

18.6

2.6

4.0

4.6

$46-$60

7.7

10.0

14.6

2.8

3.7

4.8

$38-$45

7.0

9.2

11.4

3.4

4.1

5.3

$32-$37

6.0

7.4

9.5

3.6

4.5

5.3

$27-$31

4.7

6.3

8.9

3.5

4.7

5.3

$22-$26

4.6

6.0

7.7

3.6

4.6

5.8

$17-$21

3.9

5.1

6.8

4.4

5.3

6.7

$12-$16

2.5

3.5

4.7

4.3

5.4

6.9

$5-$11

1.8

2.6

3.6

4.8

6.3

8.4

Overall

4.2

6.9

10.5

3.5

4.6

5.7

Table X.3 Circulation per capita and benefit ratios for libraries serving 8,700 to 11,199 people

This is one of those tables that speaks to better funding fairly directly—look at the pattern of median circulation per capita as funding changes. Fourbuck’s actually in reasonable shape: Better than median for all libraries its size and well into the top quarter for libraries with its funding. Bump that funding up a little and it would still be nearly in the top quarter—but it would probably do better with more hours. (Ten circulations per capita’s a good starting target, and it’s not out of reach.)

The benefit ratio for Fourbuck is above average for its mediocre funding but not in the top quarter—but benefit ratio is one place where you really don’t want to be at the top. Note that the median for the whole size group rounds to 5.

$ per cap

Attendance/cap

PC use/cap

25%

Med

75%

25%

Med

75%

$82+

0.6

1.0

1.5

1.5

2.7

4.1

$61-$81

0.4

0.6

0.8

0.9

2.0

2.7

$46-$60

0.3

0.5

0.7

1.0

1.6

2.5

$38-$45

0.3

0.4

0.6

0.9

1.4

1.8

$32-$37

0.2

0.4

0.5

0.9

1.3

2.1

$27-$31

0.2

0.3

0.4

0.8

1.2

1.8

$22-$26

0.1

0.3

0.4

0.6

1.0

1.5

$17-$21

0.2

0.2

0.4

0.5

0.8

1.1

$12-$16

0.1

0.2

0.2

0.4

0.7

0.9

$5-$11

0.1

0.1

0.2

0.4

0.6

1.0

Overall

0.2

0.3

0.6

0.6

1.1

1.8

Table X.4 Attendance and PC use per capita for libraries serving 8,700 to 11,199 people

More money, more and better programs, more program attendance—although few of the libraries in this size category, even the well-funded ones, do really well on this metric. At 0.27, rounded to 0.3, Fourbuck’s just about average for program attendance, but could do a lot better. (Should this—and some other metrics—show two decimal places?)

As for PC use—well, when the PCs aren’t there, it’s hard for them to be used heavily. Fourbuck’s in the bottom quarter even for its funding level, barely half of the median level.

$ per cap

Reference/cap

Visits/cap

25%

Med

75%

25%

Med

75%

$82+

0.6

1.4

2.2

9.9

13.8

18.3

$61-$81

0.5

0.7

1.4

6.7

10.1

12.5

$46-$60

0.2

0.7

1.0

4.9

6.9

10.2

$38-$45

0.3

0.6

0.9

5.5

6.9

9.0

$32-$37

0.4

0.7

1.0

4.7

6.4

8.7

$27-$31

0.2

0.4

0.7

3.8

4.9

7.5

$22-$26

0.2

0.3

0.6

3.1

3.8

5.7

$17-$21

0.2

0.4

0.7

2.8

3.9

5.2

$12-$16

0.1

0.2

0.6

1.8

2.6

4.3

$5-$11

0.1

0.3

0.7

1.4

2.0

2.7

Overall

0.2

0.5

0.9

3.1

5.4

8.2

Table X.5 Reference questions and visits per capita for libraries serving 8,700 to 11,199 people

Here, Fourbucks is in reasonably good shape for its funding level, and reference is one area where the numbers are tricky. Fourbucks is roughly average for its funding (but below average for its size) on reference, above average for its funding (but below average for its size) on visits per capita. You already know the refrain: Longer hours, more programs, more PCs, probably more money for fresher materials, and visits will go up along with circulation.

