Archive for January, 2013

Massachusetts public libraries

Friday, January 18th, 2013

Another post commenting on Chapter 20 of Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-13)–now available as a $9.99 Kindle ebook or $21.95 paperback with ISBN 978-1481279161 on Amazon, along with the usual Lulu options.

The 361 profiled libraries in Massachusetts (nine omitted) are distributed across all spending categories, but with very few in the bottom three brackets (and, correspondingly, somewhat more than average in the top six brackets). Even without adjusting for Massachusetts’ cost of living (123.3% of national average), the median benefit ratio in every spending category is 4.4 or higher; adjusted, they’re all at least 5.5. The libraries rate high in circulation—47% circulate 13 or more items per capita (compared to 25% overall) and only 7% circulate fewer than four (compared to 21% overall). Patron visits are also somewhat high, with 54% having at least six visits per capita (42% overall). The budget table for circulation is striking—not only does median circulation increase significantly with each expenditure bracket, the median exceeds 23 for libraries spending $53 to $72.99 and 30 for those spending $73 and more. Program attendance is fairly typical and PC use is just slightly on the low side.

Libraries by legal service area

LSA Count % Outliers



















































105,000-4.1 mill.



Circulation per capita and spending per capita

Massachusetts public libraries show very strong correlation (0.78) between circulation per capita and spending per capita.

Circulation per capita plotted against spending per capita

Circulation per capita (rounded) occurrence by spending category

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

Wednesday, 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.

Louisiana public libraries

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

Another post commenting on Chapter 20 of Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-13)–now available as a $9.99 Kindle ebook or $21.95 paperback with ISBN 978-1481279161 on Amazon, along with the usual Lulu options.

Louisiana’s 68 libraries (none were omitted) are reasonably well distributed in terms of spending—a little low at the very top, but also low in the two lowest brackets. Circulation is distinctly on the low side, with no library circulating at least 17 items per capita and only 19% circulating at least six items per capita (compared to 64% overall). Spending does correlate with circulation on the benchmark side and, with one exception, on the budget side (the best-funded libraries generally circulate fewer items per capita than those spending $53 to $72.99). Patron visits are also low, with none hitting 9 or more visits per capita and only 25% at four or more (compared to 65% overall).

Program attendance is also low: 69% of the libraries have less than 0.3 attendance per capita, compared to 46% overall. Since 57% of the libraries have from 0.5 to 0.99 PC uses per capita, those figures are also on the low side (although very few libraries—6, or 9%–have less than 0.5 PC uses per capita).

Libraries by legal service area

LSA Count %
700-1,149 1 1.5%
1,150-1,649 1 1.5%
4,000-5,299 1 1.5%
5,300-6,799 2 2.9%
6,800-8,699 1 1.5%
8,700-11,099 4 5.9%
11,100-14,099 3 4.4%
14,100-18,499 6 8.8%
18,500-24,999 11 16.2%
25,000-34,499 6 8.8%
34,500-53,999 13 19.1%
54,000-104,999 5 7.4%
105,000-4.1 mill. 14 20.6%

Circulation per Capita and Spending per Capita

There’s only a moderate correlation (0.37) between circulation per capita and spending per capita for Louisiana libraries.

Circulation per capita plotted against spending per capita

Circulation per capita (rounded) occurrence by spending category

Cites & Insights as HTML: Second weekly report

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

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

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

So here’s the report:

Contributions received to date


Purchases of C&I print annuals since challenge announced.


Contributions received with “not specific to HTML” disclaimer


Percentage progress toward goal



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

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

The case against overgeneralization

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

I have to give a shout-out to Jon Carroll’s column today in the San Francisco Chronicle (available on SFGate, the Chronicle‘s website).

You may or may not find his primary topic–the bizarre new logo for the University of California that is no longer the bizarre new logo for UC–all that interesting. Heck, you may even love the “UC’s a hip dotcom” replacement for UC’s established, conservative, effective logo that suggests one of the world’s great universities.

