Archive for October, 2012

Fair use: a pseudo-post

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

I feel as though I should say something about the promising trends in fair use, especially after the decision in Deluded Author Organization Versus Hathi Trust–oh, wait, that’s not the actual name of the trial. Make that Authors Guild vs. HathiTrust. Which follows the decision in the Georgia State case (not quite as clear-cut) and the non-decision in the AAP vs. Google Books suit. All in all, “promising trends” seems like the right summary.

But I’m not a great current-affairs writer. When I attempted to do a current summary of an interesting situation as it was happening, a while back, the response made it clear that people don’t look to me or to Cites & Insights for of-the-moment coverage. Or at least didn’t. And, as neither a lawyer nor a copyright expert nor a librarian, I don’t really have standing to provide lots of personal pronunciamentos on what’s happening here.

So I’ll just say: It’s looking good. I’m tagging items. I already did fair use pieces in the June and July issues of C&I, and I’ll probably do one in a couple of (or a few) months. Maybe after Authors Guild gives up on the Google Books suit (assuming the organization of a few authors has the good sense to stop shoveling good money after bad, an assumption I’m not quite willing to make)?

Meanwhile, here’s a totally inadequate partial set of links on the HathiTrust situation, including only items since the decision was handed down (although I have a bunch more tagged, going back to April 2011 and maybe earlier)–which comes down to yesterday and today:

Those are in the order I encountered them (hat-tips to various folk). I suppose the recommended reading order is probably James Grimmelmann first for an authoritative summary, then Smith, Sims, Loon, Crews, and the rest–and the order itself if you’re so inclined. Read all that, and you’ll be more up to date than I am (I’ve tagged them, but not necessarily read them all).

PS (added later on Thursday): I don’t currently plan to keep updating this list as the comments and articles flow in…


Libraries Serving 105,000 Plus

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

As promised, this run of commentary on Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-13) is alternating between the ends: October 8, 2012 discussed libraries serving the fewest patrons, this installment discusses libraries (mostly systems) serving the largest; the next of this set will discuss libraries serving second fewest, etc.

The 513 libraries in these tables (one extremely large library system was omitted for failing to report adequately) are, of course, quite diverse, and most of them are systems rather than single libraries. Relatively few are very well funded; relatively few are very poorly funded.

Have your (or your library) purchased your copy of the book yet? It’s only $11.99 as a PDF (no DRM), $21.95 as a paperback or $31.50 as a casebound hardcover book. I believe most public libraries would find it useful to help tell your story to maintain or improve funding, and I believe many librarians (and library schools) will find it valuable as a close-up look of public library funding and performance in FY2010. These commentaries make a lot more sense when used in conjunction with the book, which is mostly tables.

Open hours

Three-quarters of these libraries and systems are open at least 10,000 hours a year and all but 6% are open at least 4,000 hours. Astonishingly, two libraries are open 1,500 to 1,820 hours—and two others are open less than 1,040 hours a year (that is, 20 hours a week to cover at least 105,000 patrons).

Given that most of these libraries are in the largest benchmark bracket, the budget table is useful for additional detail. The numbers don’t rise entirely smoothly (once again, libraries spending $31 to $35.99 seem to be overachievers, with a median of 24,897 open hours, the highest median of any spending bracket), but for libraries spending at least $31 per capita, more than half the libraries are open at least 21,800 hours a year (419 hours a week divided among outlets)—and one-quarter are open at least 35,420 hours (681 hours per week).

Computers for patron use with internet access

You’d expect most of these large library systems to have lots of computers—and they do. Nearly two-thirds have 100 or more, and 95% have at least 40. (Still, three of these large libraries and systems have fewer than four available personal computers, although none has four to 12).

The overall median is 140 computers, with one-quarter of the libraries having 257 or more—and this time, the median does rise consistently with improved spending. Half of the worst funded libraries have 59 computers or fewer; half of the best funded have 240 or more. For the top three funding brackets ($43 and up per capita), one-quarter of the libraries have at least 400 computers available for public use.

Circulation per capita

Low at the higher end—with only 16% of the libraries circulating at least 13 items per capita, compared to 25% overall—and high in the lower, but not lowest, categories: 42% of the libraries circulate two to 5.99 items per capita, compared to 31% for libraries in general. Expenditures per capita do track consistently with circulation, and—excluding the top and bottom brackets—the benefit ratio range is fairly small, from 4.15 to 5.05.

