Colorado Libraries Return on Investment: 5 to 1

It’s no secret that public libraries provide essential services to their patrons and are important resources for their communities. Intrinsic values are easy to understand, but actual values can be difficult to quantify. For every dollar spent on public libraries in Colorado, how much is returned to the community? Approximately $5, according to a study conducted by the Library Research Service (LRS).

The LRS report, Public Libraries – A Wise Investment: A Return on Investment Study of Colorado Libraries, details the results of a study utilizing a multiple case study approach to quantify the return on investment (ROI) to taxpayers for 8 public libraries in Colorado. These libraries represented geographically, economically, and demographically diverse regions of state, and included 3 large Front Range libraries (Denver Public Library, Douglas County Libraries, and Rangeview Library District); 3 in mountain communities (Montrose Library District, Eagle Valley Library District, and Cortez Public Library); 1 on the Western Slope (Mesa County Public Library District); and 1 on the Eastern Plains (Fort Morgan Public Library).

Usage patterns for these libraries varied as much as the libraries themselves (see Table 1.)

Table 1
Selected Characteristics of Public Libraries Used in Return on Investment Study, 2006273 Table 1Note: Data is from the 2006 Public Library Annual Report, available at

Assigning values
LRS utilized survey questionnaires filled out by almost 5,000 Colorado residents, a library survey, and existing data sources to determine how much – in dollars – libraries contribute to their communities. To identify library services or functions to which dollar values could be easily assigned, LRS looked at ROI studies completed in other states for guidance. Several different numbers were considered together in calculating final returns. These values included:

  • “Cost to use alternatives” – Cost to patrons to acquire information or materials from an alternative source if the library did not exist
  • “Lost use” – Direct benefit patrons who chose not to seek information elsewhere would lose if the library did not exist
  • Local expenditures – What the library spends on goods and services in its community
  • Lost staff compensation – Salaries and wages that would not be paid without the library
  • “Halo spending” – Purchases made by patrons at businesses near the library when they visit

For more information on the methodology used in this study, see the full report at

For most of the libraries in the study, the ROI was approximately 5 to 1; for every dollar spent on the library, about 5 dollars of value was realized by taxpayers (see Table 2.)

Table 2
Return on Investment Per Dollar for Participating Libraries273 Table 2

Why so different?
As Table 2 illustrates, the ROI for the Cortez Public Library ($31.02 per $1.00) vastly exceeded the median, while the ROI for the Fort Morgan Public Library exceeded the median slightly ($8.80 per dollar).  In these libraries, the discrepancy between who funds the libraries (municipalities) and who uses them (county residents) accounts for much of the difference in ROI. For a more detailed explanation, see the individual ROI reports for Cortez Public Library and Fort Morgan Public Library, available at

Determining personal ROI
As part of this study, LRS created an interactive return on investment calculator that patrons of public libraries in Colorado can use to determine a personal return on their investment as taxpayers. The calculator (available at assigns a dollar value to a single use of a particular library service. Individual returns on investment are based on the number of times the individual reports using each service per month and the typical annual tax contribution for the selected public library.

Using ROI
Return on investment studies can be valuable for public relations campaigns and budget discussions, as they detail how libraries benefit their communities in a dollars-and-cents way. While understanding the ROI value of libraries can be useful and important, it is equally important to remember that there are other dimensions of library value. True returns on taxpayer investments in public libraries include intangible benefits that are nearly impossible to quantify, such as the sense of community and lifelong learning that libraries help foster. It is important to keep asking patrons how they benefit and to communicate these values to patrons and stakeholders.

For more information on the LRS return on investment study, including individual reports for the participating libraries, ROI calculators, and related articles, information, and resources, visit


  • Colorado Public Library Annual Report, 2007. (2007). Compiled by Library Research Service. Retrieved May 8, 2009, from
  • Library Research Service. Individual Return on Investment Calculator. 18 April 2008. 8 May 2009
  • Steffen, Nicolle, et al. Public Libraries – A Wise Investment: A Return on Investment Study of Colorado Libraries. (2009). Library Research Service. Retrieved May 8, 2009, from

Out for Life; Restorative Librarianship in the Colorado Department of Corrections

A 2008 article in Public Libraries makes the case that there is “no greater need [for library services] than in the lives of incarcerated community members.”1 While the focus of the article is on the role of librarianship in juvenile detention centers, it can be contended that adults in correctional facilities have many of the same needs as their juvenile counterparts, including the need for accountability, competency development, technology instruction, and educational opportunities, all of which contribute to successful reintegration into larger society.

Colorado taxpayers spend $28,759 per inmate per year 2 to house 14,662 state prisoners in its prisons.3 That’s an annual price tag of over 420 million dollars. With half of all prisoners returning to prison within 3 years, recidivism reduction has become a statewide priority.

