Archive for February, 2013

North Carolina public libraries

Friday, February 8th, 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.

All 77 of North Carolina’s libraries are profiled in the book; most of them are relatively poorly funded but not in the bottom bracket, with 56% spending $12 to $20.99 (compared to 19% overall). Just as no library is in the top spending bracket, so none circulates 24 or more items per capita—and only 16% circulate eight or more (compared to 50% overall). Except for one anomalous library, spending and circulation correlate well. Where there’s low circulation, there also tend to be fairly few patron visits—as is the case here, where 27% of libraries have at least five visits per capita (compared to 54% overall). Program attendance is also low, with 21% of libraries having at least 0.4 attendance per capita (compared to 42% overall). Similarly, PC use is low: 22% report at least 1.3 uses per capita, compared to 43% overall.

Libraries by legal service area

LSA Count %
4,000-5,299 2 2.6%
8,700-11,099 2 2.6%
11,100-14,099 1 1.3%
14,100-18,499 1 1.3%
18,500-24,999 3 3.9%
25,000-34,499 3 3.9%
34,500-53,999 13 16.9%
54,000-104,999 21 27.3%
105,000-4.1 mill. 31 40.3%

Circulation per capita and spending per capita

Circulation per capita correlates very strongly (0.73) with spending per capita.

Circulation per capita plotted against spending per capita

Circulation per capita (rounded) occurrence by spending category

One quick question for librarians

Thursday, February 7th, 2013

Would you buy (or do you believe others would buy) The Mythical Average Library: Dealing with Numbers?

Quick description: Looking at problems with statistics, misleading graphs, and so on; exposing the real complexity of public and academic libraries and how it’s masked in aggregate reporting; making sense of library numbers–and presenting them fairly.

Comments here or email to

If you want to add more than just “Yes” or “No”–e.g., “Not if it’s more than $15” or “Only if it’s an ebook”–please do.

[There are really three questions, if you want to get detailed:

1. Is this a book that one of the major library publishers would find worth publishing?

2. Is this a book that could be sold via self-publishing?

3. Am I an appropriate person to consider doing this, which may influence 1 & 2?]


Mystery Collection Disc 34

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

The Last Alarm, 1940, b&w. William West (dir.), J. Farrell MacDonald, Polly Ann Young, Warren Hull, George Pembroke, Mary Gordon, Joel Friedkin. 1:01.

Remember when people were “pensioned” at a fixed age—and retired folks really didn’t know what to do with all that leisure time? That bit of nostalgia is at the heart of this film, which begins and ends with a whole bunch of firemen (and spouses) sitting around a dinner table with the fire chief speechifying. In the first case, it’s to send a retiring captain off in style; in the second…well, you’ll get there.

The captain apparently had no interests other than pinochle with other firefighters and firefighting. He’s completely at odds at home, getting in his wife’s way, breaking dishes when trying to help dry them, etc., etc. Meanwhile, an insurance investigator who’s also engaged to his daughter is having problems because an arsonist is at work—an arsonist who appears to be a pyromaniac. Eventually, the retired captain gets involved and—thanks largely to a remarkable coincidence having to do with an antique set of salt and pepper shakers the daughter covets—tracks down the culprit, who responds by…

No, that’s enough. You might really enjoy this. It’s only an hour long, but it’s well done; I’ll give it the maximum $1.25 for a B flick.

The Panther’s Claw, William Beaudine (dir.), Sidney Blackmer, Rick Vallin, Byron Foulger, Herbert Rawlinson, Barry Bernard, Gerta Rozan. 1:10 [1:11]

We open with a mild-mannered middle-aged man (Foulger) clambering over the wall of a cemetery and being picked up by passing cops, since it’s the middle of the night (which we only know because the cops say so: it’s lit like mid-day). He explains that he was there leaving $1,000 on the top of an aunt’s headstone because a letter told him to…

A few hours later, the increasingly frustrated little man is in a lineup (which makes no sense at all, and apparently he’s now charged with suspected robbery for…well, for the fact that when the cops looked at the headstone, the wallet no longer had the $1,000 the man put in it, so he apparently robbed himself?) and winds up in Commissioner Colt’s office, where he sees a bunch of acquaintances, all from the local opera (either New York Opera or Gotham Opera, depending on the scene): he’s a wigmaker and they’ve all dealt with him. And all have had similar letters from The Panther’s Claw—except that the rest of them, instead of forking over the $1,000, went to the police.