$ per cap

Circulation/hour

Visits/hour

25%

Med

75%

25%

Med

75%

$82+

38.5

57.4

87.0

31.9

38.2

57.4

$61-$81

30.3

47.6

55.4

20.8

29.5

43.1

$46-$60

23.2

34.6

51.0

16.6

21.1

35.8

$38-$45

26.0

32.3

41.1

18.8

24.4

31.9

$32-$37

21.6

25.8

36.0

16.4

25.2

31.5

$27-$31

16.6

24.5

33.6

13.2

18.9

25.8

$22-$26

17.5

24.0

28.2

10.1

15.2

22.4

$17-$21

17.0

21.0

28.9

10.9

16.4

22.8

$12-$16

10.0

14.2

21.9

7.8

12.0

19.4

$5-$11

8.5

11.8

16.6

7.3

9.7

12.3

Overall

16.6

25.8

37.0

11.8

20.3

29.5

Table X.6 Circulation and visits per hour for libraries serving 8,700 to 11,199 people

These new metrics are interesting, as you might expect them to vary less dramatically than circulation and visits per capita. That’s true—but there are still substantial variations. Circulation per capita for the median library in each funding group varies by a ratio of 7.5 to one (and the wealthiest libraries have 2.8 times the circulation per capita of the group as a whole), while the ratio is 4.9 to one for circulation per hour (and 2.2 to one for the wealthiest compared to the group as a whole). Well-funded libraries attract more usage per hour, in addition to being open longer hours. Similarly for visits per hour: The ratio of best-funded median to worst-funded median is 2.6 to one, where it’s 6.9 to one for visits per capita.

That’s the set. I haven’t included correlations or graphs, and it’s not clear how many decimal places should appear. I’m also not sure whether there are other metrics that really should be included, such as benefit per capita. Remember that this set of tables (and similar state-by-state tables, but arranged by size rather than funding) would replace the other tables, not add to them.

Would this set of tables be more useful to Fourbuck and other libraries in arguing for better funding? Your feedback is needed. Does the project as a whole make sense? Again, your feedback is needed. If you’ve purchased the book, please respond to the survey. In any case, your feedback to mailto:waltcrawford@gmail.com is welcome.

Give Us a Dollar: Case Study—Part 3

Posted in C&I Books, Libraries on June 13th, 2012

This continues the story of Fourbuck Public Library in New York and how it might use Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four. Part 1 appeared Monday, June 11; Part 2 appeared Tuesday, June 12, 2012.

6. Benefit Ratios

Fourbuck is one of 1,299 libraries with benefit ratios between 5.00 and 5.99; that group, 15% of the libraries considered in the book, serves 12% of the people. Fourbuck doesn’t meet any of the suggested robust criteria for library usage—ten circulations per capita, one program attendance per capita, one reference transaction, five visits and two PC uses—but it’s close on circulation. (On the other hand, half of the libraries in this group manage five visits per capita.)

LSA

Count

Circ/c

Att/c

Ref/c

Vis/c

PC/c

0

117

7.3

0.4

0.4

5.7

1.6

1

244

6.8

0.5

0.4

5.0

1.2

2

208

6.5

0.3

0.4

4.8

1.2

5

238

6.9

0.3

0.4

4.8

1.0

10

247

6.9

0.3

0.5

5.1

0.9

25

119

8.3

0.3

0.6

5.2

0.9

50

51

5.5

0.2

0.5

4.0

0.9

100

47

5.1

0.2

0.6

3.9

1.0

250

28

8.7

0.2

1.0

5.8

1.1

Overall

1,299

6.9

0.3

0.5

5.0

1.1

Table 6.18 Median per capita metrics by size of library

Fourbuck’s still a bit above the median for circulation for this size library, below on all other service metrics.

