What questions do states add to the national Public Libraries Survey?

The annual Institute of Museum and Library Services Public Libraries Survey (PLS) contains 102 questions that all US public libraries complete. However, most states ask additional questions as well. The topics of these questions have been of great interest to public library data stakeholders for a variety of reasons, including that they may be the first indicators of new trends.

As part of the Measures that Matter initiative, Ithaka S+R conducted an analysis of state-added questions. The researchers found that states added an average of 180 questions to the PLS, with the most common topics including operating expenditures, human resources, services, governance, and operating revenues. To learn more, check out the full report and supporting documents:

Measures that Matter Action Plan Step 2.1: A Review of State Public Library Survey Data Elements (Full Report)

Inventory of State-Added Elements to the PLS

How to Use the Inventory for State-Added Elements to the PLS

 

99% of Colorado Talking Book Library patron survey respondents rated the overall quality of library service as excellent or good

Patrons of the Colorado Talking Book Library continue to report being pleased with the quality of the library’s services. On the 2018 biennial patron survey, 99% of respondents reported that the overall quality of service was good or excellent. And, 95% or more respondents reported that the following areas of service were good or excellent:  courtesy of staff, speed of delivery, condition of materials, ease of contacting the library, and the playback machine loaned by the library.

The survey also asked patrons how the service has been valuable to them. The most common response was to “read for enjoyment: fiction,” which was selected by 85% of respondents. The second most common response was “keeps my mind active,” from 80% of respondents.

In 2018, the survey asked patrons “What’s the hardest thing about your day?” More than one out of every four respondents (26%) said transportation was the hardest thing about their day. The second most common response was “isolation, depression, or motivation,” which 17% of respondents reported.

This version of the survey also had a new respondent age category. Instead of 61+ as the oldest age group, survey respondents could select 61 to 75 or 76+. This additional category was helpful because the largest portion of survey respondents was in the 76+ age group (45%), which reflects that this age group is also the largest category of CTBL patrons, making up more about half (51%) of all patrons.

Information from the survey helps the Colorado Talking Book Library continue to refine their offerings to provide the best possible service to their patrons.

For the full report on the 2018 survey findings, click here, and for the Fast Facts, click here.

Note: This post is part of our series, “The LRS Number.” In this series, we highlight statistics that help tell the story of the 21st-century library.

Scholastic survey finds that 95% of parents believe that every child should have access to a school and public library

Image credit: Scholastic

Scholastic recently published a report highlighting the importance of summer reading for children as part of their biennial Kids & Family Reading Report. The report explores attitudes and behaviors towards reading using information gathered during a national survey of children ages 6-17 and their parents, and parents of kids ages 0-5.

The report reveals both parent and child attitudes towards summer reading. Nearly all (94%) parents agree that reading over the summer helps their child during the school year, but only about half (53%) are aware of the “summer slide” that is largely due to lack of reading. Children are also aware of the importance of reading – about three-quarters (77%) agree that reading over the summer helps them in school.

The children who responded to the survey read an average of nine books for fun in the summer of 2018 and 3 in 5 (59%) say that they “really enjoy” reading books over the summer in addition to the academic benefits. When asked why they enjoyed summer reading, 7 in 10 (70%) children say they like having the power to choose what and when to read. About half (53%) view reading in the summer as an enjoyable way to pass the time, and half (52%) say that they also read in order to keep their brains active.

The most common places that children get books are schools (53%) and public libraries (50%). Perhaps because of this, nearly all parents say they believe that every child needs to have a school library (95%) and every community needs to have a public library (95%).

The full Kids & Family Reading Report can be found here.

Note: This post is part of our series, “The LRS Number.” In this series, we highlight statistics that help tell the story of the 21st-century library.

Pew finds that a quarter (26%) of lower-income Americans rely on their smartphones for internet access

Pew recently published their latest post in a series examining how different demographic groups use technology and access the internet. Their analysis found that a digital divide persists between lower- and higher-income Americans, despite growing internet and technology use across the board.

Survey respondents making less than $30,000 per year have lower levels of technology adoption than their wealthier counterparts do. About 3 in 10 (29%) lower-income respondents reported they do not own a smartphone, while nearly all respondents making above $100,000 per year do. Similarly, more than 2 in 5 lower-income respondents do not have access to home broadband services (44%) or a traditional desktop or laptop computer (46%), while more than 90% of the wealthiest respondents have adopted both of these technologies.

Higher-income respondents are also more likely to own multiple options for online access. Nearly two-thirds (64%) of respondents making more than $100,000 per year have home access to broadband internet, a smartphone, a traditional computer, and a tablet. A little less than 1 in 5 (18%) lower-income respondents said the same. A quarter (26%) of lower-income respondents said that they rely on smartphones for internet access, a number that has doubled since 2013 (12%). Reliance on smartphones can make online tasks that are not optimized for smartphones, like doing homework and applying for jobs, more difficult.