Looking at circ from a budget perspective, half of the libraries in the top two spending brackets circulate at least 14 items per capita, and median circulation does track with spending.

Reference transactions per capita

Here, the largest libraries track high, with 42% having at least 0.9 reference transactions per capita (compared to 29% overall) and 82% having at least 0.35 (compared to 62% overall). Only 20 libraries, 4%, fall into the two lowest brackets, compared with 18% overall. Expenditures track reference transactions consistently, from $11.93 as the median for the four libraries averaging less than one transaction per 20 patrons to $50.27 for the 57 libraries averaging two or more transactions per patron.

The median for libraries this size is 0.74, nearly 50% higher than the national median of 0.52—and half of the libraries spending at least $36 per capita have at least one reference transaction per capita (including three-quarters of libraries spending at least $53).

Program attendance per capita

None of these libraries and systems was able to attract 1.1 or more attendance per capita and only nine managed to reach 0.7 to 1.09. (Nationally, 21% of libraries are in those top two brackets.) Most libraries—54%—fall between 0.11 and 0.29 attendance per capita. Expenditures do track consistently with program attendance on the benchmark side, a bit less so on the budget side. Even for the best-funded libraries, only half managed more than 0.4 attendance per capita and only one-quarter managed at least 0.57. The median is 0.21, roughly one program attendance for each five patrons, less than two-thirds of the median for all libraries.

Patron visits per capita

These numbers also tend low, with only 15% of libraries having at least seven visits per capita (compared to 33% overall). There’s consistent tracking between expenditures and visits; for the three libraries in the highest bracket (13 or more visits per capita), median funding is $103 per capita. On the budget side, expenditures track consistently with median visits, from 2.34 for the most poorly funded libraries to 8.21 for the best funded.

Computers per thousand patrons

Although most of these libraries and systems have lots of computers, they also have lots of patrons. No library falls into the top two brackets and only 8% have at least 1.2 computers per thousand (compared to 54% for libraries of all sizes). Two-thirds of the libraries have less than 0.8 computers per thousand patrons. I would say expenditures track smoothly with computers per thousand patrons, but there’s one exception: The two libraries with two to 2.99 computers per thousand patrons have a median spending level of $41.12, considerably below the next lower brackets.

Circulation and patron visits per hour

Four out of ten of these large libraries circulate at least 110 items per hour across all outlets, and 93% circulate at least 320. Four libraries are quiet, circulating fewer than 14 items an hour (with one circulating fewer than 10). Looking at the budget side, you don’t see the astonishing numbers of some slightly smaller libraries: The highest median is 152.23 circs per hour or roughly 2.5 per minute, and only one 75%ile (for the best-funded libraries) exceeds 200 circs per hour.

Nearly three-quarters of the libraries have 45 or more patron visits per hour, and 96% have at least 20; there are some lightly visited libraries, but not many.

Review of two books on open access worth reading

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

A short item to call your attention to Joe Kraus’s post reviewing my book on Open Access and Peter Suber’s more recent book on the same topic. The post is worth reading (as are, I believe, both books).

Libraries serving fewer than 700 people

Monday, October 8th, 2012

More commentary on Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-13), moving from overall comments to comments on libraries within a specific size range. Since I suspect most readers here (who work in public libraries) are from the largest groups of libraries, but also believe it’s important to treat smaller libraries with equal respect, I’ll alternate over the next few weeks: this time the smallest, next time the largest, next time the second-smallest, and so on…

These are 501 libraries serving very small communities with at least 10 hours per week of a librarian and at least $5 per capita in funding. Another 172 libraries serving fewer than 700 patrons (but not meeting the other criteria or spending $400 or more per capita) were omitted.

Expenditures per capita

These are generally fairly well-funded libraries on a per capita basis: nearly half these libraries (48%) spend at least $43 per capita, and more than one in five spend $73 or more. Benefit ratios are consistently high, from 5.4 for the best-funded libraries to an extreme ten or more for the least well-funded.

