Archive for the ‘Libraries’ Category

*British* libraries [may be] dying/in decline

Thursday, December 22nd, 2016

I’ve seen half a dozen U.S. library site links already to this story in The Guardian–and feel it’s important to say that the facts (assuming they are facts) in the story relate to British public libraries. It’s a sad story there (and I regard the “combine libraries and churches” solution as a little strange, but…I’m not British), but it has nothing, zero, nada, zilch to do with American public libraries.

Worth noting because The Guardian publishes so much online stuff aimed at and appearing to speak authoritatively about American issues. No reason a British paper should qualify a headline with “British,” but readers should be aware of context. (And posting this because, so far, the number of American posts/tweets/status updates linking to the story and providing that context is zero.)

Really? Shameful but not surprising

Thursday, June 2nd, 2016

So this happened. (Karen Coyle, “This is what sexism looks like, #3.”)

Shameful (“P” and the misuse of a code of conduct and the mansplaining and the WILLFUL IGNORANCE both of knowledgeable women and of all librarians have done for OA since at least 1989).

But not, unfortunately, surprising.

I’m not going to explain the issues here. Karen Coyle and a bunch of other real librarians (which I’m not) are far more qualified to do that explaining. (“Bunch of others…” includes, of course, Dorothea Salo and Jenica Rogers and Barbara Fister and Nancy Sims and…the list goes on and on.

Also, frankly, because I’ve encountered enough OA advocates with THE ANSWER who either regard libraries and librarians as irrelevant or beat them up for not throwing themselves (librarians) under the bus to push THE ANSWER and who pretty uniformly ignore all the work librarians (and hangers-on like me) have done…sorry, that sentence got away from me. In short, The Man With The Plan in all his iterations–and there’s a reason I’m not using my preferred non-gendered they/their pronouns here–doesn’t want to hear that the real world is complicated and that this has been going on for a long time.

Those of you who’ve been reading my stuff know that I’m not a sycophant for Karen Coyle or anybody else; fact is, we’ve had some pretty sharp disagreements. And in this case, I have every reason to believe she’s right (as is frequently the case).


More on the damage done

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

I’d like to call your attention to Wayne Bivens-Tatum’s latest “Peer to Peer Review” at Library Journal.

Go read it. Follow his advice.

You may also find it worthwhile to add to my LTR report–which is readily available for direct purchase–by looking at some other academic library patterns in Beyond the Damage: Circulation, Coverage and Staffing.

(I’d missed the “bilge” comment on WBT’s column on my 2013 book. But I do consider the source. Maybe it’s a form of praise…although I guess that source now has to condemn ALA for publishing further bilge!)


Academic library circulation always down

Friday, May 2nd, 2014

I thought I did a pretty good job of demolishing this long-standing myth (“all academic libraries have falling circulation”) in the March 2013 Cites & Insights. looking at circulation between 2008 and 2010. I was astonished to see at least one high-profile academic librarian dismiss my findings saying there were Studies saying this was true (all such studies based on either a subset of libraries or the *overall* figures), therefore…well, the “therefore” wasn’t quite clear, but had to be either “you’re doing the math wrong” or “the facts don’t matter.”

My sense is that the facts don’t matter to librarians who want to use “circulation’s falling everywhere, that’s just the way it is” as part of an argument to stop bothering with collections–but that’s a complicated argument.

I’m starting to work on a self-published book that will serve as a complement to the 2002-2012 study of academic library serials, “books” (all acquisitions except current serials) and “remainder” (everything else) spending. The complement will look at some other factors–circulation per capita, book coverage, book spending per capita, professional librarians per thousand students and overall staffing per thousand students. (Expect to see it in late May or early June.)

In working with spreadsheets to make this book reasonably easy to put together (I’m learning to love named Excel columns a lot) I found it worthwhile to add yes/no columns showing rise or fall of some metrics (where no change counts as a rise, but absolutely no change almost never happens). This made it easier to answer three subsidiary questions to the first question.

The first question: Is it true that all academic libraries show falling circulation from year to year?

The answer: Not even close–and I’m making it tougher by using circulation per capita, given that academic libraries serve a lot more students now than they did in 2002 (about 30% more overall).

For any given biennium, between 35% and 45% of all academic libraries have higher per capita circulation than they did two years ago. (As far as I can tell, the “all” isn’t remotely true for any significantly large subset of academic libraries.) (45% was 2010 compared to 2008, the best biennium for circulation growth.)