The full report can be found here.

Note: This post is part of our series, “The LRS Number.” In this series, we highlight statistics that help tell the story of the 21st-century library.

Library Journal survey finds that public library circulation has dipped slightly (0.5%) for the first time since 1999

Image credit: Library Journal

Library Journal recently released the results of its annual materials survey tracking circulation statistics in public libraries nationwide.

Materials circulation in public libraries decreased by half a percent (0.5%) in 2018, falling, though only slightly, for the first time since 1999. Two in 5 (40%) survey respondents reported that they saw their circulation decrease. Nearly 3 in 5 (57%) items circulated in 2018 were books, 1 in 10 (9%) were ebooks, and about a third (31%) were other media like audiobooks, DVD/Blu-ray, music CDs, and streaming media. Book and ebook circulation both increased from 2017 to 2018, while netted media circulation decreased.

Like in previous years the majority of materials circulated were fiction (64%). Nonfiction made up a little over a third (36%) of items circulated. Half (51%) of items circulated were adult materials, 2 in 5 (41%) were children’s materials, and about 1 in 12 (8%) were items for young adults.

The fiction genres that respondents cited as their top 5 most popular print book circulators were mystery/suspense (95%), general fiction (81%), thrillers (72%), romance (63%), and Christian fiction (41%). The genre order changes slightly for ebook circulation – mystery/suspense is still the most popular (84%), but romance moves up to second (79%), thrillers remain in third (77%), and historical and literary fiction, not present in the print top five, are tied for fourth (both at 35%).

In print nonfiction, cooking reclaimed its top spot as the most popular circulator in 2018, with 4 in 5 (82%) respondents ranking it in their top 5. Rounding out the most popular print circulators were biography/memoir (74%), self-help/psychology (50%), history (48%), and medicine/health (40%). Like in the fiction rankings, nonfiction genre popularity changes for ebook circulation. Biography/memoir (89%), self-help/psychology (67%), and history (61%) are still popular, while cooking drops to 6th place (29%). Current events/politics (46%) and fitness/weight loss (33%) are more popular in ebook format than in print.

The full report can be found here.  

Note: This post is part of our series, “The LRS Number.” In this series, we highlight statistics that help tell the story of the 21st-century library.

University of California System opts out of more than $10 million contract with scholarly publisher Elsevier

The University of California System is made up of 10 schools and over 100 libraries, including several prestigious research universities, such as UC-Berkeley. Inside Higher Ed reports that the UC System “accounts for almost 10 percent of the research output of the United States.” And, Elsevier is an information and analytics company that distributes many prestigious academic journals, such as the Lancet, through their online databases including ScienceDirect and Scopus.

Many universities and academic libraries view providing access to scholarly journals through online databases as an essential service to promote research and scholarly communication. The open access movement has been growing, but authors are typically still required to pay an additional fee to have their article be open access. Elsevier’s pricing to publish open access ranges from $150-$5,000 per article. Since the UC-System is a large and research-driven system, the decision to break with Elsevier could potentially be the beginning of a larger change in scholarly publishing and access.

The UC-Elsevier Negotiating Team was made up of six members, including one university librarian. In an open statement, the team explained that the primary reasons for turning down the Elsevier contract were higher costs, reduced rights, limitation on institutional support for authors, and excluded journals. The Los Angeles Times reported than in addition to the high cost of the UC contract with Elsevier, the system was also negotiating to have “universal free access to articles written by UC researchers and professors.”

The UC-System is not alone in their decision. Inside Higher Ed recently reported that Norway joined Sweden and Germany in opting out of their contracts with Elsevier. Norway’s negotiating authority also wanted an agreement where they could freely publish their own research articles for public access.

To read the full Los Angeles Times article, click here.

To read the full Inside Higher Ed article click here.

Note: This post is part of our series, “The LRS Number.” In this series, we highlight statistics that help tell the story of the 21st-century library.

CUNY Open Education Resource program saves students $9.5 million on textbook costs

In 2017, the City University of New York (CUNY) and State University of New York (SUNY) systems received funding to adopt Open Education Resources (OER) for many courses offered. This funding was awarded in response to librarian requests at both institutions and was adopted in 2,800 Zero Textbook Cost (ZTC) courses impacting 76,000 students and resulting in $9.5 million saved on textbook costs. CUNY recently published the results of a survey their students to see what they thought about using the OER materials for their coursework.

The materials for ZTC classes were entirely digital which marks a change in the typical paper textbooks that students previously used for class. However, three-quarters (76%) of the students surveyed rated their ZTC materials easier to access than materials for prior courses. Out of these students, 4 in 10 (40%) cited the convenience of being able to use their ZTC materials anywhere, at any time, from any device as why they are easier to access. Almost a quarter (23%) said that all their materials being online or on Blackboard make them easier to access, and about 1 in 8 (12%) cited the fact that all the materials are free as why they are easier to access.