$ per cap

Count

Circ/c

Att/c

Ref/c

Vis/c

PC/c

$82+

25

25.7

1.4

1.9

19.3

5.4

$61-$81

60

20.3

0.9

1.2

12.3

2.9

$46-$60

117

15.5

0.7

0.8

8.9

2.0

$38-$45

138

11.8

0.5

0.7

7.7

1.5

$32-$37

148

8.7

0.4

0.6

6.2

1.4

$27-$31

166

8.4

0.4

0.5

5.4

1.1

$22-$26

176

6.4

0.3

0.5

4.6

1.0

$17-$21

166

5.2

0.2

0.4

3.9

0.9

$12-$16

173

3.7

0.2

0.3

2.9

0.7

$5-$11

130

2.1

0.1

0.2

1.6

0.5

Table 6.19 Median per capita metrics by expenses per capita

And looking at per capita expenditures rather than size, still in the 5.00 to 5.99 benefit ratio area, nothing much changes—although now visits per capita are barely below the median

Summing Up

Appendix A shows something mildly interesting: For libraries with $140 to $164.99 benefit per capita—Fourbuck being at the bottom of that range—serving 10,000 to 24,999 people (Fourbuck again being near the smallest), the median per capita circulation is 8.77, nearly identical to Fourbuck’s 8.81.

Fourbuck could use better funding—to stay open longer hours, to add more computers, to add more and better programs, and probably to improve the collection (although the level of circulation is already decent). The library could also almost certainly use funding for less countable improvements: job center, teen area, adult literacy programs, micropublishing support, maybe even a makerspace.

Based on the data in this book, there’s strong reason to believe that better funding will yield nearly proportional better benefits. Oh, the benefit ratio might drop into the $4-$4.99 category, but that might be a good thing—the library’s clearly an excellent steward of public funds.

Will using this book help Fourbuck make its case? Would better measures (more median per-library metrics and fewer totals, for example) make it more useful?

I hope and believe the answer to the first is yes. If it is, then I’m nearly certain the answer to the second is also yes—and that’s where I’m hoping to get help from readers.

But Wait! There’s More!

In the process of preparing this case study, I concluded that a radically different approach might (or might not!) serve libraries better.

Part 4 of this post—much longer than any of the first three parts, I’m afraid—spells out that approach. It will appear Thursday, June 14, 2012.

Give Us a Dollar: A Case Study—Part 2

Posted in C&I Books, Libraries on June 12th, 2012

This continues the case study of Fourbuck Public Library, a mythical New York library based on the average of two real New York libraries serving slightly fewer than 11,000 people, and how it could use Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four. You’ll find Part 1 here.

3. Library Budget Breakdowns

At $280K, Fourbuck’s total operating expenses are in the middle of the sixth (of ten) budget divisions (based on roughly equal portions of libraries), in the $250,000 to $439,000 range along with 979 other libraries. How does Fourbuck compare with other libraries with comparable budgets?

Dollars

per cap

Library

Count

Median figures

Circ/cap

Att/cap

Ben/cap

BenR

$5-$11

80

2.40

0.11

$49.06

5.87

$12-$16

96

3.88

0.19

$73.84

5.16

$17-$21

101

5.55

0.26

$101.75

5.31

$22-$26

111

5.66

0.31

$112.99

4.64

$27-$31

114

7.50

0.32

$135.91

4.65

$32-$37

128

7.78

0.44

$153.33

4.46

$38-$45

125

9.47

0.45

$171.84

4.29

$46-$60

103

11.51

0.62

$204.40

4.06

$61-$81

64

12.14

0.76

$242.11

3.50

$82+

58

21.17

1.14

$404.63

3.62

Overall

980

7.22

0.35

$141.57

4.51

Table 3.18 Median per capita benefit figures

Let’s see. There are 111 libraries with comparable expenditures per capita. Once again, it’s higher than the median for circulation—but below the median for program attendance. Total benefits continue to be on the high side, with a benefit ratio considerably higher than the median for this group ($4.64). Here, however, the correlation between expenditures and benefits is even higher: 0.78.