That’s just the first fifteen minutes. We eventually get to the murder of an opera diva who’s supposed to be sailing to South America but is actually holed up in an apartment; a DA who’s somehow certain that this meek little man, who has always fully cooperated with the cops, is clearly The Killer Who Should Burn; another wigmaker getting shot; lots—lots—of talk; the apparent reality that in 1942 New York the cops could just walk in and search any apartment any time they wanted, search warrants be damned. Oh, there’s a happy ending of sorts.

It’s slow-moving, the DA’s attitude makes no sense at all, but Colt’s amusing (Blackmer), the framed wigmaker’s amusing, the whole thing’s fairly amusing. Therefore, $1.00.

The Red House, 1947, b&w. Delmer Daves (dir.), Edward G. Robinson, Lon McCallister, Judith Anderson, Rory Calhoun, Allene Roberts, Julie London. 1:40.

It opens with narration about the farm area it’s set in—all the girls are good looking, while the boys tend to graduate a little late because they take time off to help with the harvest. This leads us to our heroine, who lives with her adoptive parents—who are an aging wooden-legged farmer and his sister, living on a remote farm. There’s also a young man who’s involved with the trampy beauty of the high school (a 21-year-old Julie London), and who gets hired on to help the farmer at the girl’s urging. (His single mom runs a failing local store; the family’s short on money.)

Trouble—and the actual plot—begins when the boy works up to suppertime, has supper with the farm family and says he’ll take a shortcut through the woods to get home. The farmer admonishes him not to do that (the girl’s been forbidden and, up to now, has obeyed), but to no avail. There’s a bunch of spooky stuff in the woods, at one point the kid’s clearly been attacked…and winds up running back to the farm, where he stays overnight.

Most of the plot centers on the mystery of the woods and the red house therein, which is specifically forbidden—for good reason, as it turns out. It’s partly a psychological mystery dealing with the farmer’s deep dark secret. The farmer’s even hired a high-school dropout (Rory Calhoun, 25 at the time) to enforce his no-trespassing rule—with gunfire if necessary. The handsome Calhoun and the trampy London…need I say more? All ends well…although in this case “well” includes a couple of deaths.

Defects: Distorted music (unfortunate, since it’s a Rozsa score) and sometimes distorted soundtrack. Pluses: Not a poverty-row picture; this is from United Artists and stars Edward G. Robinson as the farmer and a strong cast in general. Also, it’s quite well done, with a moderately complex and ultimately satisfying plotline. Given the distortion problems, I come up with $1.50.

Tomorrow at Seven, 1933, b&w. Ray Enright (dir.), Chester Morris, Vivienne Osborne, Frank McHugh, Allen Jenkins, Henry Stephenson. 1:02.

This is one of those odd mystery/romance/screwball movies, with the screwball mostly being two Chicago cops, both of them useless, one of them speaking in wholly arcane supposed cop slang. The theme here is a killer who sends people Aces of Spades warning of their impending doom, then kills them with a sharp instrument. A crime novelist planning to write a book on this fiend is on the way to visit a gentleman who seems to be an authority (and in the process “meets cute” with the authority’s secretary’s daughter).

As this mess proceeds, we have every reason to believe the novelist might be the murderer (he’s clearly in cahoots with somebody, for example)…but he’s so cute that he doesn’t fit the scenario. Gee, who else could it be? Four deaths later—including the villain, after a fight sequence—we know.

I’m torn. It’s fast moving, some of the characters are interesting, and all in all I enjoyed it. But the cops are really overdone, there are some glaring holes in the narrative (e.g., after a phony coroner shows up to examine a body, the real coroner shows—with police supposedly in tow—and, after he establishes his bona fides, that’s it: Nothing more is heard from him or from the cops). I guess it averages out to $1.00.

Montana public libraries

Wednesday, February 6th, 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 79 libraries profiled (one omitted) generally fall into the lower midrange of expenditures: only 26% spend at least $31 per capita but only 14% spend less than $17. Circulation also tends toward the lower midrange, with only 11% circulating at least 10 items per capita (compared to 38% overall) and only one library (1%) circulating less than two items (compared to 6% overall). Tracking of expenditures with circulation is generally solid—except that the single library circulating at least 13 and fewer than 17 items per capita isn’t funded as well as the median of those circulating 10 to 12.99 items per capita.