A related question: Well, then, is it true that all academic libraries have lower circulation in 2012 than they did in 2002, even if there were some temporary rises?

The answer: Closer, but still not even close. The percentage of libraries with more circulation per capita in any given year than in 2002 ranges from about 36% to about 25% (for 2012). That’s still one out of every four libraries.

Those were easy questions. The three others are a little tougher, and they deal with extremes:

First: What percentage of academic libraries have had rising circulation per capita every biennium since 2002?

The answer, as far as I can tell, for the 2,594 libraries I’m studying (which represent 95% of all academic library spending–ones excluded either weren’t around for the full 2002-2012 period or failed to respond to the NCES survey in either 2002 or 2012): Very few: actually six, or 0.2%.

So if you wanted to cast the most negative light possible, you could say that (almost) all academic libraries have seen circulation drop during at least some portion of the last decade.

Second: What percentage of academic libraries have had falling circulation per capita every biennium since 2002?

Now, actually, this to me is the implication of the (paraphrased) universal assertion: the answer to this question should be 100%, or very close to it.

The actual number: 153 libraries or 5.9%.

That’s right: Only six percent of academic libraries have had consistently falling circulation per capita from 2002 through 2012.

Third: What percentage of academic libraries have had higher per capita circulation than 2002 in every biennium since then?

This is a different question than “how many have consistently grown?” as a library could, for example, have 10% more circulation in 2004 than in 2002, then drop 5% in 2006…

The answer: 208 or 8.1%.

So: more libraries have consistently had higher circulation since 2002 than they did in 2002, than have had consistently falling circulation.

And, of course, most libraries are in the middle–just under 94% have seen circulation grow some times and shrink some times.

But that’s not a convenient message if you’re trying to dismiss collections.




The strongest correlation between circulation and spending

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

There’s a lot of interesting data in $4 to $1: Public Library Benefits and Budgets, Volume 1, Libraries by Size (currently around $16 paperback and $8 ebook or $32 site license, if you buy it by Friday, October 18, 2013)–data that can help you understand the picture of public libraries across the country as well as how your own library measures up.

One key figure is the correlation between circulation per capita and spending per capita: Libraries that spend more do more.

The correlation is strong (that is, the Pearson’s Coefficient is at least 0.50) for all size categories of public libraries and for the nation as a whole (0.59).

Where is it strongest?

Among 828 libraries serving 40,000 to 99,999 people (legal service area population, not registered borrowers).

As you’ll see on page 150 of the book, that correlation is 072–a very strong correlation.

[Which libraries have the lowest correlation? In fact, only one size category falls below 0.61: The very smallest libraries, those serving fewer than 1,000 potential patrons, with 0.51 correlation. That’s not surprising–with such small patron groups and correspondingly small budgets, you’d expect a wide range of results.]

Mostly numbers: Help needed

Monday, October 14th, 2013

If you’re in a library (either public or academic) and know of, and can access, “medium-size data” that regularly comes out of your ILS or other source in some semi-tabular form (comma-separated values, spreadsheet, database, table, whatever) and that could stand some analysis but is clumsy to deal with:

I could use your help. Specifically, I’d like to see the labels and a few rows of the data from such a dataset, with notes on how often it’s generated and the typical overall size. (I’m assuming that there is no identifiable borrower information in any of this: If there is, I don’t want it.)

Please either contact me (in comments or to or send me the stuff–in some ways, comma-separated values are best, since they can’t harbor malware, they’re compact and (as far as I know) most programs can generate them. Send it as an attachment to that same email address.

If you’re one of the first three to send me something (I’ll add to this post when/if this happens), and if I’m able to use the submission to help me prepare a convincing proposal for a book (discussed below), and if the book is accepted by a real publisher…then you’d be mentioned in the acknowledgments and receive an actual physical copy of the book, autographed if you prefer. Alternatively, if this all leads to a webinar or some equivalent, you’d be mentioned in acknowledgments and I’d find some appropriate way to provide another form of thanks.

There are a lot of “Ifs” in that last paragraph, so maybe a little background will be useful.


I had an idea for a book at one point–originally The Mythical Average Public Library and later Mostly Just Numbers, which has morphed to Mostly Numbers in the meantime.

I discussed the idea in this post in May 2013, actually preceded by this post in February 2013 and this post in March 2013 and, to some extent, in this post in April 2013.

