Hennen's American Public Library Ratings
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HAPLR Electronic Resource User

Population  Direct Spending per Electonic use Direct Spending per Print use
Category 2003 2004  Change 2003 2004  Change
 a) 500 k  $1.68 $1.01 -40% $0.81 $0.78 -3%
 b) 250 k  $1.62 $0.69 -58% $0.65 $0.64 -2%
 c) 100 k  $1.56 $0.53 -66% $0.68 $0.64 -6%
 d) 50 k  $1.91 $0.74 -61% $0.68 $0.74 8%
 e) 25 K  $1.99 $0.78 -61% $0.67 $0.79 17%
 f) 10 k  $1.78 $0.53 -70% $0.64 $0.73 14%
 g) 5 k  $1.82 $0.54 -70% $0.73 $0.85 17%
 h) 2.5 k  $1.40 $0.39 -72% $0.73 $0.69 -5%
 i) 1 k  $1.30 $0.49 -62% $0.77 $0.82 7%
 j) 0 k  $1.68 $1.63 -3% $1.13 $1.19 6%
 Average $1.66 $0.66 -60% $0.75 $0.81 9%

The individual libraries that report library statistics must be reading the instructions on reporting electronic use very differently indeed, unless the instructions are totally and irredeemably flawed.  The current range of responses is just too wildly different.  I will not include such skewed data in the HAPLR ratings, but I will comment on what the flawed data appear to be saying in general for American libraries.   I have also provided a link showing the averages by state for a variety of measures. 

 Here is the apples, oranges and broccoli problem in specific detail.  In the 100,000 to 249,999 population category, the expenditure per item circulated is $10.52 at the 95th percentile level and $2.23 at the 5th percentile level.  That means that 95% of libraries spend less than $10.52 and only 5% spend less than $2.23.  The range from high to low is about 7 to 1.  For all of the “traditional measures” in the HAPLR ratings the high to low ranges are in this range, never more than 10 to 1.  But, when we examine the reported spending per electronic capita, the range is a whopping 94 to 1.  The numbers are clearly not credible and should not be used, as Keith Curry Lance, FSCS guru, noted to me recently.  Hence, I cannot and will not use them for HAPLR ratings. 

Although the numbers do not work for individual cases like the HAPLR ratings for individual libraries, we can still learn some things from the aggregate data.  The table below notes the changes in reported spending for electronic as opposed to print material use.  The table demonstrates the number of recorded circulations or electronic uses divided by the reported spending for each type.  On average, libraries spent $0.66 on electronic materials for each electronic use, a fall of 60% from a year ago, while the spending per print item use averaged $0.81, a 9% increase.  Using comparable data just one year ago in the last HAPLR article, I noted that libraries were paying more in direct spending for electronic use than for print use.  Just a year later, the data appear to have change dramatically for most population categories.  Is this a question of drastic changes in use, rapidly declining costs, or, as seems most likely, confusion about how and what to report? 




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October 2008

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