83% of respondents indicated that the prison library assisted in the acquisition of Life Skills.

Per Colorado Statute,4 the Colorado State Library’s Institutional Library Development (ILD) unit oversees 23 libraries in the state’s 22 adult correctional facilities. As part of its commitment to reduce recidivism, the ILD unit received a Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant to create “Out for Life.” Designed to promote libraries’ role in helping prisoners successfully reenter society, this grant allowed for the purchase of library materials in subject areas that demonstrably reduce recidivism, including job seeking, finding affordable housing, budgeting, addiction recovery, mental health, and recreation.

In cooperation with prison library staff, ILD selected similar materials for each prison library in print and non-print formats and in Spanish and English. Staff at each facility library designed and implemented their own library programs.

To measure the overall success of the grant-funded programs, a survey was administered pre- and post-program to inmates at all but 1 facility, Delta Correctional Center. 3,551 responses were collected, 2,507 pre-program and 1,044 post-program. Responses were compared across facility security levels ranging from Level 1—the lowest security level—to Level V, the highest. Of the respondents, 89 percent of were male and 11 percent female. While 97 percent of respondents took the survey in English, only 3 percent took it in Spanish.

Overview of Results
Individuals who responded after the Out for Life program had been administered in their facilities cited a higher level of helpfulness of the prison library than those who responded before administration of the program (see Charts 1 and 2). Nearly 9 out of 10 (88.6%) respondents reported that they had used the prison library. Notably, in facilities where Out for Life had been administered, a greater percentage of respondents reported using the library to help with the re-entry process. Only 9.8 percent of respondents from post-program facilities reported not using the library, compared with 12.0 percent for pre-program facilities.

Chart 1: Helpfulness of the Prison Library – Pre-Program Respondents272 Chart 1

A higher percentage of those who responded after their facilities had completed the program said that the prison library was at least somewhat helpful in preparing them for re-entry, increasing to 83 percent from 77 percent. Furthermore, the percentage of respondents who described the prison library as “very helpful” increased from 26 percent at pre-program facilities to 33 percent at post-program facilities.

Chart 2: Helpfulness of the Prison Library–Post-Program Respondents272 Chart 2

Overall, 83 percent of those surveyed after program implementation said that the prison library was at least somewhat helpful in preparing for re-entry, up from 77 percent prior to program implementation. Additionally, 83 percent of all respondents indicated that the prison library assisted in the acquisition of one or more “Life Skills,” which for the purpose of the program included skills related to obtaining employment, public transportation, health care, addiction recovery, mental health services, and education,5as well as managing anger and setting goals.

A further breakdown of the responses highlights areas in which the program was most successful (see Table 1).

Table 1: Out for Life
Outcomes for Respondents Pre-and Post-Program272 Table 1(Note: Excludes those who reported that they did not use the library)

Summary and Conclusions
Prison libraries in Colorado are actively engaged in attempting to improve the lives of their constituents, and specifically in helping to ease the re-entry process. This is evidenced by the high levels of satisfaction with the prison library reported by respondents to this survey.

Project Director Diane Walden indicated that the overarching purpose of the Out for Life project was to “provide materials and programs …to support the successful reintegration of Colorado Department of Corrections inmates.”6

While her final report suggests that much remains to be done in order to achieve the project goals, statistical analysis has demonstrated that the project can be deemed a success for many participants, and that inmates in Colorado’s correctional facilities are using library programs and resources in order to aid them in successful reentry.

Book, Newspaper, and Periodical Prices, 2004-2010

During times of a slowing economy and the tightening of city, state, and national budgets, it is important to prepare for how to best meet the needs of library patrons. Studying trends in library material price changes helps to anticipate the challenges of collection development. Libraries face ever-increasing prices for materials and on a yearly basis the prices go up and down, but the overall trend is a steady increase in prices.

The 2008 Book Prices Fast Facts includes data from 2004 to present and is compiled from the book wholesaler Baker & Taylor and its subsidiary, YBP Library Services. Past data has been compiled from Bowker’s Books in Print.

Trade paperbacks are leading price increases with a 20.2 percent change between 2004 and 2007. Continuing this trend, prices would increase approximately 4 percent per year (see Chart 1).

268_Chart 1Source:; Bogart, D. (2008).7 Note: 2008-09 based on trend analysis.

During this same period, audio book prices experienced the second highest increase with a change of 13.1 percent. Although audio book prices tend to fluctuate up and down along with audio book sales, overall prices are trending up 2.5 percent per year (see Chart 1).