Then I started working on other projects, and the less said about the current sales of those self-published books–so far at least–the better.

Along the way, I added two more brief comments on the possible project: One on June 10, 2013 and one on June 26, 2013.

Given the rousing response and dismal results of recent self-pub efforts, I’ve pretty much concluded that self-publishing this would-be book is absurd. One difference between the library-sayings and public-library-benefits projects and this one: The first was both fun and a voyage of discovery, the second was at least a voyage of discovery. This one would be trying to help librarians using some techniques I’ve “discovered” (they were there all the time, but finding them and thinking through their implications can be tricky)–without “mansplaining” or otherwise losing the whole point.

Doing something that’s inherently interesting and finding that it’s met with a collective yawn (or, rather, a collective total absence of any interest at all) is one thing. Doing something that’s mostly fairly hard work and facing a similar “Haven’t you gone away yet, old man?” response (or, rather, non-response) is quite another.

And yet, and yet, it’s not entirely easy to just give up and move on. It doesn’t help that, in the last couple of months, I’ve “discovered” a couple of additional techniques that are very powerful and not at all obvious (at least to me)–one of which probably saved me 90% of the time required to do one complex set of analyses.


I don’t work in a library. I haven’t worked in a library for several decades, although I was working with a number of library statistical reports more recently–none of which I have access to any more. (None of which exist any more except possibly in some libraries as historical items…)

Having real example(s) of datasets that are potentially useful but a little cumbersome to analyze might help me decide whether this project is worth trying to sell to a publisher (or turning into a webinar or short course or something, in any case something with somebody else’s backing behind it, given the obvious quality of my own marketing efforts…).

I still plan to use the NCES academic library statistics and IMLS public library statistics as the basis for two chapters, to help librarians see how they can prepare their own specialized comparisons with relatively little effort. But adding to that a set of examples of how “advanced” spreadsheet techniques can make everyday (every month? every quarter? every year?) library analysis tasks easier and more productive…that might be worthwhile to more people.

To do that requires realistic examples. Thus my request.

Various somewhat obsolete versions of the potential book/webinar’s outline will be found in some of the linked posts.

If you can help and think it’s worthwhile, please do.

Lack of any response will also help me decide what to do, in its own way.

The smallest, the largest and in between: Library sayings

Monday, October 7th, 2013

Just for fun, here are six library sayings–the two from the two smallest libraries (in terms of legal service area), two largest and two most in-between (that is, at the midpoint) that had sayings that I recorded*:

The smallest

A Good Place To Have Fun

Hepler City Library, Hepler, KS 66746 [population 153]

Treasure the Past. Embrace the Future. Read and Grow.

Dora Public Library, Myrtle Point, OR 97458 [population 164]

The Largest

Linking YOU to the World

Houston Public Library, Houston, TX 77002 [population 2,257,926]

Enrich your life

Queens Borough Public Library, Jamaica, NY 11432 [population 2,229,379]

The Most In-Between

“Bringing the World to You”

Allen Parish Libraries, Oberlin, LA 70655 [population 25,568] (also used by at least one other library)

inform, inspire, enrich…

Cranberry Public Library, Cranberry Township, PA 16066 [population 25,611]

For many more (1,342 in all, including a few repetitions)…

Buy Your Library Is…: A Collection of Public Library Sayings (arranged alphabetically by state and city):

* No, these aren’t the smallest and largest public libraries in the U.S.; they’re the smallest and largest with sayings that met my criteria for inclusion.

Erewhon Community Library: A $4 to $1 Example

Friday, September 27th, 2013

A good public library is at the heart of any healthy community, and the true value provided by a good library is hard to measure. That value includes children whose road to literacy begins at the library; newly employed workers who use the library to improve their skills and find jobs; every patron who learns something new or enriches their life using library resources; and the myriad ways a good public library strengthens its community as a community center and resource.

Those anecdotes and uncounted benefits make up the flesh and blood of a public library’s story—but there are also the bones: countable benefits, including those reported every year. Even including only those countable benefits, public libraries offer excellent value: by my conservative calculation, most provide more than $4 in benefits for every $1 in spending.

So what?

So this: Public libraries with better funding continue to show a high ratio of benefits to cost. That’s significant, especially as communities recover economically and libraries seek an appropriate share of improved community revenues.

