In matters where uncertainty prevails and information
is accepted mostly on trust, one is justified in trying to rouse the reading public
to a more critical watchfulness by showing that in the study of human affairs evasion
and deception are as a rule much more profitable than telling the truth."
- Stanislav Andreski, Social Sciences As Sorcery, 1973, p. 13.
Welcome to my public library assessment site! Below are brief posts describing articles, reports, events, and news items about public library statistics and assessment, primarily projects I am directly working with. Visit my blog for lengthier ruminations on library assessment topics and troubles! - Ray Lyons
New Pew Report on Parents & Public Libraries
Parents Value Libraries for Children's Sakes
This week the Pew Internet & American Life Project released the report, Parents, Children, Libraries and Reading. This survey of 584 parents of children under 18 and 1668 other adults explores how parents and their families perceive and use libraries compared with adults without children under 18 (non-parents).
Researchers found that parents value public libraries more than non-parents, and that this value is based on the importance parents place on their children's reading habits and capabilities. Reminiscent of the classic 1948 study, The Public Library Inquiry, the PEW study finds mothers in the forefront of library use by and for children. Another related finding is that mothers read to their children more often fathers.
The study also found parents are more likely to visit public libraries than non-parents. Beyond that, parents who visit public libraries are more likely to "do library activities" like browsing shelves, borrowing materials, attending children's programs, and using public computers than non-parents who visit libraries. (The question becomes, then, how non-parents spend their time in public libraries.)
Similar to findings in the classic 1978 study, Summer Learning and the Effects of Schooling, the PEW research found parents with incomes less than $50,000 view the library as more important than parents with higher incomes. The reason cited in the 1978 study: families with higher incomes purchase more reading materials for the home than other families.
Two New ARL Statistical Reports
Health Science, Law Libraries 2010-2011 Statistics
This week the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) announced the availability of two statistical reports about special libraries. The first is ARL Academic Health Sciences Library Statistics 2010-2011, which describes collections, expenditures, staffing, and services for 63 medical libraries at ARL member institutions in the U.S. and Canada. Libraries responding to the survey held a median of approximately 281 thousand volumes, had total operating expenditures of $240 million, and employed nearly two thousand FTE staff. Expenditures for materials and staff accounted for 90% of total expenditures, at 52% and 38%. Electronic materials expenditures totalled $101 million or almost 89% of materials budgets, including $97 million for electronic serials.
The second report is ARL Academic Law Library Statistics 2010-2011, which describes the same information for 74 member law libraries in the U.S. and Canada. These libraries reported a median of about 370 thousand volumes, had $217 million in total operating expenditures, and nearly two thousand FTE staff. Expenditures for materials and staff were each 46% of total operating expenditures. The libraries reported expenditures of $25 million for electronic materials, or a median of nearly 28% of total materials budgets, including $22 million expenditures for electronic serials.
Online editions of either report can be purchased for $170 U.S., and print editions for $135. The ARL member price for the print edition is $65.
New ARL Survey on Digitized Special Collections
First Comprehensive Study of Digitization Practices
The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) published findings from a survey conducted on ARL's behalf by Ithaka S&R. The survey of all ARL member institutions "offers a first look at the practices, attitudes, costs, and revenues associated with caring for digitized special collections." It also examines operational challenges, perceived impacts, and outreach practices among special collections digitization projects.
Among key findings were the facts that many digitization projects have no clear managers in charge, that spending on new projects overshadow investment in maintaining or enhancing the products of prior projects, and only minimial effort is expended on understanding needs of the users of the materials. The report also recommends ways for enhancing ongoing support of digitized special collections, such as specifying intended impacts of the collections, devising clear definitions project roles and responsibilities, using qualitative research to understand specialized user needs, and exploring sponsorship or licensing as funding options when appropriate.
Library Edge Coalition Announces Public Library Technology Benchmarks
Version 1.0 of 'Leadership and Planning Tool'
Library Edge, a coalition of thirteen library organizations including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Public Library Association, American Library Association Office for Information Technology Policy, Online Computer Library Center, International City/County Management Association, state library authorities, and others issued the first edition of what is billed as 'benchmarks' for the deployment and promotion of public use computers in public libraries. The benchmarks are standards for managing public technology assets, conducting community training, providing user technical assistance, and promoting technology use to the library's community.
According to the coalition the benchmarks are intended "to help library leaders assess public computers and how they are being used, identify ways to strengthen or enhance public technology, and communicate with key leaders on the value of the library's public access technology in achieving community goals." The coalition forsees making changes to the benchmarks based on future input from user libraries.
IMLS Releases 2010 Public Libraries Survey Results
New Snapshots of State-level Trends Included
This week the Institute of Museum and Library Services announced the availability of Public Libraries in the United States Survey Fiscal Year 2010. As in past years, the annual survey reports statistics about U.S. public library services and operations, resources, and staffing. The main report contains only national level data and trends. In this edition tables that in prior years appeared in the main body of the report were issued separately as six sets of Supplemntary Tables.