That’s not why I’m giving Carroll a shout-out. Instead, it’s this (after quoting a portion of a piece from a designer complaining about the complaints about the logo, that includes this: “But throughout this controversy, no one wrote about the strategy behind the new identity. In fact, no one wrote about the identity.”)

First, a word of advice: The phrase “no one wrote about” is, in this Internet age, inevitably untrue. Somebody writes on every side of every issue. Since an individual human cannot read everything on the topic, it is almost certain that you’re going to miss something that makes your statement untrue.

Once you’ve made one unsupportable claim, the other claims seem a little less convincing. This very newspaper, for instance, in its news story on the issue, quoted university officials with regard to what the thinking was behind the new branding campaign. So did other places. Perhaps the story was not covered the way Simmons would have covered it, but the issues he brings up were discussed.

Emphasis added in the second quoted paragraph, to be sure–and that’s what I’d hope that some library folks given to hyperbole would pay attention to.

The rest of the column’s also good stuff, of course. (I’m admittedly biased: Carroll–who I met when we were both at UC Berkeley and who convinced me that I shouldn’t be a humor writer–is one of the reasons why we still subscribe to the San Francisco Chronicle, albeit now as a Kindle app. I think he’s one of the best writers around.)

But that’s the message. When you say “every academic library has drastically falling circulation and reference,” change that to “most libraries” and you may be right; “every” is almost certainly and demonstrably wrong. When you say “Everybody’s using smartphones as their primary computing tool” (I’ve seen variants on this) you make yourself look foolish.


Checking my math

Monday, January 14th, 2013

Just a tiny little post:

I just saw an ad for a powerful flashlight. The ad said the flashlight had a 55 watt bulb and a rechargeable 3 amp-hour 6 volt battery.

By my calculations, that means that the flashlight should run just under 20 minutes on a fully charged battery.

Am I missing something? Have the formulas changed?

Comments, if any, welcome.

Kentucky public libraries

Monday, January 14th, 2013

Another post commenting on Chapter 20 of Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-13)–now available as a $9.99 Kindle ebook or $21.95 paperback with ISBN 978-1481279161 on Amazon, along with the usual Lulu options.

The 113 profiled libraries (four omitted) are mostly in the lower half of funding, with two-thirds spending between $12 and $30.99. Circulation also clusters somewhat low, with only 13% circulating at least 10 items per capita (compared to 38% overall) and 30% circulating 6 to 7.99. Expenditures do correlate with circulation—and that’s also true on the budget side, except that the single library spending $73 or more per capita has lower circulation per capita than most of those spending $53 to $72.99. No Kentucky library falls into the top bracket for patron visits per capita, and more than half have less than four (compared to 35% nationally); in this case, the budget table shows rising median visits per capita in every bracket.

Program attendance is just a little on the low side (mostly because only one library—not one of the better-funded ones—has 1.1 or more attendance per capita); PC use is distinctly low, with only 28% of libraries having at least 1.3 uses per capita (compared to 43% overall).

Libraries by legal service area

LSA Count % Outliers
1,650-2,249 1 0.9%
4,000-5,299 1 0.9% 1
5,300-6,799 2 1.8%
6,800-8,699 7 6.2%
8,700-11,099 6 5.3% 1
11,100-14,099 18 15.9%
14,100-18,499 19 16.8%
18,500-24,999 15 13.2% 1
25,000-34,499 13 11.5% 1
34,500-53,999 15 13.3%
54,000-104,999 11 9.7%
105,000-4.1 mill. 5 4.4%

Circulation per Capita and Spending per Capita

Circulation per capita in Kentucky libraries correlates strongly (0.64) with spending per capita.