Those are the first four paragraphs of $4 to $1: Public Library Benefits and Budgets. Here’s a little more that relates directly to the book:

This book and the companion state-by-state study have two purposes:

  • To offer a detailed overview of public library benefits in 2011 and how they changed from 2009
  • To help librarians, Friends and other library supporters tell your library’s story, seeing how it compares to similar libraries on a range of countable measures.

These two volumes grow out of the earlier Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-13), based in 2010 data and consisting primarily of tables. I recommend either The Incompleat Give Us a Dollar… as a print book or the two ebook volumes of The Compleat Give Us a Dollar…, still available from Lulu, which combine graphs, tables and commentary and provide a more extensive background for this book.

By comparison to the earlier book, this book includes more libraries, breaks library sizes down into fewer groups, simplifies other measures somewhat and reports fewer measures. But it also adds 2009-2011 changes, graphs where appropriate, more detailed tables and textual commentary on what’s in the graphs and tables. Because all of that requires considerably more space, what was a single book is now two volumes: one by library size, one by state. (Most of this chapter and all of Chapter 2 are common to both so that the two books are each complete without reference to the other. The second volume may or may not appear, and if so will appear later.)

No more quotations. You may or may not know that the book is off to a slow start. (That overstates the success of the book, actually…) I don’t know whether this will help, but I thought I’d provide a quick example of what a library could determine from the book—and how it might or might not help the Friends or the librarians tell the library’s story to funding agencies.

Erewhon Community Library

This mythical library, in Erewhon, Alabama, is the average of two actual libraries, each having the median library service area population for 2011: 7,092 potential patrons. In most ways, the two libraries are quite different, so this profile doesn’t represent either of them. (Neither one is in Alabama: I’ve moved Erewhon there so that I can offer notes on what Volume 2 could offer, if it ever happens.)

The Figures

Here’s what Erewhon Community Library received when they sent me email (or what they already knew):































I suspect the labels are easy enough to unravel, but just in case, they are: LSA (legal service area), spending per capita, change in spending per capita (from 2009 to 2011), circulation per capita, change in circulation per capita, patron visits per capita, change in patron visits per capita, reference transactions per capita, change in reference transactions per capita, program attendance per capita, change in program attendance per capita, visits per hour, change in visits per hour.

National Comparisons

Here’s how Erewhon compares to public libraries across the board:

  • Spending is actually about average—that is, below the average but well above the median. It’s in the $30 to $39.99 bracket, the middle bracket. 34% of libraries are in higher spending brackets; 49% are in lower brackets.
  • The change in spending is better than most, in the third of six brackets (2% to 8% increases)—with 32% in higher brackets, 49% lower.
  • Circulation per capita is lower than most, in the fourth of six brackets (and near the bottom of that bracket). Half of libraries do significantly better; 35% do worse. There’s a strong correlation between spending and circulation, and that’s probably the most important and demonstrable correlation in the book. For its spending level, it’s in the bottom quarter of circulation per capita, but not in the bottom tenth.
  • Circulation dropped substantially, more than in most libraries—it’s in the bottom bracket, with 83% of libraries doing better. For its spending level, it’s not in the bottom tenth but it is in the bottom quartile.
  • Visits per capita are also below most, in the fourth of six categories (and near the bottom of that bracket), with 51% doing significantly better and 25% doing worse. For its spending category, it’s in the bottom 10%: 90% of libraries spending $30 to $39.99 per capita do better.
  • But at least it’s improving, quite nicely, in fact. It’s not in the top bracket for changes in visits per capita (20% and up), but it’s in the top half of the second (7% to 19%), with 17% of libraries doing better and 67% doing worse. For its spending category, it’s in the top quarter but not the top tenth.
  • Reference transactions per capita are very good—near the top of the second of six brackets (0.8 to 1.29), with 17% doing better and 68% doing worse. For its spending category, it’s in the top quarter but not the top tenth.
  • On the other hand, reference transactions are dropping; Erewhon is slightly worse than most libraries in this regard, in the fourth of six brackets (48% significantly better, 33% worse). For its spending category, it’s in the second quarter (that is, below the median but above the first quartile).
  • Program attendance per capita is mediocre, in the fourth of six brackets, with 54% doing significantly better and 32% doing worse. For its spending category, Erewhon is just into the second quartile—that is, about 25% of libraries have lower program attendance.
  • As with visits, change is in the right direction, in the third of six brackets (32% doing better, 50% doing worse). For its spending category, it’s in the third quartile—better than most, but not in the top 25%.
  • PC use per capita is very low, in the fifth of six brackets, with 64% of libraries doing significantly better and 15% doing worse. For its spending category, it’s not in the bottom 10% but it’s definitely in the bottom quarter.
  • Ah, but PC use is improving fast—it’s near the top of the second of six brackets, with 17% of libraries doing even better and 68% doing worse. For its spending category, it’s not in the top 10% but it’s definitely in the top quarter.
  • The library isn’t especially busy, which is fairly typical for relatively small libraries. It’s in the fourth of six brackets, with 50% of libraries busier and 34% less busy. For its spending category, it’s in the second quarter—that is, more than 25% of libraries spending $30 to $39.99 per capita are less busy and more than 50% are busier.
  • Finally, it’s getting busier, in the second of six brackets for change in visits per hour, with 16% higher and 68% lower. For its spending category, it’s in the top half but not quite in the top quarter.