The desire to provide library patrons with materials on multiple platforms is increasing the sales of electronic books (e-books). Prices rose drastically with an increase of 37.8 percent between 2005 and 2006 following an average sales increase of 34.5 percent between 2004 and 2006. YBP Library Services believes that e-book prices have stabilized with market demand. Future price increases are expected to be less volatile, likely following print book pricing trends.8

Newspapers and Periodicals
While the material price of international newspapers has remained steady, the cost of shipping has brought about a recent sharp increase in the absolute price (see Chart 2). The number of U.S. newspapers is slowly decreasing and the price change has been relatively small. Increasing popularity of the online news format is forcing some newspapers to keep prices low, or move to online only formats, in order to stay competitive.9

Periodical prices rose 39.2 percent between 2004 and 2008. However, prices may increase around 6.7 percent in both 2009 and 2010 (see Chart 2). According to The Bowker Annual Library and Book Trade Almanac, 53rd Edition, periodical publishers are looking for better ways to price periodicals because libraries are having difficulty affording print and online versions of journals.10

268_Chart 2

Source: Van Orsdel, L., & Born, K. (2008);11 Bogart, D. (2008)12

Colorado Public Librarian Salaries Keeping Pace with National Averages

Librarian salaries in Colorado’s larger public libraries are keeping pace with national averages, according to data collected by the Library Research Service and the American Library Association’s (ALA) annual salary survey.

267 Chart 1

Salaries for managers/supervisors in Colorado libraries were nearly equal to the national average. Salaries for all other positions lagged behind the national statistics by an average of about $900 annually (see Chart 1).

The ALA survey found librarian salaries nationwide gained 2.8 percent between 2006 and 2007 for all positions in public libraries of all sizes. In Colorado libraries serving populations of 25,000 or more, salaries for all positions increased an average of 5.6 percent between 2006 and 2007.

Note: The averages used in this article were calculated using average salaries reported by LRS and the ALA salary survey for libraries serving populations 25,000 and more. In 2007, 26 public libraries in Colorado served populations more than 25,000. Because job duties and descriptions in smaller libraries tend to vary widely and are therefore more difficult to compare, smaller libraries were not included in this analysis.


  • Grady, J. & Davis, D. (2008). 2008 ALA-APA Salary Survey: Librarian – Public and Academic. American Library Association – Allied Professional Association.
  • Library Research Service. (2008). 2007 Colorado Public Library Annual Report (Survey).

The Kids Have It: Children’s Use of Public Library Services Continues to Grow

During the decade spanning 1998 and 2007, circulation of public library children’s materials and participation in public library programs for children increased significantly both in Colorado and in the United States. While Colorado statistics for these measures grew in fits and starts over the 10-year timeframe, the national numbers show relatively steady growth from one year to the next. This report provides a detailed look at the Colorado and U.S. data, as well as its correlation to the population growth rate of each locale.

Children’s Services in Colorado Public Libraries
From 1998 to 2007…

  • The number of circulation transactions for children’s materials rose 41 percent from 13.5 to 19.1 million.
  • Attendance at children’s programs increased 53 percent, going from some 810,000 to 1.24 million.
  • The number of children’s programs showed the highest rate of increase at 58 percent, going from 31,165 to 49,136 programs annually.
  • Children’s circulation transactions totaled some 159.1 million and children’s program attendance totaled 10.2 million.

Colorado – Circulation of Children’s Materials
From 1998 to 2007, the number of circulation transactions for children’s materials at Colorado public libraries rose from 13.5 million in 1998 to 19.1 in 2007, an impressive 41 percent increase. Most years showed either an increase or a slight decline. However, in 2002, children’s circulation transactions experienced an 11 percent dip and remained below 2001 numbers until 200413 (see Chart 1).

In total, over the decade, children’s circulation transactions at Colorado public libraries totaled some 159.1 million.

265_Chart 1

Summer reading continues to be an annual favorite in public libraries. For more about children’s summer reading programs, see Colorado Summer Reading Programs More Popular Than Ever (Fast Facts No. 263, September 3, 2008).

Summer Reading highlights include:

  • For the 10 years from 1998 to 2007, there were a total of 1.5 million participants registered for summer reading programs in Colorado public libraries.
  • In the last ten years, Colorado experienced a 77% increase in summer reading registrants.
  • In 2007, 97% of the state’s public libraries had a summer reading program.

Colorado – Attendance at Children’s Programs
Annual children’s program attendance at Colorado public libraries ranged from some 810,000 in 1998 to 1.29 million in 2006. Despite a slight downturn in 2007, these figures showed a healthy increase of 53 percent from 1998 through 2007. While dips of 5 percent or less occurred in 1999, 2002, and 2007, over the decade, this measure trended mostly upward (see Chart 2).

