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Improved Reporting Identifies 7.4 Million “Unserved” by Public Libraries

According to 1997 data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), 7.4 million Americans in 30 states live beyond the legal service area of any public library—a population roughly equivalent to that of the Chicago metropolitan area. (By comparison, in 1996, 24 states reported a total of less than 7 million “unserved” residents.) These individuals are considered “unserved,” as there is no public library responsible for meeting their needs for reading matter, information, and Internet access. The possible reasons for this situation were first described in FAST FACTS no. 145 (September 1, 1998), Almost 7 Million Americans “Unserved” by Public Libraries.

The 1996-1997 increase of 490,063 can be attributed largely to improved reporting. This 7.1 percent increase is roughly the equivalent of the entire population of the Charleston, South Carolina; Worcester, Massachusetts; or Napa, California, metropolitan area.

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Librarians, Teachers, & Librarian/Teacher Ratio in U.S. Public Schools: State Variations & Trends, 1989-95

A consistent finding inresearch about school libraries is the importance of cooperation and collaboration between “librarians”1 and teachers in fostering high academic achievement among students. The extent to which such teamwork is possible, however, depends on the accessibility of these personnel to each other. Presumably—within reason—the higher the number of librarians relative to the number of teachers the better.

National Parameters. In 1995, public schools nationwide employed an average of only two librarians for every 100 teachers—Wyoming (2.03), Alaska (1.99), and Colorado (1.98) were the most typical states in this respect. Arkansas and Montana topped the list at approximately 3.5 (3.60 and 3.45, respectively) librarians per 100 teachers. California ranked lowest on this statistic, with less than 1 librarian for every 100 teachers (.39 per 100).

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Planning for Results: How to Find Community Analysis Information on the WWW

The Public Library Association (PLA) introduced a new publication recently called Planning for Results. With this how-to manual, library directors and staff encounter a new set of forms and questions to answer. Many library decision makers have little time or resources to address planning and would be discouraged by having to search for answers to detailed statistical questions about their communities. With this in mind, the Library Research Service (LRS) began a pilot project to help managers with the Community Scan form.

Public library planning committees must have accurate information about their communities in order to make recommendations that will impact library service in the future. Questions such as “what is the percentage of unemployed people in your community?” or “approximately how many home-based businesses are in your community?” can take time to answer. In an effort to create a helpful one-stop resource, the LRS has produced an online document with embedded links on our Web site at http://www.lrs.org/public/ca_form.php.

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It Pays to Belong: Small Public Libraries Benefit from Membership in Systems, Federations, and Cooperatives

Few, if any, public agencies can claim to cooperate to the extent that public libraries do. The perceived benefits of such cooperation can vary dramatically from state to state and from one type of system, federation, or cooperative to another, but some types of benefits are fairly common. Such benefits include: continuing education, cooperative projects (such as cooperative purchasing agreements), resource sharing (interlibrary loan and networking), and a wide variety of technical assistance. Some of these organizations are multi-type (like Colorado’s Regional Library Service Systems), while others focus exclusively on a single type of library, usually public.

How do the perceived benefits of membership in systems, federations, and cooperatives affect the fiscal health and performance of the nation’s public libraries—especially the “small” ones—those serving populations under 25,000?

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Library Districts Are Best-Funded Type of Public Libraries

In 1996, there were 8,950 public library jurisdictions in the United States. The five most common types are city, county, non-profit, multi-jurisdictional, and special district (see Table 1 in full report).

As library managers and decision-makers struggle to make ends meet as well as fulfill the needs of their customers, many wonder: On the average, which of these public library types is the best funded? This question is not easy to address, because of the idiosyncrasies of public library financing and statistics about it.

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Colorado Library Media Programs Mirror Nation’s Schools on Internet Access for Students

According to Nua Internet Surveys, a recent study by Quality Education Data (QED) found that 39 percent of U.S. schools that provide students access to the Internet use filtering software and 80 percent have some kind of acceptable use policy in force.

Similar data on school library media programs in Colorado for 1998 indicate that 32 percent of LMCs that provide access to the  World Wide Web filter some or all of their terminals and that 82 percent have policies specifying the conditions under which students can use the Internet.

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Teens Credit Librarians with Influencing Their Book Purchases

If you are a young adult librarian, have you ever considered how many of your clients may be looking to you for book purchasing recommendations? According to a recent Publishers Weekly poll of 12- to 17-year-olds nationwide…

  • Librarians rank fourth after friends, teachers, and parents as the people they most credit with influencing their book-buying choices.
  • After parents, librarians are the individuals to whom teenage boys are almost as likely to turn as teenage girls are. (Gender differences for friends and teachers are dramatic, as the chart at the full report illustrates.)

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State and National Data Link Circulation of Children’s Materials from Public Libraries & Reading Test Scores

Relationships between public libraries and school library media centers (LMCs) are somewhat difficult to observe and assess. Consequently, distinguishing between the effects of public libraries and school LMCs on children’s performance in school is problematic. Several recent issues of FAST FACTS have presented evidence of the contributions of LMCs alone and their collaboration with public libraries.

The latest data available for both Colorado (1997) and the United States (1994) indicates that public libraries themselves contribute to academic achievement.

Highlights

  • In Colorado school districts scoring in the highest third on the 1997 CSAP reading test, circulation of children’s materials per capita by public libraries was 50 percent higher than in school districts scoring in the lowest third.
  • Similarly, in states scoring in the highest third on the 1994 NAEP reading test, circulation of children’s materials per capita by  public libraries was more than a third higher than in states scoring in the lowest third.

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Better-Funded Public Libraries Provide More Service to Individual Users

As for all tax-supported enterprises, a perennial issue for public libraries is the relative merit of smaller, lower-budget operations and larger, higher-budget ones. The former claim to be able to provide more personalized service, because they are closer to their clients. The latter claim to create “economies of scale” that enable them to provide more, cheaper services. Data from the National Center for Education Statistics indicate that the latter argument has some validity.

Highlights

  • Compared with lowest funded public libraries, highest funded …
    • handle almost three times as many reference questions per capita,
    • receive almost half again as many visits per capita, and
    • generate almost a third higher circulation per capita.
  • Within peer population groups, higher funded public libraries consistently “out-produce” lower funded ones.

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World Wide Web Access via Library Media Centers in Colorado Public Schools, 1998

During the 1997-98 school year, access to the World Wide Web via library media centers in Colorado public schools was widespread, though there were important differences by school level and enrollment range.

In the state’s high schools, web access was almost universal. Virtually all LMCs provided web access to library media staff, teachers, and other school staff, and 9 out of 10 provided web access to students. Availability of web access declined with school level. Only about three-fourths of elementary and junior high/middle school LMCs provide staff access to the web, and only two-thirds provide it to students.

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