Is that information useful? Will it help the library fine-tune its operations and improve funding? I can’t be sure. But let’s look at libraries of comparable size.

Libraries Serving 6,000 to 8,999 Patrons

This set of bullet points is based on Chapter 7 (noting that “patrons” counts people in the legal service area, not those who have registered with the library). The brackets are always going to be the same, so we’ll just look at percentages.

  • 32% of these libraries spend more; 49% spend significantly less. Roughly one-third of libraries in this size category saw spending improve more than Erewhon, while 46% did worse.
  • For circulation per capita, half the libraries in this size range did significantly better, while 34% didn’t do as well. In the spending category, Erewhon is a little below the 25%ile—that is, more than three-quarters of libraries had higher circulation per capita.
  • For changes in circulation per capita, 34% did better and 52% did significantly worse. Erewhon is well into the third quartile for its spending category.
  • More than half the libraries in this size range (52%) had significantly more patron visits per capita, while 24% had fewer. For its spending category, Erewhon is in the bottom 10%.
  • When it comes to changes in patron visits, Erewhon did better than 65% of libraries in this size range, with 19% doing significantly better.
  • Only 16% of libraries in this size range had more reference transactions; 68% had significantly fewer. Erewhon is in the top quarter for libraries in its spending category, but not in the top 10%.
  • 47% of libraries in this size range showed either an increase or less decrease in reference per capita; 32% showed significantly more decrease.
  • For program attendance per capita, 57% of libraries in this size range did significantly better and 30% worse; Erewhon is in the bottom quarter (but not the bottom 10%) for its spending category.
  • Roughly one-third (32%) of similarly-sized libraries showed more growth in program attendance, while 49% did worse. Erewhon is in the third quarter for its spending category—more than half did worse, but more than a quarter did better.
  • More than three out of five libraries of this size range (62%) had significantly more PC use per capita, and the library is in the first quarter for its spending category (that is, more than 75% did better). Only 14% showed significantly more improvement, however, with 68% doing worse.
  • Finally, 56% of libraries in this size range are significantly busier, and Erewhon is in the least busy 10% for its spending category. But only 17% are getting busier at a significantly faster rate, while 66% are doing less.

Comparisons to Other Alabama Libraries

So how does Erewhon Community Library stack up against other Alabama libraries? It’s still in the middle as far as size is concerned—39% of Alabama’s libraries serve smaller groups while 38% serve larger groups. On the other hand, it spends more per capita than most Alabama libraries—only 13% spend significantly more while 76% spend substantially less. 24% of Alabama’s libraries improved spending more than Erewhon, and 61% didn’t do as well. As to the smaller set of metrics for state comparisons:

  • Less than a quarter of Alabama’s libraries circulated significantly more items per capita (24%), and 67% circulated fewer. For its spending category, however, Erewhon was in the lowest quartile. More than three-quarters (76%) either gained circulation or lost less. (Alabama’s libraries show very strong correlation between spending and circulation.)
  • Visits per capita are similar: 24% of Alabama’s libraries had significantly more, 51% fewer. In this case, Erewhon’s actually in the lowest 10% for libraries spending similar amounts. Only 22% had more improvement in visits per capita; 62% had less.
  • Some 22% of Alabama’s libraries had more reference transactions per capita; 67% had fewer. For its spending category, Erewhon is in the third quartile—better than half the libraries but not as good as the top quarter. A full 58% of libraries showed more improvement (or less reduction) in reference transactions per capita; 27% did worse.
  • Finally, just over half (52%) of Alabama libraries had more PC use per capita, while 20% had less; for its spending category, however, Erewhon was in the bottom quartile. On the other hand, while 36% of Alabama’s libraries saw even more increase in PC use per capita, 55% did worse—and Erewhon is in the top quartile for this measure in its spending category.