Using digital materials did not seem to impact students’ learning. One in five (20%) survey respondents accessed their ZTC course materials before the semester started, indicating high engagement with learning resources. Two-thirds (66%) of the respondents said that they feel they learn as well with digital materials as with print, and two-thirds (65%) also responded that they completed all of their readings for the course. Nearly all (95%) respondents said that they would recommend taking a ZTC course to other students.

The full report can be found here.

Note: This post is part of our series, “The LRS Number.” In this series, we highlight statistics that help tell the story of the 21st-century library.

EdBuild finds a $23 billion funding gap between white and nonwhite school districts

Image credit: EdBuild

EdBuild, a research organization that promotes equity in public schools, recently released the results of their analysis of 2016 public school funding on the national and state levels. The purpose of the analysis was to examine this funding based on racial and socioeconomic characteristics.

They found that, despite decades of desegregation efforts, more than half of students still attend schools that are located in either predominantly white (26%) or predominantly nonwhite (27%) school districts. Nationwide, white school districts received $23 billion more in funding in 2016 than school districts that mostly served students of color. This means that the average white school district received $13,908 for every student, while nonwhite districts received $11,682 per student.

The racial divide becomes more apparent in racially concentrated high-poverty school districts. Of all the students in the U.S., 1 in 5 (20%) are enrolled in a high-poverty nonwhite school district, while only 1 in 20 (5%) are enrolled in a high-poverty white school district. High-poverty nonwhite districts tend to be larger than their white counterparts, serving an average of 10,500 students compared to an average of 1,500 students. There are 6 times more predominantly white school districts than nonwhite districts in the U.S., offering white districts more opportunity for funding advocacy in state legislatures.

Racial disparities also exist in our home state of Colorado. Nearly a third (31%) of students are enrolled in racially isolated school districts. About 1 in 10 (12%) Colorado students are enrolled in a high-poverty nonwhite district, while only 1% of students are enrolled in a white district with the same financial issues. On average, nonwhite districts have 16% less funding than white districts. This means that a Colorado student attending school in a high-poverty nonwhite district receives $2,770 less than a student in a high-poverty white district.

The full report can be found here.

Note: This post is part of our series, “The LRS Number.” In this series, we highlight statistics that help tell the story of the 21st-century library.

United Kingdom anticipates 9 million lonely people by 2030 and intervenes with reading

The British government has been prioritizing addressing loneliness, including appointing a Minister of Loneliness. A recent report on social issues and reading, titled “A Society of Readers,” was produced by the non-profit The Reading Agency and the think-tank Demos. According to the report, in 2014 there were about 5 million people over the age of 60 lonely in the U.K., and they project that number will reach 9 million by 2030. In the U.S., there are currently about 47.8 million lonely adults over the age of 45, based on an Association of Retired Persons report. Currently, the overall size of the U.S. population is about five times the size of the United Kingdom. 

As part of addressing this challenge, libraries in the U.K. began supporting a new program called “Reading Friends” in June 2017. The program was developed by The Reading Agency with the goal to “empower, engage and connect older people who are vulnerable and isolated, people with dementia and [caregivers] by starting conversations through reading.”

The program works with libraries and other non-profits to match volunteers and members of the community to build relationships using reading. Groups and partners meet regularly to read together in libraries, assisted living facilities, and community centers. In 2017, the program reached 624 participants and included 104 volunteers. The evaluation of the first year found that 88% of the participants agreed that the program had “increased opportunities for social contact.” Eighty-eight percent of participants agreed or strongly agreed that the program “added purpose to their week.”   

The “Society of Readers” report also reviewed many studies on the relationship between aging, reading, loneliness, social isolation, and dementia–many of which found evidence that suggests that people who read fare better than their peers. This study on aging and leisure activities, including reading, and this study on cognitive activities and aging from a neurological perspective, may be of particular interest to the library community.

To read the full “Society of Readers” report, click here.

Note: This post is part of our series, “The LRS Number.” In this series, we highlight statistics that help tell the story of the 21st-century library.

Pilot to Measure Social and Emotional Learning at Denver Public Library

By Hillary Estner, Katie Fox and Erin McLean

Why evaluate?

How can you measure relationship-building abilities? How can you understand which of your library’s programs best support users’ development of skills like problem-solving? How can you determine whether the youth who come to your library need help learning how to ask a question?

At Denver Public Library (DPL), we wanted to answer these questions, which address a vital set of skills called social and emotional learning, or SEL. A key goal of our public library, like many libraries, is to provide experiences that positively impact participant learning and growth. Particularly with our youth participants, we hoped that library programs fostered SEL, but we had not yet found a way to measure it.

