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High Point library ranks fourth in state


By MARK BINKER, Staff Writer

News & Record



HIGH POINT -- High Point's public library is one of the five best in the

state, according to a national survey to be published this month.


But don't expect Kem Ellis, director of the Neal F. Austin High Point

Public Library, to be shouting from the roof-tops and putting up banners.


"I was saying that before there ever was an index," Ellis said Wednesday.

"I would get more excited about it if it were done on something other than

a statistical basis.


"There are a lot of wonderful libraries in the state that were not in the

top 10."


The rankings are published in the November issue of American Libraries -- a

scholarly journal for librarians -- and use a variety of data reported to

the state and federal governments. The study's author uses those numbers to

create an index from 1 to 1,000, much like the nationwide SAT test index's

scores for high school students.


High Point's score was 714, fourth on the list of North Carolina libraries.

The Chapel Hill Public Library topped the state's rankings.


The Greensboro Public Library, which serves most of Guilford County, ranked

23rd out of the 70 North Carolina libraries on the survey. Five libraries,

including Forsyth County Public Library, were not ranked because they did

not report some data needed by the survey.


Voters in Greensboro will vote on a $5.1 million bond referendum for

improvements to the public library system on Tuesday, but much of that will

go to capital improvements not measured by the report.


The chief reason that Greensboro's library ranks lower than High Point's is

because the survey focuses on how much money the library spends per user.

For the survey's purposes, High Point's library only counts 73,322 people

as potential users -- roughly the population of High Point alone -- while

Greensboro counts most of the county's population -- 310,496 -- as

potential users.


"We're serving a greater population and the city is bearing 91 percent of

that cost," said Sandy Neerman, director of the Greensboro library.

Though almost 40 percent of the customers who use the nine Greensboro

library branches live outside the city, Guilford County taxes fund only

about six percent of the library's budget.


Nationwide, libraries like High Point's that have only one branch and serve

a limited population tend to score better on the survey than larger systems

like Greensboro's.


Still, Greensboro's score was above the state average of 450 and compares

favorably with libraries of similar sizes that serve similar populations.

The study's author cautions that his rankings should not be the only way

communities rank the value or performance of their libraries.


"The indexed score is just one element to look at," said Thomas J. Hennen,

Jr., study author and director of the Waukesha County Federated Library

System. Hennen, Ellis and Neerman all said that a library's effectiveness

shouldn't be measured solely by its budget.


Ellis said he would rather be praised for intangible factors, like how well

the library's programs serve High Point's needs.


"I certainly did not look at that ranking and say, 'Oh Boy! Look at what a

great job I'm doing,'" Ellis said.




According to a survey and research published in the November issue of

American Libraries, here are the top 10 libraries in North Carolina and

their scores out of 1,000, as well as Greensboro's score.


1. Chapel Hill Public Library, 782

2. Southern Pines Public Library, 738

3. New Hanover County Public Library, 719

4. High Point Public Library, 714

5. Henderson County Public Library, 693

6. Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County, 676

7. Durham County Library, 674

8. Wake County Library, 651

9. Transylvania County Library, 650

10. Asheville-Buncombe Library System, 644

23. Greensboro Public Library, 497




Mark Binker, Reporter

News & Record

High Point Office

1813 North Main Street

High Point, North Carolina 27262

ph: (336) 883-4422, Extension 241

fx: (336) 883-4160







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