How Do Massachusetts Public Libraries Use Library Data?, November 2005 (v.9, n.1)

In August of this year, I sent out an email asking library directors to let me know how they use the data that the Board collects, verifies and then makes available through print reports and on the agency website. I am presenting here just a few of the responses. I hope that these comments will help inspire your use of lirbary statistics.

Susan Flannery, the director of the Cambridge Public Libary sent me a copy of the text that was included in the FY2006 budget. She said, "The city liked our comparative stats so well they actually used it in the city's budget document."

Here is an excerpt from the budget document:
"Based on statistical reports published by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, the Cambridge Public Library exceeds most comparable and nearby libraries in services offered and has one of the lowest salary costs per hour open."



Total Hours open (Weekly) Books, DVD's, etc. Borrowed (Annual) Program Offered (Annual) Program Attendees (Annual) Questions Answered (Weekly) Books, DVD's, etc. Borrowed from Other Libraries for Cambridge Patrons (Annual) Books, DVD's, etc. Lent to Other Libraries for Their Patrons (Annual) Average # of Books, DVD's, etc. Checked Out Per Capita (Annual) Average Salary Expenditures Per Hour Open (Annual)
Cambridge 329 1,187,063 2,752 64,443 6,930 137,633 64,147 11.66 $177.60
Brookline 153 1,054,611 442 13,334 778 93,568 66,527 7.15 $313.20
Newton 127 2,000,437 1,756 38,128 3,333 75,708 94,680 6.81 $475.10
Wellesley 115 568,134 541 16,809 650 33,531 43,049 21.3 $165.60
Arlington 80 562,781 294 11,454 1295 28,689 34,835 13.36 $259.40
Quincy 121 573,099 553 13,251 850 38,409 32,650 6.43 $237.30
Somerville 124 417,976 454 8,653 1,250 40,840 35,319 5.43 $205.40
Worcester 94 646,757 891 12,923 2,550 14,246 31,204 3.70 $531.40
Watertown 101 460,577 364 9,132 278 37,658 48,440 14.02 $230.30
Lexington 80 447,427 177 7,091 276 43,159 17,272 7.3 $248.10

Paula Bonetti, director of the Ashland Public Library sent in this email: "Every year I chart the holding and circulation on a pie chart for the Trustees. Last year I also quantified the library services based on statistics. I got this idea from a book, "Measuring for Results" by Joseph R. Matthews. Attached is last year's report."

"For Immediate Release Date:
August 18, 2004
To: Metrowest Daily News, Ashland Tab
From: Paula Bonetti, Library Director
Re: Ashland Public Library Fiscal Year End Report
The mission of the Ashland Public Library is to gather books, information and related materials and make them available, Free. During fiscal year 2004, use of the Library and its materials continued to grow and if our patrons had to purchase the materials and services that were used, they would have paid at least $1,422,103!

These are just some of the services provided by the Library over the past fiscal year. The value of our materials and services was much greater than this estimate of $1,422,103. The taxpayers' investment (FY04 annual Library budget) of $279,874 gave the community a $1,142,229 return. In other words, for every dollar that was invested in the FY04 Library budget, it returned five dollars in valuable materials and services to the community!"

Diane Giarrusso, the public library director in Boxborough emailed this response to me,
"We used ours most recently during long range planning. Attached is the Library-At-A-Glance sheet I prepared comparing us with other libraries in the same KOC [Kind of Community]. The salary information will be especially helpful with one of our long range goals! I also used the information to prepare facts for a presentation to the Topsfield, Boxford, Middleton Rotary club last year. My point was to compare the three towns library spending and outcomes... That speech is also attached. Hope these help. I plan to continue to use the data as needed to educate the staff, trustees and town about our libraries services... P.S. I love the periodic handouts you send... They are perfect to tuck into a Trustee packet to increase their awareness!"

Here are excerpts from the attachments:
"The Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners prepares a series of booklets with statistical information reported by libraries each year. The Massachusetts Public Library Data reports are available online at the Board's website... This data is used by the state and local libraries to analyze library services statewide and locally. The information is used to plan future library services, compare growth or contraction of budgets and services over time, and to educate and advocate for strong local library services."

"In FY03:
Boxford allocated $358,504 to the libraries. This is 1.7% of the total municipal budget. This translates to spending about $41 per person on library services (the cost to purchase 1.5 books/year)-for $41/year residents could check out 10 books ($260 value)

Middleton allocated $271,389 to its library. This is 1.8% of the total municipal budget. This translates to spending about $31 per person on library services (the cost to purchase 1 book/year)-for $31/year residents checked out 6 books ($156 value)

Topsfield allocated $356,765 to its library. This is 2.45% of the total municipal budget. This translates to spending about $57 per person on library services (the cost to purchase 2 books/year)-for $57.year residents borrowed 27 books ($702 value)"

One final comment from Debra Roy, the director in Shirley, "At our town meeting this year, I used data collected in the attached spreadsheet to demonstrate how our funding stacked up against other towns in our pop group. I narrowed the field down to the 17 towns within 1,000 of our population. I ran the same comparisons for surrounding towns as well. It was persuasive enough, along with our increased circs and visits, to get one more staff member funded for 10 hours per week."

I am sending a thank you to all of you who responded and to those of you who successfully use the statistics we provide. As always, I am ever grateful to the small group of dedicated staff who make this all possible: Uechi Ng, Ann Downey and James Lonergan.

prepared by Dianne L. Carty, Head of State Aid and Data Coordination

Page last updated on 05/22/2015