This is the first edition in which IMLS has documented trends at the local, regional, and state levels in what IMLS has billed as state-level "snapshots." A separate report, State Profiles, presents the snapshots as single-page summaries, one for each U.S. state. The State Profiles include items like state population, number of libraries, staffing, libraries by community type (rural, town, suburban, urban), circulation and visits per capita trends for 2001-2010, annual rates of change in circulation and visits per capita for 2009-2010, and comparisons with regional and national rates.
This 2010 survey is also the first full IMLS statistical report following the official ending of the Great Recession. The report indicates that 2010 total operating expenditures of $10.77 billion were the first decrease since 2001. State-level per-capita expenditures varied from $15.99 to $67.78.
New Article on Library Outcome Evaluation
Promotes Familiarity with Field of Program Evaluation
An article I wrote entitled "Duck Soup and Outcome Evaluation" appears in the current issue of Public Library Quarterly. The article outlines early ideas from the field of program evaluation upon which current approaches to human services and educational outcome evaluation are based. In particular, I review the definitive evaluation model appearing in Edward Suchman's 1967 book, Evaluative Research.
The article also examines how the field of library and information science uses the terms outcomes and impacts. Customarily in program evaluation, the term impact is reserved for studies where some causal link can be made between programs and measured outcomes. The library profession tends to blur the distinction between these, and often ends up discussing outcomes as if they include evidence of causality when they actually do not.
A third focus of the article is on the role of values in assessing whether library programs do or do not make a difference. Professional program evaluators have come to a mature understanding of the role values play in evaluation studies, whereas in the library profession values are viewed as any possible benefits, intended or not, that library service might provide.
2012 LJ Index of Public Library Services Published
Fifth Edition of National Ratings
Results of the 2012 Library Journal Index of Public Library Services appeared this week. The LJ Index is the only national system currently rating public libraries in the U.S. The methodology was conceived in 2008 by Keith Curry Lance and me in conjunction with editors of the Library Journal. The charter edition was issued in the February 2009, with the eecond edition in November 2009. Annual editions have been published each November since then. Each year's ratings are based on data collected in the annual survey conducted by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The initial LJ Index ratings (February 2009) used 2006 IMLS data, while this 2012 edition is based upon 2010 data from the Institute.
The ratings compare more than 7,400 U.S. public libraries in nine peer comparison groups based on their total operating expenditures. Libraries are compared on per capita quantities of these four services they deliver: visits, circulation, program attendance, and public Internet computer users. The ratings do not (and cannot) rate quality, excellence, effectiveness, goodness, or relevance of library services. Complete information on the methodology is available at the project FAQ sheet.
Over the five editions 1,296 LJ Index Stars have been awarded to 455 libraries from 44 U.S. states. In 2012 262 libraries received Star designations. Over the five editions an average of 259 libraries received Stars per edition. 111 public libraries were awarded Stars in every edition.
Museum Assessment Program Announces New Particpants
Promotes Museum Best Practices
Last week the Institute of Museum and Library Services announced the latest round of participants in its 30-year old Museum Assessment Program (MAP) aimed at promoting best practices in museums in the U.S. The program is administered by the Alliance of Museums. According to IMLS, "MAP participants include 126 museums from 39 states, encompassing small and mid-sized museums of all types." The program is aimed at strengthening museum operations and planning and guiding the museums in meeting national standards. The program involves onsite reviews and assistance provided by the Alliance.
The program offers 'assessments' in four areas: organizational, collections stewardship, community engagement, and leadership/governance. Musuems with operating expenses exceeding $125,000 pay a small fee for consultations. The IMLS-funded MAP grants are non-competitive.
ARL Member Libraries 2011-2012 Salary Survey Published
Salaries at US ARL Libraries Lag Behind
The Association of Research Libaries (ARL) released its survey of member libraries salaries for 2011 - 2012. The study reports data from nearly ten thousand professional staff respondents from ARL's 115 university libraries and more than four thousand respondents from ARL's non-university members. The association's press release notes that, based on median reported incomes, US library staff have not kept up with growth in the US Consumer Price Index (CPI), while Canadian member libraries have kept up with the CPI in Canada.
The report includes nearly 40 tables and charts describing trends and distributions of staff based on ethnicity, gender, professional categories for general, medical, and law libraries. The print edition of the report is $170 for non-ARL members and $80 for members. Online access to ARL salary surveys from 2006 to this latest edition is also available through ARL.
ACRL Publishes Whitepaper on Demonstrating Library Value
Proceedings from 2011 Summits
Last month the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) published a whitepaper entitled Connect, Collaborate, Communicate describing proceedings of two summits convened in late 2011 to discuss increasing the capacity of academic libraries to "demonstrate value." The report, by Karen Brown (Dominican University) and Kara J. Malenfant (ACRL), enumerates recommendations from the summits, which were funded by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Summit participants identified the needs to "increase librarians' understanding of library value and impact...articulate and promote the importance of assessment competencies... create professional development opportunities...expand partnerships for assessment activities...[and] integrate the use of existing ACRL resources with value initiatives."