Patron visits tend toward the middle (with relatively few at the top and bottom), while program attendance is somewhat low (41% have at least 0.3 attendance per capita, compared to 54% overall). PC use is high: 67% have at least 1.3 uses per capita, compared to 43% overall.

Libraries by legal service area

LSA Count % Outliers
<700 5 6.3%
700-1,149 4 5.1%
1,150-1,649 6 7.6%
1,650-2,249 10 12.7%
2,250-2,999 6 7.6%
3,000-3,999 7 8.9%
4,000-5,299 10 12.7%
5,300-6,799 2 2.5% 1
6,800-8,699 4 5.1%
8,700-11,099 9 11.4%
11,100-14,099 5 6.3%
14,100-18,499 2 2.5%
18,500-24,999 2 2.5%
34,500-53,999 2 2.5%
54,000-104,999 4 5.1%
105,000-4.1 mill. 1 1.3%

Circulation per capita and spending per capita

Circulation per capita correlates strongly (0.63) with spending per capita.

Circulation per capita plotted against spending per capita

Circulation per capita (rounded) occurrence by spending category

Oregon and Washington librarians: Let’s talk about open access

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

If you’re a librarian in Washington or Oregon, especially an academic librarian, I encourage you to register for the 2013 OLA/WLA conference–and to sign up for the Wednesday (April 24) afternoon (2-5 p.m.) preconference on Open Access.

I can’t tell you just what I’ll cover, because I’ll probably be working on it through mid-April.

I can say that it won’t just be a rehash of Open Access: What You Need to Know Now, although I’ll certainly cover the basics of OA as set forth in that book. If I had to guess, I’d guess about an hour will be devoted to discussion of OA basics and controversies, two hours to other material (including lots of discussion).

Beyond that, I anticipate looking at recent events and what seems plausible or likely for the future, and on how you and your library can be involved. If you’re writing in the profession, a growing number of top journals are OA-friendly (and, best of all, no-fee Gold OA). If you’re not, you’re probably aware that the current situation with journal prices is not sustainable for libraries.

(Yes, we’ll probably spend a few minutes talking about various definitions of “sustainability.”)

I plan for it to be fresh, informative, lively–and with lots of room for discussion.

And while you’re there…

I’m doing two regular sessions during the conference as well, which may be more oriented to public librarians but, in at least one case, should also interest the rest of you:

  • Thursday, April 25, 4-5:15: A session based on Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-2013)but even more on the custom study I’ve done for the Oregon and Washington libraries, coversnapa 73-page 6×9 PDF that will be made available right around the time of the conference. Here’s the cover…
  • Friday, April 26, 10:30-11:45 a.m.: A session based on The Librarian’s Guide to Micropublishing. I just finished preparing the draft version of that talk and PPT presentation. Again, I plan to leave plenty of time for discussion–noting that I’ll disappear as soon as the session’s done (to get back to Livermore on Friday). (If you heard me at Internet Librarian on this topic, the new talk covers considerably more ground.)

I’ll be around for most of the conference, and probably at one or two of the social events. I look forward to seeing some of you!


Mississippi public libraries

Monday, February 4th, 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.

Most of Mississippi’s 50 libraries (none omitted) are poorly funded: only 10% spend at least $21 per capita, compared to 72% of the nation’s public libraries. As you might expect, use is also low: no library circulates eight or more items per capita and only 16% circulate at least four items (compared to 79% overall). Expenditures do track with circulation. Patron visits are also on the low side—16% have at least four per capita, compared to 65% overall. Only 10% of the libraries have at least 0.3 program attendance per capita (54% overall) and just over one-third (36%) have at least one PC use per capita (compared to 57% overall).

Libraries by legal service area

LSA Count %
3,000-3,999 1 2.0%
6,800-8,699 3 6.0%
8,700-11,099 3 6.0%
11,100-14,099 4 8.0%
18,500-24,999 2 4.0%
25,000-34,499 6 12.0%
34,500-53,999 11 22.0%
54,000-104,999 15 30.0%
105,000-4.1 mill. 5 10.0%

Circulation per Capita and Spending per Capita

Circulation per capita correlates strongly (0.68) with spending per capita.

