Archive for October 3rd, 2012

Busyness in public libraries

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

Here’s the final post offering commentary based on Chapter 2 of Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-13)*, before we move on to library-size chapters (and, eventually, libraries by state).

Two metrics measure busyness–how busy a public library is. That’s different from the total number of transactions or even the transactions per capita; it relates to the number of open hours (for all outlets) and overall transactions.

Circulation and visits per capita show how heavily a library system is used. Circulation and visits per open hour show how busy a library system is—and how busy its outlets are. At one extreme, one out of ten libraries and library systems does booming business, averaging at least 110 circulations per hour (for a four-branch system, that means 440 circulations per hour). At the other, 15% of the libraries and systems average fewer than six circulations per hour or one every ten minutes. The median is 22.8, a little more than one circulation every three minutes. The correlation between expenses and circulations per hour is inconsistent, although the median is under $27 for libraries circulating fewer than 20 items per hour and over $30 for all those circulating more than 20 items.

The budget table for circulation per hour is all over the place, and since poorly-funded libraries are likely to be open fewer hours, that’s not too surprising. Although the median does rise with each higher funding bracket, the 75%ile for the lowest bracket ($5-$11.99) is higher than the median for the fourth highest bracket ($36-$42.99).

As for visits per hour, I’m not sure how much there is to say. The median overall is 14.87, that is, one patron every four minutes. But the 75%ile is 37.32: that is, one out of four libraries has more than a visit every two minutes. And, sigh, the 25%ile is 6.6: one out of four libraries has only about one visitor every nine minutes.

*That link is to the $21.95 trade paperback. The book is also available as an $11.99 PDF (no DRM) and a $31.50 hardbound (casewrap).

And don’t forget: Through the end of Friday, October 5, 2012, there’s a sale. For US customers, use the coupon code PLUMA to save 20% on your order (one order, but as many books as you want); for other customers, go to the Lulu home page and check the coupon code.