Open hours

It’s not surprising that none of these libraries is open 4,000 hours or more. Maybe it’s not surprising that nearly two-thirds of them are in the lowest bracket, open 99 to 1,040 hours, with only 6% open at least 35 hours per week. While the benchmark table shows no correlation between expenditures and hours (mostly because libraries are so concentrated in the bottom three hours brackets), the budget table does: Better-funded libraries show higher medians consistently throughout the table, from 588 hours median for the worst-funded libraries to 1,195 or 22 hours per week for the best-funded (the largest group).

Personal computers with internet access

Given the size of these libraries, it’s not surprising that more than half have fewer than four PCs available for patron use—but it may be surprising that 47% do have four or more, including 13% with six or more. (Two libraries have 20 to 39 PCs each, which is a lot of PCs for fewer than 700 patrons!)

Circulation per capita

It’s good news that nearly half of these libraries circulate at least 10 items per capita—and in this case the expense/circulation correlation is clear. Impressively, the top quarter of the best-funded libraries circulate at least 32.6 items per capita.

Program attendance per capita

Nearly half of these libraries (47%) fall into the top two brackets, with more than a quarter having more than 1.1 attendance per capita. Yes, they’re small communities—but that’s still strong programming.

Visits per capita

The largest groups of libraries fall into the most active brackets, with more than half in the top three—another indication that these libraries really are central to their small communities. As with other measures, the ones that are best funded are most central. With one exception, median dollars per capita rises as visits per capita rises, while the benefit ratio generally stays in a small (and high) range.

Looking at the budget table, the median is a high 7.41 visits per capita—and one out of four of these libraries is visited roughly once a month. Here, the correlation between visits and expenses is consistent at the median level, with no exceptions.

PC use per capita

Another set of strong numbers, with just under half the libraries in the top two brackets and 28% of them in the top bracket, 3.5 or more uses per capita.

PCs per thousand patrons

Wow! Nearly three out of four libraries are in the top bracket, with five or more PCs per thousand people, and only nine aren’t in the top five brackets. But that’s a little misleading: With, say, 200 people, a single PC puts you in the top bracket—and the only way to drop below the top five brackets is not to have (or report) any PCs, which is the case for those nine. (Still, the 75%ile figure for the best-funded libraries is an impressive 19.33 PCs per thousand patrons.)

Circulation and visits per hour

None of these libraries is very busy, and that’s not surprising: No library this small circulates 45 or more items an hour or has 30 or more visitors per hour, leaving the top three brackets in both tables empty. In practice, most of these libraries are open enough hours to be fairly quiet: 70% circulate fewer than six items an hour and 63% have fewer than four visitors per hour.

The budget table is revealing because it breaks down those low figures. The overall median is 3.88 circulation and 3.13 visits per hour—and although, in keeping with most figures, the best-funded libraries are the busiest, the median for those spending $73 to $399 per hour is still only 5.34 circs and 4.31 visits.

Thoughts on individual library data

Friday, October 5th, 2012

Yes, this is another post about Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-13) [$21.95 paperback, $11.99 PDF, $31.50 hardbound].

Early in the book, I suggest that librarians ask me for the data elements for their own library:

If you have not already done so, send email to with your library’s name, city, state and zip code. (Only library systems and agencies, not branches.) As soon as I’m available, I’ll send you back a set of data elements as described in Appendix A.

I’ve also set up a Thank You email sent by Lulu when any of the Cites & Insights books (or, for that matter, any of my wife’s family history books) is ordered; that email offers the same suggestion (probably in different words).

Based on experience to date–with the first sales milestone for the book reached, but still very early in its lifespan–I have a couple of thoughts on that request and on individual library data, noting that I deliberately detached library names from library data while working on the book. (And have kept it that way: I haven’t even looked up my own public library’s data. Yet.)

When a librarian sends me a request (you don’t really need the zip code), I go to the Names page of the master spreadsheet, find the library, take the library’s ID code (as assigned by the state library or IMLS), and use that to look up the library’s data line on the Main page. I then copy the data line to a Replied page, paste it (swapping columns to rows to be easier to email) onto a Reply page, and copy-and-paste the data elements and labels into a reply email. I might indulge in an urge to offer a one-line comment, but I’ll try to resist that urge in the future.