Ah, but there’s another table here to see how Fourbuck compares to other similarly funded libraries for overall activity:

Dollars

per cap

Library

Count

Median figures

Hours

Visits

Refer

PCUse

$5-$11

80

2,951

72,978

6,620

17,779

$12-$16

96

2,668

68,142

6,401

13,695

$17-$21

101

2,600

73,394

6,312

14,424

$22-$26

111

2,808

73,694

5,939

13,344

$27-$31

114

2,730

62,272

5,030

12,422

$32-$37

128

2,704

58,819

5,227

13,096

$38-$45

125

2,678

56,990

3,900

10,620

$46-$60

103

2,704

52,388

4,000

10,231

$61-$81

64

2,600

43,056

3,498

9,325

$82+

58

2,486

49,161

3,567

9,516

Overall

980

2,702

60,703

5,201

12,433

Table 3.19 Additional median benefit figures, not per capita

At 2,559 hours (basically 49 hours per week), Fourbuck is open fewer hours than most libraries with this level of funding (2,808 or, basically, 54 hours per week): Right there is a strong case for additional funding that would almost certainly increase community value, especially if the hours added are on weekends and evenings. Fourbuck is well below the median for visits and reference use, and not even half the median PC use: Does it need more public access computers as well as longer hours?

4. Expenditures Per Capita

Let’s dig into that $22 to $26.99 group, a group with 954 libraries in all (it’s not quite the largest group: That’s $17 to $21.99 with 955 libraries).

LSA

Count

Circ/c

Att/c

Vis/c

PC/c

BenR

0

70

5.6

0.3

4.5

1.5

8.0

1

201

6.5

0.3

4.7

1.2

6.9

2

154

6.3

0.3

4.7

1.1

5.9

5

148

6.5

0.3

4.5

1.1

5.4

10

166

5.5

0.3

4.8

1.0

4.5

25

94

5.8

0.3

4.5

1.0

4.1

50

55

5.9

0.2

4.2

0.9

4.3

100

47

5.7

0.2

3.6

0.8

3.9

250

19

5.9

0.2

4.4

0.9

4.5

Overall

954

6.1

0.3

4.5

1.0

5.3

Table 4.15 Median figures for libraries spending $22 to $26.99 per capita

As before, Fourbuck’s circulation is pretty good and program attendance is below average. Visits per capita are just slightly below average for this size library and class of funding (which I characterize as the best of the “mediocre funding” categories). But look at personal computing uses per capita: the median’s 1.0 and Fourbuck runs just over half that at 0.57. This basically confirms what we’ve already seen, slicing the libraries slightly differently.

5. State by State

This longest chapter, roughly half the book, breaks down the libraries within a state in four different tables. The first table shows that Fourbuck is one of 142 libraries in its size category (out of 740 New York libraries considered in the book).

As I discuss this, I now see that the first two tables would be more valuable with median figures rather than total figures for each metric. It’s easy enough to determine the averages, of course. Since Fourbuck is one of the smallest libraries in the size bracket, it’s hardly surprising that circulation is only two-thirds of average, and consistent with earlier chapters that program attendance is less than one-third of average.

$ per cap

Count

LSA

Circ/c

PC/c

Ben/c

BenR

$82+

148

2,673,091

14.0

2.0

$292

1.0

$61-$81

80

4,578,949

12.3

1.4

$247

3.5

$46-$60

71

3,153,121

11.8

1.8

$257

4.9

$38-$45

64

3,337,767

11.1

1.2

$209

5.3

$32-$37

55

664,884

8.8

1.2

$192

5.4

$27-$31

73

1,769,663

7.3

1.1

$157

5.4

$22-$26

74

1,128,115

6.4

0.9

$134

5.6

$17-$21

65

646,033

4.9

0.7

$120

6.2

$12-$16

70

654,427

3.9

0.6

$93

6.5

$5-$11

40

449,244

2.4

0.5

$71

7.3

Overall

740

19,055,294

8.3

1.1

$172

5.1

Table 5.134 New York median per capita metrics by expenditures per capita

Compared to all 74 New York libraries with $22 to $26.99 per capita funding, circulation is on the high side and PC usage is on the low side, with overall benefits just a little above the median and benefit ratio just a little below. Could Fourbuck offer better programs, longer hours, a fresher collection, more PCs and—don’t forget—the high-value services that don’t show up on this simplistic analysis if it had, say, $37 per capita funding (an extra $117,000, roughly)? Based on everything else in this book, it’s fair to suggest that Fourbuck would still give the community at least $4 in benefits for every $1 in expenditures—and probably $5, given the New York picture.