During these ten years, children’s program attendance at Colorado public libraries totaled some 10.2 million.

265_Chart 2

Colorado – Number of Children’s Programs
The number of children’s programs offered at Colorado public libraries over the last decade—31,165 programs in 1998 compared to 49,136 programs in 2007—showed the highest rate of increase at 58 percent. Chart 3 also depicts the most dramatic hills and valleys of any year-to-year range in this report. Between 2001 and 2002, program numbers jumped by 39 percent and then declined by 15 percent over the next two years. In 2005 program numbers surpassed the 2002 level and have remained above that mark ever since.

Over the past decade, the number of children’s programs offered at Colorado public libraries totaled more than 406,000.

265_Chart 3

National – Circulation of Children’s Materials
From 1998 to 2007,14 the number of circulation transactions for children’s materials at all U.S. public libraries rose from 612.1 million in 1998 to an estimated 759.7 million in 2007. Each year’s figure since the 1998 baseline shows an increase from the year prior—a relatively steady rise—reflecting an overall increase of 24 percent (see Chart 4).15

Children’s circulation transactions at U.S. public libraries totaled an estimated 6.8 billion for the ten year period.

265_Chart 4

National – Attendance at Children’s Programs
Between 1998 and 2007,16 annual children’s program attendance at U.S. public libraries grew from approximately 45.9 million to 58.2 million. Using the 1998 data as a baseline, attendance numbers rose steadily—reflecting an overall increase of 27 percent over the decade (see Chart 5).

Over these ten years, children’s program attendance at U.S. public libraries totaled an estimated 524 million.

265_Chart 5

Population Growth as a Factor
According to U.S. Census figures,17 Colorado’s population grew 22 percent between 1998 and 2007. Increases in Colorado public library children’s circulation, program attendance, and program numbers all exceed the state’s gain in population growth. Likewise, on the national level children’s circulation and program attendance figures over the decade show greater gains than did the total U.S. population growth of 12 percent for those years.

How do these rates of increase compare with one another? When correlated through the population-growth lens, the increase in U.S. children’s circulation transaction numbers over the decade outpaces that same measure for Colorado; conversely, the increase in Colorado children’s program attendance numbers exceeds that of the U.S. as a whole. The number of children’s programs cannot be compared because there is no public reporting of the annual national figures.

The use of public library resources and services by children has been on the rise both in Colorado and in the U.S. as a whole over the past 10 years. Clearly, public libraries are collecting materials that children wish to borrow while providing appealing programs. Trends should continue to be monitored in order to understand how children’s public library use is faring in a world with ever-increasing ways to access and obtain information.

Colorado Summer Reading Programs

Amongst the services public libraries provide for children across the nation and in Colorado (such as storytimes, homework and reference assistance, computer access, and readers’ advisory services), summer reading programs in particular give young people support and encouragement to read books and engage with public library services during traditional “school vacation” months. When promoted to the public, summer reading programs typically espouse reading for fun and pleasure. Within the library and education communities, ongoing and past research studies also address the impact of summer reading as a means to enhance the development and retention of children’s reading skills. This report focuses on statistics about summer reading programs in Colorado libraries. Further, it elucidates the role of the Colorado State Library (CSL) in promoting, implementing, underwriting, and evaluating such programs.

Prevalence at Libraries
National Center for Education Statistics reports covering research from 1988-198918 and 1993-199419 show 95 percent of America’s public libraries offered summer reading programs for children during both those time frames. Last year (2007) in Colorado, 111 of the state’s 115 library jurisdictions (97%) reported implementing summer reading programs for their patrons (see Chart 1).

Colorado Public Library Summer Reading Highlights

  • For the 10 years from 1998 to 2007, there were a total of 1.5 million participants registered for summer reading programs in Colorado public libraries.
  • In the last 10 years, Colorado experienced a 77 increase increase in summer reading registrants.
  • In 2007, 97 percent of the state’s public libraries had a summer reading program.
  • More than 8 of 10 Colorado public libraries used the 2007 Collaborative Summer Library Program theme and resources.

263_Chart 1

Since 1999, the Library Research Service has collected information about the number of registrants in summer reading programs at Colorado public libraries. Reported data shows some 125,400 summer reading registrants in 1999 increasing nearly every year to 204,700 in 2007. Using trend analysis to determine a 1998 estimated figure (see Chart 2), the data indicates Colorado experienced a 77 percent increase in summer reading registrants over the last decade; a significant rise in registrant numbers occurred during the later half of that time span. In total, some 1.5 million participants registered for summer reading programs at Colorado public libraries in the course of the 10 years spanning from 1998 to 2007.