Circulation per capita plotted against spending per capita

Circulation per capita (rounded) occurrence by spending category

Kindle Fire HD 8.9: An update

Sunday, January 13th, 2013

Three weeks ago, I slapped together a post about our very early experience acquiring a Kindle Fire HD 8.9 (on a one-day $249 sale that has yet to be repeated) to try out as a way of reading the San Francisco Chronicle for $71.88 a year instead of $559 a year (the current delivered print subscription price).

That early commentary was mostly positive.

I thought an update might be worthwhile–but I won’t repeat much of what I said earlier, so you’ll want to read that post first.

The cancellation

The last update to that post (which those of you who read it via RSS probably haven’t seen) said that we were happy enough with the Chronicle-on-Kindle experience to cancel the print paper.

We did. And I have to give the paper credit: the process took very little time, didn’t involve a lot of “can’t we get you to stick around?” stuff (especially since I pointed out that we were not dropping our Chronicle subscription, just shifting it to the Kindle), and was obviously processed rapidly: We didn’t see the paper the next day and haven’t since. And, after about two weeks, we got a check for the remainder of our current 5-week print subscription. Well handled all in all.

The device

We’re both happy with the device–and I think neither of us would be willing to deal with a lower-resolution display such as the Kindle Paperwhite or, in fact, most tablets other than the newest iPads, the Nook HD and HD+ and the Kindle Fire HDs. I’m guessing that 240-250dpi is about the point at which things become basically transparent–it’s just type, not pixels on a screen.

We figured out that turning it “off” to sleep mode, rather than fully powered down, only costs about 1% of battery life overnight and means the day’s paper is immediately available on an immediately-up device. Worth it–especially since we spend enough time on the paper so that its 10-11 hour battery life means recharging it twice a week anyway. (Yes, the 10-11 hour life appears to be accurate, at least for what we’re doing. We’re charging it on Saturday afternoon and Tuesday evening: the Sunday paper takes more time to read.)

I suspect there may be other gestures we don’t know about (there’s basically no tutorial), in addition to the touch, swipe, and pinch/spread gestures (the only multifinger gestures). But so far, I don’t know that we need any others. My wife has a little more trouble with screen insensitivity than I do (she’s frequently had trouble activating touch controls that rely on body chemistry, so this is nothing new) but seems to be getting along with it OK. Notably because she reads the comic strips on the Kindle (via the Seattle paper), she uses the pinch/spread gestures more than I do: I read the comics on my computer.

Being easier to read than a newspaper is, as already noted, a fairly low bar. If I had to guess, I’d guess that for me the Fire HD’s probably no more readable than a well-made trade paperback or hardcover book, maybe a little more than a really cheap mass market paperback–but for my wife, who sometimes wants enlarged type, she’s thinking the Fire may be a nice device for reading sometimes.

Other functions

This is still a device with a specific purpose for us. So far, neither of us has felt the desire to download or play games. I downloaded the free Complete Sherlock Holmes, but have yet to read any of it. We’ve tried Gmail…but until we start traveling again, the computer’s a whole lot easier to use than the Kindle. (And if I’m traveling separately, e.g. for the Washington/Oregon convention…well, with only one Kindle, it will probably stay at home. I’ll catch up with the paper via SFGate, as clumsy as that is.)

I’m sure the other functions work just fine. My wife listened to a sample piece of music; it was fine. But it’s not something we need at the moment: The use just isn’t there. Our limitation, not the device’s–we’re not so fascinated with it that we spend time trying out all the possibilities.

Work in progress

The Chronicle’s Kindle version still appears to be a work in progress. I’m hoping they’ll recognize a growing number of Fire users and add more pictures, restore the comics, etc. I’d be delighted if the story summaries were (at least optionally) in serif type (as the stories are).

But it works more than well enough. I continue to read more stories, read them faster, and get through the whole paper over breakfast rather than splitting it across the day.

It was unquestionably a good purchase. Yes, I’m pleased to see that the latest CR rates this device tops of the specialized tablets–but it doesn’t make much difference at this point. (If there was a Nook version–which there isn’t–I’d feel a little guilty about favoring the Amazon monolith over a competitor. But only a little.)