In summer 2017, at the urging of the executive level of our library, we launched a pilot project to explore methods of evaluating youth outcomes from library summer programming, with a focus on SEL. We partnered with the Colorado State Library’s Library Research Service, and the three of us—a reference librarian, branch librarian, and research analyst—set out to measure SEL.

Who participated?

While we assessed several components of the library’s summer programming, here we will focus on a collaboration with the Denver Public Schools program, Summer Academy. DPS offers Summer Academy to students whose reading scores are below grade level and students in the English Language Acquisition program. Youth who were invited to Summer Academy were also invited to participate in the library programming. Library programming participants attended literacy instruction during the morning and two hours of library enrichment in the afternoons for four weeks.

Library programming participants were split into two groups based on age, with one group of youth entering first, second, and third grades in the fall and the other entering fourth, fifth, and sixth grades. For both classrooms, typically the youth had some unstructured time at the beginning of the library-led programming, which often was time playing outside or LEGO® free time. After that unstructured time, participants in the younger classroom had a choice of two structured activities which had a clearly defined end product. Participants in the older classroom had several self-directed activities they could choose from and often ended up designing their own projects that did not have a defined end result.  

How did the evaluation work?

We knew SEL would be challenging to measure, so we tried several strategies. Library instructors facilitated individual smiley face surveys about specific activities, youth created end of summer reflective projects to share their experience, and our team observed four days of the program, focusing on SEL behaviors.  Unfortunately, the smiley face surveys did not work because it was challenging to consistently administer them, and participants reported that every activity was fun and easy. Our observations indicated that these reports were not always accurate–we saw youth struggle and disengage at times. The youths’ responses to the reflection prompts were largely positive and vague.

It is very possible that the youth we were working with were too young to share an opinion that was not positive. For example, in response to reflection questions about what they liked and disliked about the program, one youth wrote “I liked everything,” and drew hearts. Another limitation of this assessment was that the participants, particularly the younger age group, were still developing their reading and writing abilities. While we tried to minimize this issue by using smiley faces for response categories, it was still a problem.

Observational rubric

The observational behavior rubric was the most challenging and fruitful component of our project. After reviewing the literature, we were not able to find a freely available observational behavior rubric focused on SEL, so we developed our own. We initially observed youth with some key social and emotional behaviors in mind, and through the process of coding these observations, we developed a coding scheme and observational rubric.  

To create our coding scheme and rubric, we first identified three key areas of SEL, according to the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL). We chose to focus on self-management, relationship skills, and decision making. We used a behavior rubric that the Logan School for Creative Learning generously shared with us as a model to get started.  

After our initial design, we tested and refined the rubric repeatedly so that we could code consistently.  For example, under the category of self-management, the rubric included both “dis-engagement” and “engagement.” Engagement included behaviors like listening, being on task, task-completion, observing peers or teachers, and being responsive to directions. The relationship skills category included behaviors like “kind comment,” “unkind comment,” and “friendly chatting with peers or instructor.” The responsible decision making category included behaviors like “letting someone else do it for you,” “pride in work,” and “helping peers.”

Ultimately, coding our observations yielded preliminary, but valuable, results which are being used to inform youth programming and staff training.  

Results

Of the thirty-three enrolled students, twenty-six were in the younger group and seven were in the older group. We received nineteen consent forms for the younger group and six for the older group. There was inconsistent attendance, so the amount of time we were able to observe each participant varied. We observed seventeen participants in the younger group, and five in the older group. Due to the small sample size for the older group, as well as the open-ended design of their program, we decided to only analyze the data for the younger group.

Through analyzing our observational data, we found that during certain activities we saw more youth showing specific social and emotional skills and behaviors. For example, during the complex activity of making a solar-powered toy bug, youth participants were more frequently engaged in positive problem-solving and decision-making than during the simpler activity of painting a tree and attaching buttons to make a “button tree.”

Youth also displayed the highest rates of positive relationship skills–such as friendly chatting and sharing–during slime and leaf imprint activities, which are both open-ended, exploratory activities (projects with multiple ways to successfully complete the task).  Participants also had the highest rate of positive self-management during these two activities. We saw an even higher percentage of positive relationship skills during unstructured activity time, often LEGO® time.

Our sample per activity was quite small (sometimes we observed as few as three students completing an activity), so we are cautious about drawing overarching conclusions. Nonetheless, these results yielded helpful information about which types of activities could provide environments that foster SEL, which can inform our design of programs tailored to SEL skills.  

Resources for libraries

We want the library community to benefit from our experience trying to measure SEL, and in particular we want to share our observational behavioral rubric as a free tool for organizations to use to conduct their own evaluation.  For a copy of our rubric, click here. You may use and modify the rubric as long as you cite us.  For more information about this project, please contact Katie Fox at Library Research Service.