263_Chart 2

Collaborative Summer Library Program
Most commonly, public libraries around the nation organize their summer reading programs’ promotional campaigns, reading lists, story time programs, special events, and reading incentive/giveaway materials around an overarching annual theme. However, the time, costs, and effort associated with successfully developing and implementing such a theme can frequently strain (or exceed) the resources of individual libraries. To address that need, a grassroots consortium, the Collaborative Summer Library Program (CSLP),20 took root as a multi-regional initiative within Minnesota in 1987. Today (21 years later), CSLP’s members include 46 states—represented by state agencies or associations—and 2 regional library systems. Together, consortium members select annual themes and work with vendors to produce related programmatic, promotional, and incentive materials on behalf of the entire collaborative. The dramatic growth of CSLP is indicative of the value its products and services have to libraries nationwide.

Colorado joined CSLP in 2003 with the Colorado State Library as its member agency. Through a myriad of activities (see below), CSL works to help participating Colorado libraries successfully incorporate the CSLP annual theme. Particularly popular with small and medium-sized libraries, some 80-83 percent of Colorado’s libraries opted to use the CSLP theme during the past 3 years (see Table 1).

263_Table 1

CSL Summer Reading Support to Libraries
Through its Statewide Summer Reading Program, the Colorado State Library currently works to assist all Colorado libraries with effective summer-reading program implementation. In addition to staff support and its role in CSLP, CSL allocates nearly $30,000 in LSTA funds each year for non-salary summer reading-related expenses, including approximately $10,000 in grants to libraries.

In total, over the past 3 years (2005-07) CSL support has included:

  • Sixteen summer reading-focused training workshops reaching more than 415 attendees in locales around the state.
  • The purchase and statewide dissemination of CSLP theme-oriented manuals and support materials—enough for all of Colorado’s 250 public library sites each year.
  • 182 grants totaling nearly $29,000 in direct financial support to libraries throughout the state.

As for current CSL summer reading program-related research:

  • In 2006, CSL became a partner in a 3-year Institute of Museum and Library Services National Leadership Grant research study21 entitled: “Do Public Library Summer Reading Programs Impact Student Achievement?” Participating sites in 8 states around the nation include Colorado’s Pueblo City Schools and the Pueblo City-County Library District.
  • Beginning in 2008, CSL will collaborate with the Library Research Service (LRS) in tracking and collecting statistics about the prevalence of young adult (teens) summer reading programs and registration numbers—in addition to LRS’s current collection of children’s data—for publication in future Public Library Annual Reports.22

The data in this report clearly indicates that summer reading programs are attractive both to libraries and to their young patrons. Encouraged by library participation levels and the mutual benefits of collaboration, library agencies, leaders, and organizations virtually nationwide are cooperating to make such programs affordable to jurisdictions both large and small—and to further assess the benefits of such programming. The Colorado State Library continues to refine and enhance its leadership role in helping all Colorado public libraries and their patrons benefit from summer reading program experiences.

Challenged Materials in Colorado Public Libraries, 2007

Each year the Library Research Service (LRS) collects data for the Colorado Public Library Annual Report as required by law. Part of the data collected is whether any formal challenges were made to materials in public libraries. The American Library Association defines a challenge as “an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group.”

In 2007, 16 of the 115 public libraries in Colorado reported challenges to materials and the Internet on their annual survey. There were 78 separate challenges to books, audio books, library events, Internet sites, periodicals, videos, and displays.

While the number of challenges in 2007 is higher than the previous year, it is not as high as the number of reported challenges in 2004 and 2005, which numbered 86 and 84, respectively. Over the past 10 years Colorado’s public libraries have averaged 70 challenges to materials annually (see Chart 1).

262_Chart 1

The LRS sent a follow-up survey to the libraries that reported challenges last year and all but 1 library responded with more detailed information. Libraries were asked the title, author, format of the challenged item, the reason given for the challenge, the action taken by the library, and the date of the publication or, in the case of an Internet-related challenge, the date the challenge was initiated. LRS shared this information with the American Library Association to contribute to a comprehensive picture of library challenges nationwide.

Formats Challenged
As has been the pattern over the past several years, the most challenged format in 2007 at public libraries was books, which comprised more than half (55%) of the total number of challenges. Videos made up over one-fifth of the challenges (22%). Only 6 percent of the challenged items were library activities or periodicals. Other materials comprised less than 6 percent of all challenges (see Chart 2).