Thought One: Not Just for Problems

The first thought comes after sending the data line to a library that, by most accounts, is doing very well: In the top funding category, open good hours (64 hours a week), with most measures in the top two or three brackets. The library’s clearly serving its community well–and a moderately low benefit ratio says to me that the library’s service is more than just numbers, and that the community appreciates it.

So is the book likely to be useful for a well-supported library already doing good work?

Yes, I think (and hope!) it is–both to retain that good funding and as a backdrop for a successful library’s real story. The truth of any library’s worth to its community is a vast, complex set of stories about how its services and existence changes people’s lives for the better. The metrics are just countables: they’re significant, but they’re a backdrop at best.

And, to be sure, the library’s not in the top bracket on most metrics: It’s doing a lot, and probably doing it very well, but it could be doing even more.

Thought Two: Why Haven’t Most Purchasers Requested Data Lines/

So far, less than 10% of book purchases have resulted in requests for individual library data lines. I can think of several reasons for that, all of them entirely plausible–and I’d like to address the one reason that, if it’s ever the case, shouldn’t be. Let’s look at that one first:

1. The librarian doesn’t want to bother me with the request

If you’ve purchased a copy of the book for your library and hope to use it as a tool, and if the reasons below don’t apply, please request your data line. It’s not an imposition; it’s not a bother: It’s part of what I planned when preparing the book. It probably takes me five minutes or less to open your email, note the library name, city and state (sometimes I need all three to uniquely identify a library), open the spreadsheet, find the code, copy the data line, and copy it back into the email. It’s my pleasure and expectation to do so, to make it easier for you to use the book as a tool.

So, if you’ve been reluctant, don’t be. Please.

Oh: and while I might add a sentence (I’ll try to resist!), that’s as far as it goes. Your data goes back to you (although the raw figures are, of course, public information in the IMLS database).

Some other reasons…

2. You haven’t gotten that far with the book yet. (If it’s a print version, it may take a week or so to reach you; if it’s a hardcover, make that two weeks or so.)

Fair enough. When you do, drop me a note. Although, since you should have received the Thank You email, I’d be happy to send you the data line in advance.

3. You’re not buying it for your own public library as a tool

You’re a consultant, or you’re in the state library, or you’re buying it for an academic library, or you’re buying it to explore public library uses, or…

In any of those cases: Great. (If you’re a consultant, I can provide data lines for your clients for a very modest fee–I think I suggested $5 in Paypal support for Cites & Insights for each client beyond the first.) If you’re in a state library, you no doubt already have the state’s relevant data except for the second-level derivative Benefit Ratios.

4, You already have the FY2010 data readily at hand

Perhaps the most likely: Your responses for the FY2010 state or IMLS survey are immediately available, and preparing the derivative metrics used in the book is trivial–and (probably except for the Benefit Ratio, which turns out to be much less central than I originally expected) may already be something you do as a matter of course.

It makes sense to me that a library that retains its reporting on its own spreadsheet would also, as a matter of course, calculate the various per-capita metrics and maybe even the per-hour metrics.

Also great. You could still ask for the data line to make sure it agrees with the figures you have on hand, but there’s no special reason to do so.

Anyway: If #1 applies, please ask. Otherwise, I hope you find the book worthwhile (and mention it to others if you do–or if you don’t, for that matter).

As for turnaround on requests: Usually immediate after I receive your email, and I check several times a day–if I’m at home. Between now and the end of the year, the only time a reply is likely to be delayed by more than a day is October 21-23 or 21-24 (I’ll be at Internet Librarian doing a talk on micropublishing, and I still travel without a computer).

Slight update: I actually wrote this earlier this week and scheduled it for today, since I’m trying to do no more than three posts a week on the book. I’m starting to receive (slightly) more requests for the data, although still not quite 10% of sales. And I’m delighted: Keep it up!