Are these facts helpful? Again, I’m not sure. In any case, barring a major and fairly rapid increase in sales of Volume 1 and Your Library Is…, Volume 2 won’t appear.

Understanding Your Story

I’ve thought of the books as providing help to libraries attempting to tell their stories to funding agencies, once they’ve fleshed out data comparisons with the real-world items that make libraries special. But maybe there’s another aspect: Understanding
your own story.

Looking at this off-the-cuff mythical example, I wonder why the usage numbers are (except for reference) not very good. Once a library knows that their resources are being underutilized, does that help them plan ways to improve the situation?

I looked at more numbers (again averaging two real libraries to create a mythical library). Erewhon spent $3.73 per capita on print materials in 2011: That’s a reasonably healthy amount, above the national average. The library’s open reasonably good hours for a small library (2,566—about 49 hours a week). There are 4.8 books per capita, which is also decent—and with 34,000 volumes, it shouldn’t be that there’s nothing worth borrowing. About 61% of the potential patrons are registered borrowers—which isn’t great, but isn’t terrible either. I do note that there aren’t many programs (86 total), and most of those programs are for kids or young adults (only 15 are for adults). Is that an issue?

So: Does all of this help, or is it just a distraction? I don’t know the answers.

The most complete story, 2010: Compleat Give Us…, an FAQ

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

What is it?

All of the tables from Chapters 1-19 of Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four, plus all of the graphs in Chapters 1-19 of Graphing Public Library Benefits and all of the commentary from the November 2012 Cites & Insights, all integrated into a very complete look at public library benefits and funding, by size of library, in FY2010. It’s all combined into a 361-page 8.5″ x 11″ PDF ebook (no DRM) for a mere $9.99.

Who should find this worthwhile?

Libraries serving library schools, for one.

Some larger public libraries.

State library associations.

Some library consultants.

Librarians who want a fairly detailed understanding of the situation.

How is it available?

The standard PDF ebook costs $9.99 from Lulu.

A site-licensed version (with explicit permission to mount it on a server with multiple simultaneous access/download/reading) is $39.99 from Lulu.

It is not available in print, because many of the graphs are 10-color graphs that would require color printing throughout; as a result, a paperback version would have to be priced at more than $85 (more than $75 even if I didn’t want a modest return). That seems ridiculous. (If you don’t care about the 10-color graphs and do want a print version, you should buy The inCompleat Give Us a Dollar for $26.99 paperback. It leaves out those graphs, but it does include Libraries by State, Chapter 20.)

Will the book get cheaper over time?

No, but it will disappear when there are no sales.

Will it be replaced with a newer version?

No. The “newer version” already exists ($4 to $1…), but it doesn’t replace this because it discusses fewer measures and breaks libraries down into fewer groups in order to attain a reasonable length.

What public libraries say about themselves: Your Library Is…, an FAQ

Monday, September 16th, 2013

li432What a library says about itself may say much about the aspirations and community sense of the library. This book collects those sayings, as sources of revelation and inspiration–about public libraries and for public libraries and the communities they serve.

What is it?

A collection of public library sayings–mottoes and slogans on the home pages of public library websites from around the U.S.

Your Library Is… A Collection of Public Library Sayings is a 157 page (plus vi pages) 6″ x 9″ paperback consisting of a four-page introduction and the slogans and mottoes, arranged by state and by library (system) within state.

I checked the websites of as many of the 9,200+ U.S. public library websites (in the IMLS FY2011 database) as I could find. After omitting some categories of sayings, I wound up with 1,137 apparently-unique mottoes and slogans and another 88 mottoes and slogans shared by a total of 205 libraries.

Who should find this worthwhile?

Nobody needs this book.

Who might want it?

Librarians (and non-librarians) who may find the range of mottoes and slogans inspirational and revealing.

Libraries that don’t have sayings (most don’t, and that’s fine) and might be considering using one…or, for that matter, libraries that do have sayings but don’t show them on their homepages.

Libraries serving library schools, again for inspiration and revelation.