To be continued in Part 3 (Wednesday, June 13, 2012) and Part 4 (Thursday, June 14, 2012)

Give Us A Dollar: Case Study—Part 1

Posted in C&I Books, Libraries on June 11th, 2012

Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four should be useful for almost any public library, especially those in the middle—that is, not quite starving for funds but without really good funding. I call it the Middle 6,000—6,492: public libraries with at least $12 per capita funding but less than $61 per capita. (Not that I don’t believe libraries below or above that point could find the book worthwhile, but I believe it’s most relevant in the middle.)

Let’s take a plausible but fictitious public library as an example and see what the director or staff could gain from the book. While this particular public library doesn’t exist, its profile was created by averaging two New York public libraries with very similar legal service area populations (LSA). By the way, if you’re one of the few who’s purchased the book, I propose a significantly different approach for the 2010-data version: Read through to the last portion of the essay, headed “Deeper and Different?”

Fourbuck Public Library (henceforth Fourbuck) is in New York, a largish small library that’s serving Fourbuck well but could probably do more with better funding. The director sends me email after buying the book and gets back something like this as part of a reply email shortly thereafter (each label/value pair would be on a separate line, separated by a tab rather than colon-blank):

St: NY Key: NY999X LSA: 10,768 Exp: $280,057 Hrs: 2,559
Vis: 48,019 Ref: 3,590 Circ: 94,886 ILL: 23,625 Attend: 2,922 PC: 5 PCUse: 6,189
$/Cap: $26.01 Ben/Cap: $140.21 BenR: 5.39
Circ/c: 8.81 Att/c: 0.27 Ref/c: 0.33 Vis/c: 4.46 PC/c: 0.57
Hr$: $153,540 Vis$: $240,095 Ref$: $53,850 Circ$: $983,641 Att$: $29,220
PC1$: $34,035 PCU$: $49,512 PC$: $49,512
DirBen: $1,116,223 ImpBen: $393,545 Ben: $1,509,768 DirR: 3.99 ImpR: 1.41

The labels are all spelled out in Chapter 1of the book, although not quite in that order. For most libraries, the first four lines will be directly useful (and are the elements used in the book); the last three lines are derived supporting values for the Ben/Cap and BenR. (If the book takes off, with more than 50 or so copies sold and a request coming in every day or two, I might add a third column of spelled-out labels.)

Here are the spelled-out labels for the first four lines and the values for Fourbuck: State (New York); Key (NY999X); Legal Service Area population (10,768); Total operating expenses ($280,057); Hours (2,559); Visits (48,019); Reference questions (3,590); Circulation (94,886); ILL (from and to combined) 23,625; Program attendance (2,922); available internet-connected public computers (5); counted PC uses (6,189); expenses per capita ($26.01); benefits per capita ($140.21), benefit ratio (5.39).

By the time you (the director) are through the first chapter, you’ll already know that Fourbuck gets more bang per buck than most libraries, with a 5.39 benefit ratio. That may be too high (especially in a high-cost state)—it may be a sign that Fourbuck is underfunded (and, at $26.01 per capita, it’s certainly not swimming in money).

What can you find from other chapters in terms of where you stand relative to other, similar libraries?

2. Library Size Breakdowns

Fourbuck is at the bottom edge of the LSA category with the most libraries: 10,000 to 24,999, with 1,713 libraries among the 8,506 discussed in the book (and another 47 among the outliers). Given that Fourbuck is on the cusp, you might want to look at the section on libraries serving 5,000 to 9,999 libraries as well, but for the moment let’s stick to the primary category.