262_Chart 2

Only 2 titles were challenged more than once—the book King & King by Linda de Haan and the film Brokeback Mountain. Each received 2 challenges. In 2007 there were only 2 reported challenges to Internet content or access policies, both at the same library. This differs greatly from 2006, when there were 16 computer challenges reported. Denver Public Library (DPL) was one library that saw a drop in Internet challenges, going from 6 such challenges in 2006 to none in 2007. When asked about this disparity, Jo Sarling, Director of Collections and Technology Services at DPL, responded that her library took a proactive approach to such challenges. “We began to study ways that we could respond to those challenges,” she said. “I think that the people who were initiating complaints last year are aware that we’re working on solutions.”

Actions Taken
The majority of the challenges (77%), resulted in no change being made in the location or availability of the item (see Chart 3). Thirteen items (17%) were moved to another part of the library or to another branch. Two of the challenges were dropped (3%) and 2 items were removed from circulation (3%). One challenge that involved an Internet access issue resulted in modification of the Internet filter.

262_Chart 3

Audience/Age Group
The follow-up survey asked respondents to select 1 or more audience/age groups for the material being challenged. In 2007 libraries answered that more than half (53%) of all challenges were to adult materials (see Chart 4). A quarter of challenges (25%) were for children’s materials and one-fifth of challenges were for young adult (21%) materials.

262_Image 1

262_Chart 4

Reasons for Challenges
The most commonly cited reasons for challenges in 2007 were for items that were deemed sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, or containing violence (see Table 1). Respondents could select several reasons for each challenge.

262_Table 1

More Information About Challenges in Public Libraries

Computer Users at JCPL Are More Likely to Be Very Active Patrons

Access to the Internet is one of the key services provided by today’s public libraries, as evidenced by the lines of patrons that often form to sign up for public access computers. What do all of those patrons do when they’re not online? In Jefferson County it seems that they’re using other library resources.

Items Checked Out by Active Borrowers
Based on a snapshot of computer and circulation usage data collected during a randomly selected week in April 2007, Jefferson County Public Library (JCPL) patrons who signed into the library’s Internet and software computers checked out more books, on average, than patrons who did not use the library’s computers. Among “active borrowers,”23 patrons who used library computers had an average of 6.0 items checked out to their library cards at the time of the snapshot. For non-computer users, the average of items checked out was 4.9 per patron. Thus, circulation for library computer users was over 22 percent higher than circulation for patrons who did not use the library’s computers.

261 Chart 1

This trend of library computer users checking out more materials was apparent among all age groups, and was most pronounced with patrons between 15- and 24-years-old (see Chart 1). Circulation for this group was more than 48 percent higher for library computer users than for their peers who did not use the computers.

The increased use of both materials and computers is not lost on the library’s administration. “Day to day, we’ve noticed increases in patrons using our computers as well as increases in our circulation counts. It’s really great to see that these uses are linked and not totally independent of each other,” says Marcellus Turner, Executive Director of Jefferson County Public Library.

261 Image 1

Computer Use by Age
In public libraries throughout the nation, emphasis is placed on making the library a welcoming place for teenagers and young adults. At JCPL, the same age group (15-24) proved to be the most likely active borrowers to use the library’s computers, as over 10% of active cardholders in this age range had used a library computer at least once during the week of the study (see Chart 2). Seemingly, information-savvy young adults are making the most of the opportunities JCPL is providing.

261 Chart 2

Computer Use with Respect to Other Library Use
There has been much discussion in the library profession revolving around whether library computers are drawing in users who then use other library resources. Of the library patrons who logged in to Jefferson County Public Library’s computers during the week of this study, a majority of them (62%) were not active borrowers (see Chart 3). This means that nearly two-thirds of the patrons using JCPL’s computers had not otherwise accessed their library account in the previous 2 months. It is quite probable that many of these patrons used other library resources during the previous 2 months—there are many things that can be done in the library that do not require checking out materials. For instance, patrons can perform genealogical research, use government documents, ask reference questions, or attend programs without accessing their circulation records. The nature of this study, based on available data, meant that such non-circulation activities were not tracked. It is not known whether these patrons did any of the above, but it is known that they used the library’s computers and did not have any circulation activity. For this group it would seem that a primary reason to visit the library was to access the Internet or use other software. For them, the library is providing this increasingly valuable service and helping to minimize the digital divide.

261 Chart 3

At first glance, it may seem striking that only 38 percent of computer users are active borrowers. Barely a third of the patrons clicking away are taking traditional library materials home with them. However, this is actually a quite positive number. Only 10 percent of JCPL cardholders who did not use the library computers during the study week were deemed “active” for the purpose of this study. Those who used the library’s computers during the study were over 3 times more likely to have an active card than those not using the computers. This suggests that people are coming in for the computers, and taking advantage of other resources as well (see Chart 4).