Circulation per capita plotted against spending per capita

Circulation per capita (rounded) occurrence by spending category

Note that there are no libraries in the $31-$52 or $73+ spending categories.

Broadening my library horizons: A blog-reading experiment

Sunday, February 3rd, 2013


A few weeks ago, I mentioned in LSW/Friendfeed that I was thinking of doing this. I don’t remember whether my sanity was questioned, or whether anybody supposed I was planning Yet Another Liblog Study, but in any case I didn’t get around to it…for a while.


“It”–which I’ve now begun–is simple enough: Restoring all of the “Current Blogs” from The Liblog Landscape 2012 (as discussed in the final essay in the October 2012 Cites & Insights–and listed in this long pair of lists of hyperlinked blog names) to my set of Google Reader feeds.

Or at least attempting to do so: In a few cases, Google Reader couldn’t find a feed, and I’m guessing the blog has disappeared.

I already had a fair number of these, and a fair number of newer liblogs (as well as 40 blogs outside the library field), but probably less than a third of the list.

So as of now, there are 959 feeds in my GR account, of which 919 are either in the library folder or the lib-books folder (for blogs that are almost entirely book reviews–that’s currently 24 of the 919, but I’m sure some others will migrate to that folder).


What I don’t plan to do:

  • A new liblog study, booklength or otherwise
  • A concerted effort to comment whenever I disagree with anybody.

Life really is too short.

What I do plan to do:

  • Keep all of them at least through February 2013, at least glancing at all the posts, and probably tracking the number of posts per day. The latter might result in a blog post about liblog activity, but not much more than a blog post.
  • In March, I’ll probably trim most or all of the lib-books blogs, since I mostly read older books (that is, ones that have been at the library long enough that there are no hold queues) and in order to cut down on the number of posts. (The latter may not be a major reason.)
  • After mid-March or maybe early April, I’ll trim a few of the other blogs–not because I find the blogger annoying (one reason I’ve removed blogs up to now) but because the focus doesn’t interest me.
  • Pay attention to the blogs, to gain more insights into what’s happening in the library field. That’s really the primary reason to do this.

I’ll make a conscious effort not to get into arguments with bloggers who’ve pushed my buttons repeatedly in the past. That may not always be successful.

I will note that blogs with excerpt feeds (where you see a couple of lines of a post, then an ellipsis) are far more likely to be trimmed than those with full feeds.

Significance and impact

What does all of this mean to you? Not much, actually. If I’m right, I’ll understand what’s happening and being said among library folk a little better. If I’m wrong, I’ll just be wasting a few minutes each day. It really doesn’t take much time to monitor 900 feeds–for one thing, I’d be surprised if 100-200 aren’t moribund (although I didn’t subscribe to blogs that were already moribund as of July 2012), and for another, most libloggers don’t post daily.

Mostly, this is just a note. If future posts and C&I articles seem to indicate that I’m gaining a broader set of perspectives, then this is succeeding.


Missouri public libraries

Friday, February 1st, 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 148 profiled libraries in Missouri (two libraries omitted) tend toward light funding, with only 26% spending $31 or more (compared to 50% overall). Circulation per capita is on the low side, with only 37% circulating eight or more items per capita (compared to 50% overall); spending does correlate with circulation throughout (although that’s not always true on the budget side). Patron visits are slightly on the low side. Program attendance is distinctly low: 53% of the libraries have less than 0.2 attendance per capita, compared to 31% overall. Meanwhile, PC use is typical.

Libraries by legal service area

LSA Count % Outliers
<700 1
700-1,149 4 2.7% 1
1,150-1,649 11 7.4%
1,650-2,249 11 7.4%
2,250-2,999 7 4.7%
3,000-3,999 8 5.4%
4,000-5,299 15 10.1%
5,300-6,799 7 4.7%
6,800-8,699 8 5.4%
8,700-11,099 13 8.8%
11,100-14,099 11 7.4%
14,100-18,499 8 5.4%
18,500-24,999 11 7.4%
25,000-34,499 10 6.8%
34,500-53,999 7 4.7%
54,000-104,999 8 5.4%
105,000-4.1 mill. 9 6.1%

Circulation per capita and spending per capita

Correlation between circulation per capita and spending per capita is extremely strong at 0.84.

Circulation per capita plotted against spending per capita

Circulation per capita (rounded) occurrence by spending category