Cites & Insights 12:10 (November 2012) available

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

The November 2012 issue of Cites & Insights (12:10) is now available for downloading at

The issue is 32 pages long. For those who prefer to read on e-devices, the single-column 60-page 6×9″ edition is also available, at

The issue includes three essays, each also available as HTML separates from (or, if you’re reading this on or from a blog, via the title headings below):

   Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-13): Commentary, Part 1  (pp. 1-22)

Casual commentary on a few of the interesting items in Chapters 2-19 of Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-13). You may have seem slightly different versions of some of this commentary on Walt at Random; that will continue for some time to come…

The CD-ROM Project  (pp. 22-24)

Seeing whether six first-rate Dorling-Kindersley explorational CD-ROM titles will work in a current operating environment. I wish I had good news here…

The Back  (pp. 24-32)

Hi-fi fun and other nonsense: Seventeen little rants. See if you can spot which one was added at the last minute for copyfitting reasons…



Mystery Collection Disc 33

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

Murder by Invitation, 1941, b&w. Phil Rosen (dir.), Wallace Ford, Marian Marsh, Sarah Padden, Gavin Gordon, George Guhl, Wallis Clark, Minerva Urecal, J. Arthur Young. 1:07 [1:05.]

In some ways this is a murder-mystery cliché: Aged wealthy person sends a command invitation to the relatives to go to his/her estate or be stricken from the will—and said relatives start to disappear.

But this one has considerable pizazz. The aged wealthy person starts out as defendant in a court hearing in which her nephew the attorney and other relatives want to have her declared mentally incompetent and sent to an institution—so they can take care of her $3 million. That goes nowhere, as she’s mildly eccentric but clearly not incompetent. Then she sends The Invitation. Along the way, a columnist and his Girl Friday get involved, first at the competency hearing and then with the murders.

It’s nicely done for this kind of fast-moving B mystery, with a couple of twists toward the end that I certainly didn’t see coming. Funny, surprising, fast-moving. Nothing great here, but even as a B flick an easy $1.25.

The Murder in the Museum, 1934, b&w. Melville Shyer (dir.), Henry B. Walthall, John Harron, Phyllis Barrington, Tom O’Brien, Joseph W. Girard. 1:05.

The museum, in this case, is a sideshow—a set of carny attractions whose owner also runs a drug-running operation out of the back room. Based on a series of tips, a city councilman shows up, with the police commissioner along—but there’s also the commissioner’s beautiful niece and a young reporter, both of them arriving independently.

The councilman winds up shot. The commissioner was clearly an enemy (both were running for mayor) and becomes a natural suspect because he was one of few who could have smuggled a gun out. The reporter (who’s already a hot item with the niece) sets out to clear his name by discovering the truth.

There’s more, to be sure, including a happy ending of sorts, but it’s all somehow slow-moving and languid in an odd way, with some actors seeming to be reading their lines. The best parts may be the sideshow and the sad set of people involved—including a cohort of Pancho Villa turned knife-thrower and a philosophy professor turned magician. It’s not terrible, but it’s a long way from being top-notch even for a B murder mystery. Charitably, $0.75.

I Cover the Waterfront, 1933, b&w. James Cruze (dir.), Ben Lyon, Claudette Colbert, Ernest Torrence, Hobart Cavanaugh, Maurice Black, Purnell Pratt. 1:15 [1:01].

Previously reviewed as part of 50 Movie Pack Hollywood Legends in Cites & Insights 9.1 (January 2009). Here’s what I said then:

The waterfront reporter promises his editor a big story on Chinese immigrants being smuggled. He winds up with a “bad lead” because the fishing captain involved is so ruthless he’ll cheerfully drown an immigrant rather than risk exposure. Eventually, the reporter gets the story through a plot involving romancing the captain’s daughter; he also gets shot along the way. There’s a side story involving a drunken reporter who turns up in his apartment. Unfortunately, the whole thing seems scattered, possibly because of missing footage. It’s not bad, but hardly a classic in this rendition. $1.00.

The Dark Hour, 1936, b&w. Charles Lamont (dir.), Ray Walker, Berton Churchill, Irene Ware, Hobart Bosworth, Hedda Hopper, E.E. Clive, Harold Goodwin, William V. Mong. 1:04 [1:09]

We begin with a middle-aged man (in full suit) bantering with a younger man about the younger man’s courtship of the older man’s neighbors’ niece (with the two meeting at the older man’s house because the two greedy and wealthy old uncles can’t stand the young man). We progress from there to…well, quite a bit. The middle-aged man is a retired police detective; the younger one is a current police detective. There’s a third neighboring house, with the uncles’ sister-in-law living there to protect the niece.

