We are very pleased to announce the results of the seventh edition of the Library Journal Index of Public Library Service, sponsored by Baker & Taylor’s Bibliostat. The LJ Index is a measurement tool that compares U.S. public libraries with their spending peers based on four types of output measures of their per capita use. When the LJ Index and its Star Library ratings were introduced in 2008, our hope was that whether libraries were awarded stars or not, they would examine these statistics more closely—both for their own library and for their peers—and make fuller use of these and other types of data for local planning and evaluation purposes. In the meantime, however, another type of data has come to the fore—outcomes. Here we will explore what some of this year’s Star Libraries are doing with outcome measures.
Despite the promotion of outcome-based evaluation by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) almost from its inception in 1996, the difference among an input, an output, and an outcome is still unclear to many in the public library community. Indeed, the term input can be added to this confusion. So, some might find it helpful to substitute for the sound-alike terms input, output, and outcome “library resources,” “library services,” and “user changes.”
Click a state above, or use the drop-down below to jump to the Star libraries in that state. Star libraries are listed alphabetically by state abbreviation, then ranked by stars and score. Please note that expenditure category peer comparisons are the critical ones; for the Star Libraries by expenditure category please go to The Star Libraries page.
Generally, public library outcome assessment has relied on self-reported data from library patrons. In many cases, voluntary self-reports from library patrons is the only reasonable approach to learning how they benefited from using a collection, service, or program. But, it is not the only kind of outcome data. Sometimes, for a particular library service, there may be more objective and comprehensive data on the outcome of interest.
Three dozen Star Library interviewees were asked to identify new output measures they felt should be available, based on their experiences with outcome measurement. Their responses included both more detailed versions of existing outputs and entirely new ones, reflecting the expanding technology-based roles of public libraries. The proposed measures suggest the connections these library administrators see between outputs and outcomes.
When we conceived the LJ Index in 2008, neither we nor anyone else in the public library community would have imagined we all would have to wait five years for a new output measure to be mandated for U.S. public libraries. The drought appears to be over, as at least two new output measures are likely to be added to the federal Public Library Survey over the next two years. In 2015, IMLS will be reporting the first data (for 2013) on e-circulation. In 2016, if the current trajectory of deliberations and decision-making by IMLS and the state library agencies are fulfilled, another new output measure is expected: Wi-Fi access usage.
The LJ Index contains far more data than we can cram into the print issue. Below are some web-exclusive tables that shed some additional light on libraries who are new to the Index this year or who lost star status from 2013 to 2014.
Whether or not your library has been given a star rating, you can benefit from finding peers in your expenditure category and comparing stats. For the scores for all libraries included in this round of the LJ Index, use the links below to download a spreadsheet with the libraries rated, their ratings, and the data from which the ratings were derived.
The LJ Index is based on four types of per capita use they generate: visits, circulation, public access computer use, and program attendance. Star Library ratings of five, four, and three stars are awarded to libraries that generate the highest combined per capita outputs among their spending peers. This year, there are 258 Star Libraries, owing to three instances of tied scores on the LJ Index.
The constellation of Star Libraries changes dramatically from year to year. As it does every year, the 2013 Star Libraries illustrates that each annual round introduces a substantial set of new Star Libraries, sees the fortunes of continuing Star Libraries change—as libraries change peer groups and gain and lose stars—and, indeed, sees many of the previous year’s honorees lose their Star Library status altogether. The explanations for these changes are varied and complex. Whether a public library gains or loses Star Library status or sees that status change more subtly is determined as much by the fortunes of other libraries in a library’s spending peer group as by the per capita service output of its own institution. In this year’s article, we will highlight the new Star Libraries that were not on the 2012 list, Star Libraries that maintained their star status despite changing spending peer groups, Star Libraries that gained or lost stars from 2012 to 2013, and libraries that lost Star Library status in 2013.