Though authors and summit discussants used the term impacts repeatedly, the meaning they ascribe to the term is technically outcomes. Assessment of program impacts, effects, or effectiveness requires specific research protocols (such as experimental and quasi-experimental designs) by which causes of observed outcomes can be validly concluded to be library programs and activities, rather than extraneous causes. The relevance of this requirement was not apparent in the report.
PEW Report on Libraries, Patrons, e-Books
PEW Internet & American Life Project
As a follow-up to their April 2012 report, The Rise of e-Reading, last week the PEW Internet & American Life project released the report Libraries, Patrons, & e-Books. The study reports that 12% of e-book readers have borrowed e-books from their local library. 62% of respondents 16 and older were unaware of whether e-books can be borrowed from their local library. About 75% of all local libraries lend e-books.
Library e-book borrowers report contending with wait lists, e-book format limitations, and title unavailability. Trend-setting patrons and librarians believe that e-books and e-book readers have led to significant changes in book searching and borrowing at libraries. 58% of Americans have a library card, and 69% say that their local library is important to them and their family.
New Report on Library Websites & Virtual Services
LJ Patron Profiles Series
Last year Library Journal initiated the Patron Profile Series, a research series aimed at "Understanding the Behavior & Preferences of U.S. Public Library Users." Last month the 3rd installment in the series, entitled "Library Websites & Virtual Services," was released. This issue describes a subset of 342 respondents from the larger survey designated as "Power ePatrons." The issue describes this group's technology usage, media preferences, book-buying behavior, e-book awareness, library utilization, and so on. Due to their frequency of library website use, Power ePatrons are seen as trend-setters for the larger patron population.
An executive summary is available on the LJ website, although the complete report is available by subscription only. The next issue on media consumption and library use is scheduled for July 2012.
ALA 2012 State of Libraries Report Issued
Focus on Budgets, e-Books, & Censorship
Last week the American Library Association (ALA) released its annual State of Libraries report. Declaring that "libraries continue to transform lives," the report discusses public library funding trends, e-books and digital content, and censorship and intellectual freedom. Library services to minorities and diversity within the profession are also addressed. School library funding continues to be a perpetual challenge, as do pressures on academic libraries to adapt to increased digitization of information and to demonstrate their contributions to the missions of their larger institutions.
Although report contains many fewer statistical charts than in the past, it does reference a statistical analysis of selected urban libraries in a study conducted by The Pew Charitable Trusts for the Free Library of Philadelphia.
FCC Broadband Mobility Fund Phase I Data Released
Identifies Potentially Eligible Rural Communities
Last month the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) published datafiles and an interactive map identifying areas in the USA that may qualify for mobile broadband access financial support. The program is a part of the larger Connect America Fund, an overhall of the decades-old Universal Service subsidy for telephone service access in underserved communities. The datafiles include census tract and related information. This month the FCC additionally issued the data in GIS formats.
The Connect America Fund aims at increasing public access to broadband in accordance with the National Broadband Plan developed by the FCC. This plan also calls for a Digital Literacy Program be established, including a Digital Literacy Corps. According to the Plan, "The Corps should target segments of the population that are less likely to have broadband at home, including low-income individuals, racial and ethnic minorities, senior citizens, people with disabilities, those with lower education levels, people in rural communities, those on Tribal lands and people whose primary or only language is not English."
Public Library Directors' Summit on Outcome Assessment
Convened by Columbus Metro Library and Library Journal
On December 5th & 6th, 2011 a conference of 150 U.S. public library leaders was held at the Columbus (Ohio) Metropolitan Library to discuss outcome assessment in public libraries. Co-convened by the Columbus library and Library Journal, news of the summit appeared last week in this article.
As reported in the article, outcome studies were considered to be more meaningful for library stakeholders, although study findings were seen as necessarily "squishy." By comparison library output statistics were described as "hard" data and "proof" that libraries have become accustomed to. (Perhaps as the group proceeds they'll come to realize that the exact opposite is true!)
The conference included descriptions of demographic analyses and needs assessments,
program planning, library marketing and promotion, evidence-based practice, and
even "futurism." An editorial by LJ editor Francine Fialkoff also pushes
for assessment of outcomes on a community level. Future summits and articles on
these topics are planned.
ACRL Publishes 2010 Statistics
New ACRLMetrics System Also In Use
Last month ACRL released 2010 Academic Library Trends and Statistics, a report of statistics from 1,514 participating academic libraries in the USA and, to a lesser extent, Canada. The report contains statistical data describing library collections, expenditures, electronic resources, staff and services, user-related characteristics (like Ph.D.'s granted and student enrollment), and professional librarian status (faculty, tenure, and so on).
The press release reports a couple of statistical trends, such as the increase in the median cost of monographs in institutions of all types, and the increase in expenditures as a percentage of all collection expenditures in institutions other than those granding doctoral degrees.
The report is available for purchase as a 3-volume set or as separate volumes. Last year ACRL also initiated an automated data system, ACRLMetrics, by which participants submit and access their statistical data. The system, developed and operated by Counting Opinions, is described in detail in an 2011 article in the Journal of Academic Librarianship.