We are pleased to announce the results of the ninth edition of the Library Journal Index of Public Library Service, sponsored by Baker & Taylor’s Bibliostat. The LJ Index rates U.S. public libraries based on selected per capita output measures. The 2016 LJ Index derives from data recently released by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) for FY14.
Although IMLS has begun collecting data on Wi-Fi access usage, we did not include Wi-Fi use this year because there are ten states whose data reporting schedules mean that they will always be one year behind the other 41 in reporting any new data element. While we reluctantly excluded libraries from one state this year in order to introduce e-circ to the LJ Index, excluding libraries in ten was unthinkable.
This year we are again posting a detailed spreadsheet (link below) listing every Star Library award given since the inaugural edition of the LJ Index in February 2009. We have rated U.S. public libraries annually since then, and twice in that initial year due to scheduling of the release of the 2006 data. (That year the responsibility for releasing the Public Libraries in the United States Survey had transferred from the National Center for Educational Statistics to the Institute of Museum and Library Service (IMLS).
The LJ Index is based on five types of per capita use they generate: visits, circulation, ecirculation, 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.
Historically, the four measures included in the Library Journal Index of Public Library Service (sponsored by Baker & Taylor’s Bibliostat) have been circulation, library visits, program attendance, and public Internet computer use. Now, the design of the LJ Index is beginning to evolve. The stars have finally aligned to add a fifth statistical measure to the scoring—circulation of electronic materials, or e-circ for short. Because the LJ Index is based on data collected by the Public Libraries Survey (PLS)—a federal-state cooperative project of IMLS and the state library agencies—the Index could not add new measures until PLS did.
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.