261 Chart 4In our digital age, public access computers are an integral part of a strong public library, and, by extension, serve the community at large. Jefferson County Public Library is easing the digital divide by providing Internet access to thousands of patrons each week, and many of these patrons are doing more in the library than just surfing the web. According to Turner, “Circulation of materials is a standard bearer of traditional library services but for many of our users, computer access is their main reason for visiting. This sometimes makes us wonder which came first, the chicken or the egg. At least now, we are a bit closer to knowing.”

261 Image 2

About Jefferson County Public Library
Jefferson County Public Library consists of 10 libraries that serve the 534,000 residents of Jefferson County, Colorado. Jefferson County is a large suburban county, extending from the western edge of Denver into the Rocky Mountain Foothills.

Colorado Library Districts Show Greater Increases in Use & Financial Support than Other Public Library Types

In 2002, the finances of the state’s public libraries were negatively affected by state and local budget cuts. A 2003 Fast Facts from LRS showed that library districts weathered these fiscal cuts better than non-district public libraries. The average local revenue of libraries which were not part of a library district decreased from the previous year. On the other hand, public libraries which were part of a library district actually saw an increase in their average per capita funding.

There have been four years of data collection between the dramatic fiscal changes of 2002 and today. How have library districts fared between 2002 and 2006? Have they continued to show strong financial stability? How do they compare to their non-district counterparts?

260_Chart 1

An examination of the change in percentage of average local operating income per capita between 2002 and 2006 reveals that both library districts and non-district libraries have increased their local income (see Chart 1). However, the percentage change for library districts is double that of non-district libraries. This is not too surprising given the stable, dedicated funding library districts tend to enjoy.

So, do these libraries with increased inputs—in the form of funding—also have increased outputs? In other words, if library districts have increased their funding more than non-district libraries, have they also increased the utilization of their resources and materials more than the other library types?

An examination of library visits per capita, circulation per capita, and program attendance per 1,000 served was performed for 2002 and 2006 to determine if patron usage had changed during this time (see Chart 2).

260_Chart 2

Between library districts and non-district libraries, the most dramatic difference in percent change comparisons was for program attendance. Library districts had an increase of 43 percent in average program attendance per 1,000 served between 2002 and 2006, while non-districts had only a 9 percent change.

Both library district and non-districts saw growth in the average number of library visits per capita in 2006 compared to 2002. Library districts had a 31 percent increase in visits compared to 19 percent for non-district libraries.

Although the percent change in average circulation was not as dramatic as library visits, both library types witnessed an increase in their circulation per capita. The percentage change between 2002 and 2006 for circulation in library districts was nearly 4 times higher than that of non-district libraries (14% vs 4%).

Library districts and non-district libraries have been able to rebound from the 2002 budget cuts with financial and community strength. Both library types have seen increases in their local funding and in their outcome measures. However, library districts have seen a greater increase in their funding which may be attributed to their autonomous nature. This stable funding has allowed library districts to increase their outputs as well. Library districts are not only more supported financially than their non-district peers, the populations they serve are entering their doors more often and utilizing their services more frequently.


Colorado Public Libraries Help Children Get Ready to Read

258_Image 1Inspired by concerns about young children’s school readiness, the Colorado State Library (CSL), has provided early literacy (pre-reading) program-development support to public libraries statewide since 2004. This support has included staff skills-training workshops, (based on the PLA/ALSC program Every Child Ready to Read @ your library® [ECRR]),24 grant funds, research reports, coalition building, and use of an e-list that helps practitioners share best practices and seek guidance from one another.25

Bolstered by these endeavors, numerous library jurisdictions around the state, both large and small, have expanded the depth and scope of their programming for children from birth to age 6. Such programming includes ECRR-based literacy enhanced storytimes (for children and their adult caregivers)26 and adult-only ECRR workshops that provide early literacy research data and hands-on skill-building activities adults can use with children. One goal of both programming types is to help adult caregivers understand the roles they can play in the development of children’s reading readiness.

Six Pre-Reading Skills
During ECRR-based storytime programs and adult workshops, library personnel model activities that help children develop these skills:

  • Print motivation
  • Vocabulary
  • Print awareness
  • Letter knowledge
  • Phonological awareness
  • Narrative skills

Among the outgrowths of CSL’s initiative thus far, a task force called Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy (CLEL) came to fruition in January 2008; it now serves as an advisory group to CSL. Comprised of self-selected active early literacy providers from public libraries across the state, CLEL aims to strengthen children’s literacy through a combination of library services and community advocacy. The CLEL Steering Committee currently includes children’s services, training, and outreach staff from 13 different Colorado library jurisdictions.

This report provides baseline early literacy programming data from these 13 library jurisdictions. The data was collected by CSL from February through May of 2008 from people who provide early literacy services on behalf of these libraries. The numbers represent best estimates based on current and previous years’ activities as reported by those library personnel. The data itself is divided into two different tables based on programming location—in-house or off-premises (outreach).