How is it available?

The paperback version costs $16.99 plus shipping from Lulu. As with (nearly) all Cites & Insights Books, it’s nicely designed and printed on 60lb. cream stock, classic “library quality paper.”

The ebook version–a PDF with no DRM and 6″ x 9″ pages that should display beautifully on most ereaders and tablets–costs $8.99. No shipping. It is identical to the body of the paperback.

You can also acquire a deluxe version of the PDF ebook (adding the book covers as first and last pages) by donating $50 or more to Cites & Insights and requesting the book when I thank you for your donation.

Will the book get cheaper over time?

No. I’ve already priced the ebook lower than most C&I books.

It will disappear over time if there aren’t enough sales to keep it active.

Will it be replaced by a newer version?

Highly unlikely. It was fun to scan the 9,000+ websites and record the sayings once. I doubt that they’ll change or grow all that rapidly, and it would be a lot less fun to do it again.

Can I get a sample?

The first saying is “Generations of Readers.” The last is “Dynamic Gateways for Lifelong Learning”

A considerably longer sample is available on pages 6-15 of the (online version of the) October 2013 Cites & Insights.

Tell me a little more…

I was looking at public library websites for a research project and encountered a variety of interesting and frequently inspiring mottoes and slogans.

At some point, it struck me that these were varied and worthwhile—-clearly to the libraries that put them on their websites and quite possibly to librarians and libraries elsewhere.

It’s one thing to provide inspirational messages from one person’s viewpoint. But these are what libraries choose to say about themselves.


I used the IMLS public library dataset for 2011 (not the outlet dataset but the set of main libraries and library systems), retrieved in order to prepare $4 to $1: Public Library Benefits and Budgets. It included URLs for several hundred libraries (although the URLs didn’t always work). I copied key columns of that dataset to a spreadsheet with another column for the sayings I found.

Going through the libraries with URLs, I found that about one out of every five libraries had a motto or slogan that wasn’t an epigraph (a quotation from somebody else),”Welcome,” a saying referring to the website itself or the like. The variety and content were rich enough to persuade me to go through the rest—more than 9,000 libraries, checked for fun during breaks in more serious projects over a couple of months in the summer of 2013.

To search for the rest of the libraries, I prepared a composite key composed of the library name and the state abbreviation. For most of the process, I used Bing, since it seemed to provide cleaner results with less overhead than Google. It didn’t take long to recognize the patterns of pseudowebsites—the many auto-generated webpages that have nothing to do with the actual libraries.

I didn’t actually keep track of how many libraries I was unable to find websites for. In a few hundred cases, I located the website indirectly from a library’s Facebook page—and in a few cases, I took a motto or slogan from that page. My best guess is that I missed somewhere between 500 and 1,000 libraries, mostly small, either because they simply don’t have websites or because I couldn’t reach them.

When I found a motto or slogan, I either copied it directly (if that was feasible) or retyped it into the Excel cell. For slogans appearing entirely in capital letters, I used sentence case instead; in all other cases, I attempted to retain the capitalization used in the original. Quotation marks and ellipses were retained. A variety of ornaments used between words were normalized to middle dots (•).


Along the way, I added some categories of things that seemed not to make sense to include in this collection. Among those (noting that I’m not entirely consistent about these!):

  • Epigraphs (quotations from other people), as already noted.
  • “Welcome” or “Welcome to your library” without anything else.
  • “Your library resources anytime, anywhere” and other similar sayings that appear to be part of the default Plinkit template or that refer to the website rather than to the library itself.
  • “Serving xxx” where”xxx” is the name of the community, communities, county or counties served.
  • “Check us out” or”check it out” or similar sayings, although some variations are included.
  • Statements of the library’s age without anything else.
  • Statements of a library’s award-winning or number-of-stars status.
  • Library mission statements and vision statements (although a few of these probably crept in).

I did pick up mottoes contained within a library’s logo, if it was possible to read the text as the logo appeared on the website.

I do not claim perfection or consistency. A few of the sayings here should probably have been excluded. A few sayings that weren’t picked up probably should have been. This collection should be fun and maybe inspiring; it’s not a research project as such.

One other category of exclusion

The text above comes from the introduction. Thinking about it, there’s another category of exclusion that may include hundreds of libraries: Cases where the library page appears as part of the city or county website, especially as a portion of a master page, and a city or county slogan or motto appears (and not a separate library one).