The 5 Ws of the Public Library Annual Report

Are you new to the Public Library Annual Report? The information below will help to familiarize you with it. And of course, please let us know if you have any questions!

Who: All public libraries in the United States complete a report about their annual operations and statistics. State Libraries are responsible for collecting the data from the public libraries in each state and then submitting it to the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), a federal government agency. Charissa Brammer, the director of the Colorado State Library’s Library Research Service (LRS), manages the data collection for Colorado libraries. You may contact her at 720-648-2948 or LRS offers training and coaching on data collection and tracking when requested to make the annual report easy and valuable.

What: The Public Library Annual Report is a comprehensive data collection about all aspects of public libraries, including collections, expenditures, facilities, staffing, technology, and use. Completion of this report by all established public libraries is required by statute, CRS 24-90-109(2.5).

When: Each year, Colorado public libraries report prior calendar year data between early January and mid-March. Preliminary results are posted on the LRS website in April, and the final results are posted in the fall, after IMLS has reviewed and approved them.

Where: A link to the online survey tool as well as survey instructions can be found here. The data file for all US public libraries is available on the IMLS website.

Why: The Colorado State Library and IMLS use the Public Library Annual Report data to tell the story of the 21st century public library to the press and the public, to establish metrics and trends so that they can better address public library needs, and to respond to inquiries from various government agencies. Colorado libraries use the data for management, strategic planning, and to compare themselves with their peers. Check out the handy LRS online tools that explain more about using the data locally, including an interactive database that lets you to select statistics by year and compare your library with peers based on library name, population size, and/or legal basis, as well as collections of state averages, ratios, and percentiles.

Process: The report portal opens in early January through mid-March. Reports must be reviewed for accuracy before being posted online and reported to IMLS, so responses from all libraries by the due date is critical. The director of any library that misses the due date is notified and offered assistance in completing the report. Failure to respond may result in additional notification to the board chair. A library that does not complete the annual report may be excluded from the list of established libraries, and deemed ineligible for state grants, though their ability to remain open and continue service to the public is not affected.