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August 2010
Volume 2, Issue 8

Continuing Education Alert

Check Your Calendars!!

Library Card Sign-up Month 2010
September, 2010

SDLA Annual Conference
September 22-24, 2010. Sioux Falls.

Festival of Books
September 24-26, 2010. Sioux Falls.

Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read
September 25 - October 2, 2010.

2010 Indian Education Summit
September 26-28, 2010

Teen Read Week
October 17-23, 2010

2nd National Day on Writing
October 20, 2010

Library Development

Board Talk: Know your local and national statistics

By Daria Bossman, Assistant State Librarian for Development Services

Recently the Institute of Museum and Library Services in cooperation with the U.S. Census Bureau released the 2008 Public Library statistics. An HTML version of this publication with handy graphics is available at

How does this concern us in South Dakota or you as individual citizens in a small Midwestern town? Hopefully your librarian is showing you the annual statistics she/he files each March/April with the State Library. These statistics are entered into an online system known as Collect. Your librarian has the login number and unique password if you are interested in viewing your library’s unique statistics going back to 2000. The address is

Statistical changes in one area, such as circulation numbers or programs offered may not be significant or cause for concern or celebration. However, trends over several years raise awareness or in some cases serve to alert us of corrections or adjustments in services or funding which need to be addressed. The board should see the Public Library Survey (formerly known as the Annual Report) each spring and review it at that time. Then when the compilation of national numbers comes out each summer, local trends can be compared to national trends.

Here is one example of what can be discussed based on one set of statistics. Circulation of books and other materials is up nationally. Has it been rising in your community? What might be some factors which contribute if your numbers are not also rising? Is your service population decreasing? Do you have fewer children in the community? Have family life-styles changed so that perhaps library hours need to be increased or adjusted to accommodate two working parents or parents working or gone on weekends? Do you offer as many children’s or family programs as you have in the past? These are just a few of the questions that can emerge from just one set of numbers.

Statistics are “just numbers” in and of themselves, but when placed along national numbers or used as a beginning point to question trends (either positive or negative trends) we can begin to use these numbers to better our services and more accurately meet the informational and recreational needs of our community members. I trust as trustees and local library board members you will seek out your annual statistics and question your librarian about the meaning of these numbers.

Here are some of the distilled facts from our 2008 national survey:

  • More than 9,200 public libraries were surveyed in 50 states plus our territories. IMLS has a 98% response rate. South Dakota’s response rate was 95% in 2008 and 95.5% in 2009.
  • Individuals visited the library 5.1 times in 2008 over 4.3 visits in 1999. This is a 19.7% increase!
  • In 2008 there were 1.5 BILLION visits to public libraries in the U.S.!
  • The availability of Internet terminals has doubled over the past 10 years.
  • Circulation per capita has increased over the past 10 years, a 19.7% increase since 1999.
  • People checked out 7.7 books (or resources) in 2008 compared to 6.5 books (resources) in 1999.
  • Children’s program attendance increased nearly 14% in the past decade.
  • Not surprising, the number of librarians per 25,000 people has remained the same in the last 10 years.

A large number of library outlets in the country are located in rural areas. In fact, sixteen of the 50 states report that more than 50 percent of their libraries are located in rural areas. That would be us, folks, where 80 percent of South Dakota is clearly identified as “rural.”

The Public Library Survey is a very important source of data to use both locally and as IMLS prepares each year to lobby Congress on behalf of funding for the states. In South Dakota we receive slightly over a million federal dollars annually. These dollars go directly to support library services across the state and to benefit our individual citizens. They are used to purchase our 41 subject specific electronic resources available at every public library, to supplement InterLibrary Loan services across the state, to train our local librarians, and to support our regionally acclaimed Braille & Talking Book services. Check out our State Library Web site for a listing of all our electronic databases and more resources and services at

The PLS report, which includes information on population of service area, service outlets, library collections and services, library staffing, and operating revenue and expenditures, also discovered that Americans made 1.5 billion visits to public libraries in FY2008, up from 1.42 billion total visits the previous year.

Clearly, public libraries are considered a valuable and necessary institution in their local communities. Americans have spoken with their foot path. Our public libraries are even more important during this economic down turn when many are unemployed. For many citizens the local library is their only access to the Internet and for many students living in poverty or in families where there is unemployment, computer access to do homework and research is only available in public and/or school libraries. Libraries are not a nice amenity for a community, but a necessity.

And to thrive and not just survive, public libraries need to be funded adequately. They need funding increased in the proportion of growth of services and usage. This is the job of the Library Board. Your “job” among other responsibilities is to advocate and communicate to local leadership and funding agencies the economic and social impact the local library has on your community.

While your librarian may complete the numbers, it is your job to study and know the numbers... and to communicate those facts to your community. It is an awesome responsibility. Share your successes with us!

board, public library, statistics, survey

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