258_Table 1

Baseline Findings
ECRR-based literacy-enhanced programming is offered in communities of varying sizes around the state. Using 2007 figures, the 13 public library jurisdictions surveyed for this report range from “medium-small,” Alamosa/Southern Peaks Public Library (8,490), to the state’s largest, Denver Public Library (580,223). For 11 of these 13 library jurisdictions, in-house literacy-enhanced storytimes are the most prevalent of these types of programs.

In-House Programming
Table 1 looks at the numbers of programs and attendance figures per year for activities held on the library premises. It should be noted that some libraries host programs for community partners such as child-care groups or clients of social service agencies inside their libraries as well as off-premises.

For this report, literacy-enhanced storytimes are defined as having these 5 components:

  • Literacy theme for the storytime, using at least 1 of the 6 pre-reading skills.
  • Parents and/or caregivers invited to attend.
  • Storytime leader models and communicates about early literacy skills.
  • Selection of appropriate books/activities to promote use of a skill.
  • Sharing of skill-oriented information by leader either verbally or with handout material.

258_Image 2

In-House Literacy-Enhanced Storytime Programs: Nearly all of the libraries, 12 of the 13 jurisdictions, offer this type of programming. Session numbers per year range from 156 at Basalt Regional Library District to 3,536 at Douglas County Libraries. Child visits range from 832 (Basalt) to 73,840 (Douglas) per year. Adult visits per year range from 572 (Basalt) to 44,200 (Douglas).

In-House Adult-Only ECRR Workshops: Just under a third of the 13 libraries offer these workshops for a general parent/caregiver audience. Where offered, the frequency of these programs ranges from 4 (Arapahoe Library District) to 14 (Mesa County Public Library District) times per year. Estimated adult visits per year range from 40 (Arapahoe) to 280 (Mesa). Mesa provides their 14 workshops as part of a community partnership that serves teen moms.

Beyond the programming statistics shown in this table, several libraries provide special in-house adult ECRR workshops for specific constituencies including library volunteers and members of community groups not necessarily representative of a parent/caregiver audience (e.g. students seeking academic credit). While such programs serve to benefit children and adults in these communities, statistics for these specialized-audience in-house adult ECRR workshops are not covered here.

Off-Premises Programming
Table 2 looks at programs and attendance figures per year for activities provided by libraries at off-site venues (outreach). In some cases, these numbers represent outreach programming led by closely supervised library-trained volunteers. Off-premises programs frequently reach adults and children who might not otherwise avail themselves of public library services. Often, these are geared toward specific groups at specific locales such as a prison or a child-care facility.

“Very, very useful. Clarifies what we, as parents, should emphasize to increase our children’s love of books.” – Adult ECRR workshop participant, Arapahoe Library District
258_Table 2

Off-Premises (Outreach) Literacy-Enhanced Storytime Programs: Nine of the 13 jurisdictions offer this programming. Where available, annual session numbers range from 12 (Arapahoe Library District) to 3,390 (Denver Public Library). Child visits range from 240 (Arapahoe) to 57,630 (Denver) per year. Adult visits per year range from 48 (Arapahoe) to 6,780 (Denver). Frequently, off-premises storytime programs are held in child-care environments where the ratio of children to adults tends to be higher than comparable statistics for in-house programming.

Off-Premises Adult-Only ECRR-based Workshops: Seven of the 13 jurisdictions offer these workshops for a general parent/caregiver audience. Where available, the frequency of program offerings ranges from 1 (Douglas County Libraries) to 22 (Jefferson County Public Library) per year. Estimated adult visits per year range from 50 (Pikes Peak Library District) to 354 (Denver Public Library).

“My son notices letters in the environment all the time now and points out the letters in the words he sees.” – Storytime-attending parent, Douglas County Libraries

Conclusion258_Image 3
The Colorado State Library collected these statistics to provide baseline knowledge about public library-based in-house and off-premises programming—both for children and for their adult caregivers—focused on children’s reading readiness. The data from these 13 library jurisdictions who have staff members serving on the CLEL Steering Committee provides us with a useful overview for understanding several common types of early literacy programming currently underway—as well as the frequency of and attendance at those activities.

In Colorado, such early literacy program offerings are not limited to these 13 libraries; other public libraries around the state enthusiastically provide these kinds of programs, too. Future collection of statistics will enable CSL and CLEL to better understand the availability and impact of early literacy activities. Through training, advocacy, and ongoing support, Colorado’s libraries are working collaboratively to foster and promote early literacy to benefit residents in all areas of the state.

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