What’s next?

We’ll eventually choose a cover & stand (although my wife’s handcrafted cardboard stand is working remarkably well for now). We might get a stylus as part of such a deal. We might get a Bluetooth keyboard, but that’s less likely.

If we were both traveling separately to any degree, I suspect we’d get another one–and that it would be another Fire HD, albeit possibly the 7″ version.

Overall: It was a good decision, it’s a fine unit, we’re happy.

And, of course, I’m still reading mostly books in print form–partly because 90%+ of the books I read come from the library, and I find print books congenial enough not to seek a replacement. Again, lots of travel might change that.

Added Monday, January 14: We do use some other apps once in a while, although we have yet to add any. Specifically, we’ve used the IMDB app at times–and boy, is it more colorful and sleek than the web version. (Unfortunately, it’s also slower to use, but I think that’s inherent in the smaller space.) IMDB is, of course, Amazon…

Kansas public libraries

Friday, January 11th, 2013

Another post commenting on Chapter 20 of Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-13)–now available as a $9.99 Kindle ebook or $21.95 paperback with ISBN 978-1481279161 on Amazon, along with the usual Lulu options.

The 306 libraries profiled in Kansas (22 omitted) are generally funded somewhat better than average, albeit not at the very high end: 56% spend between $31 and $72.99 per capita, compared to 40% overall. Even adjusted for Kansas’ somewhat low cost of living (91.7% of national average), the median benefit ratio in all spending categories is at least 4.3, and at least 5.5 for all but the best-funded libraries. Nearly half of the libraries (49%) circulate at least ten items per capita (compared to 38% nationally) and 48% have at least seven patron visits per capita (compared to 33% nationally). Except at the low end (the four lowest-spending libraries are circulating slightly more than those spending just slightly more), the budget table shows a consistent rise in median circulation for each expenditure category.

Program attendance is very strong, with 22% having at least 1.1 attendance per capita and 52% having at least 0.5 (compared to 9% and 33% overall). PC use is even stronger: 21% have at least 3.5 uses per capita (compared to 8% overall) and 54% have at least 1.7 (compared to 30% overall).

Libraries by legal service area

LSA Count % Outliers
<700 90 29.4% 21
700-1,149 42 13.7% 1
1,150-1,649 37 12.1%
1,650-2,249 32 10.5%
2,250-2,999 26 8.5%
3,000-3,999 13 4.2%
4,000-5,299 14 4.6%
5,300-6,799 6 2.0%
6,800-8,699 10 3.3%
8,700-11,099 10 3.3%
11,100-14,099 5 1.6%
14,100-18,499 2 0.7%
18,500-24,999 5 1.6%
25,000-34,499 3 1.9%
34,500-53,999 5 1.6%
54,000-104,999 1 0.3%
105,000-4.1 mill. 5 1.6%

Circulation per Capita and Spending per Capita

Circulation per capita correlates strongly (0.60) with spending per capita

Circulation per capita plotted against spending per capita

Circulation per capita (rounded) occurrence by spending category

Graphing Public Library Benefits: Give Lulu $4

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

The ebook (PDF, no DRM) Graphing Public Library Benefits is an experimental supplement to Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-13). It’s a set of graphic equivalents to the tables in chapters 2-19 of that book–close to 600 in all–and it’s ebook-only because most of the graphs require multiple colors to work right.

I’ve said previously that, not only is there no DRM on the ebook, I’d be delighted if people passed it along–with the hope that readers will give me feedback ( as to what works and what doesn’t, and whether the graphs add value to the book.

I’m taking one more step to make that feasible: The price for the ebook is now based on the title of the main book.


That includes shipping and handling (neither of which apply).

That price will continue indefinitely.

If you’re at all interested in how public libraries can use existing numbers to help make their case for improved (or at least sustained) funding, you may want to look at this and, of course, the original book.