Dollars

per cap

Library

Count

Median figures

Circ/cap

Att/cap

Ben/cap

BenR

$5-$11

185

2.74

0.12

$56.53

6.36

$12-$16

196

3.97

0.18

$76.97

5.39

$17-$21

174

5.08

0.26

$97.72

5.11

$22-$26

166

5.54

0.31

$108.45

4.48

$27-$31

165

7.81

0.30

$134.56

4.59

$32-$37

178

8.09

0.38

$146.78

4.20

$38-$45

189

9.52

0.38

$162.43

3.82

$46-$60

195

10.54

0.47

$182.76

3.53

$61-$81

138

12.78

0.53

$234.39

3.31

$82+

127

16.51

0.84

$296.69

2.40

Overall

1,713

7.18

0.32

$132.37

4.32

Table 2.11 Selected per-capita metrics by expenditures per capita

Fourbuck is one of the 166 libraries with $22 to $26.99 per capita funding. Among those libraries, Fourbuck has substantially higher than median circulation (8.81 compared to 5.54), but it’s a little low on program attendance (0.27 compared to 0.31). Looking at the rest of the table, there’s strong evidence that Fourbuck would continue to offer excellent value if it had a dime a day funding ($36.50 per capita) or even more (a buck a week?)—and your circulation and benefits are both close to the dime-a-day level. (There’s a very high 0.71 correlation between expenditures and benefits for libraries in this size bracket: That is, the more you spend, the more you benefit the community.)

You’re in the top third of libraries in this size category for benefit ratio—Table 2.12 shows that 5.00 to 5.99 includes 14% of the libraries for a cumulative total of 36% scoring 5 or higher. Would more funding for more hours and an expanded set of programs make your library more central to the community while retaining excellent use of money? There’s a case…

To be continued: Part 2 (Tuesday, June 12, 2012), Part 3 (Wednesday, June 13, 2012) and Part 4 (Thursday, June 14, 2012).

Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four

Posted in Books and publishing, C&I Books, Libraries on June 4th, 2012

That’s the title of the preliminary edition of my “benefits ratio” study of American public libraries, as discussed in earlier posts. (Those four links are in reverse chronological order; if you want to read the posts and comments from oldest to newest, start with “posts” and work back to “discussed.”)

The 193-page 6×9″ paperback is $49.50, but at least from now through the end of the ALA Annual Conference, it’s discounted 30% to $34.65. (If sales continue at the rate of five a week or more, I’ll retain the discount.)

If you prefer, you can buy a PDF version for $29.50 (and save shipping); that version will go up to $39.50 when the paperback discount goes away. (Lulu doesn’t offer a way to discount an ebook.)

I’m specifically looking for feedback–the book includes the URL for a page that links to a survey, and explicitly invites email feedback no matter how negative it might be. I believe this book–at least in later, refined versions–can be useful for public libraries, but I’m not a public librarian. If I’m wrong–if there’s general agreement that the book is either useless or damaging–it will go away. If people do find it valuable, at least as a concept, I’ll use feedback to produce a more refined version using 2010 data (after IMLS makes that data available).

The earlier posts describe the project fairly well, so I won’t repeat the description here.

Review Copies

I can make a limited number of review copies–PDF only, but since it’s a 6×9 book it should work well on most e-readers–available on request directly to me (waltcrawford at gmail.com) on the following basis:

1. If you ask for a review copy, you’re committing to writing an online review of some sort (on your own blog, on some other website, to a list) and either sending me a copy or a link. (I say “online” because this is a preliminary edition: It should be replaced or defunct before print reviews are likely.) At the very least, I’d expect you to complete the survey, send me direct feedback or both. [A review could be as brief as “What a waste of time” or could include pages of suggestions on how to make a possibly-good idea better.]

2. I do not care whether the review is positive, mixed, negative or slashingly negative. Period. If you’re a friend, what you say in the review will not damage that friendship. Period. I’m looking for honest feedback. I’m willing to believe that this just isn’t a good idea. (I’m absolutely certain that the preliminary version could use a lot of improvement!)

3. I reserve the right to stop sending out review copies at a certain point. Right now, I’m thinking half a dozen, but that could grow to a dozen.

Closing Notes

If you look at the preview, you’ll see that the cover is bland. I used one of Lulu’s canned cover designs (a bit less striking than the one for Library 2.0: A Cites & Insights Reader, also a canned design).

That’s because this is a preliminary edition. If there’s a “real” edition down the road, it will have a slightly nicer cover. Probably.

I’m also not adding this book to the C&I Books section at the foot of this blog page, again because this is a preliminary edition–one that may disappear as early as August 1, 2012, depending on feedback and sales.


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