During the course of the film, one uncle winds up dead—stabbed, but with remarkably little blood resulting. The uncles’ butler also winds up dead, stabbed with the same knife (and this time there’s blood). A chemist boarding with the retired cop (and also after the niece) disappears. We learn that the uncles own apartment buildings that were torched (and heavily insured). There’s a Lady in Black who may not be a lady. And lots, lots more—culminating in two impending marriages, a guilty party taken off for justice (for both murders and burning down his own buildings)—and a triple twist at the end involving the real killer of the uncle, with the clarity that nobody involved much cares about the death.

Surprisingly good. Not great, but even as a B flick it’s an easy $1.25.

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.

A narrative clarification on reference transactions

Monday, October 1st, 2012

Conventional wisdom is that reference transactions have been falling in general, in both academic libraries and public libraries. That wisdom is so strongly perceived that some academic librarians are startled to find substantial increases in reference activity (primarily “virtual” reference, which is just as real as any other sort of reference but isn’t done face-to-face in person).

And, much as I’m a skeptic when it comes to conventional wisdom, I sort of assumed this was probably true–but that the public library decline was fairly slow.

And I made that assumption when posting this piece of commentary on Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-13)–namely the first sentence, “There’s very little question that reference transactions have declined over the years in public as well as academic libraries (slowly for public libraries).”

Reference transactions per capita may well be declining over the long term; I don’t know enough about that to comment intelligently. But as for total reference transactions…well, I wrote that after glancing at totals for FY2009 and FY2010, where there was indeed a decline. A very small decline, roughly 0.2% (that is, 2 out of every thousand), or 686 thousand out of 309 million.

I’ve now crossed out the first four words and replaced them with “There seems to be a common assumption” and added the following clarification:

Oops. I went back and looked at the IMLS figures for 1999, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010. Reference transactions per capita in public libraries may be declining, but that’s not the clear trend for raw figures.

Yes, there was a drop from FY2009 to FY2010–but the drop is only about 0.2%, 686 thousand out of 309.99 million. And that follows a more than 2% increase from FY2008 to FY2009: from 301 million to nearly 310 million. And a similar increase from FY2007 to FY2008: from 292.48 million to 301.01 million.

Ah, but there’s a 1% decline from FY2006 (294.99 million) to FY2007 (292.48 million)–and a 2.5% decline from FY2005 (303.51 million) to FY2006 (294.99 million). Jumping back to 1999, there were 294.6 million transactions.

So: Long-term trend? Unclear. What is fairly clear: Reference transactions haven’t been growing as rapidly as circulation–but they’re not disappearing either.

Note that this sloppy assumption is only an error in my commentary and involves changes over time, which are explicitly not part of what this book is all about.

Public libraries and personal computers (2)

Monday, October 1st, 2012

A short one this time–still commentary on Chapter 2 of Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-13)*.

Personal computers per thousand patrons

Yes, the count of total personal computers (that is: computers available for patron use that have internet access–basically public PCs excluding those devoted to catalog searching) is closely related to the size of the library or system.

This derivative measure may be more telling than the earlier number of PCs. At one extreme, 810 libraries have at least five PCs per thousand patrons (which could, of course, be one PC for a library serving 200 patrons); at the other, 977 have less than .5 PCs per thousand patrons.

While the metric-expenditure relationship is once again consistent, it’s over a relatively narrow range. Omitting extremes, the median expenditures range from $25.77 (libraries with 0.5 to 0.79 PCs per thousand patrons) to $36.83 (libraries with 3 to 4.99 PCs per thousand patrons), a much narrower range than for most metrics.

The median overall is 1.3—and here, the budget table’s interesting because every expenditures bracket, even the lowest, shows at least one-quarter of the libraries with more than one PC per thousand patrons. (All but the two lowest have at least half the libraries with more than one PC per thousand patrons.)

* That’s the $21.95 paperback. You can also buy the book as an $11.99 PDF (no DRM) or a $31.50 hardbound. If you’re interested, early sales (to the end of September) are almost evenly split between PDF and paperback, with single-digit sales of the hardbound.

Save 20% this week (through October 5): Lulu’s having another sale. Use PLUMA as a coupon code (if you’re in the US; elsewhere, go to the Lulu home page and write down the coupon code) to save 20% on one order (any number of books). The offer expires at the end of the day on Friday, October 5, 2012.